A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play by William Shakespeare, starts by Theseus, the duke of Athens, being introduced as the soon to be wedded man to Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons - Character Foil introduction. Later on, Oberon is introduced as the King of the Fairies. Although both of these characters do not directly interact with one another, Theseus and Oberon serve as character foils to one another. The two characters share comparable personalities with one another. However, the two have different responses in regards to similar situations.
For the reason of such a drastic difference, this reveals to us Shakespeare’s point about Theseus and Oberon. Theseus and Oberon have analogous personalities and traits. Both men are male leaders of a certain kingdom, like Theseus to his Athenians and Oberon to his fairies. They both have power over their people and are fit worthy to command. Theseus has the power over an army and Oberon has a mysterious right-hand man called Puck who does his every bidding. They are also shown as impatient men. Theseus describes his wedding day to be in “four happy days” (I. . 2) is thinking “how slow this old moon wanes” (I. i. 3-4). He is very impatient and eager for the days to come. Oberon expresses his impatience when “I do but beg a little changeling boy” (II. i. 121). Since he is the king, him begging for something shows that he is impatient and probably wants it now. Although these two personalities are similar, the situations are totally different. Theseus is eager about his wedding day, a very joyous event, whereas Oberon is impatient because he wants something for himself, all to himself.
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As well as they are similar, they are also very contrasting characters. Theseus is a very mature, wise person, whereas Oberon is more instinctive. Oberon knows what he wants, and pursues it irrespective of right and wrong. Theseus on the other hand, doesn’t concern himself with philosophy and higher thinking. Oberon also pretty has his own way when not with Puck, “Having once this juice/I’ll watch Titania when she is asleep” (II. ii. 180-181). Oberon can do anything he wants and takes advantage of this on Titania.
Theseus is more restricted by his position as Duke, and in the conflict between Egeus and Hermia, he doesn’t force Hermia to obey the laws of Athens, but instead acts as a mediator and tries to convince her to change her mind. This is difficult, since he also believes that what Demetrius has to offer is not everlasting fellowship, but a marriage or convenience. Through the actions and reactions of Theseus and Oberon, Shakespeare is trying to convey the message of reality and fantasy.
Both characters represent both sides; Theseus being reality and Oberon being fantasy. In truth, Theseus is a duke who is dealing with problems in his kingdom and personal life and Oberon is a fairy king who does whatever he wants and has his way with everything. Shakespeare is letting us know that there are two sides to everything, one being the more practical choice, which is reality and facing those challenges with difficulty and hard work instead of using some magic to fix everything.
I think this was the message Shakespeare was trying to get through with the characters Theseus and Oberon. Both Theseus and Oberon are very much alike in their ways as their titles “Duke and King,” their power over their kingdoms, and personalities. However, they also display differences in their way to rule and using their power. From the peculiarity, Theseus and Oberon not only were able to display their character foils to one another, but also revealed Shakespeare’s message. There are two sides to the world.
The reality and the fantasy. It is our decision on how to pursue it, however the best way is to take it on the more practical way and actually think about what you are doing. Shakespeare is reminding us that it is okay to dream about the impossibilities becoming possibilities, like magic, but make sure to approach it realistically. Even though Theseus and Oberon have their differences, together they were able to be character foils of one another and help readers discover that hidden theme.