Shakespeare and Oberon

Which character from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream has the same name as a moon of the planet Uranus?

And the answer is: Oberon.

Photo courtesy: public domain. 

Sometimes referred to as an elven king, other times as King of the Faeries, Oberon is a legendary figure seen throughout medieval and Renaissance literature. In Shakespeare's version he is married to Titania, and devises a mischievous plot that sets the play into motion.

Oberon as we know him in Shakespeare's works was largely shaped from Lord Berners' prose translation of the medieval French poem Huon de Bordeaux. In such lore, Oberon is similarly recognized as a powerful dwarf-king whose powers help to achieve otherwise impossible tasks.

In Shakespeare's work, we see a slightly less helpful version of the elven king. In fact, he and his fairy queen, Titania, ignite the trouble of the plot in their fight for a changeling child. Oberon bids his mischievous servant Puck to drop magic juice into Titania's eyes as she sleeps to punish her – doing so causes her to fall hopelessly in love with whatever person or creature she happens to see when she awakes. Chaos ensues.

Oberon is a benevolent ruler of the fairy world. Ultimately, his place in A Midsummer Night's Dream is largely that to instigate but also ultimately resolve the plot (like a true fairy king). Read more about Oberon's place in lore and Shakespeare here.


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