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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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

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In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Oberon and Titania are fighting over an Indian boy because Titania promised the child's mother that she would care for the boy. However, Oberon wants the child so that Titania will not pay so much attention to the boy.

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Both Titania and Oberon are arguing over who gets to claim ownership of the Indian boy. Titania knew the boy's mother, who was a faithful servant to her, perhaps even a priestess (she describes the woman as being "of my order"). She describes the two of them as having spent time together gossiping in the evenings. However, the woman died in childbirth, so Titania has opted to bring up the boy for her servant's sake.

Oberon wants the child for a "knight of his train," as Puck puts it, though there isn't much in the text that suggests he is interested in the boy for his own merits. Oberon has no sentimental claim over the child as Titania does and seems to want him out of jealousy for his wife alone. He thinks Titania is giving the young child too much attention (Puck describes her as lavishing the boy with flowers and affection—much as she does with Bottom later on in the story, in fact) and therefore ignoring him. Some have argued that Titania's attentions have an erotic edge (once again, note the similarity of her behavior towards Bottom after she is enchanted with the love potion), thus prompting her husband's envy, but regardless, the point is she is no longer paying much attention to Oberon. Oberon also feels being Titania's husband and lord she should give him the boy just to please him. Naturally, Titania refuses out of loyalty to her dead friend.

This quarrel causes great consequences within the story. It's what inspires Oberon to use the love potion on his wife to make her fall in love with the transformed Bottom and then kicks off the disordered love square between the four young Athenians. By the end of the play, the effects of the love potion are reversed and Titania gives the child up to her husband.

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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. 

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, why are Oberon and Titania fighting?

Puck sets forth a few of the details of Oberon's and Titania's fight to an unnamed fairy in Act II Scene i:

"For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,/ Because that, she as her attendant, hath/ A lovely boy stolen from an Indian king./She never had so sweet a changeling./ And jealous Oberon would have the child/ Knight of his train, to traces the forests wild./ But she perforce withholds the loved boy,/ Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her joy" (II.i. 20-27).


Basically, Titania has a young boy who is getting all of her attention like a mother would give and Oberon is jealous. In addition, Oberon wants the boy to be his so he can train him like a soldier in the wild. Later, Oberon tells Titania that all he wants is for the boy to be a henchman (servant) for him. Titania explains that she has claim to the boy because his mother worshipped her but died at child birth. From that point on, Titania has protected and raised the boy in his mother's loving memory. Here we see that Titania loves the boy like a mother, has raised him since he was a baby, and Oberon selfishly wants to take the boy away from her. To Oberon, the boy is not his, so it would be understandable that he wouldn't value the boy like a son. Since Oberon is not the boy's father, however, he doesn't have much of a say as to what should be done with him. As the custody battle ensues, Oberon decides to drug Titania and steal the boy that way.

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In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, why is King Oberon unhappy about the Indian boy that Queen Titania has adopted?

The changeling, or Indian boy that Queen Titania stole from an Indian king and replaced with another child, was a particularly sweet and beautiful child, as we see from Puck's line, "She never had so sweet a changeling" (II.i.23). Since the boy is so beautiful, Oberon is actually angry with the queen for adopting him because Oberon is jealous. Oberon wanted the boy for his own care because he wanted to train him to be one of his knights, as Puck explains in his line "[a]nd jealous Oberon would have the child / knight of his train, to trace the forests wild" (24-25). Oberon has asked the queen for the boy, but she refuses, which has made Oberon extremely angry, as Puck explains in the lines,"But she perforce withholds the loved boy / Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her joy" (26-27). Oberon and the queen keep having such violent fights about the issue that the elves hide in acorns out of fear, as we see in the line, "[A]ll their elves for fear / Creep into acorn cups and hide them there" (30-31).

Hence, we see that the reason Oberon is angry over the adoption is that he is jealous and wants the boy for himself.  

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