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Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream

3. Titania

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore the character of Titania, the Fairy Queen. First, we explore the presentation of the Fairy Queen in Medieval and Early Modern thought, noting the tendency for the Fairy Queen to be someone who abducts men and keeps them captive as her slaves (much like Titania does with Bottom). After that, we think of Titania in terms of another dominant woman in the minds of the Elizabethan audience - Queen Elizabeth herself - and note the Queen's tendency to keep male courtiers at very close quarters. Third, we consider the role of Titania as bad queen, something which is exemplified by the lack of food in Fairy Land (which would have resonated with the Elizabethan audiences of the 1590s, who had had a series of failed harvests). Finally, we look at the ambiguous episode of the Changeling Boy, a scene which gives more hints of Titania's status as an abductress.


In this course, Professor Diane Purkiss (Oxford) explores Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with a particular focus on some of the more magical aspects of the play. The course begins with an exploration of the idea of the "Midsummer Night" in the Elizabethan imagination, before thinking about contemporary beliefs about dreams (and nightmares). After this, we look in turn at three major fairies in the play - Titania, Oberon and Puck - exploring how they might have been understood by teh original Elizabethan audience. The course ends with a consideration of Pyramus and Thisbe, characters in the play-within-a-play, and asks: "Why is it that audiences find this tragic story so funny?"


Diane Purkiss is a Professor at Keble College, Oxford. She has published two books on the English Civil War - 'The English Civil War: A People's History' (2006) and 'Literature, Gender, and Politics during the English Civil War' (2005).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Purkiss, D. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream - Titania [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Purkiss, D. "Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream – Titania." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,