What does the Indian boy represent or symbolize in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Literary critic Shirley Nelson Garner actually points out that the beautiful Indian represents an impediment in Oberon and Titania's marriage thereby symbolizing impediment. Oberon and Titania are the only older married couple that Shakespeare includes in the play to represent the older, married relationship. Shakespeare uses the Indian boy to show the struggles in marriage.

Garner points out that Titania's love for the Indian boy borders on the erotic. We know her love for the boy is erotic because Puck describes Titania as crowning the boy with flowers and making him "all her joy," which happens to be the exact same way we see her treat Bottom once she has fallen in love with him (II.i.27). Not only are her feelings for the boy erotic, it is evident that she also shared a very strong bond with the boy's mother. Titania explains that the boy's mother was a "votaress of [her] order," meaning devout worshiper or even priestess (125). Beyond that, Titania explains that they were very close friends and that they often spent nights gossiping away, as we see in her lines, "And, in the spiced Indian air, by night, / Full often hath she gossip'd by my side" (126-127).

Hence, Oberon has a double reason to be jealous of the boy. Not only does he see her affection for the boy as erotic, making him want Titania's affection all to himself, he also views Titania's past relationship with the boy's mother as having been a distraction in their marriage. Thus, we see that due to Titania's feelings for the boy, the Indian boy represents, or symbolizes, an impediment in their marriage.