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Queen Mab

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Queen Mab is the name used for the fairy queen in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, in Michael Drayton's Nymphidia, and in Shelley's poem Queen Mab.

 

In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio describes her thus:

She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs;
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
Her traces, of the smallest spider's web;
The collars, of the moonshine's wat'ry beams;

Her whip of cricket's bone; the lash, of film;
Her waggoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid.
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut,
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night...

In Nymphidia, Drayton calls her Oberon's 'merry Queen', and describes her chariot as it is made ready by her fairy attendants for a journey:

Four nimble gnats the horses were,
Their harnesses of gossamer,
Fly Cranion her charioteer
   Upon the coach-box getting.

Her chariot of a snail's fine shell,
Which for the colours did excel,
The fair Queen Mab becoming well,
   So lively was the limning ;

The seat the soft wool of the bee,
The cover, gallantly to see,
The wing of a pied butterflee;
   I trow 'twas simple trimming.

The wheels composed of crickets' bones,
And daintily made for the nonce,
For fear of rattling on the stones
   With thistle-down they shod it...

Shelley's Queen Mab (1813) - despite its beginning in which he invokes Mab, the Queen of Spells - is an ideological poem in which he attacks the Monarchy, War, Commerce and Religion.


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Last updated: April 2010. Copyright © Rohini Chowdhury 2002. All rights reserved.

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