In A Midsummer Night's Dream, why are Oberon and Titania fighting over an Indian Boy?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, both want a young Indian boy to be part of their entourage. Titania wants the child, who is half mortal, half fairy, because she promised his dead mother, her friend, that she would raise and care for the child. Oberon wants the child so that Titania won't lavish so much attention on it. As Puck puts it:

And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild.
But she perforce withholds the lovèd boy,
Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her joy

Matters come to an impasse. Oberon thinks Titania should obey him because he is her husband. She believes she should honor her promise to her friend. Their quarrel affects the weather:

Contagious fogs, which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretched his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attained a beard.

To gain the child, Oberon is willing to play a trick on a Titania, putting a love potion in her eyes so that she falls in love with the first creature she sees, which happens to be Bottom. Bottom is also enchanted, so that he has an ass's head. Titania eventually capitulates and gives up the boy, so that peace is restored. 

luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act 2, sc. 1, Titania and Oberon quarrel.  Oberon is upset that Titania is spending so much of her time and attention on a changeling child she has brought with her from India.  The boy's mother was one of Titania's ladies-in-waiting as well as one of her friends.  The woman, who was mortal, died giving birth to the child, who is part fairy, and Titania, for the sake of their friendship, has taken the child ro raise.  Titania feels an obligation to this boy and apparently dotes on him which has caused Oberon to resent the child.  Oberon wants to bring the boy into his fold to be his "henchman", but Titania does not want that.  She is not ready to give up the boy yet. Oberon figures that if Titania is consumed with love for someone - as the juice from the flower would cause - then he'll be able to take the boy from her because her attention won't be on the boy.  Oberon doesn't care with whom or with what Titania falls in love; he just wants her attention diverted so he can take the boy.  Then Titania will pay attention to him again.

luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The boy is the offspring of one of Titania's handmaidens that she was very fond of.  The handmaiden died because she was mortal and Titania is rearing the boy for the sake of this handmaiden.  Oberon is jealous of the boy because he thinks the boy is receiving too much of Titania's attention and that he, Oberon, isn't receiving enough of it.

janeyb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In act Two scene one, Oberon and Titania are fighting about Titania’s refusing to relinquish the changeling (a child secretly exchanged for another in infancy). She brought the child from India. His mother had been her friend and died in childbirth. Each accuses the other of infidelities and each takes a turn at denying these accusations.

mrerick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

They both want the boy for very different reasons, part of the reason for the fight. Titania has more noble reasons in mind; she believes she owes it to her friend to raise the child "correctly" as his own mother would have. Oberon would like to have the boy as another personal jester, much like the job Puck holds throughout the play.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oberon steals the boy from Titania, and she wants him back due the very circumstances very well written about in the above answer.

robfoley | Student

I think the answer lies not in the text, but in the background of their relationship. Oberon and Titania have been married, presumably, for thousands of years. I think they are bored, and will do anything to spice up their marriage. I think Oberon doesn't really care about the indian boy, he cares that Titania won't give him what he wants; even though he has no real claim to the prince. It has been established that Oberon and Titania have been unfaithful; each one of them knows it, and neither seems to care. If the other's infidelity doesn't really upset them, why would some indian boy?

fashionableb1 | Student

Oberon and Titania are fighting with each other because Titania possesses a changling (human) boy who she feels compelled to raise out of respect and love of her good friend who is the mother of the child and is also dead. Oberon wants the changling boy so that he could use the boy as his henchman. 

Wiggin42 | Student

Titania and Oberon quarrel over the changeling boy because they both want the boy for very different reasons. 

Puck reveals to us in Act I: 

Puck: And jealous Oberon would have the child. Knight of his train to trace the forests wild.

Oberon wants the boy to be basically his henchman. 

Meanwhile, Titania has motherly love for the changeling boy because one of the women who worship her died in childbirth and gave the boy to Titania. 

A more subtle interpretation of the text suggests that Oberon is also simply jealous of all the attention and love Titania pours out for the changeling boy.

lbarbieri | Student

The Indian boy is the child of a woman who was devoted to Titania. She died during childbirth and Titania vowed to take care of the child. Oberon wants the child for his own personal use, as a page boy. Titania wants a better life for the child, hence their arguments.

tcdwmp | Student

she is gud

beckythebunny | Student

He’ll put the juice on Titania’s eyes in the hope she’ll fall in love with some terribly ugly creature. During her enchantment (while she’s besotted by a lover and some love-juice), he’ll convince her to give up the Indian boy, and then he’ll remedy the spell. ( I'm only in year 7 and i know  the answer.)

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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