titania's lullaby

When Titania lies down to rest, on a bed of flowers, her fairy attendants sing her a lullaby:

You spotted snakes with double tounge,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blind-worms, do no wrong,
Come not near our fairy queen.

Philomel, with melody,
Singy in our sweet melody,
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby;
Never harm, nor spell, nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So goodnight, with lullaby.

Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence you long-legg'd spinners, hence!
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm nor snail, do no offence. II ii 9-23

Jan Kott accentuates the contrast between the list of flowers in Oberon's description of Titania's sleeping place (II i 249-253) and this "bestiary" of a lullaby. Kott connects the snakes, newts, spiders and beetles not only with witchcraft, but also with medieval "drugs to cure impotence and women's affliction of one kind or another." He continues:

All these are slimy, hairy, sticky creatures, unpleasant to touch and often arousing violent aversion. It is the sort of aversion that is described by psychoanalytic textbooks as a sexual neurosis (Kott 1998 (1967): 117).

But the creatures in the lullaby aren't really very dangerous. Beetles, worms and snails won't harm a fairy queen, although they may be unpleasant. The lullaby groups spiders and worms with spells and charms, and so the protecting lullaby can be read as reducing the danger of magic to our annoyance at a snail.

The lullaby's chant of protection doesn't work, though, and a charm does "come our lovely lady nigh." In this way the lullaby can be read as giving a sense of threatening danger, or perhaps more an annoyance than a danger. For as soon as the fairies have left the queen to rest, Oberon charms her, and forces her to love a beast.