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Did Shakespeare believe in fairies?

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"The great chemist Sir Humphry Davy thought that Saturn was inhabited by super-smart creatures with wings made of 'extremely thin membranes [of] azure and rose-colour,'" reports Times Higher Education. "If a leading 19th-century scientist could believe in fairies, what about Shakespeare, a man with an unparalleled imagination, several hundred years earlier?"

Fairies often appear in Shakespeare's plays, taking a star role in A Midsummer Night's Dream, which focuses on an argument between fairy king Oberon and fairy queen Titania over whether or not to keep her deceased mortal friend's baby. A Midsummer Night's Dream takes place in the woodland, in the realm of Fairyland, under the light of the moon. The fairies' dispute causes a disturbance of nature and weather, underlying the plot and informing the actions of the characters.

Shakespeare's repeated references to fairies led esteemed Shakespearean scholar-professor Michael Hattaway to try to "recover the ways in which popular magic was regarded in the age of Shakespeare".

Sheffield shared his results at the 100th Annual British Academy Shakespeare Lecture, which took place on April 22 (the playwright's birthday). Sheffield's presentation, 'Enter Caelia, the Fairy Queen in her night attire': Shakespeare and the Fairies, explored the long-term influence of Shakespeare's fairies, including real-life stories – such as protesters known as servants of the queen of the fairies, who painted themselves as fairies to poach the Duke of Buckingham's deer.

Nobody can say for certain if Shakespeare actually believed in fairies or not, but Professor Hattaway said that he definitely used them as "a way of portraying inwardness and dreams".

A Fairy's Song by Shakespeare
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire!
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green;
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their savours;
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.

Titania from A Midsummer Night's Dream
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in

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