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The fairies are introduced into the play to enhance the atmosphere of the dream-like quality of the drama. With their splendid costumes, their singing and dancing, and the exquisite poetry they always speak, the fairies almost create a masque; they also serve as a sharp contrast to the craftsmen, who are crude and commonplace by comparison. The real purpose of the fairies, however, is to interact with the Athenian gentry, causing confusion and adventure in the plot.
Titania is the Queen of the Fairies, who is used to having her own way. She has her own entourage of attendant sprites, such as Peace-Blossom, Cobweb, and Moth, who are always ready to do her bidding. Because she is spoiled, she refuses to give up the Indian boy that Oberon so desires; as a result, the king and queen quarrel. For much of the play, they do not even speak.
In retaliation for Titania's refusal, Oberon places the magical flower juice on her eyelids. When she wakes, the first creature that she sees is Nick Bottom, wearing the ass's head. She falls madly in love with him, which adds humor to the play.
Of all the fairies, Puck is shown to have the most personality and individuality. He is full of mischief and often interferes with domestic activities of other fairies and humans. Additionally, he takes the shapes of animals to frighten people or misleads travelers at night by creating false lights. Although he can be a troublemaker, Puck's intentions are not to inflict cruelty; he just wants to have a good time. His master, Oberon, knows about Puck's mischief and often checks on Puck's motives in doing something. When Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and casts a spell on the wrong young man, Oberon is not sure that Puck did not do it intentionally.
The world of the fairies is an important part of the entire plot and helps to unify the three different worlds, for the fairies interact with both the gentry and the craftsmen. Additionally, the fairies, especially Puck, contribute immensely to the development of the plot by causing confusion in the affairs of the Athenian lovers and the craftsmen actors. Fortunately, however, the intentions of the fairies are never evil, and they never cause lasting damage.
Oberon is the fairy king who has demanded that Titania give him the Indian boy to be his attendant; when Titania refuses, the mischief of the play begins. Oberon decides to make her give up the pageboy by casting her under a magical spell, which makes her fall in love with Bottom, one of the craftsmen.
When Oberon sees Helena grieving over Demetrius, he decides to help her, proving he is a gentle soul at heart. He entrusts Puck to cast a spell on Demetrius that will make him love Helena; unfortunately, Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, which creates additional problems in the plot. When Oberon realizes Puck's mistake, he chides his attendant and makes him set things right, again showing his sensitive side. When he sees Titania in love with a crude ass-headed Bottom, his heart even goes out to her, and he says, "Her dotage now I do begin to pity." When Titania agrees to give up the Indian boy, Oberon is glad to break Titania's spell and befriend her again. After they are reconciled, they go in to Athens to bless the bridal beds of Theseus and Hippolyta, Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius.
Nick Bottom, the weaver, is destined to steal the play within a play presented by the craftsmen. Totally conceited, he believes that he is a cut above the rest of the group and should be allowed to play all of the parts. Even though Peter Quince has thought of the play, Nick Bottom tries to run the show, eagerly directing and correcting his friends.
Bottom is delighted to be assigned the main role of Pyramus, but wishes his character were a tyrant rather than a lover. He feels he is a better actor in fierce roles. As a result, when Snug is offered the lion's role, Bottom insists on being the lion himself. He says that he can roar so loudly and fiercely that the Duke would shout, "Let him roar again; let him roar again."
It is rather ironic that in real life Bottom is made to play the role of an animal. The mischievous Puck places an ass's head on him, a most appropriate symbol for the conceited braggart of the play. When Titania is cast under her spell, it is the ass-headed Bottom that she first sees upon waking; as a result, she falls in love with this ridiculous man, who is here complete opposite.
Because of fairy magic, Nick is totally unaware that he is wearing an ass's head. When his friends run away from him in fear, he thinks that they are trying to frighten him. His constant reference to an ass when he reprimands his friends contributes to the humor of the play, and Bottom becomes the main comic character. He is also the favorite amongst the craftsmen. According to them, he has the best wit and sweetest voice in all of Athens. They are also certain that if he acts in front of Theseus, he will be awarded a pension of six pence a day for an outstanding performance. During the play, however, Bottom behaves ridiculously and makes himself appear like the fool that he is.