After Oberon prevails in obtaining the Indian Prince from an enchanted Titania, he takes pity on her and breaks the spell that has made her fall in love with Bottom. He also commands Puck to remove the ass’ head from Bottom, thus breaking that spell also.
Prior to this, Oberon and Titania have been feuding. Their bitter dispute was over the possession of an Indian Prince or “changeling child”, whose mother was a follower and friend of Titania. When the Indian boy’s mother passed away, Titania took it upon herself to raise the child. Oberon, seeing value in the young Prince, wanted him for his own purpose: to become ‘the knight of his train to trace the forest wild’. The hostility between Oberon and Titania had grown so chaotic that it had altered the seasons of the Earth.
When Titania refuses to give up the child to Oberon, he concocts a plan with Puck to infect her eyes with love-juice of a particular purple flower. When applied to Titania’s eyes (while she is asleep) the juice forces Titania to fall in love with Bottom, a human mortal, transformed to have the head of an ass. While in this state, Oberon obtains the child from Titania, thus achieving his objective.
So here we are… Oberon meets with Puck in the forest overlooking Titania’s bower. As Titania and Bottom fall asleep in each other’s arms, Titania proclaims: “Oh how I love thee, how I dote on thee”!
Read more: A Midsummer Night’s Dream Explained
Language and Thought Breakdown
The first two lines of Oberon’s speech appear to be half lines of iambic pentameter. When said one after the other, they actually form one complete line of ten beats. It was possibly broken up in this way to give the actor playing Puck time to enter the scene. It’s little clues like this that help to understand how Shakespeare was giving stage direction through his dialogue.
I want to draw your attention to the line “With a coronet of fresh and fragrant flowers”. At first glance, this sentence appears to have 12 syllables and completely break rhythm. With Shakespeare’s verse, it is up to us to seek out clues about which words must be condensed and which to give their full value so that the metre is not broken. Repetition of the alliterative ‘F’ sound (of Fresh, fragrant and flowers) could be an indication that his is where Shakespeare wants the actor to give value and to let ‘coronet’ (usually a three syllable word) condense into a two syllable word to fit the meter.
Sometimes it’s tricky distinguishing between a feminine ending and a when a word might be condensed in syllables to fit the meter. I miss them often and have to re-read over the script many times to get clear. My advice is to go slowly and see what feels like it makes sense with the rhythm of the verse.
You’ll notice at the end, Oberon performs the spell to undo the enchantment, earlier put over Titania. I’ve marked it with *(7 Beat Lines)* to make it clear. This is not iambic pentameter but a far simpler, more sing-song type rhyme scheme. It is very similar to the others that appear in the play; almost like a child’s nursery rhyme. It is a wonderful indication to take a different tone and rhythm with this section while Oberon is releasing Titania from her enchantment.
Let’s break the monologue down into thought and beat changes to see what else is revealed about Oberon.
Thought Change: /
Beat Change: Space
Feminine Ending: (F)
[FULL TEXT]: Oberon: Welcome, good Robin…
Welcome, good Robin. /
See’st thou this sweet sight? /
Her dotage now I do begin to pity. /
For, meeting her of late behind the wood, /
Seeking sweet favours from this hateful fool, /
I did upbraid her and fall out with her. /
For she his hairy temples then had rounded (F)
With a coronet of fresh and fragrant flowers. /
And that same dew, which sometime on the buds /
Was wont to swell like round and orient pearls, /
Stood now within the pretty flowerets’ eyes /
Like tears that did their own disgrace bewail. /
When I had at my pleasure taunted her, /
And she in mild terms begged 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 of her eyes. /
And, gentle Puck, take this transformed scalp
From off the head of this Athenian swain; /
That, he awaking when the other do, /
May all to Athens back again repair, /
And think no more of this night’s accidents /
But as the fierce vexation of a dream. /
But first I will release the fairy queen. /
Be as thou wast wont to be; / (7 Beat Line)
See as thou wast wont to see. / (7 Beat Line)
Dian’s bud o’er Cupid’s flower (7 Beat Line)
Hath such force and blessed power. / (7 Beat Line)
Now, my Titania, wake you, my sweet queen. /
Welcome, good Robin.
Do you see this beautiful sight?
I’m starting to pity her infatuation with
I met with Titania recently at the edge of the forest,
While she looked for flowers for this insufferable idiot,
I chastised her and berated her.
For she had placed, on Bottom’s hairy head,
A crown of beautiful and fragrant flowers.
And the dew that used to sit on the flower buds,
That would swell as large and round as lustrous East Asian pearls,
Stood there now in the centre of the beautiful flowers,
Like tears, ashamed to be sitting on Bottom’s head.
When I had had my fill of taunting Titania,
And she gently begged me to stop,
At that moment, I asked her to give me the Indian boy,
She agreed straight away, and she sent her fairy,
To take him to my sanctuary in fairy land.
And now that I have the boy, I will undo
This horrible plague affecting Titania’s eyes.
And, gentle Puck, take the donkey head,
Off the head of this Athenian bumpkin,
So that when he wakes up when the others do,
They can all make their way back to Athens,
And think nothing more of this night’s chaotic events,
But as the fierce troubles of a bad dream.
But first, I will release the fairy queen.
Be as you once were, (Squeezing the juice from Dian’s flower into Titania’s eyes)
See as you once saw,
Dian’s flower, stronger than Cupid’s,
Has the blessing power to undo the spell.
And now Titania, wake up, my sweet queen.
Unfamiliar Words & Phrases
Sweet favours: Tokens of love, in this context, probably flowers.
Orient: Dazzling, East Asian.
Flowerets: Small flowers.
Swain: Rustic, yokel, country bumpkin.
Repair: Make their way.
Accidents: Crazy events.
Dian’s bud: Diana was the Roman goddess of chastity. Her flower is more powerful than Cupid’s and can restore Titania’s ‘love-vision’ to normal.
Cupid: Roman god of love and desire.
Oberon is a far darker character than perhaps you may have thought. He goes to great lengths to gain possession of the Indian Prince. When you look below the surface, Oberon’s plan to infect Titania’s eyes with the love-juice and obtain the boy while she is in that love-sick state takes on a far more sinister tone.
Oberon states that Titania will “fall in love with the first living creature that she sees”, and it doesn’t matter what it is; be it “meddling monkey or on busy ape… lion, wolf, or bull”. It turns out that she falls for the rather comical and seemingly harmless Bottom… ass. However, there is a certain level of spite in forcing Titania to fall in love with Bottom, the image is not simply a funny one. Cupid is indeed the god of love but also of sexual desire. The inference here is that Titania has sexual relations with a donkey as punishment for her crime of disobeying her husband. It is really dark!
Shakespeare doesn’t paint a one dimensional picture of an evil Oberon however. We see through this monologue that he finally starts to pity Titania. After he finally has everything he wants, there is still an emptiness and lack of resolve to his problem. He is without a queen. The final line, “Now, my Titania, wake you, my sweet queen” would suggest that Oberon still loves Titania and still thinks of her as his wife. Perhaps there is an element of regret at going to such lengths to gain his objective? Pity is a human trait. So while this character may be god-like, he certainly is not without human sensibility and a soul. It is up to you as an actor to decide! Enjoy this monologue. Play with status, power and truth. It’s a really wonderful speech.