A midsummer night’s dream is a very popular Shakespearian comedy, and has always been exceedingly popular with audiences. In the nineteenth century, it was a favourite at its performance in London, and in the development of the twentieth century the outdoor performances would begin to draw mass crowds. Films, ballets, operas, artists and musicians have all been influenced by this play, and the different interpretations performed. This essay describes just one of the many variations that have been developed.
In Act 2 scene 1, Titania has a very dramatic and effective entrance. Her competitiveness with Oberon can be seen by the entrances as the opposing sides of the train. A true feeling of unity between the characters would be symbolised by an entrance together. They each have their separate train of fairies in an attempted power struggle. In this entrance Titania would come on first, confidently, striding with an air of competitiveness and determinedness. She would then take centre stage with her menagerie of fairies.
The initial look of confidence would morph into annoyance, and perhaps a small crease of hurt as Oberon has not shown, and as if this was an intentional but yet unspoken meeting between her and Oberon. Oberon and his fairies would then be split up around the edge of the stage then tiptoe and creep up and begin his line ‘I’ll meet by moonlight ,proud Titania’ in a large booming voice to shock and startle Titania. This trick would have the desired effect as Titania and her fairies physically jump and a giggle would flitter around Oberon’s fairies.
When Oberon has not appeared, Titania would show her annoyance by clenched fists and a tight lipped expression, maybe a short period of pacing round the outside circle of her fairies then entering back into the centre of the fairies with a limp posture and a mournful expression. This is a good contrast to her entrance and shows her softer more womanly side, and her female insecurities. When she is tricked by Oberon her fierce barriers build back up and any sign of insecurities are lost in her flurry of angry words. ‘What, jealous Oberon?
Fairies skip hence; I have forsworn his bed and company’. These lines would be said with deep venom prompted by her embarrassment at being tricked. She may put particular emphasis on ‘jealous’ and ‘forsworn’ because they are deep powerful words. She physically would move up towards him trying to use her womanly physique to tide him into surrender at their powerful word struggle. She would circle him occasionally making physical contact, touching his arm or his shoulder as in to tease him, and then harshly pushing him away.
She is a very sexual woman and uses her natural felinity to her advantage. When Titania speaks at length commencing with ‘These are the forgeries of jealousy:’ she would break entirely away from Oberon and cross to the opposing side of the stage to bring the main focus upon herself. Her fairies would follow her quickly to highlight the control she has, in contrast to the failing power she has over Oberon. She would start the speech quietly; her voice at stage whisper level and gradually building the tension up through the speech till her voice is loud and shrill.
This indicates her new attempt to win the argument to her side, she abandons femininity and uses real power and strength to try and scare Oberon, till she is near hysteria as the speech builds and builds. During the speech she would be gesturing a lot with her hands, in a fair imitation of a crazed woman. Her movements round her area of the stage, a divide by the fairies down the middle of the two characters, would be quick agitated and frequently change direction. Some of her fairies would attempt to follow her and add a hint of comedy as her indecision led the fairies to bump in to each other.
Her state and mood is so hyped she is crazed and worked herself up so much that the words flow in a strong quick tirade, without many pauses as the mood does not allow her to pause. Oberon’s anger is building as he watches Titania with an expression of disbelief and fury. He speaks ‘Do you amend it, then, it lies in you and continues towards the end to say ‘I do but beg a little changeling boy’. At the word beg, Titania collapses, physically and mentally exhausted after her tirade. Her fairies rush to huddle round her and support her, so she is half sitting.
She speaks ‘The fairy land buys not the child of me… in an exhausted tone. She speaks dreamily and slightly dazed, and every so often draws deep breathes as if it is a struggle to get the words out. Towards the end of the speech she gathers herself together slightly till she is sitting, but her concerned fairies are still crowding her. Oberon with more gentleness than we have seen before in the scene says ‘Give me that boy and I will go with thee’ with a genuine undertone of concern. In a fit of anger Titania recovers her strength and jumps to her feet, scattering her fairies. Her face is red and the indignation and fury dances in her eyes.
She shakes her fist at Oberon and the fairies pull at the bottom of her dress to keep her from attacking him. She shouts ‘Not for thy fairy kingdom! Fairies away. We shall chide downright if I longer stay. ‘ And with that last burst of anger she flounces out, her body physically shaking, her movements quick and annoyed and her fairies trailing tiredly after her. In Act 4, scene 1 we see Titania accentuate her femininity even more than before. Her sexiness in this scene is truly sincere, not just a tactic to win her way. Her language ‘Come sit thee down upon this flowery bed.. is very provocative and flirtatious.
She would be lying down in a striking position that radiates her womanly needs, her head would be tipped to the side in coy fashion and her words would be soft and every so often a girly giggle would emerge through the words, not in mocking but in nervousness and secret pleasure in what she hopes to follow. Whilst bottom’s every command is being attended to, Titania would hold a permanent secret smile on her face and find excuses to touch Bottom, but then draw away as if suddenly shy, whereas she is just enjoying teasing herself and him.
The sexual tension would be running high, the mood full of expected delights. Titania says ‘Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms. Fairies be gone, and be all ways away’ When Titania says these words she is coyly glancing at bottom, and has a note of laughter with the fairies as she winks them away, as if to share her secret with them in an act of good humour and unity at a time of deep love. There position has been the same throughout the scene, her lying next to him in seductive poses whilst he acts ignorantly.
Through her smiles and giggles, slight annoyance would show through when he rejected her for the fairies. In an attempt to draw back the focus to her, she may speak ‘What wilt thou hear some music, my sweet love? ‘ and maybe stroke his leg to bring back his focus to the sexual vibes she is radiating. In this scene Titania is aware of her sexual potential and her powers to entrap bottom, and uses her femininity and flirtatious tactics well to her advantage. When they are left alone Titania says ‘O, how I love thee!
How I dote on thee’. When she says this she whispers in it Bottoms ear, with a sense of desperation and fondness mingled together. Her blatant lust is highlighted throughout the scene by her provocative actions and sexual innuendos behind the words. All her behaviourisms reek of desperation behind a wall of lust and her facial expression only give the desperations away when a flicker of annoyance will enter it at Bottoms ignorance. In conclusion, the two conflicting sides of Titania can be found in both scenes.
Titania’s use of her sexual potential can be seen to win over Bottom and Oberon, and her annoyance and impatience can be seen when she is not quite gaining her own way. If these are played similarly this can help the audience relate to her as a character, so when they watch act 4, it is not totally unexpected because they have picked up little hints of Titania’s sexual actions in act 2. They can also pick up her impatience from the two contrasting scenes, forming one character that shares the same traits throughout the play, and does not drastically change to confuse the audience.