Illustration of a donkey-headed musician in between two white trees

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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What caused the quarrel between Titania and Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

Quick answer:

Titania and Oberon are ostensibly fighting over a young Indian boy who serves Titania but whom Oberon wants as one of his knights. Each also refers to the other's pursuit of mortal lovers, including Theseus and Hippolyta. It also appears that the fairy king and queen are both naturally quarrelsome.

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King Oberon and Queen Titania enter the play in Act II, Scene 1.  When we first see them, they are quarreling.  Robin Goodfellow (aka Puck) tells us why.

He says that they are fighting because Queen Titania has secretly stolen a baby boy from an Indian king.  The fight is happening because he wants the child for himself.  She won't let him have the child and so now Titania and Oberon no longer do anything but fight so much that all the fairies and other magical creatures just hide while they are around.

This is relevant because Oberon plots to have Puck put the potion on Titania's eyes to make her fall in love with whatever she first sees.  This potion is going to drive the plot of much of the rest of the play.

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Why are Titania and Oberon fighting?

In act 2, scene 1, of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Puck explains to another sprite that Oberon, king of the fairies, is angry with his queen, Titania, because she has a beautiful young Indian boy as her attendant. Oberon wants the boy to be one of the knights in his train, but Titania dotes on the child and refuses to give him up to her husband.

When Titania and Oberon appear in person, they greet each other coldly, and Titania quickly accuses Oberon of leaving fairyland to pursue mortal women, including Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, who is now engaged to Theseus, duke of Athens. Oberon retorts that Titania has no right to rebuke him in these terms, since she is in love with Theseus. Later in their argument, he confirms Puck's words by asking Titania again for the little Indian boy, a request which Titania refuses, saying that she would not give him up for the entire fairy kingdom.

These are the pretexts for Oberon and Titania's disagreement, but the audience may well conclude from their behavior that they are, in fact, proud, quarrelsome individuals who rather enjoy squabbling. Though their temporary estrangement divides the fairy court for the time being, it never seems particularly serious and is easily resolved by the end of the play.

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