The battle doesn’t represent the war

Titania: “These are the forgeries of jealousy,
And never, since the middle summer’s spring,
Met we on hill, in dale, forest or mead,
By paved fountain or by rushy brook,
Or in the beached margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb’d our sport.
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
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents:
The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard;
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;
The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable:
The human mortals want their winter here;
No night is now with hymn or carol blest:
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound:
And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which:
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.” (2.1.81-117)

Anger and jealousy reaping hell on the human earth. All this fog, flooding, freezing chaos as a result of the love felt for a child…. Or not?

Oberon wants the changeling child to be his henchman.
Titania refuses because the child is so important to her.

“His mother was a vot’ress of my order,
And, in the spiced Indian air, by night,
Full often hath she gossip’d by my side,
And sat with me on Neptune’s yellow sands,
Marking the embarked traders on the flood,
When we have laugh’d to see the sails conceive
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind;
Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait
Following,–her womb then rich with my young squire,–
Would imitate, and sail upon the land,
To fetch me trifles, and return again,
As from a voyage, rich with merchandise.
But she, being mortal, of that boy did die;
And for her sake do I rear up her boy,
And for her sake I will not part with him.”(2.1.122-137)

All this detail and emotion poured into the battle for the changeling boy.

Oberon wants the boy so badly that he poisons his wife with a love potion making her fall in love with an ass – quite literally as the man is an ass in his actions and has been transformed into a man with the head of an ass. Oberon takes advantage of the spell to steal the boy. I can’t help but make the comparison to a date-rape drug used by a predator to have his way with his victim.

“When I had at my pleasure taunted her
And she in mild terms begg’d my patience,
I then did ask of her her changeling child;
Which straight she gave me, and her fairy sent
To bear him to my bower in fairy land.
And now I have the boy, I will undo
This hateful imperfection in her eyes.”(4.1.54-60)

Oberon removes the spell from Titania and immediately she regains her self and exclaims her disgust with Bottom but we don’t hear about the boy. There is no further mention of the changeling boy in the play. Did Titania forget about him?

Shakespeare’s audience may have been pleased with the boy being raised as a henchman (manly) as opposed to by a woman (might make him soft or otherwise not manly) but I’m not. There’s no resolution. Oberon stole the boy and Titania didn’t even acknowledge this.

Was all the chaos over the boy in the first place? Or was he just one battle in the war?

If we look back, now that we can see the boy as a pawn in the war, look further into the reason for the war. Jealousy! Titania accuses Oberon of changing into Corin and “versing love”(2.1.67); flirting with Phillida. Oberon accuses Titania of loving Theseus. “Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?”(2.1.76)

Titania even admits “These are the forgeries of jealousy” (2.1.81) and goes on to describe the effect of their fighting.

The love potion seems to make both Titania and Oberon realize their jealousy is not as important as their love. Oberon feels pity for Titania (“Her dotage one I do begin to pity”(4.1.44)) and anger towards Bottom (“this hateful foul”(4.1.46)) while Titania is under the spell. Titania feels as if the spell was a dream and talks to Oberon as if it never happened. “Oh my Oberon, what visions I have seen.”(4.1.73) Yet she never again mentions the changeling boy. This, to me, shows how little he really meant to her and that he was just a pawn in her jealous mind.


One thought on “The battle doesn’t represent the war

  1. ciandalton94

    I had never thought about the changeling boy as a pawn of sorts in the war between Oberon and Titania before reading this blog. I completely agree that it is a war born out of jealousy and lovers’ trifles and after reading the blog that the boy definitely didn’t mean as much to Titania as we originally thought. It seems that she just enjoyed having someone to gossip with and someone who fawned over her rather than a real responsibility to a friend. It seems no relationship, even that of fairies in a Shakespearean play are free from jealousy!


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