Shakespeare and his contemporaries accepted belief in certain supernatural powers, but in presenting them onstage, the playwright did more than acknowledge the existence of these forces. Rather, he imbued them with personalities and motives, allowing other characters to react to them and thereby reveal their own values and morals. Thus the presence of supernatural forces not only offers opportunity for bold technical effects, or as much as the limitations of the theater permit, but also leads to intriguing thematic revelation.
Perhaps the most benign supernaturals are those in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first one we meet is Puck, denounced by one fairy as a cruel prankster, but who describes himself as more playful than malicious:
I jest to Oberon and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile…
(II, i, 43–45)
These figures are soon joined by Oberon, King of the Fairies, and Titania, his Queen, who accuse each other of affection for their mortal parallels: Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, soon to be his wife. Titania also accuses Oberon of creating upsets in nature:
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea
Contagious fogs, which, falling in the land,
Hath every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
(II, i, 87–92)