Queen Mab

Queen of the Fairies in English tradition.

O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you. 
She is the fairiesí midwife, and she comes 
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone 
On the fore-finger of an alderman, 
Drawn with a team of little atomies 
Athwart menís noses as they lie asleep;
--Romeo and Juliet I.iv.

Mercutio's lenthy speech on Queen Mab portrays her as a tiny but regal figure, fearsom and wonderous at the same time. Her realm is the natural one, of spiders and plants and grubs, but with an unearthly air to them, manufacturing things from moonbeans.

Shelley also wrote a poem on Queen Mab, seeming to borrow from the themes of Shakespeare's play.

Queen Mab is thought to be a degenerated version of the Irish Queen Medb, from the Ulster Cycle. They share traits even aside from their names--both fierce queens of an otherworldly place (the Connacht of the Ulster Cycle is nothing if not fantastical), both incredibly independant, both incredibly sexual. Traditionally, Mab is said to have been married to Oberon, though Shakespeare, in A Midsummer Night's Dream changes her name to Titiana. Titiana's character may simply be a variation on Mab; like Medb and her husband Ailill, Titiana and Oberon battled over who was more powerful, comparing posessions and waging proxy wars.

Mab also appears in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, in a no-less powerful form, again as the queen of fairies, who eventually welcome Peter Pan into their company.


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Mary Jones © 2003