Puck and Bottom
Puck and Bottom are the two fools of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Puck is a fool in the traditional sense of the word—it is his job to entertain Oberon, the fairy king, with his tricks and jokes. Bottom, however, is a fool in the contemporary sense of the word, as his stupidity often gets in the way of what he is trying to accomplish. However, both characters, despite their "foolishness," serve practical functions in the play and also make several intelligent observations about life and love.
Bottom is the first of the fools to appear in the play. We first meet Bottom in Act I, scene ii, when the "mechanicals" (the tradesmen who plan to put on a play for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta) are first beginning to plan their performance. Although Peter Quince is the stage manager of the play, Bottom quickly takes over and offers more than his share of advice. Bottom begins by telling Quince how to call the roll and how to organize the actors. He then proclaims the play, Pyramus and Thisby, to be "a very good piece of work...and a/merry," although he is not even familiar enough with the play to recognize Pyramus' role (ll.13-14). All of this demonstrates an important aspect of Bottom's character: he is often full of good advice, but he has no idea how to use it. Bottom is also convinced that he is a superb actor and can act any part. In fact, he becomes so excited about his acting prowess that he volunteers to take on every part in the play. By the end of the scene, it is clear that the mechanicals are hopelessly incapable of putting on a good play, and Bottom only complicates the situation further.
Puck makes his entrance into the play in the next scene, Act II, scene i. It is Puck who explains the fight between Titania and Oberon, and his speech helps the fairy he is talking to recognize him. The fairy, who knows Puck's reputation, goes on to list just a few of Puck's pranks:
...[Y]ou are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Called Robin Goodfellow. Are not you he
That frights the maidens of the villagery,
Skim milk, and sometimes labor in the quern,
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn,
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm,
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm? (ll. 33-39).
Here's a teacher's guide courtesy of Penguin.
A good summary of the play at About Shakespeare.
Found some Midsummer Notes at this geocities site.