Is Puck a Knavish Sprite or a Malign Spirit?

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                Is Puck a Knavish Sprite or a Malign Spirit?

This question is asked since, throughout the play Puck partakes in a variety of different situations that display his personality and character; he plays a main role and features significantly in the view of the audience. The issue may be debated because there is sufficient evidence indicating that he is both a knavish sprite and a malign spirit.


The mystery of Puck begins to tease our brains in Act 2 Scene 1 where his conversation uncovers primary details of him being a ‘knavish sprite’. 2:1 L33 states exactly that. Also the fairy continues to regurgitate the knavish tricks Puck often inflicts:

Are not you he

That frights the maidens of the villagery (2:1 L35)


The fairy then proceeds to reveal that he is known to,

Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm

                                                                                        (2:1 L39)

These activities may seem immature but, as the fairy acknowledges the fact that he laughs at their harm, the audience may now believe that he bears no respect for his innocent victims. This cruelty may hint at an abuse of his powers but, more drastically, the hint of a malign spirit. Puck then resists the attempt to deny these allegations although he unleashes more confusion as to what sort of person he really is by assuring us,

I am that merry wanderer of the night.

I jest to Oberon, and make him smile (2:1 L43-44)

This statement may now make us review our first impression, as it seems he does not commit these knavish offences for his personal enjoyment but for his superior. Puck now adopts the characteristics of a jester performing when his master demands which is certainly a more knavish action than malign one.

The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,

Sometime for threefoot stool mistaketh me;

Then slip I from her bum, down topples she (2:1 L51-54)

Although this act shows no regard for others, we still fail to see clear indications of a malign spirit in Puck.

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His later statement where he claims;

I’ll put a girdle round the earth

                 In forty minutes! (2:1 L175)

has no trace of malignity, but may tend to give the impression of a knavish sprite. This is due to the punctuation used; the exclamation mark implies a child-like excitement, children are renowned for committing rather petty offences as the fairy has previously listed for us. This triggers the audience’s anticipation for Puck to commit another swindle as he is being let out into the world, leaving with a comment that seems to obedient for a sprite that misleads ...

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