Home » Puck in Bottom in Hoffmans “A Midsummer Nights Dream”

Puck in Bottom in Hoffmans “A Midsummer Nights Dream”

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. 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 Hippolyta. Bottom is a common weaver, but believes he is a great actor as well, since he seems to want to play all the parts in the play when he proclaims “let me play Thisby too. I’ll speak in a monstrous little voice: “Thisne, Thisne! ” “Ah, Pyramus, my lover dear, thy Thisby dear, and lady dear! ” (Act 1. 2 line 45). Although Bottom has lots of faith in his own acting skills, he makes quite a few mistakes.

During the final production of the play, Bottom breaks part to try and explain Thisby’s cue to Thesseus (Act 5. 1 line 182). Bottoms humor is presented in a very overt fashion, and often in a way where bottom himself is not aware of it. For instance, Bottom proclaims himself to be a natural actor, but overuses his acting ability and comes across are overdramatic and cheesy. The fact that Bottom’s head gets transformed into that of an ass is quite ironic. Besides the correlation of his last name and that of the animal he portrays, Bottom is, well, an ass.

When Titania is under the spell of the flower, she first sees bottom with the ass head, and immediately falls in love with him. Bottom does not realize that he has the head of an ass, and assumes that the love Titania shows towards him is well deserved. Bottom’s lack of awareness to his own ass-head clad body relates to his inability to grasp the fact that he is not the actor he proclaims himself to be, and to the idea that Titania could ever fall in love with him. Bottom, in the theatrical version of the play, changes in many ways.

When the viewer is first introduced to bottom, from behind a donkey, incidentally, he is well dressed and concerned about his personal appearance. For a common weaver, it seems odd that he should be so well dressed, but this portrays Bottoms perception that he is better than many of his fellow craftsmen. It is obvious that he is a flirt, as he is caught winking at a woman when his wife turns up looking for him. This seems an unusual development. Although there is little dialogue between Nick Bottom and his wife, one can see that he is dissatisfied with his marriage.

Instead of laughing at Bottom, the film generates a feeling of sorrow for his character. When the wine is poured on him when the craftsmen first meet, Bottom takes an obvious emotional blow, so one can see how he would artificially inflate himself with the false perception of being a wonderful actor. When chosen to perform for Thesseus’s wedding, the players are very nervous and turn to Bottom for comfort. They look up to and respect Bottom for his confidence and acting ability, but Bottom later makes a fool of himself in the play by over dramatizing the part of Pyramus, especially when he performs the death of Pyramus.

Michael Hoffman’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream brings a classical play to a modern audience and makes it an exciting and humorous experience. This is accomplished most notably with the direction he gives to the two characters discussed. The animated humor of Bottom and the slightly more subtle badgering of other characters brought forth by Puck creates a certain amount of attachment to the movie by the viewer. The cinematic version of Shakespeare’s play is well adapted to a modern audience, especially through the characters of Puck and Nick Bottom.

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