Titania, Character Profile

Saturday, May 3, 2008 Leave a Comment

How does this entry relate to Flux's full production of A Midsummer Night's Dream?

Titania, Queen of the Fairies - she seems such a limitless creation that staging her can only diminish her...but Shakespeare has cut a mortal hole in her immortal fabric that makes her journey one of the most deeply felt in the play.

That mortal hole lives in these lines:

But she being mortal, of that boy did die, And for her sake I do rear up her boy, And for her sake I will not part with him.

After all the poetic multisyllabic words of her Votresse memory, she ends with three monosyllabic lines that tear at the heart. Death, difficult for us to compass, must be inconceivable for an immortal being such as Titania. She has forever to mourn for her lost love (a love beautifully incarnated by Erin Browne's contribution to The Imagination Compact.)

Is it any wonder then that the first thing Titania would do upon the Votresse's death would be to make her son an immortal changeling? Is it any wonder than that the first thing Titania does upon falling in love with Bottom is to say:

And I will purge thee of the mortal grossness so, That thou shalt like an airy spirit go.

Titania has learned her lesson: if you truly love a mortal creature, you must make it immortal as soon as possible or your beloved will die on you.

There is something moving about a world where even the Gods cannot reverse death; and that powerlessness stands in contrast to the powers over death manifest in our November production of the Angel Eaters trilogy.

Viewed through this light, Titania's journey is essential to the play; perhaps second to only Bottom's in this ensemble story. It is her obsession with the loss of her Votresse that begins the conflict in the Fairy Land, and brings them to both to Athens; it Oberon's spiteful revenge that brings the comically grotesque world of the Mechanicals into union with the Fairy sublime; and it is that unlikely love affair that allows Titania to let go of both the changeling boy, and the grief that bound him to her.

In the First Folio, Titania is listed as "Queen" until the moment she wakes to fall in love with Bottom: thereafter, she will always be listed as "Titania"; a fascinating textual change that further emphasizes this transformation.

And though I doubt that Oberon and Titania's reconciliation at the end of the play is one of perfect accord (as Oberon's wishes); there is no doubt she has been renewed by her dalliance with the Ass; she is able to resume her place as equal partner to Oberon; and through the letting go of grief, the natural order resumes.

So threaded through all her soaring poetry is the simple human story of an inconsolable grief made whole through love; and the fact that this wholeness is brought about by a mean-spirited revenge and a ridiculous ass is one of Shakespeare's most moving ironies.


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