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Titania is one of the main characters in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. She is the queen of the fairies, and the wife of the fairy king, Oberon.

In folklore, the fairy queen has no name.

Shakespeare took the name 'Titania' for his fairy queen from the Roman poet, Ovid (43 BC - AD 18). In his great epic Metamorphoses , Ovid gives this name to the deities Latona, Pyrrha, Diana and Circe, as descendants of the Titans, the powerful gods and goddesses, who, according to Greek myth, ruled the world in the beginning.

Inspired by Shakespeare, many later writers used the name 'Titania' for their fairy queen characters.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titania and Oberon quarrel over a changeling child, a little boy whom Titania has stolen from his nurse after his mother's death. Oberon wants the changeling child to be his page, but Titania refuses to hand the boy over to his care. She explains her actions thus:

His mother was a vot'ress of my order;
And, in the spiced Indian air, by night,
Full often hath she gossip'd by my side;
And sat on Neptune's yellow sands,
Marking th' embarked traders on the flood;
...her womb then rich with my young squire

But she, being mortal, of that boy did die;
And for her sake do I rear up her boy;
And for her sake I will not part with him.

Shakespeare's Titania is rational and civilised. She bears very little resemblance to the fairy queen of folklore, who was mysterious, powerful, unpredictable, and feared and respected by all. The only traditional characteristic of the fairy queen that Titania seems to retain is her stealing away of the changeling child.

The largest of the planet Uranus' moons is called Titania, after Shakespeare's fairy queen.

See also:    Oberon      A Midsummer Night's Dream

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

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