Is Oberon homosexual in A Midsummer Night's Dream? Why else would he demand the little Indian boy, and not have a particularly sexual interest in Titania?

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shaketeach's profile pic

shaketeach | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

I really don't believe that he wants the Indian boy for sexual reasons.  He is referred to as a page (Oberon), a knight (Puck), and squire (Tatania).  These are all references to how a young boy became a knight.  First he was a page who lived with and learned from the women, next when he hit puberty, he lived in the world of men learning the skills necessary to be come a knight.

It would appear from this that it is time for the boy to leave the world of women and become a squire

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It seems a sign of our homophobic times that this question is posed.  First of all, the judgment against Oberon of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream can not be made as though he were human; Oberon is from the supernatural world in which possession of creatures is not uncommon. He himself says, "We are spirits of another sort...."(3.2.38).  Also, Oberon has already shown his motives in possessing the changeling: 

I do but beg a little changeling boy,

To be my henchman. (2.1.39-40)

In the first scene of Act II, as Titania and Oberon argue, at the heart of their dispute is their desire to have more power than the other.  The possession of this changeling is part of this power struggle.  Also, as their argument is about infidelities; Oberon wants to punish Titania and has Puck anoint her eys with the lover's dust so that she will wake and fall in love with someone, making a fool of herself.  Then, Oberon can win her back.  His heated exchanges with his queen over these infidelities seem to indicate Oberon's heterosexuality and strong interest in Titania rather than homosexuality.

lfawley's profile pic

lfawley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

This is an interesting question and, like many questions in literature, can be argued from both perspectives.

To argue the case for Oberon's homosexuality, once can look to his desire to possess the boy; however, this presents some of the same dangerous stereotypes that society as a whole offers in its condemnation of gay men as the equivalent of child molesters. This is not a proven statistical truth, In fact, the majority of pedophiles are actually self-identifying heterosexuals. The "flaw" in their mental picture lies not in their attraction sexually to children based on gender but instead in their attraction to children and youth. Often, the gender is incidental to the age of the victim.

A stronger case, in my opinion, could be made for the fact that Oberon is jealous of the boy. He sees the child as a threat to his own relationship with Titania. She is his queen, and her affections should be reserved for him, not a small boy. For this reason, if he possesses the child, he either takes away the object of Titania's affection (thereby, he hopes, making her turn her attention back to him) or he uses the child to lure Titania back - if she wants the child she must agree to his conditions.

Ownership of the child then becomes more about Oberon's dominance over Titania than it is about the boy himself. He becomes a pawn in a much larger game of affection, lust, and possession that is being played out between Oberon and Titania. It is the same game that is evidenced in Oberon's thrill at seeing Titania fall in love with an ass - he is making a mockery of her and he is feeding his own ego in the process.

fashionableb1's profile pic

fashionableb1 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

I don't think Oberon is homosexual because the reason he wants the boy is not for any sexual reason at all in my opinion. He wants the boy to be his for a more practical reason and that is for him to be his henchman which would be an advantage for Oberon since the boy is suppose to posses some mystical powers.

Wiggin42's profile pic

Wiggin42 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Valedictorian

Posted on

I'm not exactly how you are reading Oberon has homosexual (unless we are incorrectly linking homosexuals to pedophiles as per awful stereotypes). Its made quite obvious why Oberon wants the changeling boy. In Act I Puck says, "And jealous Oberon would have the child. Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild." Oberon is envious of all the love and attention Titania is pouring out into that changeling boy. I find that to suggest that Oberon is very much interested in Titania. 

thedarklady's profile pic

thedarklady | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

Well, i do feel that Oberon is not really a homosexual but instead, he is somehow vying with Titania over a changeling boy, perhaps because he is jealous of Titania for having a new changeling boy and he is not willing to 'lose' to Titania in this aspect. His strong want and desire to be better than Titania overpowers his rationale, which involves his plan for revenge on Titania. If you say that Oberon is a homosexual, then what about Egeus? Is there a reason why he insists on Demetrius despite Lysander being equally good or even better? Why Demetrius?

indycar's profile pic

indycar | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

...Granted though, Shakespeare did (arguably) profess physical attraction to a young man in one of his most famous sonnets. I think that the question of sexuality is relevant, especially in a play that harkens back to Classic traditions, even referencing the Ancient tale of Pyramus and Thisbe. Oberon may not be explicitly homosexual, but the concept of homosexuality, and the repression of homosexual urges, is not new. Shakespeare, as a man who has been suggested as partaking homosexual activities, would have had to experience the repression of these emotions at some degree. Oberon is portrayed as having lusted after the Amazon queen, barely tamed by Theseus. He loves strong women. I suppose there is an argument either way. Both sides can be proven, so it is really up to the individual reader and their context.

discussion's profile pic

discussion | College Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I agree with lfawley and mwestwood.

Many modern readers misinterpret Shakespeare's characterizations (such as a male character's profession of love for another male) as homosexual in nature.

Cornel West argues that we are a nation obsessed with sexuality. Some are too quick to tie passionate emotions to sexual desire. This tendency can force characters into a sexual context that reveals more about the reader than the work.

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