Shakespeare refers to him in A Midsummer Night's Dream, ii. 1.
The children's theater play Robin Goodfellow by Aurand Harris is a retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream from the point of view of Puck.
- Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
- Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
- Called Robin Goodfellow...
- Those that Hob-goblin call you, and sweet Puck,
- You do their work, and they shall have good luck.
The earliest reference to 'Robin Goodfellow' cited by the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1531.
The name Robin is Middle English in origin, deriving from Old French Robin, the pet form for the name Robert. After Giacomo Meyerbeer's successful opera Robert le Diable (1831), neo-medievalists and occultists began to apply the name Robin Goodfellow to the Devil, with appropriately extravagant imagery.
The character probably originates in German folklore.
According to the public domain 1898 edition of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: Robin Goodfellow' was a "drudging fiend", and merry domestic fairy, famous for mischievous pranks and practical jokes. At night-time he will sometimes do little services for the family over which he presides. The Scotch call this domestic spirit a brownie; the Germans, kobold or Knecht Ruprecht. Scandinavians called it Nissë God-dreng. Puck, the jester of Fairy-court, is the same.