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Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream

4. Oberon and Puck

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In this module, we examine the characters of Oberon and Puck. First, we consider Oberon in the context of contemporary views on magic, and noting that Oberon may have been considered more of an angel (or a demon) than a fairy, strictly defined. After that, we consider the character of the Fairy King in contemporary thought, a character who - like the Fairy Queen - was often found to be sexually predatory towards young women. In the second half of the module, we turn to the character of Puck, his status as a maintainer (or destroyer) of fertility, and his transition from 'bad' to 'good' fairy throughout the play.


In this course, Professor Diane Purkiss (Oxford) explores Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with a particular focus on some of the more magical aspects of the play. The course begins with an exploration of the idea of the "Midsummer Night" in the Elizabethan imagination, before thinking about contemporary beliefs about dreams (and nightmares). After this, we look in turn at three major fairies in the play - Titania, Oberon and Puck - exploring how they might have been understood by teh original Elizabethan audience. The course ends with a consideration of Pyramus and Thisbe, characters in the play-within-a-play, and asks: "Why is it that audiences find this tragic story so funny?"


Diane Purkiss is a Professor at Keble College, Oxford. She has published two books on the English Civil War - 'The English Civil War: A People's History' (2006) and 'Literature, Gender, and Politics during the English Civil War' (2005).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Purkiss, D. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream - Oberon and Puck [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Purkiss, D. "Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream – Oberon and Puck." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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