Steven-Lee-Johnson-as-Puck-in-Midsummer-Nights-Dream-Chicago-Shakespeare

Spring is upon us here in Wisconsin, so how about an airy, summer-like delight from the magical Puck, aka Robin Goodfellow? This delightful verse–especially in the hands of a skilled actor–can ‘spring’ to hilarious delight: 

PUCK

My mistress with a monster is in love.

Near to her close and consecrated bower,

While she was in her dull and sleeping hour,

A crew of patches, rude mechanicals,

That work for bread upon Athenian stalls,

Were met together to rehearse a play

Intended for great Theseus’ nuptial-day.

The shallowest thick-skin of that barren sort,

Who Pyramus presented, in their sport

Forsook his scene and enter’d in a brake

When I did him at this advantage take,

An ass’s nole I fixed on his head:

Anon his Thisbe must be answered,

And forth my mimic comes. When they him spy,

As wild geese that the creeping fowler eye,

Or russet-pated choughs, many in sort,

Rising and cawing at the gun’s report,

Sever themselves and madly sweep the sky,

So, at his sight, away his fellows fly;

And, at our stamp, here o’er and o’er one falls;

He murder cries and help from Athens calls.

Their sense thus weak, lost with their fears thus strong,

Made senseless things begin to do them wrong;

For briers and thorns at their apparel snatch;

Some sleeves, some hats, from yielders all things catch.

I led them on in this distracted fear,

And left sweet Pyramus translated there:

When in that moment, so it came to pass,

Titania waked and straightway loved an ass. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, Scene ii 

Repeated rhymed couplets, especially to a modern ear, can sound cloying. But in the hands of Shakespeare and a skilled orator, this form lends itself perfectly to the scene at hand, where the magical Puck relates to Oberon how his wife Titania, through the powers of a magic potion, has fallen in love with a ‘rude mechanical’ most recently transformed into an ass. 

Go ahead, read the last four lines out loud. 

To this very day, A Midsummer Night’s Dream remains one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, a masterpiece of comic delight and sublime language.   

The image is of Steven Lee Johnson as Puck in last year’s Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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