Titania's Folly

Analyzing the Fairy Queen from "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

People’s emotions usually control how they act.

Throughout Act II of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titania exemplifies the often disputed ideal that a person's emotions often control how he or she acts. For example, in Act II Titania and her husband, The Fairy King, Oberon, fight over an Indian boy. Oberon, fueled by jealousy and self-entitlement, wants the boy as his servant. Titania, however, loves the boy and has vowed to take care of him. In Scene I of Act II, Titania reveals how she came to be the boy's caretaker when she says, " His mother was a votaress of my order, and in the spiced Indian air by night full 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" (II.I.108-123). This quote shows the rationale behind Titania's not wanting to deliver the orphan to Oberon; she feels that she owes the boy's mother, and that she must take care of him because his mother was a faithful friend to her. In refusing to give up the boy because of her love for the boy's mother, Titania makes it clear that her emotions control how she acts. In this case, her love for another is controlling how she responds to Oberon's request for the boy. Titania clearly exemplifies the statement that "People's emotions usually control how they act".

People cannot control their own fate.

Later in Act II, Titania falls in love with Bottom, a would-be actor whose head had been replace by that of a donkey (note the pun on his name). This strange love pairing had been part of a plan set by Oberon and Puck (his servant) to make Titania give up the Indian boy. One evening while she slept, unbeknownst to Titania, Oberon placed drops from the juice of a magical flower into her eyes, which caused her to fall in love with whatever creature she saw when she woke. Bottom, with a donkey's head, happened to be that creature. Captivated by Bottom, Titania is unable to focus her attention upon anyone else, and Oberon is able to convince her to give up the boy. Titania's folly continues into Act IV, where her emotions further dictate her behavior. In Act IV, Scene i Oberon releases Titania from the magical spell and when she awakens, she remembers nothing of her animal lover, nor does she remember her lost Indian boy. Titania makes this clear when she says to Oberon, "Tell me how it came this night that I sleeping here was found with these mortals on the ground" (IV.i.85-87). In questioning where she was found sleeping Titania makes it clear that she does not recall the events of the previous day and her compassion toward Bottom. She also does not inquire about the location of the Indian boy, whom she could not be separated from previously. In this moment, Titania makes it clear that "People cannot control their own fate".
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There is magic in the world.

Regardless of whether or not Titania is foolish for her love toward Bottom, she undeniably exemplifies the statement that "There is magic in the world". Besides the fact that she is a fairy and is magical by nature, Titania's experiences throughout the course of the play reinforce claims that magic exists. In the beginning of Act II, Oberon uses juice from the magical flower, "Love-in-idleness", to lull Titania into loving Bottom. This magical spell is confirmed when Oberon says. "What thou seest when thou doth wake due it for thy true love take... Be it ounce or cat or bear, pard or boar with bristled hair" (II.ii.16-20). Oberon utters this command while dropping magical flower juice into Titania's eyes, and in doing so, ensures that she will be magically bound to the next creature she sees. Without the use of magic, this enchantment simply would not be possible; Titania's resolve to keep the Indian boy away from Oberon proves that she is too strong-willed to be persuaded by his charm, alone. Furthermore, while the ridiculousness of Titania loving a half-donkey man may have been humorous to the average theater patron of Shakespeare's time, relationships of any romantic kind with donkeys are just fantastical. Thus, the fairy King was forced to use magic to achieve his goals, proving that "there is magic in the world".

Connecting to the Character

While Titania may be a fictional, mythical character, I find that she is extremely relatable. Titania's confidence and resolve to keep her promises are character traits that I aspire to maintain. In vowing the protect the Indian boy, Titania exemplifies the importance of keeping oaths and honoring promises. Had Oberon not intervened in Titania's life magically, she would have continued to protect the boy without hesitation. This unwavering desire to remain honorable and true are traits that all people should strive to achieve.

Although Titania may posses admirable qualities, her almost mad love for Bottom is one characteristic that I do not wish to inherit. The fact that she falls in love with a half-human donkey creature is admittedly odd. However, her love-struck euphoria causes an inability to realize when she has taken her romance too far. Titania is so desperately in love that she does not even react when Oberon asks her for the Indian boy. She simply releases the child to Oberon without question or concern. While this tragic deception may be exaggerated and fictional, Titania's hopelessly romantic focus on Bottom is similar to that of many love-sick women in modern society. I have known quite a few people who have become so enamored by the existence of their new love that they cease to function properly in other areas of their lives. This dependence on a partner is echoed in Titania's actions when she is unable, even for a second, to avert her attention from Bottom in order to save the child. For these reasons, I urge people not to jump into relationships like Titania's.

Mendelssohn A Midsummer Night's Dream Overture Op.21 by Masur, LGO (1997)