A Midsummer Night's Dream. 3: Into the Woods
3: Into the Woods
In the woods outside Athens Oberon - King of the Fairies - meets Queen Titania in a clearing. They argue over one of Titania’s fairy helpers, coveted by Oberon, after which Titania storms off. Oberon is incensed and commands Puck to fly away to find a magic flower that, when rubbed on the eyes, will make a person (or fairy) fall in love with the next live creature that it sees. Oberon intends to use the flower on Titania to teach her a lesson by making her fall in love with some wild animal of the wood.
As Oberon schemes, Demetrius enters the clearing pursued by Helena. Demetrius is searching for Hermia and Lysander - who he expected to find in the woods according to Helena’s tip-off - but he can’t find them anywhere. Demetrius snaps at Helena and leaves, followed by the forlorn Helena.
When Puck returns with the magic flower, Oberon asks him to use some of it on Demetrius so that he falls in love with Helena.
Activities - KS2
A number of aspects of the conflict between Oberon and Titania could be discussed and form the basis for classroom exercises. Following a discussion about who has the upper hand in their argument, pupils could be split into pairs to practise lines (either from the original text or from the adaptation) in which they deliver them as high status / low status characters.
Titania’s description of the rivers overflowing, crops rotting in the fields and seasons all running into one could lead to a discussion of pathetic fallacy, a common literary technique in Shakespeare's work. Pupils could be asked to describe, or even draw, specific natural phenomena to reflect Oberon’s anger, or Titania’s indifference, or the environmental effects that would follow if Oberon and Titania were reconciled.
The discussion of the seasons being out of joint could be incorporated into a PSHE lesson focusing on global warming and how human activity has influenced nature.
Activities - KS3
Students could be given a copy of Titania’s speech to Oberon about the environmental effects of their argument from the original play text (Act 2, Scene 1, lines 81-117) and asked to produce their own prose translation of the same (or extracts from it). This could form the basis of a wider discussion about the effects of arguments between royals, both historical and contemporary.
These are the forgeries of jealousy,
And never since the middle summer's spring
Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
Or in the beached margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport.
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fog: which falling in the land,
Hath every petty river made so proud,
That they have over-born their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted, ere his youth attain'd a beard:
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion flock,
The nine mens morris is filled up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green,
For lack of tread are undistinguishable.
The human mortals want their winter here,
No night is now with hymn or carol blest;
Therefore the moon (the governess of floods)
Pale in her anger, washes all the air;
That rheumatic diseases do abound.
And through this distemperature, we see
The seasons alter; hoar headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiem's thin and icy crown,
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is as in mockery set. The spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now know not which is which;
And this same progeny of evils,
Comes from our debate, from our dissension,
We are their parents and original.