2. WHO ARE THE CHARACTERS?Much of the religious allegory in
had already been detected byProfessor Patricia Parker by reviewing how readers constructed allegoricalmeanings from texts in the late medieval period. Especially in her keyarticle ‘Murals and Morals; A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ published in
in 1998, Parker had suggested the allegorical identity of Pyramus and Thisbe (Jesus and the Church), Wall (the Partition betweenEarth and Heaven which comes down at the Apocalypse), Peter Quince(Saint Peter) , and confirmed the allegorical identity of Puck (the Devil).The present production completes her work by using source criticism tosuggest the allegorical identity of Oberon, Titania, the Little Indian boyand the Flower, and by constructing an overall interpretation of how allthese entities inter-relate in the allegorical plot. Parker’s finding thatseveral characters are allegories for Christian figures from first century Judea creates the presupposition that the others may be also.A major plot point turns on the war that is taking place between Oberonand Titania. The whole war has been caused by Titania stealing away a“Little Indian Boy” whose mother is a Vot’ress, meaning a holy Virgin.Moreover, Titania crowns him with flowers. We are not told which but theforest contains several notably thorny flowers like eglantine, primroses(oxlips) or the musk roses which made Bottom scratch. This is all verypeculiar. A Fairy Queen would hardly have a vot’ress since the termmeans a woman consecrated by a vow to a religious life especiallyreferring to virgins. And holy virgins, even ones those associated with thesea, by definition, do not have children. In fact, in all of western literaturethere was only one who did —the Virgin Mary, sometimes called the starof the sea. Her son also ended up being crowned---and with thorns.
The Little Indian Boy.
Significantly in this play the Boy is three timescalled the “changeling”. The superficial reason is that fairies were thoughtto steal children and substitute fairy babies as changelings. However therhetorical term ‘Changeling’ also was how George Puttenham employedthe fairy tradition in
The Art of English Poesie
(1589) as the translationfor the Greek rhetorical term
, in which as Miriam Joseph puts it“the application of words is perverted and sometimes made absurd”.
is a variety of the broader grammatical form known as
, meaning a departure from ordinary order. We are thereforebeing warned that the Little Indian Boy is associated with such adeparture from the ordinary order in which words are given perverted andabsurd meanings.