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Puck in Bottom in Hoffmans "a Midsummer Nights Dream"

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A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's most popular and frequently performed comical plays (Berardinelli). The play transformed into a cinematic production by Michael Hoffman has not changed in its basic plot and dialogue, but the setting and some character traits have. The play setting has been gracefully moved from 16th century Greece to 19th century Tuscany (Berardinelli). The addition of bicycles to the play affects the characters in that they no longer have to chase each other around the woods, but can take chase in a more efficient fashion. As far as characters are concerned, Demetrius is no longer the smug and somewhat rude character we find in act 1, scene 1 (Shakespeare pg. 6, line 91), but rather a seemingly indifferent gentleman placed in an unfortunate circumstance set to delay his wedding to Hermia. Perhaps the most noticeable change in the character set from stage to film occurs in the characters of Puck and Nick Bottom.

Puck, or Robin Goodfellow, is established in the play as the jester to the King of Fairies, Oberon. He first appears in Act 2, Scene 1 when he and another fairy discuss the disagreement between Oberon and Titania are having. The fairy gives us some indication of Puck's character as she describes how Puck "frights the maidens of the villagery" and "Misleading the night wanderers" (Act 2.1, line 35). When Titania refuses to give up the boy servant that Oberon wants, he comes up with a plan to steal the child, and enlists Puck's help to do so. Oberon is fully aware of Puck's desire to have a good time at the expense of others, but trusts him with the task of retrieving the flower to make Titania fall in love with "Lion, Bear, Wolf, or Bull." (Act 2.1, line 180) The idea here is to convince Titania to hand over the changeling boy while she is infatuated with a beast. Being attracted to mischief, Puck seems excited to be tasked to this adventure, and claims to return "Within forty minutes" (Act 2.1, line 176) so that they can get started on their plan.

Puck describes his harmful behavior as if it is all logically consistent. He says he "Sometimes lurk in gossip's bowl," but does not think he takes anything too far. A lot of the humor that Puck brings to the play comes across in a subtle manner. For example, after he places the flower on Lysander's eyes and come across the players about to practice in the woods, one hears Puck remark "What hempen homespuns have we swagg'ring here ... What, a play toward? I'll be an auditor; an actor perhaps, if I see cause" (Shakespeare). He begins by asking himself why these common people are so near to Titania, when he sees that they are preparing a play, he decides to watch, and maybe cause some trouble too. Turns out he does cause some trouble, by turning the head of Bottom into the head of an ass, the interesting thing is that Bottom does not realize that he has changed. Puck does this to frighten the other players, and it conveniently turns out to be the object of Titania's obsession. This could be by Puck's design because he gets the pleasure of seeing the players frightened and accomplishes the task of awaking Titania when some beast is nearby.

In the movie version of A Midsummer Nights Dream, Puck has a more overt sense of humor. Although the dialogue is purely Shakespeare, the actions and direction of Puck's character bring a new perspective to the story. When we are first introduced to Puck in the tree, he plays some jokes, such as vanishing, and turning up in a goblet of wine. He is speaking the same lines as in the play, but the addition of visual humor adds to the appeal of the original play. One is again exposed to this when Oberon and Puck discuss the flower while lying in the forest. Puck imitates Oberon's position, adjusting himself in a friendly mocking manner towards his master. One also gets the impression from Puck's body language that, although he accidentally placed the flower on the wrong mans eyes, he can enjoy his mistake. He watches the couples run through the woods with amusement, but no visible remorse for the mistake he made. Another visual that enhances Puck's character is where he first experiences one of the bicycles that are ridden into the woods. Puck pokes at it, as though it will come to life and chase after him (Berardinelli).

Michael Hoffman's transformation of Puck from a subtle comedic character into a more overt one enhances the experience of the story and makes the film version more enjoyable. This effect is generated by visual cues rather than a change in dialogue; as to preserve the original Shakespearian element in the play, while giving a more modern appeal to viewers.

Another important comical character in A Midsummer Night's Dream is Nick Bottom. Bottom is the main character in the story involving the players preparing to perform for the wedding of Thesseus and



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