Oberon and Titania Character Analysis

Understanding the Fairy King and Queen of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

English National Opera's Production Of Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream At The London Coliseum
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The characters of Oberon and Titania play an essential role in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Here, we take an in-depth look at each character so we can better understand what makes them tick as a couple.

Oberon

When we first meet Oberon and Titania, the pair is arguing over a changeling boy—Oberon wants to use him as a knight, but Titania is infatuated by him and will not give him up. Oberon is powerful, but Titania appears to be just as headstrong, and they seem equally matched.

However, as a result of this impasse, Oberon vows to exact revenge on Titania. Because of this, he can be considered quite spiteful:

"Well, go thy way. Thou shalt not from this groveTill I torment thee for this injury."
(Oberon; Act 2, Scene 1; Lines 151–152)

Oberon asks Puck to fetch a special flower that, when rubbed on a sleeper's eyes, has the ability to make that person fall in love with the first creature he or she sees upon waking. His goal is for Titania to fall in love with something ridiculous and embarrass her into releasing the boy. Though Oberon is angry, the prank is quite harmless and humorous in its intent. He loves her and wants to have her all to himself again.

Consequently, Titania falls in love with Bottom, who at this point has a donkey's head instead of his own. Oberon eventually feels guilty about this and reverses the magic, demonstrating his mercy:

"Her dotage now I do begin to pity."
(Oberon; Act 3, Scene 3; Line 48)

Earlier in the play, Oberon also shows compassion when he sees Helena being scorned by Demetrius and orders Puck to anoint his eyes with the potion so that Helena can be loved:

"A sweet Athenian lady is in loveWith a disdainful youth. Anoint his eyes,But do it when the next thing he espiesMay be the lady. Thou shalt know the manBy the Athenian garments he hath on.Effect it with some care, that he may proveMore fond of her than she upon her love."
(Oberon; Act 2, Scene 1; Lines 268–274)​

Of course, Puck ultimately gets things wrong, but Oberon’s intentions are good. Plus, he is responsible for everyone’s happiness at the end of the play.

Titania

Titania is principled and strong enough to stand up to her husband (in a similar way to how Hermia stands up to Egeus). She has made a promise to look after the little Indian boy and doesn’t want to break it:

"Set your heart at rest:The Fairyland buys not the child of me.His mother was a vot'ress of my order,And in the spiced Indian air by nightFull often hath she gossiped by my side......But she, being mortal, of that boy did die,And for her sake I do rear up her boy,And for her sake I will not part with him."
(Titania; Act 2, Scene 1; Lines 125–129, 140–142)

Unfortunately, Titania is made to look foolish by her jealous husband when she is made to fall in love with the ridiculous Bottom with a donkey's head. Still, she is very attentive to Bottom and proves herself to be a kind and forgiving lover:

"Be kind and courteous to this gentleman.Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes;Feed him with apricots and dewberries,With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries;The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees,And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighsAnd light them at the fiery glowworms' eyesTo have my love to bed, and to arise;And pluck the wings from painted butterfliesTo fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes.Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies."
(Titania; Act 3, Scene 1; Line 170–180)

Eventually, as Titania is intoxicated with the love potion, she gives the changeling boy to Oberon and the Fairy King gets his way.

Oberon and Titania Together

Oberon and Titania are the only characters in the play who have been together for an extended time. With their grievances and tricks, they act as a contrast to the other couples who are still absorbed in the passion and intensity of new relationships. Unlike those individuals just trying to find their partner, their troubles are rooted in the difficulties of maintaining an established relationship.

They may have taken each other for granted with their opening argument. The removal of the love potion, however, shows Oberon's compassion as well as sparks' realization in Titania. Perhaps she has neglected her husband somewhat, and this recent escapade may renew their passion as they exit together:

"Now thou and I are new in amity."
(Titania; Act 4, Scene 1; Line 91)