Monday, September 22, 2008

Is Oberon A Bad Guy?

So I've been going back and forth of A Midsummer Night's Dream lately, as I think it will be the next play I introduce the kids to.  There's something about the ending that bothers me.  Oberon's angry with Titania because he wants the changeling boy.  Titania clearly has a stronger claim on the child, what with the whole "his mother was one of my followers" thing.  Oberon's only claim seems to be "because I'm the king and I said so."

So he puts her under a magic spell, and then, while brainwashed, says "Give me the child", which she does.

Now that he's got what he wants, he releases her from the spell and they all go off on their happy way.

Umm....does that make him a nice guy?  Are we supposed to like him for that?  At what point does Titania say, "Wait a minute...I had a changeling boy around here somewhere....where did he ..... Oberon!!!!!"

As I ponder how to relate this story to the kids, I'm figuring on changing the ending so that Oberon feels bad for what he's doing to Titania and decides to her keep the boy.  (My 6yr old daughter, who apparently has too many friends of divorced parents already at her age, and who only knows that Oberon and Titania are fighting over a little human boy who came to live with the fairies, suggested "Maybe one week the boy can stay with the king, and then the next week he can stay with the queen, and then back to the king....")

I know that some people put Dream up there in the ranks with Hamlet as one of Shakespeare's best.  I don't have that level of experience with the play, and have always viewed it more as "The one the local school kids always put on because you can never have too many fairies."   So somebody enlighten me about the deep meaning that I'm missing. 


amusings_bnl said...

well, are oberon and titania "married?" maybe your daughter is on to something, that it's a little custody battle.

or maybe when titania wakes up she goes home to her happy house with oberon and the boy and they live happily ever after...? that way you have a mommy and a daddy and an adopted boy?

i think i wouldn't lie or fudge or fib and say he gives the boy back... but perhaps that they go together, the fight is over, and they live happily ever after.

how's that for a spin?

my daughter is Quince, and they decided the mechanicals will be "skate punks" and she's kind of the park & rec director trying to get them all to behave.

and... she's directing the fairies. so she gets to direct for the first time.

it should be an interesting interpretation.

Duane said...

Oh, I have nothing but respect for directors who have to conceive the vision for an entire play. I've never had that sort of visual imagination. It's one of the reasons I'm so big on dialogue. I can't tell you what characters look like, or the decorations in the room - all I want to know is what's going on inside their heads.

The problem with "They all go home together" is that if that were true, there wouldn't really have been a fight in the first place. There needs to be some sort of resolution, which is why I was going with the "Oberon feels guilty about trying to trick her into it.." thing (not the same as "he gives the boy back", since in mine he never takes the boy).

Alan K.Farrar said...

The problem is Titania won't let the boy grow up - it is time for him to move on: In their world, he is ready to go an play with the big boys - to become a 'squire'.

Titania is obsessed with the child - so much so that she is denying Oberon his 'rights': Hence Oberon's 'excessive' trick is a sort of reflection of Titania's already skewed views. But she is also stopping the 'natural development of the child - keeping him in babyhood longer than is natural.

Oberon is best portrayed as elemental - he is 'excessive' in his power (as is Titania) and even though he is selfish in many respects (that is a part of him) his actions restore the balance.

The importance of the imbalance is given in Titania's speech where she describes the confusion of the weather and the destruction of crops.

I'd go with showing both Oberon and Titania as magical creatures who have had a bad effect on the climate because they are fighting - and a bad effect on the humans because of the weather.

I'd also go with the idea of too protective a Titania - and the boy being allowed to go and play with the older children ... he stays within the family of 'faeries'.

The Oberon and Titania thing is very much linked with the idea of marriage and it being a balance ... competition between a baby and sibling, (not to mention partner) jealousy, excessive protectinism ... strong stuff.

Duane said...

Thanks Alan! And you didn't even feel the need to say "P.S. Hamlet's a wanker" at the end :)

ren girl said...

I was talking to a friend of mine today who saw the Globe's show in London this summer, & said that the end was staged so that Oberon saw the effect of his trick & had a "cripes, what have I done to my wife?" moment, & they ended up back together with the child as theirs, rather than one or the other's. I think it could work. :)