Do you think the fairies play a provocative role in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"?Do you think the fairies play a provocative role in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"?

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robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It depends what you mean by "fairies", really. "Fairies" might mean the band of fairies, ruled over by Oberon and Titania, but not the fairies Shakespeare specifically names: Oberon, Titania and Puck. Or it might mean everyone in the play who is a fairy - the fairy band, and Oberon, Titania and Puck.

Depending on which way round you intend the question, the answer I would have said is either yes or no. Some of the fairies - particularly Oberon and Puck - play extremely provocative roles. Oberon sets off the whole "mistaken lover" plot by using the "love-in-idleness" flower to force Demetrius to reciprocate Helena's love. Puck mixes up Demetrius and Lysander, and instead, anoints Lysander's eyes: Lysander falls in love with Helena - and havoc ensues.

The other extremely provocative act in the play is Oberon's vengeful anointing of Titania's eyes, which causes her to fall in love with the next thing she sees:

Be it ounce, or cat, or bear,
Pard, or boar with bristled hair,
In thy eye that shall appear
When thou wakest, it is thy dear...

Why would a good husband want his wife to feel an irresistable sexual attraction toward an animal? Why does he want her to go through something like that? It's a problematic, provocative question.

On the other hand, the fairy band really don't do very much at all. They appear during Oberon and Titania's first argument, sing Titania to sleep, and tend to Bottom's desires. Do they provoke anything? Not really.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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