Queen Mab

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Several Elizabethan and Jacobean poets name ‘Mab’ or ‘Queen Mab’ as a mischievous fairy. Shakespeare describes her as tiny, but he also says she can blister women's faces and tangle horses’ manes (Romeo and Juliet, I. iv). Ben Jonson says she can help or spoil the churning, steals babies, and makes midwives lose their way and fall in ponds and ditches by night. According to John Brand (Brand, 1849: iii. 397), to be ‘Mab-led’ was a Warwickshire term for being led astray by a Will-o'-the-wisp. Robert Herrick warns slovenly housewives that Mab will pinch them (Hesperides (1648), no. 557).

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