365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

6. Oberon, You Big Bully

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In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon, the King of the Fairies, uses magic to cause his wife to fall in love with a man who has an ass’s head. He does this to humiliate her because she will not give up her adopted son to him. Though Titania tries to explain why she cannot give up the boy (his mother was a dear friend, but then died, and Titania is taking care of the child),  Oberon will not hear of it and continues to demand the boy. When Titania refuses yet again, even after an attempt to extend the olive branch, Oberon decides he will torment her “for this injury”. His torment is the aforementioned humilation he devises.

Later, he sees Helena desperately pursuing Demetrius in the woods. He takes pity on her and sends his servant, Puck, to go and use the same magic to cause Demetrius to fall in love with Helena. It sure seems nice of him considering how he just emotionally raped his wife for his own entertainment a few minutes ago. But wait – isn’t he just doing the same thing to Demetrius? It’s all well and good for Helena (eventually, after all the crazy mix-ups that night), but what about Demetrius? Is that really the best course for his life to take? Would he have been truly happy to be with Helena after all, or will he have to remain under the magic spell for the rest of his life, only thinking he’s happy and in love? And what if there was someone better for Helena out there somewhere?

This is something that Stacie Rearden Hall, who was our Helena (and Titania, Hippolyta, and Snug) for the recent production of Midsummer at Richmond Shakespeare, and I have discussed. What if Helena was never meant to be with Demetrius after all? Did Oberon just ruin things for everyone? As usual, I’ve gone off on a tangent and gotten distracted from my point of calling Oberon a jerk, but I can’t help but mention this theory. It would be interesting to see the sequel to this play and see how these young lovers are faring twenty years down the road.

Back to Oberon. By the end, he lifts the spell from Titania, but not before somehow getting the child from her, in a scene which Shakespeare does not let us see. That frustrates me infinitely, because I would love to see just how that went. And then Titania are reconciled and sing a song together. That seems a bit off to me. The spell is lifted, and even though Titania’s child has been kidnapped by her relentless husband who just put a curse on her to dote on an idiot with a donkey’s head, she seems oddly all right with it. Something tells me Oberon didn’t lift the spell entirely. I think Titania is still at his mercy.

It’s amazing, now that I look back on the script after having worked on the show for such a long time this past year. Onstage, at least with Brandon Crowder in the role, Oberon seemed chilling and a little dangerous, but appealing and sexy all the same. On the page, however, he just seems mean and a little petty. Incredible how a good actor can make you forget how much you usually want to smack a certain character. It also just goes to show how much of Shakespeare lies in the interpretation by a company. Every line can be given an entirely different meaning, every play can be turned upside-down. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll see a production where Oberon is the nice guy in all of this.

Probably not.

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Written by Caroline Mincks

October 6, 2009 at 4:16 PM

One Response

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  1. […] love this play. I love everything about it. I love the balance of light and dark, of romance and rape, and the little girl in me cannot help but love the fairies and all their magic, not to mention the […]


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