Daughters as Means of Power in Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Familial relationships are the principal driving force behind the plot of Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest. For example, the sole reason Prospero, the protagonist, is on the island is because of his brother, Antonio, usurping him. Despite the plot seemingly revolving around this relationship, in actuality, the entire play mostly concerns itself with father-daughter relationships, more specifically, Alonso and Claribel and Prospero and Miranda. At first glance, it appears that these fathers only want the best for their daughters and are trying to give them lifelong happiness through marriage; however, after analyzing the true motives behind these marriages and Prospero’s constant anxieties about virginity, one can tell that these fathers are solely using their daughters as a means to expand their power.
The only reason that Alonso and his men become shipwrecked on the island and the play is able to take place is due to Claribel’s marriage to the prince of Tunis in Africa. According to Stephen Orgel, the author of this play’s introduction, this marriage was “not a happy occasion, to which the bride went unwillingly, and of which much of the court disapproved” (30). Much of the reason the court disapproved was because the marriage was to an African and not a fellow European. In turn, this voyage of Africa leads many of the men to blame Alonso for the shipwreck, which can be seen when Sebastian states: Sir, you may thank yourself for this great loss, That would not bless our Europe with your daughter, But rather lose her to an African, Where she, at least, is banished from your eye, Who hath cause to wet the grief on’t. (2.1.121-125) Here, Sebastian is telling Alonso that the shipwreck is entirely his fault for marrying off his daughter to an African, where he will never see her again, as opposed to a European. This argument makes sense and leaves the readers wondering why Alonso did choose to marry her to a man so far away. The most likely reason is that the marriage was solely a political move. If Alonso, the King of Naples in Italy, marries his daughter off to the Prince of Tunis in Africa, his rule would then expand across the entire Mediterranean Sea, giving him ultimate power over this area. This, in turn, makes Claribel more than just a daughter, but a form of currency for expansion and power, which Alonso hastily uses for his benefit.
Alonso is not the only father in this play to use his daughter for his own benefit; Prospero’s willingness to let Miranda marry Ferdinand, Alonso’s son, is not as innocent as it seems. Orgel writes, “Claribel’s marriage will give us notice that more is at stake in the match Prospero is arranging than the happiness of two young people” (30). Here, Orgel is stating that, in the context of Claribel’s marriage to the Prince of Tunis, the readers can more easily see that Prospero is marrying off his daughter to further his own power, much like Alonso. This is not only seen in Orgel’s words and the context of the play but Prospero’s own words as well. When he is listening in on Miranda and Ferdinand’s first meeting, he states “They are both in either’s powers; but this swift business/ I must uneasy make lest too light winning/ Make the prize light” (1.2.451-453). He refers to Miranda and Ferdinand falling for each other and most likely developing a relationship as “business,” implying that, to him, it is a form of trade or transaction in which his daughter is the compensation. Similarly, when Prospero finally consents to the marriage between Miranda and Ferdinand, he states, “Here, afore heaven, I ratify this my rich gift” (4.1.7-8). In this speech, the “gift” he is referring to is his daughter, proving that she is solely a form of compensation. Despite there being a multitude of evidence from Stephen Orgel and Prospero’s own words for this being a political marriage that Prospero has arranged solely for his benefit, one of the most powerful indicators of this comes in the final scene of the play. In this scene, Alonso is fretting over the supposed loss of his son when “Prospero discovers Ferdinand and Miranda playing at chess” (5.1). Out of context, it seems odd that a romantically involved couple would be playing chess when given alone time. However, with Prospero’s power play in mind, it becomes apparent that these two are playing a game of strategy, much like the entire backbone of their political marriage.
Despite these daughters being used as tools for power for their fathers, there is a massive threat constantly looming that could hinder these fathers from gaining this power. This threat is a violation in the daughters’ virginities. The readers can assume that Claribel was married off still with her virginity; however, Prospero is constantly worrying about the state of his own daughter. The first possible violation of Miranda’s virginity that Prospero must prevent is Caliban, an indigenous man of the island. When introducing Caliban for the first time, Prospero states: Thou most lying slave, Whom stripes may move, not kindness, I have used thee- Filth as thou art- with human care, and lodged thee In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate The honour of my child. (1.2.344-348) Here, Prospero is scolding Caliban for trying to rape Miranda after all he has done to care for him. However, Prospero’s love for his daughter is not the only driving force of his anger concerning this attempted rape. It could be argued that he is mainly concerned with this act due to the fact that it would violate Miranda’s virginity, therefore making her more difficult to marry off, especially to someone in a place of power. Caliban replies to this by saying, “Would’t had been done!/ Thou didst prevent me- I had peopled else/ This isle with Calibans” (1.2.348-350). By this, Caliban means that he would have gone through with his plan to rape Miranda and populate the island with their children if he had not been caught. This is especially terrifying to Prospero if he is using Miranda as a tool for power, seeing as not only would her virginity be violated, but she would not be able to be married off elsewhere, giving Prospero power only over the island, which he already has.
However, Caliban is not the only threat to Miranda’s virginity. Throughout the play, there are constant allusions to similarities between Caliban and Ferdinand. Orgel writes, “[Prospero’s] ambivalence towards Ferdinand is expressed, too, in the tasks Prospero sets for him, which are, explicitly, Caliban’s tasks” (29). Here, Orgel is referencing the fact that Prospero makes both Caliban and Ferdinand carry logs for him. In the beginning of Act Two, Scene Two, Caliban enters the stage with “a burden of wood” after Prospero tells him to “Fetch us fuel” (1.2.365). Additionally, in the beginning of Act Three, Scene I, Ferdinand enters the stage “bearing a log.” However, these tasks are not all that equate Caliban and Ferdinand in Prospero’s eyes; he sees both of these men as threats to his daughter’s virginity. After giving Ferdinand permission to marry Miranda, Prospero states: If thou dost break her virgin-knot before All sanctimonious ceremonies may With full and holy rite be ministered, No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall To make this contract grow; but barren hate, Sour-eyed disdain, and discord shall bestrew The union of your bed with weeds so loathly That you shall hate it both. (4.1.15-22) Here, he is warning Ferdinand not to take Miranda’s virginity before they are actually married or their marriage will not be blessed but cursed with strife. However, Orgel writes, “Prospero’s repeated warnings to Ferdinand against pre-marital sex are not prompted by anything we see of Ferdinand’s behaviour” (28). Because Prospero has no evidence that Ferdinand would take Miranda’s virginity before they were married, readers can infer that Propsero is warning him against this action for his own benefit. He wants to ensure that Miranda stays a virgin until the marriage is final to make sure that she can still be of use as a means to power if anything were to happen.
Many read Shakespeare’s The Tempest to be a play about fatherly love; however, upon further inspection, this play also concerns itself with fathers using their daughters as means for expand their power. This is first seen in the reason for the shipwreck that starts the play, or Alonso’s marrying off of his daughter, Claribel, to the Prince of Tunis so that he can have control of the Mediterranean Sea. Additionally, this theme can be seen in Prospero’s marrying off of his daughter, Miranda, to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples, so that when he escapes the island he still has some form of power. However, Prospero constantly lives in a state of anxiety due to the possibility that Miranda’s virginity could be threatened, which would, in turn, cause Prospero to lose his only remaining means to power, his daughter. However, since she is able to keep her virginity until marriage, as Prospero has ensured, she is still a powerful asset to him and can be used, as daughters were, to expand his power.
The Tempest and Use of the Masque Genre
During the 16th century, the court masque was a popular form of entertainment, one often used to celebrate the king and aristocracy. Shakespeare’s greatest contribution to the genre was his play The Tempest, which masterfully wove the elements of the popular masque right into the fabric of the plot. This drama enables us to examine the inner workings of a masque without necessary classifying as a pure masque. In order to truly understand how The Tempest was a significant contribution to the masque genre, the reader must understand what the basic elements of a court masque are, and how these different elements were weaved into the creation of The Tempest.
The court masques of the Renaissance era where a form of entertainment that combined spoken word, dance, song, and storytelling into an allegorical story of the power of the king and aristocracy. Court masques began to flourish during the 16th through 17th centuries, and reached their zenith at the end of the reign of house Stuart (Frans Van Dijkhuizen). In a departure from the plays and dramas of the time, most of the action during a court masque was taken up by the settings itself. The audience, the actors, the King, and the set were all equal parts of the performance. Attendants wore elaborate costumes and disguises as part of the event. Masques thus blurred the lines between storytelling and reality, as the sitting monarch or aristocrat was a meaningful part of the story, along with the audience. For those in power masques, were not only a form of entertainment but also a demonstration of power, command, and control over society. A masque was a highly political event that was meant to glorify those who held authority.
There were several elements they were particular to the genre during the 15th century. The dancers performing in a masque were not paid actors or dancers, but were rather the political elite of society. It was not rare to see a king or an aristocrat dancing during the performance of a masque. A masque was not just a dance, though; it was the totality of everything that encompassed the performance. Every costume, audience member, and set piece was a part of the masque. All masques had a central motif, called a device, that would bring all of these elements together (Frans Van Dijkhuizen). This device determined what kind of scenery was used, what costumes were worn, and even what kinds of dances were held. At the beginning of the masque a device would be introduced by a smaller, darker, and more grotesque performance called the “anti-masque.” All of these elements worked together to create the masque genre.
What makes The Tempest unique in its contribution to the masque genre is that the work is very aware of what it is. Shakespeare integrated the elements of the masque right into the story of The Tempest. The play didn’t just contain the typical elements of song, poetry, and dance, but constantly referenced the concept of the court masque within the body of its own action. The Tempest takes concepts from the genre and interludes them with anti-masques concerning passion, disruption of hierarchy, and murder.
In Act IV of the play, Prospero demands that Ariel make spirits appear before him to perform a masque in celebration of Ferdinand and Miranda’s wedding. Prospero says to Ariel, “Thou and thy meaner fellows your last service, Did worthily perform, and I must use you In such another trick. Go bring the rabble, O’er whom I give thee power, here to this place” (Shakespeare IV i 35-39). Spirits and the supernatural were a common theme in masques. They acted as allegories for the power of the aristocracy and kings. When asked by Ferdinand if what he is seeing were truly spirits, Prospero responds, “Spirits, which by mine art, I have from their confines called to enact my present fancies” (Shakespeare IV i.132). Suddenly, three goddesses appear before Prospero and begin to sing: “Honor, riches, marriage, blessing, Long continuance, and increasing, Hourly joys be still upon you. Juno sings her blessings on you” (Shakespeare IV I 106-108). Masques were commonly thrown for special occasions such as a new ruler or a wedding. These three spirits performed and glorified the new couple as would traditionally be done in a masque.
While Prospero is entranced in the performance of the spirits, he suddenly remembers the plot against his life and bids the spirits away. Prospero says “Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air; And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve; And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep” (Shakespeare IV i.148–158). The way this scene is framed, it gives the audience a look into how a masque would appear to an observer. Due to the nature of how masques were performed, the audience was always an active participant in the performance. Shakespeare framed the court masque within the play in a way that the viewer could see how reality melds with fiction in the eyes of the participants. At one moment Perspero is captivated by the magic of what is occurring around him, and then the next he remembers that his very life is in danger. He mourns, “I had forgot that foul conspiracy Of the beast Caliban and his confederates Against my life” (Shakespeare IV I.130-132). He himself became a part of the magic around him, if only for a second.
Moral instruction was also an important aspect of a masque. While they had little to no story to carry them forward, masques would take a moral ideal and work it into the fabric of the masque as a device. Prospero uses the masque as a moral lesson, and has Ariel tell the wicked Antonio and his fellow conspirators the meaning of the masque being performed. Ariel says, “You are three men of sin, whom Destiny… the never-surfeited sea hath caused to belch up you, and on this island where man doth not inhabit” (Shakespeare III.i.53-57). All of these passages take common elements from masques and turn them on their head. The work is not about glorifying power, but instead is an existential work about a person’s place in society as the social hierarchy topples all around him. The play thus appropriates a tool of propaganda and uses it to tell a humanistic story.
With the technology that we have available today, a masque would truly be a marvelous thing to behold. We currently have machines that can create smells, projectors that can create three dimensional images, and the ability to project sound in three dimensions. I imagine that a masque today would look something like Cirque du Soleil, except in a more open area and with more viewer interaction. The technology could really be used to create an immersive experience in which the audience is actually part of the story that is occurring. If it rains in the story, the theatre can turn on sprinklers; if ghosts appear, then the theatre can use three dimensional projectors.
The Tempest takes concepts from the court masque genre and turns them on their head by interweaving them with antimasque elements and a dramatic story line. Masques were developed as social performances where every single viewer, set piece, costume, and most importantly the King, were an integral part of the act. Shakespeare framed The Tempest in a way that the audience would be able to watch a court masque as an observer. This gave the viewer a unique perspective on how masques are able to blend reality and fiction together. While not directly a masque itself, The Tempest makes a significant contribution to the genre.
Frans Van Dijkhuizen, Jan. “PROSPERO’S DREAM The Tempest and the Court Masque Inverted.” Shakespeare Society of the Low Countries. Web. 20 Sept. 2014. <http://shakespeare.let.uu.nl/masque.htm>.
Weisser, Brian. “The Masque.” Folger Institute Stress Site. 2003. Web. 20 Sept. 2014. <http://www.folger.edu/html/folger_institute/cultural_stress/court_masque.html>.
The Importance of Minor Characters in The Tempest and Doctor Faustus
Shakespeare’s minor characters are as often as diverse and essential to the plot as their protagonist counterparts, used within his plays to illuminate the main characters’ goals and feelings. The presence of these personages also expands upon the audience’s experience while giving audience members characters to which they can relate. In The Tempest, for example, Antonio helps to illuminate Prospero’s last hardships, creating sympathy with the audience, where as Shakespeare uses Stephano to parody Antonio, creating humour in this mockery.
The character of Antonio is introduced to the audience first in scene one, on the boat, and further explained in Prospero’s story about how he was forced to Milan. Prospero’s description of his brother, “Thy false uncle” and “that a brother should be so perfidious”, gives the audience an indication as to the nature of the character. This would be seen as a biased statement, causing the audience to suspect Prospero’s interpretations, were it not for Antonio’s actions on the boat, where he proved himself to be an extremely disagreeable character in his treatment of those both lower that him in station, the Boatswain, and elder than him in wisdom, Gonzalo. For example, the quote “Hang cur! Hang you whoreson, insolent noisemaker. We are less afraid to be drowned than thou art”. Antonio later makes it clear that he does not regret supplanting his brother’s power, as when he is asked about his conscience he says, “Ay, Sir: where lies that?”. This has the dramatic effect of alienating him from the audience as he feels no guilt after betraying his own family. Antonio is effective as a minor character as he is one of the only characters on the island who has the power to stop Prospero. Prospero needs Alonso, the king, to re-instate himself as Duke of Milan. However, Antonio’s plot to kill the King and Gonzalo, “draw together, and when I rear my hands, you do the like, to fall on Gonzalo”, threatens this and creates a sense of anticipation and fear within his various appearances.
Where Shakespeare uses Antonio to darken the overall mood of the play, he counters this with another minor character, Stephano, who’s plot is designed to be humorous. His story revolves around a plot to kill Prospero with Caliban, “yea, yea, my lord: I’ll yield him the asleep, where thou mayst knock a nail into his head”, which Shakespeare presents as a parody of the plot to kill the king. The humour of this character is evident through the lines, “I was the man in the moon when the time was”, as the contemporary audience would know he had one of the lowest social positions of all the characters on the island, yet Caliban foolishly believes him a god. Shakespeare once again uses his minor characters to eliminate his main plot lines, as Stephano’s treatment of Caliban heightens the audience’s sympathy of him, as well as giving them a harsher view of Prospero, due to the connotations of slavery. When analysing the play through a post colonial reading, the associations of racism and Prospero’s acquisition of the island that once belonged to Caliban, present Caliban as less of an antagonist. Even the accusation of rape, “til thou didst seek to violate the honour of my child”, from Miranda can be related to the white population’s assumption that people from the colonised countries were savages who were seen to kill and rape.
The characters of Robin and Rafe from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus are used in a similar technique, as they illuminate the foolishness of the main character, Faustus. Although Faustus is educated and ambitious, Robin parodies many of his wishes. For example, Faustus’ wishes for the most beautiful woman in the world as his wife whereas Robin intends to ‘make all the maidens in our parish dance at my pleasure stark naked”. The crudeness of Robin’s ambition gives the audience a new perspective with which to view Faustus, as both both men wish to influence women against their will using magic. This causes the audience to reconsider whether Faustus is as logical or educated as he believes he is.
Another minor character in The Tempest is the Boatswain, a character that uses the chaos of the storm to turn social standards of the time on their head. For example, while he is giving orders he berates the nobles for their cries within the cabin, “Down with the topmast! Yare! Lower, lower! Bring her to try with the main-course. A plague upon this howling! They are louder than the weather, or our office”. He is the first character to take charge within the performance and although he is outranked by the captain and the Nobel men, he proves far more logical and useful within the storm. This is shown through the captain’s immediate dependence on the Boatswain before his exit, as well as the commanding language of the Boatswain towards the Nobel’s. He says, “what cares these roarers for the name of the king”, which follows the consistent theme within the Tempest of the ‘power of civilisation’, namely the lack of it within the island’s domain. The Boatswain and the storm are the beginnings of the idea that society and civilisation is turned on it’s head on the island, where nature and magic have strength, as the king has no power to save himself or his people.
The role reversal of the Boatswain is mirrored within Doctor Faustus, when Wagner speaks to the Scholars, friends of Faustus. Although they are educated men and Wagner is a servant, he is able to easily outwit them with lines like, “yet if you were not dunces” and “For is not he corpus natural”. Once again the minor characters of Marlowe are used to parody Faustus himself, as Wagner speaks in a mockery of educated language, using Latin as Faustus would, to insult people.
Both plays thus use minor characters in order to illuminate the main plot line and expand on both the humorous and dramatic qualities of the play. Antonio’s plot acts as the main hindrance to the success of Prospero, however Shakespeare reassures his audience through the parody account of Antonio’s plot through the drunken and doomed plot of Stephano. Prospero himself is a more elderly and respectable character, so minor characters allow the play to explore the themes of class upheaval, nature, and deceit far more effectively, improving the experience of The Tempest.
Shakespeare Review: The Tempest, Joseph Story and Cannibalism
James Hoyle theorizes that the main sources for The Tempest revolves around the Bible story of Joseph and his Brothers in which the spirit of envy and consequent, reconciliation and pardon predominates. This storyline markedly contrasts with the spirit of revenge as related by Michel de Montaigne’s On Cannibals (1580). A possible source of inspiration for Shakespeare’s The Tempest is the news of shipwreck and settlement by British colonizers during the period of American Exploration and Colonialism. There is a sore lack of a specific authoritative Shakespearean sources for The Tempest however, three forwarded suggestions are the Italian commedia dell’ arte, Die Schone Sidea and Jason and Medea.
Although there are commonalities such as shipwreck and the love of a princess for a shipwrecked prince, they do not correspond to the main motifs of The Tempest which include sibling rivalry, forced separation, experience in a new land, providential aid, coincidental reunion with enemy-brother, the test of conscience and the ultimate triumph of the spirit of pardon and reconciliation. These motifs harmonize perfectly with the Biblical story in Genesis of Joseph and His Brothers and therefore can be established as an authoritative source for The Tempest. Modern scholarship often dismisses Biblical influence in literature however, there does not exist any other solid sources in Classic mythology, nor Renaissance literature to support Shakespeare’s inspiration for The Tempest.
Some parallelisms are evident in both the Bible story of Joseph and Prospero in The Tempest. They both are endowed with spiritual gifts: supernatural intelligence, clairvoyance and divination. Prospero also shares in common the power of magical staves in the Biblical stories in Exodus of Moses and Aaron. Prospero and Joseph resemble each other because of their fortune and prosperity despite adversity. Prospero’s name is derived from the Latin prosperus (favourable), prosperare (to render fortunate) and Hebrew prosperitie (peace and prosperity). Likewise, Joseph was a “man who prospered because God prospereth him” (Genesis 39: 2, 3) As a test to probe into the conscience of the rival brothers, both Joseph and Prospero accuse their brothers of being spies. In both cases the rival brothers express true guilt, experience a change of heart and repent. The apparent blight on the places of exile, Egypt on one hand and the Bermudas, does not impede the heroes, Joseph and Prospero respectively from thriving. In both situations with Prospero and Joseph, it is the undeniable hand of Providence that guides and preserves the innocent heroes. In both cases, Providence transforms misfortune to a greater good hence the theme of felix culpa. In a literary context, the term “felix culpa” can be used to describe how a series of miserable events will eventually lead to a happier outcome. In the end, the spirit of pardon and reconciliation prevails in both the story of Joseph and his Brothers and The Tempest even in the face of past wrongs and injustice.
The core idea of The Tempest is not about savage man as represented by Caliban, the Cannibal but focuses on the idea of pardon. Shakespeare reacts against Michel de Montaigne’s classical work, On Cannibals (1580) for it goes against the principle of pardon, justifies and ennobles the spirit’s insatiable hunger for revenge. Indeed, Montaigne’s essay rejects pardon and advocates primitivism, retaliation, calculated reprisal. His teaching runs counter to the Christian principle of surrendering vengeance to the hands of God. Both Prospero and Joseph forgive the former perversity of their brothers. The Bible and The Tempest utilize the imagery of slumber to represent evil, the loss of moral consciousness and insensitivity. Antonio’s machinations are likened to the movements of one who is asleep. Another imagery shared by The Bible and The Tempest is that of the wicked banquet table. Joseph holds a banquet for his rival brothers and Prospero has a banquet for his enemy-brother.
Other key concepts emerging in both stories are bravery and grace. The biblical story of Joseph and his Brothers is the best source for The Tempest because it matches with the main motif which lauds kindness, forgiveness and reconciliation in the midst of sibling rivalry and adversity. These qualities are very familiar to the Shakespearean audience and are antithetical to Montaigne’s cannibalistic doctrine – not only a physical eating of human flesh but a moral cannibalism. This type of cannibalism is supremely more destructive since when one feeds and all is consumed, one begins to prey on oneself and ultimately self-destructs.
Hoyle, James. “The Tempest, the Joseph Story and the Cannibals”. Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 3. Summer, 1977, pp. 358 – 362.
Taking a Second Look at Courtly Love: Shakespeare’s The Tempest
William Shakespeare’s usage of the trope of courtly love in The Tempest is not what it seems. In The Tempest, a man trained in the art of magic, Prospero, causes a shipwreck on his island. On this ship is his brother, Antonio, who usurped Prospero’s dukedom in Milan and sent him off to sea. The King of Napes, Alonso, is also on this ship, and his son, Ferdinand, falls in love with Prospero’s daughter, Miranda. The trope of courtly love is most clearly seen in the affection between Miranda and Ferdinand. This trope emerged in medieval European literature, and some of its characteristics include a flawless lady who is unattainable or not easily accessed, a need for secrecy, and participants taken from the nobility. At first, one may think that courtly love is used to show how fairytale-perfect Miranda and Ferdinand’s love is, but actually, the utter perfection of their love calls upon the reader to question its authenticity. This skepticism adds yet another layer to Prospero’s character, as he might be the one controlling the love, and speaks to the condition of women during Shakespeare’s own time.
Aspects of Ferdinand and Miranda’s relationship clearly align with the trope of courtly love. When Ferdinand first lays eyes on Miranda, he exclaims, “Most sure, the goddess/ On whom these airs attend!” (I.ii.423-4) She is so beautiful, so flawless, that he does not believe he is human. She is also unattainable, as Prospero strives to add some difficulty to this love, so they appreciate it more. Ferdinand is sent to undertake labor on the island while Miranda watches. Prospero even commands Miranda not to tell Ferdinand her name, a command which she disobeys (III.i.36-7). This adds a level of secrecy to their relationship. Ferdinand and Miranda think they now have a secret between them, but Prospero is actually there, unseen, watching over them (III.i.14). Both characters are also members of nobility. Ferdinand is the son of the King of Naples, and Miranda is the daughter of the former Duke of Milan. Their relationship adheres so closely, so perfectly to the trop of courtly love. It is too perfect to believe, and that is exactly what Shakespeare wants the reader to think.
While Ferdinand and Miranda’s relationship may seem like the truest of love, it may just be another one of Prospero’s spells. With Ferdinand and Miranda together, Prospero has his dignity and his noble stature restored. He also gets some revenge on his usurping brother. The premise of this courtly love seems all too convenient. The play hints multiple times that this arrangement all might just be for Prospero’s gain, even tough he claims that he has “done nothing but in care of” Miranda (I.ii.16). That is what he first tells Miranda to try and console her when she is distraught about the shipwreck. Right from the start, Prospero assures Miranda that he is doing this all for her, casting himself as an affectionate father. However, this intention shows that he has already planned Ferdinand and Miranda’s marriage, that Miranda does not have a choice. He may claim that his efforts are all for her, but Prospero inadvertently reveals that his work is all for him. Prospero casts a spell on Miranda, putting her to sleep, which shows that he has no problem using his magic on her. He even goes so far as to tell her, “I know thou canst not choose” (I.ii.186). The lack of specificity in this phrase leads the reader to wonder whether Miranda has any choice at all.
Another example of Prospero’s self-interested planning arises during Miranda and Ferdinand’s wedding celebration. When Prospero calls upon Iris, Ceres, and Juno, he says, “Spirits, which by mind art/ I have from their confined/ called to enact/ My present fancies” (IV.i.120-3). This statement is supposed to be a blessing to Miranda and Ferdinand’s marriage, but Prospero says it is all for him, his fancies. He is doing all this for himself and to showcase his art, not for his daughter and her newlywed. A second instance highlights Prospero’s controlling nature through the use of imagery; the first time the audience sees Miranda and Ferdinand, they are playing chess. Prospero “discovers” them, which in Shakespeare’s time meant to reveal characters previously unseen (V.i.172). Prospero revealing the couple playing chess makes them appear to be a show he is putting on, as if they are playing characters rather than themselves. The newlyweds are also playing chess, a game that symbolizes the conquering of kingdoms, thus indicating that their relationship might exist solely to restore Prospero’s nobility. The evidence clearly shows that Prospero has manipulated Miranda and Ferdinand; their love may not be as true as it first appears.
Why would Shakespeare choose to manipulate courtly love as Prospero has manipulated Miranda and Ferdinand? For one thing, this manipulation serves to add another layer to Prospero’s character. He may appear to be a loving father at first read, but scrutinizing the details reveals that he is rather cunning. Making Prospero more dynamic gives his final speech, the epilogue, more meaning. He disowns his magic once his dukedom is restored and begs the audience to set him free with applause. Perhaps Prospero knows that the audience has picked up on his poor behavior, and that is where this guilt comes from. He wants the audience to acknowledge the fact that his end (dukedom) justifies his means (the manipulation of his own daughter). Shakespeare could also be commenting on the way women were treated in his time. The only two women we hear of in the play are married off in exchange for power. They were pawns (a purposeful reference to chess) used to build relationships between kingdoms. Miranda is not the only woman being used to achieve nobility. After all, the whole purpose of the men traveling was to marry King Alonso’s daughter off to the King of Tunisia, a trip which occasioned Prosper’s tempest. Here, Shakespeare is warning against using daughters as a way to gain power, as doing so is disingenuous and unfair. Prospero did not even have to use his magic; he made it clear that Miranda had no choice.
In The Tempest, Shakespeare reinterprets courtly love to make the audience second-guess what appears to be true love. In terms of theme and psychology, the relationship between Ferdinand and Miranda serves far more purposes than one may initially assume. Shakespeare’s usage of the trope courtly love in The Tempest seems all too perfect, and thus prompts the reader to question if Shakespeare is presenting true love or solely the workings of Prospero. Such manipulation of courtly love speaks to both Prospero’s character and the limitations to women during the English Renaissance.
A Theme Of The Transformative Impact Of Discoveries On Individuals In The Tempest By William Shakespeare And The Enormous Radio By John Cheever
The confronting (far-reaching) nature of discoveries is due to its innate ability to challenge an individual’s preconceived ideologies and expectations, ultimately instigating a transformative personal and intellectual introspection.
William Shakespeare’s 5 act tragicomedy The Tempest (1611), portrays an individual’s re-evaluation of their relations with others when confronted with ethical dilemmas which prove emotionally and intellectually challenging. It is this provocative and far-reaching discovery that has the ability to subvert an individual’s belief systems of themselves and the wider world. Similarly, John Cheever’s 1953 short story “The Enormous Radio” explores how sudden and confronting discoveries can provoke an individual’s emotional and intellectual transformation but subsequently shows the negative impacts which can hinder relationships. Consequently, both texts concurrently have the ability to address the transformative impact of discoveries on individuals. Discoveries can simulate an individual’s re-evaluation of previously held values to ultimately evoke their transformative perspectives of themselves and their relations with others.
In The Tempest, Miranda undergoes an emotional discovery when she learns “how beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in’t. ” The use of emotive language portrays Miranda’s bewilderment and excitement, whereby the exclamatory language forebodes her unexpected discovery of new people. Moreover, her naivety is demonstrated through the positive imagery of Ferdinand as “a thing divine, for nothing she ever saw so noble”, highlighting her fresh and intensely meaningful discovery of the world at large. Prospero is suspicious about the sincerity of Miranda and Ferdinand’s love and metaphorically alludes to Ferdinand as a “poor worm, thou art infected; this visitation shows it”. His sudden realisation that their love is genuine evokes his emotional discovery as he is “so glad of this as they I cannot be, who are surpris’d with all; but my rejoicing at nothing can be more…”, as evinced through the emotive language. Prospero summons magical spirits in the Betrothal masque to celebrate their love and its ability to surpass evil and despair. Thus, Miranda’s awakening sexuality with the sudden discovery of men beyond her father is juxtaposed with Prospero’s emotional and personal transformation of the power of love to unite and reconcile as he understands the importance of relationships with others. Sudden and unexpected discoveries may serve as a necessity for an individual’s transformative personal and intellectual perspective of themselves and the wider world.
In the Tempest, Prospero’s inability to liberate himself from his own cupidity for the procurement of power is suddenly challenged by Ariel, ultimately instigating an intellectual discovery of the importance of acceptance and forgiveness. This is evinced in the opening act, in which the use of pathetic fallacy of the eponymous tempest, a storm conjured by Prospero, is symbolically indicative of his physical manifestation of anger over those who usurped his throne, particularly his “perfidious brother” Antonio. Prospero uses magic as a theatrical ploy to “hath… enemies brought to this shore, ” ultimately demonstrating his imperative desire to seek vengeance on those who usurped him of his dukedom. Moreover, Prospero’s conflicting recollections of his exile “in the dark backward and abysm of time” emphasises the “twelve years since… he was the Duke of Milan”; the rightful heir to the throne. However, Ariel acted as an external catalyst for Prospero’s sudden and cathartic introspection of the value of acceptance and forgiveness as didactically expressed by Ariel through the metaphor; “my affections would become tender…were I human. ” This paradoxically prompts Prospero to “forgive (Antonio) thy rankest fault, ” reassessing his yearning to seek revenge. In a soliloquy, he states that “the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance, ” whereby the antithesis highlights his moment of anagnorisis that this metaphorical “rough magic… of ignorant fumes that mantle our clearer reason… I abjure. ” Thus, Prospero’s spiritual revelation positions the reader to appreciate mercy, acknowledging that rediscoveries can stimulate favourable insights.
Similarly, Cheever’s short story explores a contemporary couple; Jim and Irene Westcott who are suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with moral dilemmas that prove intellectually and emotionally challenging which consequently hinders their relations with others. The Westcott’s symbolically represent the radio as they appear as the “perfect” couple living the American-dream, but “beneath the smooth exterior of their lives lurk serious problems. ” Cheever’s use of personification in the opening of the narrative showcases the predecessor as an “old…sensitive and unpredictable radio”. Its breakdown saw the introduction of the new anthropomorphised radio, that although is quite superior in tone to its predecessor, the kinaesthetic “violent forces that were snared in the ugly gumwood cabinet made Irene uneasy… as it was like an aggressive intruder. ” The radio metaphorically ‘invades’ and disrupts Irene’s privacy which ironically parallels her perverse fascination of her neighbour’s financial, social and sexual anxieties, when the radio suddenly begins receiving and emanating the mounting cacophony of the neighbour’s voices. However, Irene becomes apprehensive as she rhetorically questions Jim- “life is too terrible, too sordid, too awful. But we’ve never been like that, have we, darling?” and imperatively proclaims to “turn that thing off. . . as they may hear us”, highlighting her sudden and confrontational introspection that the neighbours may hear the Westcott’s arguing. Both texts explore an individual’s sudden and unexpected discovery when confronted by their own cupidity.
However, Shakespeare portrays Prospero’s transformative perspective of the importance of relationships, whereas Cheever portrays Irene’s focus on other’s faults and problems in order to conceal hers, which thus hinders her ability to form a relationship with others. Henceforth, Irene’s characterisation serves as a warning to the audience of the potentially negative consequences of discoveries on individuals which can deter relationships.
Aldous Huxley’s Shakespearian Dystopia
Shakespeare’s works revel as masterpieces centuries after their debut, influencing generations of writers including 20th century author Aldous Huxley. Huxley’s 1932 novel, Brave New World, stands as a distinct reincarnation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, fusing a disturbing reality of a dystopian future with the key aspects of a classical Shakespearian piece. Ira Grushow highlights the similarities of these two pieces to determine Huxley’s question between innovation and emotion. Grushow reveals astounding evidence that links Huxley’s Brave New World to Shakespeare’s The Tempest by acknowledging the characteristics of Shakespeare’s piece and how they overlay Huxley’s critique on society and human values.
Huxley’s novel, at its core, comes across as a reincarnation of The Tempest. Grushow exposes this by drawing comparisons between characters in both pieces. The article specifies how Bernard compares to Caliban as a “deformed monster and unwilling slave of Prospero,” (Grushow 43). Huxley intentionally made Bernard “eight centimetres short of the standard Alpha height,” and points it out continuously as a deformity (Huxley 64). Additionally, Huxley displays Mustapha Mond as “a father…to… all under his care” (Grushow 44). A direct connection to Prospero, the father and controller in Shakespeare’s piece, Huxley demonstrates deeper insight into the traits of Shakespeare’s Prospero through Mond. Mond meets a different end then Prospero which allows Huxley to explore a new perspective while still keeping constant the main character traits. Even the character’s actions mirror the play as near the end Bernard “jumped up, ran across the room, and stood gesticulating in front of the Controller,” (Huxley 226). In surrender toward Mond, as a slave would to a master, Bernard proves to be a recreation of Caliban. The comparison of the two works enlighten new perspectives on old characters.
Grushow’s article outlines Huxley’s critique on society through Huxley’s use of Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s work symbolizes classical literature and art in our society, it remains relevant because it resonates with reader. In Huxley’s world, connection and art mean nothing, everything Shakespeare’s work epitomizes results in misery in the World State. Huxley writes, “Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress,” (Huxley 6). Blunt and effective, he glorifies progress and happiness whereas Shakespeare idealized passion. This shows the “full measure of the difference between Shakespeare’s vision of an ideal world and Huxley’s” (Grushow 43). The “ideal world” that Huxley portrays is convincing, nevertheless. Innovation and progress bring the promise of happiness in contrast to the tragedies many of Shakespeare’s heroes met. Huxley is arguing that society may be better off abandoning the arts, that “community, identity, stability,” and progress champion as the key aspects to an ideal world (Huxley 3). Even with the underlying darkness and horror that Brave New World displays, Huxley’s rhetoric succeeds in portraying a perfect world and vilifying the values Shakespeare represented. Huxley’s intentional comparisons to The Tempest help readers understand the disparity between passion and happiness and how both cannot coexist.
By the end of the novel Huxley leaves his readers a dilemma with the things we value including art, emotion, and purpose. He argues that our morals and ideals counteract our nature as human beings. As Grushow states, “is his [John’s] code of morality any less obsolete… in our new world than it is in the Brave New World?” John, who roughly represented modern society in contrast to the advanced World State, was the reader’s connection into Huxley’s world. Disgusted and horrified from the first page, reader sympathized easily with John and thought him honorable because he portrayed values we glorify including chastity, sacrifice to higher beings, and self-denial. However, by the end, readers recoiled from John whipping himself and denying himself even small pleasures like making a bow. Huxley describes “he shouted at every blow as though it were Lenina” (Huxley 252). John thinks of punishing Lenina, and, in the frenzy, sees her, becomes delusional from soma, and sleeps with her. It becomes apparent that passions and values that the reader supports cannot exist in the happy civilized world Huxley created. John, succumbing to sleeping with Lenina and killing himself in shame exemplifies the death of our ideals. Along with Shakespeare and our advancement in science, Huxley binds together the past and present to create an ideal future that disposes of the values of society.
Huxley reincarnates Shakespeare’s characters from The Tempest and steers them into a new world, an ideal world that mirrors our own, as proven by Grushow. By constantly alluding to Shakespeare, Huxley connects a past filled with morality and values to his future of apathy and progress. Huxley presents to us a warning, that if our society progresses toward a brave new world as Huxley sees it, it will sacrifice our beliefs for the promise of happiness. This caution of the future lets readers stop and question as they successfully feel the effect of Huxley’s message.
Grushow, Ira. “Brave New World and The Tempest.” College English, vol. 24, no. 1, 1962, pp. 42–45. www.jstor.org/stable/373846.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper & Bros., 1946. Print.
Shakespeare, Wilcox, and Taymor: The Tempest and the Concept of Adaptation
When analyzing two film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s 1610 play The Tempest, it becomes clear that the word “adaptation” is merely a broad term that barely describes the translations and deviations evidenced by the films themselves. Fred M. Wilcox’s 1956 film, Forbidden Planet, and Julie Taymor’s 2010 film The Tempest seem like entirely different pieces compared to the standard Shakespearean original. However, that they are both adaptations of the same story proves that the concept of adaptation is both a multilayered and a very much generalized notion. In this particular example of adaptation, the definition being used is: “The action or process of altering, amending, or modifying something, esp. something that has been created for a particular purpose, so that it is suitable for a new use”. These two films do not only modify The Tempest to suit it for the nature of each particular adaptation; they put the non-specific nature of the term “adaptation” into question as each piece translates and deviates further and further from Shakespeare’s original text.
As bizarre as it sounds, Forbidden Planet is perhaps one of the most faithful adaptations of The Tempest. Both works deal with flawed protagonists, the allure of power, and the relationship between man and monster. Prospero, like Forbidden Planet’s Morbius, is a difficult character to like. While explaining his reason for being on the island, Prospero admits that during his time as Duke, he “…[neglected] all worldly ends, all dedicated to closeness and the bettering of my mind…” (Shakespeare, 106). His one-sided explanation shows that Prospero refuses to take even partial responsibility for the failure of his tenure as the Duke. His concentration on freeing himself from man’s necessary role in society, even if in the name of knowledge, is frustrating, as it cuts him off from the realities all people must face. Morbius too exemplifies this isolation and for most of the climax of the film refuses to take responsibility for his role in the creation of the monster. Even though he knows the truth, Morbius says over Doc’s dead body, “Let him be buried with the other victims of greed and human folly”(Wilcox, Forbidden Planet). He says this as though he is exempt from this punishment, even though he surely knows that he too is a victim of such “greed and human folly” in the film. Morbius’ placing of himself above human nature is an example of how he, like Prospero, is intent on keeping himself from the truths of reality. Because of this struggle that both characters face, Morbius is a translation of Prospero, modified to only to fit a different setting of the story.
The allure of power is a common and very important theme in both works. In The Tempest, Prospero displays his power through his magical skill and control over characters such as Caliban and Ariel. Prospero’s magical strength is admitted by Caliban, who says in an aside, “His art is of such power, It would control my dam’s god Setebos And make a vassal of him”(Shakespeare, 121). The terrifying realism of Prospero’s brand of magic, exemplified by the tempest in the beginning of the play, creates physical manifestations that assert his power over others. The fact that he is willing to give up magic by the end of the play marks a real growth in character within Prospero. Forbidden Planet takes this allure to new lengths, both technological and psychological. Morbius is able to double his intellect permanently, which enables him to enact the technological feats seen in the film, such as Robby the Robot (Wilcox, Forbidden Planet). In a clear parallel, Prospero’s power comes from his magic, while Morbius’ power comes from technology. Morbius’ obsession with power, shown through his technological capabilities, prevents him from taking responsibility in the creation of the id monster. While this difference in character does label him a partial perversion of Prospero’s character, the continuity in the theme of power should not be ignored when analyzing this adaptation of The Tempest, as it shows the continuity between the two pieces.
Heavily featured in The Tempest and Forbidden Planet is the relationship between man and beast. In Shakespeare’s work, the man is Prospero and the monster is Caliban, the original inhabitant of the island. Caliban is the embodiment of the ugliness of Prospero’s situation, an example being Caliban’s suggestion that his island being taken from him is much like Prospero’s dukedom being stolen. While different in physical nature, Prospero and Caliban have very similar arguments and mindsets that make them comparable, if not similar, characters. In Forbidden Planet, the monster literally is a manifestation of Morbius himself. Commander Adams angrily tries to get Morbius to understand that, “We’re all part monsters in our subconscious, so we have laws and religion”, things that Morbius believes himself to be exempt from (Wilcox, Forbidden Planet). The relationship between Morbius and the id monster takes the relationship between Prospero and Caliban to unprecedented, Freudian levels of understanding. In fact, the relationship, like the earlier stated characterization and themes, links The Tempest to Forbidden Planet directly.
Much as Forbidden Planet translates the story of The Tempest for the purposes of science fiction, Julie Taymor’s 2010 adaptation deviates from the original material in order to appeal to a modern audience, while not categorizing itself as a “modern adaptation”. While the story generally remains faithful to Shakespeare’s text, the interpretations of the characters of Prospero and Caliban stylize the adaptation into a film that is consumable by a twenty-first century audience.
The most obvious example of such deviation is the changing of Prospero to a woman, who is called Prospera. Prospera’s backstory is that she was “wife to him that ruled Milan” and that upon his death, the dukedom was conferred to Prospera, whose brother conspired to steal it from her (Taymor, The Tempest). While this is a difference from Prospero’s backstory, this digression does nothing to alter what is important to the plot: Prospera’s desire for vengeance and never-ending quest for knowledge. Thus, Taymor presents the audience of 2010 with a feminist and distinctly modern approach to the original text. The personality and motivation of Prospero, Taymor argues, isn’t limited by his gender, and in viewing the film it is clear that changing Prospero’s gender doesn’t render this adaptation an unfaithful one. Prospera now caters not only to Shakespeare’s original outline of Prospero, but also to the independent, self-sufficient view of womanhood that contemporary feminism idealizes.
The portrayal of Caliban is perhaps the more controversial characterization that Taymor presents. In “The Persons of the Play” section before the text, Caliban is written as “a savage and deformed slave” (Shakespeare, 96). In Taymor’s film, Caliban is played by Beninese-American actor Djimon Hounsou, and is shown having scaled, cracked flesh and a partially white face, in sharp contrast to his dark skin. While his makeup does show him to be the “deformed” slave that Shakespeare writes, Caliban is the only actor who isn’t of Caucasian ethnicity and is the villain of the piece. Included in the film is the suggestion that Caliban at one point tried to rape Miranda, both the text and the film featuring the line “…till thou didst seek to violate the honour of my child”, at which Caliban laughs mockingly (Shakespeare, 120) (Taymor, The Tempest). It is almost a given that in the early days of The Tempest as a stage production, Caliban was played by white actors. However, an adaptation by an American director invites a whole new level of questioning when Caliban is shown as dark skinned. To some, it is a reminder of the racism of the “evil black man” character seen in 19th and 20th century American literature. Despite this, I believe the casting of Hounsou as Caliban is another deviating yet modernizing aspect of the film. As American history portrays the black man as one struggling for the independence of personhood, Caliban’s ethnicity in the film mirrors his pursuit of sovereignty over an island that is truly his and independence from those who hold him as a slave. Rather than a possible effort to convey “color-blind casting”, Caliban’s race in the film is a reflection upon ongoing American history itself, which updates the character of Caliban and thus makes his struggle understandable to a contemporary audience.
How can a 17th century play, a 1950s science fiction film, and a desperately unique 21st century Julie Taymor film all be connected? To say that Forbidden Planet and Taymor’s The Tempest are adaptations of Shakespeare’s text is too broad of an assumption. The definition of adaptation suggests that these filmmakers have taken one thing and shaped it into another, but analyzing these new products they’ve created has led to the conclusion that these versions are translations and deviations rather than simply adaptations. Forbidden Planet translates Shakespeare’s text to suit a science fiction setting that audiences would enjoy and a post-Freud world that the audiences themselves lived in. Taymor’s The Tempest is faithful to the setting and plot but deviates in order to create characters relatable to the real world of the audience, particularly regarding discriminatory ideologies against women and people of color. Neither film is unfaithful to The Tempest and neither attempts to distort it; analyzing each film brings to light the multifaceted nature of adaptation and proves that it is a term suited only to general categorizations.
Information, Justice, and Mercy: Shakespearean Ideals in the Tempest
Do the ends justify the means? People have been asking this question since the beginning of time, but often cannot find an answer. The Tempest is about deception and manipulation of the truth, but ends with a morally clear message. Prospero is the wizard-king of the island where the drama is set; throughout the play, he manipulates characters through language and deception. However, this is not to say that Prospero is malevolent force. Indeed, Shakespeare demonstrates that Prospero’s sense of justice is the correct one with several key scenes in the play. This creates somewhat of a paradox, being, if one has to lie to achieve their goals, but their goals are noble in nature, is that acceptable? This essay will argue that Prospero’s manipulation of truth and fact lead to an interpretation of justice that Shakespeare believed in, one of mercy.
One could argue that any manipulation of the truth leads to a false sense of justice. If justice is an inherently ‘right’ concept and lying is an inherently ‘wrong’ one, then there should never be a combination of the two. Shakespeare, however, demonstrates how this is a fallacy that cannot exist in the real world. By siding his narrative with Prospero, Shakespeare demonstrates that to achieve what is ‘right’ does not occur in black and white, but rather a much larger spectrum. The audience is almost immediately led to distrust Prospero’s motives early in the play. One of the most telling early scenes is when he is berating Caliban, right after both characters has been introduced. What the audience knows of Caliban is only what has been said so far on stage, and what he looks like. Therefore, when it is learnt that Caliban was the original inhabitant of the island, some of Prospero says is thrown into doubt. Especially so when Caliban claims “and then I loved thee, And showed thee all the qualities o’th’ isle… Cursed be that I did so” (1.2 336-339). Caliban’s assertion that he once loved Prospero creates doubt in the audience’s minds. Love is well known to be one of the strongest emotions and anytime it is brought into play, it implies an implicit level of trust. So, for Caliban to have trusted Prospero in the past points to a somewhat unreliable narration now. Even though Caliban attempted to rape Miranda, Prospero’s daughter, his words have already been said. While Caliban is clearly a despicable character, the implication is that at one point, he was almost a part of the family allows allows some doubt, even though Prospero is the more sympathetic character after their exchange due to Caliban’s harsh language and insolence. This is also accentuated by Prospero’s language. When speaking to Miranda he says things like “Awake, dear heart, awake. Thou hast slept well” (1.2 301-302). However, when speaking to Caliban, his tone totally changes, “Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself, upon thy wicked dam, come forth” (1.2 319-320). This juxtaposition of tone demonstrates that Prospero has multiple sides to him. At one point he can be loving and kind, the next, cruel. By showing he has a capacity for both, Prospero makes himself unreliable early in the story.
Still, Prospero is not the only unreliable character in the story. While Shakespeare eventually offers that Prospero’s sense of justice is the correct one, he has to demonstrate that the other characters are in the wrong. He does this through Antonio and Sebastien, two lords that were part of the shipwreck. The characters of Antonio and Sebastien are classic Shakespearian villains. They are no doubt evil and malicious, but they are also incompetent. This is evident in Antonio’s attempt to get Sebastien to kill his brother Alonso and take over his kingdom. While they argue whether to kill Alonso, and the advisor, Gonzalo, Prospero saves them through his spirit, Ariel. When the whole group awakes to see Antonio and Sebastien with their swords drawn, they obviously have some questions, to which Sebastien responds ““We heard a hollow burst of bellowing, like bulls, or rather lions- did’t not wake you?” (2.1 308-309). Sebastien’s attempt to create a lie presents two ideas. First, it shows how Antonio and Sebastien are incompetent characters, by making up a ridiculous lie. After being on the island for hours and having not recorded any signs of animals as large as bulls or lions, this seems unlikely. Not to mention they had just been to Africa, which is the home of lions, not some island in the Mediterranean. Second, it furthers the theme of control of information. Since Antonio is the de facto leader of the party, the others must defer to him. Him, and subsequently Sebastien, are able to control how the others perceive the island through their lies. This, along with their constant insults to Gonzalo allow the audience to see how information and lies can work both ways. While the audience can see what the two main characters so far (Prospero and Antonio) have said dubious things, their affects are largely different. Prospero appears to be in the right to be putting down Caliban after it is learned about the attempted rape. However, Antonio seeks nothing but power and uses his lies to help only himself. This dynamic allows the audience to come to the conclusion later that Prospero is the benign character that he appears to be and Antonio is the villain.
Act three represents a turning point in the novel, the love interests finally come together and Prospero is able to exact revenge on those who wronged him. Shakespeare continues with the theme of controlling information in all three of the scenes. In the first scene, Miranda and Ferdinand, who is the son of Alonso, speak for the second time and declare their love for each other. While they believe themselves to be alone, Prospero is there invisibly watching. This leads to a dilemma, because if Miranda and Ferdinand really do love each other, why does Prospero need to be there to confirm it? Although his intentions are completely gentle “So glad of this as they I cannot be, Who are surprised withal, but my rejoicing at nothing can be more” (3.1 93-95), Prospero is still there controlling the situation. He expected Miranda to go to Ferdinand and watched in order to make sure everything went along smoothly, which it does. This continues with how Shakespeare sides with Prospero’s part of the story. Even though Prospero does something that is morally questionable, the outcome is a good one, something that happens repeatedly throughout the play. This pattern of ambiguous morality leading to favorable results for Prospero continually reinforces to the audience that Prospero is the hero of the play. On the converse side, Caliban attempts to humanize himself with a speech about the wonders of the island “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises…that give delight and hurt not…and then in dreaming the clouds methought would open and show riches…that when I waked I cried to dream again” (3.2 133-141). Caliban’s monologue about the wonders of island show him in a different light than previously seen. Especially so, when one remembers how he talked earlier about how the island was his and he existed in some kind of symbiotic relationship with the island. This speech creates sympathy for Caliban, and casts doubt about Prospero. Caliban seems to be an inherently peaceful creature that just wants to enjoy life on the island. From his view, Prospero has made his life so miserable that he would rather escape in his dreams than enjoy the wonders of the island that he once loved. While the audience already knows much about Caliban, and the fact that Shakespeare paired him with the comic relief characters, Stephano and Trinculo, should tell enough about his importance and trustworthiness, this speech is a ray of light in an otherwise dark existence. The final scene of the act three skews the difference between reality and fantasy, as well as fact and fiction. Prospero enacts his revenge on the lords, baiting them to a feast using spirits, then having Ariel deliver a speech for him in the form of a harpy while he watches invisibly. The speech is long, but one line stands out in particular. Ariel shouts “ You fools! I and my fellows are minsters of Fate” (3.3 60-61). Ariel is the one saying the speech, but it is in Prospero’s words. Therefore, Prospero is really the one who sees himself as the ‘minister of fate’. This sets up the final act of the play where Prospero tells everyone their fate. This returns yet again to Shakespeare siding with Prospero’s character, as Prospero uses duplicitous means to control others, but is not punished, but rewarded for it. In fact, the term ‘minister of fate’ is directly related to justice. What is a judge if not a ‘minister of fate’? Prospero decides the fate of everyone on the island, all according to his own whims.
In the final act of the play, Prospero finally confronts the lords face to face, with every character gathered in one spot. Having trapped them in a grove, Ariel states “That if you now beheld them, you affections would become tender” (5.1 16-17). Prospero replies to him “And mine shall” (5.1 20). This sets the audience up for Prospero’s final demonstration as a force of good. It is in this final scene where Shakespeare concludes about his sense of justice, with Prospero as his instrument. To quickly conclude Prospero’s long speech, he forgives everyone stating “ I do forgive thee, unnatural though thou art… the approaching tide will shortly fill the reasonable shore” (5.1 78-81). Additionally, he singles out Gonzalo as the lone virtuous soul of the group “My true preserver, and a loyal sir” (5.1 69). These two lines directly point to Shakespeare’s ideas on right and wrong, and therefore, justice. Gonzalo, whose utopian ideals and loyalty has been mocked throughout the play is immediately redeemed. Even though he is not a lord himself, Prospero (and Shakespeare) places him as the best of them all for his inherent qualities. More importantly, Shakespeare demonstrates that mercy is the highest form of justice. Prospero could have easily killed anyone on the island at any time, but he never did. Instead, he forces those who wronged him to confront their mistakes and restore what is rightfully his. This sense of peaceful justice has been reinforced many times throughout the play, and it is the final conclusion. Through Prospero, Shakespeare is able to demonstrate his own values and morals as not just a playwright, but as a human being.
Controlling information has been, is and will be, one of the most important factors in human interaction. Knowledge is is just as powerful as the sword, if not more so, and Shakespeare demonstrates that in The Tempest. Prospero’s and by extension, Shakespeare’s use of non-violence throughout the play culminate in to his final opinion on justice, being that mercy is the highest form of justice. Shakespeare demonstrates that violence will only lead to more issues through Antonio and Sebastien’s plot to kill Alonso. Prospero is able to control the narrative and therefore, demonstrate mercy. While his ambiguous, and occasionally malevolent actions and words throughout the play cast some doubt about the quality of his morals, Shakespeare concludes that the ends certainly justify the means. If an occasional lie or misleading statement can allow a peaceful conclusion to a situation as volatile as betraying your brother and exiling him to a desert island, then in Shakespeare’s mind, it is certainly worth it. In the epilogue, Prospero asks for the audience to clap for him if they agreed with his method; if Shakespeare could be watching from beyond the grave, he would be applauding the loudest.
The role of Caliban in the play “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare
Who is Caliban? In the play “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare portrays the character Caliban as a savage beast and a slave of the witch, Prospero. Caliban is the son of Sycorax, an evil witch who had passed away but once held control over the island now ruled by Prospero. After the death of Caliban’s mother, Sycorax, Caliban falls under the rule of Prospero and becomes one his servants. Through Prospero’s now ownership of the island, Prospero regards Caliban as a “lesser being”. Prospero can be symbolized as the European powers who dominated African countries and their inhabitants back in the 1880’s. Caliban therefore, represents the African natives who were forcefully controlled by the Westerners. Shakespeare’s representation of Caliban, seems to be case of racial injustice and European dominance back in the 1800’s.
Relationship with Prospero: The relationship between Prospero and Caliban seems to be ironic. At first, Caliban and Prospero seem to have a good relationship, as it was Caliban who found Prospero and Miranda who were washed off shore and he showed them the island. In return, Prospero and Miranda taught Caliban how to speak their language. Caliban who was owned by the vicious and wicked witch, Sycorax, was freed by Prospero from Sycorax’s spell. Prospero then later took supreme control of the island and then enslaves Caliban and makes him to carry wood. This is a representation of the indigenous natives who could not escape the harsh brutality of their colonial masters. Often in the play, we hear Caliban making remarks against Prospero’s exploitation of the island and curses her for enslaving him and taking his island away from him.
Caliban’s Revenge: Caliban seeks revenge when he meets two men named Trinculo and Stefano. Trinculo was a clown and Stefan an alcoholic butler to the King. Caliban takes these two men for gods and vows to serve them if they help him kill the evil Prospero who took over his island. Caliban’s plot does not go as planned.
Caliban can be regarded as an embodiment of slavery on the island that Prospero now rules over. Caliban has been put in to slavery by Prospero as she says, “We’ll visit Caliban, my slave – he does make our fire, fetch in our wood and services in offices that profit us.” Again, “He is that Caliban, whom now I keep in service.” Caliban represents slavery and the revolt against slavery in all its forms. Prospero at one time might have liked Caliban and treated him nicely, but in the final analysis, Caliban is his slave and Prospero herself makes no bones about calling him his slave without feeling embarrassed. The relationship between Caliban and Prospero is that of a slave and a slave-owner. Caliban’s reluctance to carry out Prospero’s commands shows a slave rebelling against the authority. Caliban, therefore, represents the oppressed and the indigenous slaves in an unequal world.