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western flower' poor Amy Robsart, who had been dead fifteen years before. But what is more remarkable even than that the wit of man should have conceived such an interpretation is that the same conclusion was independently arrived at by another investigator. Mr. Halpin, in his. Oberon's Vision (Shakes. Soc. Publ.), not only follows the outline of Boaden's theory, that we have in this description an allegorical account of what happened upon the occasion of Elizabeth's visit to Kenilworth, but pursues the allegory with a minuteness of detail which Boaden did not attempt. In fact he takes up the interpretation where Boaden leaves it, and identifying the promontory on which Oberon sat with the 'brays' which are described by Laneham as 'linking a fair park with the castle on the south,' he disposes of the rest of the allegory in this wise. Cupid all armed, flying between the cold moon and the earth, is the Earl of Leicester, wavering in his passion between Queen Elizabeth and the Lady Douglas, Countess of Sheffield, to whom he was believed to be privately married. The aim which he took at a fair vestal throned by the west is the attempt made by him upon this occasion to win the hand of Elizabeth. This was defeated by the pride, prudery, and jealousy of power, which invariably swayed the tide of Elizabeth's passions, and the Virgin Queen finally departed from Kenilworth Castle unshackled with a matrimonial engagement, and as heartwhole as ever.' The little western flower is Lettice, Countess of Essex, with whom Leicester intrigued during the lifetime of her husband, and whom he afterwards married. We must at any rate give the inventor of this interpretation credit for remarkable ingenuity, but to accept it requires the exercise of something more than faith. If there be an allegorical meaning in Oberon's words why does he suddenly drop allegory and come back to reality when he says to Puck, ‘Fetch me that flower'? No one pretends that this has an allegorical significance, and if so, how can it be separated in such a manner from what precedes, that up to this point all is allegory and from this point all is fact?
The fairy mythology of Shakespeare in the Midsummer Night's Dream is described by Keightley (Fairy Mythology, p. 325) as an attempt to blend 'the Elves of the village with the Fays of romance. His Fairies agree with the former in their diminutive stature,—diminished, indeed, to dimensions inappreciable by village gossips,-in their fondness for dancing, their love of cleanliness, and their child-abstracting propensities. Like the Fays, they form a community, ruled over by the princely Oberon and the fair Titania. There is a court and chivalry: Oberon would have the Queen's sweet changeling to be a “knight of his train to trace the forest wild.” Like earthly monarchs he had his jester, “the shrewd and knavish sprite, called Robin Goodfellow.” It is true that Shakespeare has presented these purely English fairies in combination with 'the heroes and heroines of the mythic age of Greece, but indeed Theseus is Greek in name only. He is an English nobleman, who after service in the wars has returned to his estate and his field sports, and Bottom and his fellows may have been any Warwickshire peasants, hard-handed men of Coventry, but no Athenians. There is no attempt in the whole course of the play to give it a classical colouring, and there is therefore nothing incongruous to a reader in finding himself in company with the Greek-sounding names of Theseus, Egeus and Philostrate in one scene, and Oberon and Robin Goodfellow in another. The play is thoroughly English from beginning to end.
Oberon the fairy king first appears in the old French Romance of Huon of Bourdeaux, and is identical with Elberich the dwarf king of the German story of Otnit in the Heldenbuch. The name Elberich, or as it appears in the Nibelungenlied, Albrich, was changed in passing into French first into Auberich, then into Auberon, and finally became our Oberon, He is introduced by Spenser in the Fairy Queen (bk. ii. cant. 1. st. 6), where he describes Sir Guyon :
• Well could he tournay, and in lists debate,
And in the tenth canto of the same book (st. 75) he is the allegorical representative of Henry VIII. The wise Elficleos left two sons,
Of which faire Elferon,
Doubly supplide, in spousall and dominion.' "Oboram King of Fayeries' is one of the characters in Greene's James the Fourth, which was not printed till 1598, but was of course written in or before 1592.
The name Titania for the Queen of the Fairies appears to have been the invention of Shakespeare. In Romeo and Juliet she is known by the more familiar appellation Queen Mab, and in an entertainment given to Elizabeth by the Earl of Hertford at Elvetham in 1591, there was a speech addressed to the Queen by 'Aureola, the Quene of Fairy land,' in which Auberon is mentioned as the Fairy King. Keightley explains the origin of the name Titania, 'It was the belief of those days that the Fairies were the same as the classic Nymphs, the attendants of Diana: “That fourth kind of spirits,” says King James, “ quhilk be the gentilis was called Diana, and her wandering court, and amongst us called the Phairie.” The Fairy Queen was therefore the same as Diana, whom Ovid (Met. iii. 173) styles Titania.' (Fairy Mythology, p. 325, note.) In Chaucer's Merchant's Tale, Pluto is the King of Faerie and his Queen Proserpina, who danced and sang about the well under the laurel in January's garden.
Puck or Robin Goodfellow is the mischief-loving sprite who in one fairy genealogy is said to be the son of Oberon. His former title is an appellative and not strictly a proper name, and we find him speaking of himself, “As I am an honest Puck,''Else the Puck a liar call. In fact Puck, or pouke, is an old word for devil, and it is used in this sense in the Vision of Piers Ploughman, 11345 (ed. T. Wright) :
• Out of the poukes pondfold
And in the Romance of Richard Coer de Lion, 4326 (printed in Weber's Metrical Romances, vol. ii) :
He is no man he is a pouke.' The Icelandic pûki is the same word, and in Friesland the kobold or domestic spirit is called Puk. In Devonshire, pixy is the name for a fairy, and in Worcestershire we are told that the peasants are sometimes poake ledden, that is, misled by a mischievous spirit called Poake. "Pouk-laden' is also given in Hartshorne's Shropshire Glossary. Keightley was of opinion that Shakespeare was the first to confound Puck with the house-spirit or Robin Goodfellow, but it is evident that in popular belief the same mischief-loving qualities which belong to Puck were attributed to Robin Goodfellow long before the time of Shakespeare. Tyndale, in his Obedience of a Christian Man (Parker Soc. ed. p. 321) says, ' The pope is kin to Robin Goodfellow, which sweepeth the house, washeth the dishes, and purgeth all, by night; but when day cometh, there is nothing found clean.' And again, in his Exposition of the Ist Epistle of St. John (Parker Soc. ed. p. 139), ‘By reason whereof the scripture ... is become a maze unto them, in which they wander as in a mist, or (as we say) led by Robin Goodfellow, that they cannot come to the right way, no, though they turn their caps. The great source of information with regard to popular beliefs in fairies and spirits is Reginald Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, first published in 1584. Of Robin Goodfellow he says (Book iv. ch. 10), 'In deede your grandams maides were woont to set a boll of milke before him (Incubus) and his cousine Robin good-fellow, for grinding of malt or mustard, and sweeping the house at midnight: and you haue also heard that he would chafe exceedingly, if the maid or good-wife of the house, hauing compassion of his nakednes, laid anie clothes for him, beesides his messe of white bread and milke, which was his standing fee. For in that case he saith ; What haue we here? Hemton hamten, here will I neuer more tread nor stampen.' Again (Bk. vii. ch. 15), 'It is a common
saieing; A lion feareth no bugs. But in our childhood our mothers maids haue so terrified vs with an ouglie diuell hauing hornes on his head, fier in his mouth, and a taile in his breech, eies like a bason, fanges like a dog, clawes like a beare, a skin like a Niger, and a voice roring like a lion, whereby we start and are afraid when we heare one crie Bough: and they haue so fraied us with bull beggers, spirits, witches, vrchens, elues, hags, fairies, satyrs, pans, faunes, sylens, kit with the cansticke, tritons, centaurs, dwarfes, giants, imps, calcars, coniurors, nymphes, changlings, Incubus, Robin good-fellowe, the spoorne, the mare, the man in the oke, the hell waine, the fierdrake, the puckle, Tom thombe, hob gobblin, Tom tumbler, boneles, and such other bugs, that we are afraid of our owne shadowes: in so much as some neuer feare the diuell, but in a darke night; and then a polled sheepe is a perillous beast, and manie times is taken for our fathers soule, speciallie in a churchyard, where a right hardie man heretofore scant durst passe by night, but his haire would stand vpright.' See also in the same book A Discourse vpon diuels and spirits, c. 21. Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy (Part I. Sec. 2. Mem. 1. Subs. 2) discusses the nature of spirits, and among other points the important question whether they are mortal. One of his divisions is as follows: “Terrestrial devils are those lares, genii, faunes, satyrs, wood-nymphs, foliots, fairies, Robin Goodfellows, Trulli, &c., 'which as they are most conversant with men, so they do them most harm . . . Some put our fairies into this rank, which have been in former time adored with much superstition, with sweeping their houses, and setting of a pail of clean water, good victuals, and the like; and then they should not be pinched, but find money in their shoes, and be fortunate in their enterprises. These are they that dance on heaths and greens, as Lavater thinks with Trithemius, and as Olaus Magnus adds, leave that green circle, which we commonly find in plain fields, which others hold to proceed from a meteor falling, or some accidental rankness of the ground; so nature sports herself .... Paracelsus reckons up many