Puck, Philostrate and the locus of A Midsummer Night's Dream's topical allegory

Johnson, Laurie (2020) Puck, Philostrate and the locus of A Midsummer Night's Dream's topical allegory. In: Shakespeare and the supernatural. Manchester University Press, Manchester, United Kingdom, pp. 157-172. ISBN 9781526109064


This chapter examines how the supernatural elements in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are constructed from mythical and folkloric sources but are reconfigured as contemporary topical allusions. The play thus seems to be a locus for potentially competing influences: borrowing from the past while also writing to the present moment, most likely to excite the interest of his audiences and their yen for gossip or scandal. Shakespeare’s invention of the name ‘Puck’ for the powki figure of folklore creates opportunities for every member of an audience to see the figure as consonant with their own local knowledge of such a sprite, but also enables the playwright to develop an allusion to George Buck and his competition with John Lyly for the reversion of the Master of Revels. The play thus also positions the censor as its first audience, with the allusion and Puck’s epilogue addressed directly to the Master of Revels at the time, Edmund Tylney, making amends for recent offences by Shakespeare’s company. The forest outside Athens becomes the site for a clash between modes of signification—sources and topicality—anchoring supernatural elements to far more worldly contemporary issues.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 37794
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Resilient Regions - Centre for Heritage and Culture (1 Aug 2018 -)
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2020 00:53
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2020 05:41
Uncontrolled Keywords: A Midsummer Night’s Dream; folklore; Master of Revels; Puck figure; Robin Goodfellow; topicality
Fields of Research (2008): 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200503 British and Irish Literature
21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210305 British History
Fields of Research (2020): 47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470504 British and Irish literature
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4303 Historical studies > 430304 British history
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/37794

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only