A Midsummer Night's Dream

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Oberon Character Analysis

The King of the Fairies and Titania's husband. Oberon is willful and demands obedience from his subjects, including his wife. When he's angry, he's not above using magic and plots to manipulate and humiliate in order to get his way. Yet at the same time he also seems to like using magic to fix problems he sees around him, particularly those having to do with love. He's had numerous extra-marital affairs.

Oberon Quotes in A Midsummer Night's Dream

The A Midsummer Night's Dream quotes below are all either spoken by Oberon or refer to Oberon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream published in 2004.
Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania some time of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in. (235)
Related Characters: Oberon (speaker), Titania
Related Symbols: The Love Juice
Page Number: 2.1.257-264
Explanation and Analysis:

After watching Helena and Demetrius’ interaction, Oberon plots how to resolve their conflict at the same time as playing his prank on Tatiana. He describes to Puck his plan to make use of a flower that makes people fall in love.

Oberon’s language here is lush and evocative. He references a variety of different exotic plants at the site where the potion will be found, describing a scene of splendor and vibrance. Forming the speech from sets of rhyming couplets renders it deeply entrancing—thus foreshadowing the way the flowers’ juice will bewitch the lovers. (Note how the eloquence of Oberon’s rhymes is deeply in contrast with Bottom’s in Act 1 Scene 2.) That Tatiana is “Lull’d in these flowers” similarly foreshadows how flowers will be the instruments of enchantment for those who sleep. 


Yet within this tranquil environment Oberon describes, the reference to the “snake” carries a slightly more insidious note—in particular since the following reference is to entrapment: “Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.” Oberon could be showing here how the enchanting and luscious environment can at once carry darker notes of entrapment. Yet the play will ultimately only make those darker notes instruments of enjoyable deceit rather than true manipulation.

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Act 2, scene 2 Quotes
When thou wakest, it is thy dear:
Wake when some vile thing is near. (22)
Related Characters: Oberon (speaker), Titania
Related Symbols: The Love Juice
Page Number: 2.2.39-40
Explanation and Analysis:

Oberon has snuck past Tatiana’s attendants as she sleeps. He places the love potion on her eyes and hopes she will spy something unpleasant when she wakes up.

These lines describe succinctly the way the love potion will affect Tatiana. Whatever she sees when she stops sleeping will be her “dear”: the thing she loves the most. And thus Oberon hopes that what she spies will be “vile,” causing her to fall in love with some odious being. By rhyming “dear” with “near,” he draws attention to the way that Tatiana’s love will be predicated on proximity rather than real romantic sentiment. Indeed, the rhyme is important to note here, for it presents these lines as sonorous rather than actually sinister. As is characteristic of this comedy, the plot resists entering a truly negative realm. Even as Oberon moves to deceive Tatiana, his lighthearted tone presents the behavior to be a mere dalliance or game.

Act 4, scene 1 Quotes
May all to Athens back again repair
And think no more of this night's accidents
But as the fierce vexation of a dream. (50)
Related Characters: Oberon (speaker), Hermia, Helena, Lysander, Demetrius
Page Number: 4.1.68-70
Explanation and Analysis:

Oberon at last feels pity for the way he has treated Titania and the other characters. He informs Puck to finish undoing his mischief and to allow the characters to depart the forest.

These lines verify the sharp division between the play’s urban and forest settings. Whereas the forest is seen as the place of fantasy and magic, the city promises a return to normalcy. Oberon’s use of the word “repair” stresses how the character's return to Athens will restore order to the broken relations and return to normal any behaviors made strange by the forest. His strict delineation between the two spaces casts the events that have transpired in the forest as whimsical and temporary—and to have little relevance to the rest of the characters’ lives.

Oberon also addresses the importance of dreams in this play. Hoping the other characters will think of the events in the forest as only “the fierce vexation of a dream” means that they will consider them to have been a psychologically real experience but one that has no pragmatic effect on their lives. He thus aligns the forest environment with nighttime and dreams, whereas Athens is associated with daytime and “reality.” These associations further emphasize that the romantic complications that have taken place in the forest are to be taken as illusory, for they should be seen as temporary and unreal.

And yet, as becomes clear just a few lines later, the wild, magical, "unreal" events of the forest have actually untangled the romantic mess of the four lovers in a way that the law of Theseus and Athens never could. 

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Oberon Character Timeline in A Midsummer Night's Dream

The timeline below shows where the character Oberon appears in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2, scene 1
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...the forest outside Athens, a fairy meets with Robin Goodfellow. They discuss the conflict between Oberon, king of the fairies, and Titania, the queen of the fairies, about which of them... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
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Puck quiets as Oberon and Titania enter. Oberon tells her, "ill met by moonlight, proud Titania" (2.1.62). They immediately... (full context)
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The Supernatural Theme Icon
Titania tells Oberon that their fight has disordered nature, resulting in floods, fogs, dead livestock, and mixed-up seasons.... (full context)
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Once Titania is gone, Oberon vows to punish her for not obeying him. He calls to Puck, and reminds him... (full context)
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Oberon continues that he saw where that arrow landed: on a little flower that turned from... (full context)
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Oberon, alone, muses on his plan: he'll wait until Titania is asleep and then place the... (full context)
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Just then, Oberon hears voices. Since he's invisible, he decides to spy. Demetrius and Helena enter, walking through... (full context)
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Dreams Theme Icon
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After they exit, Oberon promises that soon Demetrius will seek Helena's love. Once Puck returns with the love-in-idleness flower,... (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
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Dreams Theme Icon
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...night in the woods, Titania's fairy followers sing her to sleep in a beautiful glade. Oberon then sneaks past the guard protecting her, and drops the juice on her sleeping eyelids.... (full context)
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...spurning the Athenian lady. He drops the potion on Lysander's eyes, and rushes back to Oberon. (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
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As Oberon wonders whether Titania has woken and with whom or what she's fallen in love, Puck... (full context)
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But just as Oberon asks about Puck's success with the Athenian youth and Puck says he used the potion... (full context)
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Dreams Theme Icon
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Oberon realizes what has happened and scolds Puck: "What hast though done? Thou hast mistaken quite... (full context)
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Dreams Theme Icon
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Oberon puts the love ointment on Demetrius' eyes as Puck returns with the warning that Helena... (full context)
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Dreams Theme Icon
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Oberon suspects Puck of having intentionally caused this mayhem. Puck swears he made an honest mistake,... (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
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Oberon and Puck enter. Oberon says that he now feels sorry for Titania, especially since she... (full context)
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Then Oberon drops the juice on Titania's eyelids. She wakes, and though confused how she could have... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
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Puck enters, followed by Oberon, Titania and their fairy followers. They dance and sing to bless the three marriages and... (full context)
Act 5, scene 2
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Puck enters, followed by Oberon, Titania and their fairy followers. They dance and sing to bless the three marriages and... (full context)