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The Tempest (2): Discourses of Colonization . Nature, Art, Identity and Power in Act I & II. The Tempest – various interpretations. Art vs. Nature (Prospero vs. Caliban) Usurpation and vengeance Colonization Initiation of Miranda (the question of sex & marriage).

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the tempest 2 discourses of colonization

The Tempest (2): Discourses of Colonization

Nature, Art, Identity and Power in Act I & II

the tempest various interpretations
The Tempest – various interpretations
  • Art vs. Nature (Prospero vs. Caliban)
  • Usurpation and vengeance
  • Colonization
  • Initiation of Miranda (the question of sex & marriage).
  • Authority gained, lost and re-constructed
  • A New Critical Reading of Act I: Nature vs. Art
  • A New Historicist Reading of Act II: of Colonial Others Interchangeable roles in discourses
  • A Cultural Materialist Reading of the Two Acts: of Histories and Power Relations  uncertainties and conflicts
  • References
a traditionalist reading by frank kermode nature
A Traditionalist Reading by Frank Kermode --Nature
  • 1. “Natural Man” -- Contemporary views of ‘primitivism”–as pure or wicked; or the ‘natural’ as corrupted by men, or as defective.
    • E.g. Montaign’s“Of Cannibals and Man” -- “The essay, like the play, is concerned with the general contrast between natural and artificial society and men, though Montaigne assumes, in his ‘naturalist’ way, that the New World offers an example of naturally virtuous life uncorrupted by civilization, whereas Shakespeare obviously does not.” (xxxv)
a traditionalist reading by frank kermode 2 nature
A Traditionalist Reading by Frank Kermode (2) --Nature
  • 2. the Wild Man (Savage and deformed)

-- Syrocrax belongs to the Old World, but not the New. (xl)

-- Caliban – a slave; quoting Aristotle and other sources“[those inferior are] slaves by nature” . . .”His origins and characters are natural in the sense that they do not partake of grace, civility, and art; he is ugly in body, associated with an evil natural magic, and unqualified for rule or nurture . . . An inverted pastoral hero, against whom civility and the Art which improves Nature may be measured” (xlii - xliii)

a traditionalist reading by frank kermode 3 art
A Traditionalist Reading by Frank Kermode (3) --Art
  • Seeds of Nobler Race – Miranda (compared with Spensor’s The Faerie Queen)
  • Prospero’s Art –two functions:
  • The disciplined exercise of virtuous knowledge;
  • Symbolic of the better natures and qualities. (since to control nature, it needs virtue and temperance) (xlviii) –e.g. the importance of chastity, self-discipline, learning vs. politics, the contemplative vs. the active life.

“In all respects, then Prospero expresses the qualities of the world of Art, and of the non vile. These qualities become evident in the organized contrasts between his world and the world of the vile. . .” (li)

the tempest a new critical reading
The Tempest: A New Critical Reading
  • Questions – Can you find ex
act i different systems of order
Act I : different systems of order
  • How is Nature opposed to Culture in this scene?
  • How are the major characters here, Boatswain, Gonzalo, Sebastian and Antonio characterized? Why does Boatswain not have a name?
  • If an order or a balance is to be maintained between ‘Art/Human’ and ‘Nature,’ who/what is disruptive in Act 1? How do the characters try to maintain order?
act i different systems of order9
Act I : different systems of order
  • The storm and the boatswain (seamanship); Boatswain – listens only to his master, and speaks to the storm (“What cares theseroarers for the name of king? ”)
  • Sebastian & Antonio (curses), impatient and cursing (“A pox o' your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog! ”)
  • Gonzalo (fate, legal system, royalty and religion, yearning for ‘land.’) (the joke about drowning and hanging)
act i different systems of order10
Act I : different systems of order

3. Miranda vs. Prospero –How does he lose his power? Could the story be told otherwise?

  • Human compassion (life vs. death)   a) fatherly love and b) history
    • Frequent addresses to the daughter (ll. 55; 78; 95); evoke her repressed memory (l. 132)
    • Prospero’s account (multiple messages) – i. management vs. sponging; ii. Antonio’s Falsehood vs. conflicting views (Indulgence in knowledge  Political disorder (ll 79 -)
act i different systems of order11
Act I : different systems of order
  • How is Ariel characterized? And Caliban? In what sense is Caliban close to nature? (ll. 323; 338-)
  • How does Prospero defend himself in front of them? (ll. 250; 345 -; )
act i different systems of order12
Act I : different systems of order

4. Ariel vs. Prospero in contrast to Caliban

  • Ariel –mobile (l. 190); Caliban—constrained and rebellious (with both violence and words)
  • Ariel—obedient but expecting rewards (l. 243); Caliban –
  • Prospero’s responses: using history (of rescuing or education), ‘naming’ (my slave) and his ‘Art’ (threats).  representative of colonial control
act i different systems of order13
Act I : different systems of order

4. Ferdinand vs. Prospero –another imbalance of order when Ferdinand assumes himself to be the king and ‘the best’ (l. 430)

 More control is needed, but there are seeds of compromise (since the marriage of Miranda means an ‘exchange of power’ but not regaining absolute power.)  Alonso’s daughter in Tunis  intersection between gender and colonization

what new historicists do
What New Historicists Do
  • 1.Practice: They juxtapose literary and non-literary texts, reading the former in the light of the latter;
  • 2. Practice: They try thereby to 'defamiliarise' the canonical literary text, detaching it from the accumulated weight of previous literary scholarship and seeing it as if new;
  • 3. Concerns: They focus attention (within both text and co-text) on issues of State power and how it is maintained, on patriarchal structures and their perpetuation, and on the process of colonisation, with its accompanying 'mind-set'
what new historicists do 2
What New Historicists Do (2)
  • 4. Theoretical Framework: They make use, in doing so, of aspects of the post-structuralist outlook, especially Derrida's notion that every facet of reality is textualised, and Foucault's ideas of social structures as determined by dominant 'discursive practices'

(From Peter Barry, Beginning Theory, 1995)

nh identity
NH: Identity
  • "self-fashioning occurs at the point of encounter between an authority and an alien [and] what is produced in this encounter partakes of both ... and hence ... any achieved identity always contains within itself the signs of its own subversion or loss". (GREENBLATT, Renaissance Self-Fashioning, p. 9)
context as texts
Context as texts
  • "A play by Shakespeare is related to the contexts of its production - to the economic and political system of Elizabethan and Jacobean England and to the particular institutions of cultural production (the court, patronage, theatre, education, the church). Moreover, the relevant history is not just that of four hundred years ago, for culture is made continuously and Shakespeare's text is reconstructed, reappraised, reassigned all the time through diverse institutions in specific contexts". (DOLLIMORE & SINFIELD, Introduction, Political Shakespeare, p. viii)
context as texts 2
Context as texts (2)
  • CON-TEXT -- "Con-texts with a hyphen, to signify a break from the inequality of the usual text/context relationship. Con-texts are themselves texts and must be read with: they do not simply make up a background“ (Barker 236).
context as texts 3
Context as texts (3)

the historicity of texts–“the cultural specificity, the social embedment, of all modes of writing - not only the texts that critics study but also the texts in which we study them.”

the textuality of history–1) “we can have no access to a full and authentic past, a lived material existence, unmediated by the surviving textual traces of the society in question - traces whose survival we cannot assume to be merely contingent but must rather presume to be at least partially consequent upon complex and subtle social processes of preservation and effacement”

2) “those textual traces are themselves subject to subsequent textual mediations when they are construed as the 'documents' upon which historians ground their own texts, called 'histories'". (Louis A. Montrose, 'Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and politics of Culture', p. 242)

context as texts e g
Context as texts (e.g.)
  • New Critical Approach to History: the 'raw material' that the artist fashioned. As “either stable antithesis or stable background”
  • NH: their interaction . . .and hence to the permeability of their boundaries. “'When I play with my cat', writes Montaigne, 'who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?' When Shakespeare borrows from Harsnett, who knows if Harsnett has not already, in a deep sense, borrowed from Shakespeare's theatre what Shakespeare borrows back? Whose interests are served by the borrowing? And is there a larger cultural text produced by the exchange?" (GREENBLATT, 'Shakespeare and the Exorcists')
context as texts e g 2
Context as texts (e.g. 2)
  • A traditional reading of The Tempest:
  • Source: Bermuda pamphlets; “Of Cannibals”
  • Genre: pastoral romance;
  • Canon: important because being written the last and placed the first in 1623 Folio.

 NH: sees the play as being embedded in a “conflicting”field of discourses.

starting questions
Starting Questions
  • How do the characters-- Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo—respond to being stranded on an island?
  • How is the island described? In what ‘discourses’?
the island
The Island
  • Adrian “Though this island seem to be desert . . . Uninhabitable, and almost inaccessible” . . . “It must needs be of subtle, tender, and delicate temperance,” where “the air breathes upon us . . . most sweetly” (II.i.42–47
  • Gonzalo – ll. 145 – utopian vision?
  • Sebastian and Adrian –bantering, but also undercutting the over-sentimentalism of the other two.
  • Alonso – unresponsive.
the island 2
The Island (2)
  • Their views compared with Caliban’s –
    • can find it both a place of terror—as when he enters, frightened and overworked in Act II, scene ii
    • and of great beauty as in his “the isle is full of noises” speech (III.ii.130–138).
  • Their views compared with Montaigne’s –Is it proper? The island is on the Mediterranean.
montaign of cannibals 1
Montaign “Of Cannibals” (1)
  • “still very close to their original naturalness. . . .
  • [The poets and philosophers] could not imagine a naturalness so pure and simple as we see by experience; nor could they believe that our society could be maintained with so little artifice and human solder.. . .
  • no sort of traffic, no knowledge of letters, no science of numbers, no name for a magistrate or for political superiority, no custom of servitude, no riches or poverty, no contracts, no successions, no partitions, no occupations but leisure ones, no care for any but common kinship, no clothes, no agriculture, no metal, no use of wine or wheat. The very words that signify lying, treachery, dissimulation, avarice, envy, belittling, pardon unheard of.
montaign of cannibals
Montaign “Of Cannibals”
  • “. . . everyone gives the title of barbarism to everything that is not in use in his own country: as, indeed, we have no other level of truth and reason than the example and idea of the opinions and customs of the place wherein we live. There [where we live] is always 'the perfect religion,' there 'the perfect government,' there 'the perfect' everything.“
  • Montaigne compares cannibalism, the "barbarous horror" of roasting and eating a dead man, to the European torture of "tearing a body limb from limb by racks and torments." (source)
the allegory of power 1 sleep and wakefulness
The allegory of power (1): sleep and wakefulness
  • In both Act 1 and 2, sleeping is a recurrent motif. What can it mean in general (e.g. p. 127 l. 486) and here in 2:1 (p. 138) Sebastian’s talk with Antonio while the others are asleep?
  • The pervasive power of Prospero  all the actions are, in a sense, staged by P, and it’s hard to say how much free will these characters have.
the allegory of power 2 confusion of identities
The allegory of power (2): confusion of identities
  • Sebastian’s and Antonio’s attempted murder in 2:1 prepares us for Caliban’s in Acts 3 & 4.
  • Colonial identities are mixed in another farcical way: Caliban and Trinculo’s becoming a four-legged animal. How are the Caliban’s, Trinculo’s and Stepheno’s identities mixed but still opposed? (fantasies of monsters vs. reality of oppression; liquor vs. labor)
  • “gabble like / A thing most brutish” (I.ii.359–360) upon Prospero’s arrival;
  • he now is willfully inarticulate in his drunkenness.
colonial identities
Colonial Identities
  • Defined in terms of its others.
  • Caliban, represented by his colonizers, has no other ways to define what freedom is, while those he face want nothing but to subject him to their powers.
  • Renaissance Self-Fashioning:
  • Began with an intention to explore “the role of human autonomy in the construction of identity.’
  • The emphasis fell more and more on cultural institutions—family, religion and the Sate—and ‘the human subject itself began to seem remarkably unfree, the ideological product of the relations of power in a particular society” (qtd Dollimore 47)
  • Materialist: culture is not only ‘made’ by history, but it can also ‘makes’ history. -> the possibility of subversion, or at least, conflictual meanings.
  • In a word, it is more ‘political’ than NH.
what cultural materialist do 1
What Cultural Materialist Do (1)
  • 1. They read the literary text (very often a Renaissance play) in such a way as to enable us to 'recover its histories', that is, the context of exploitation from which it emerged
  • 2. At the same time, they foreground those elements in the work's present transmission and contextualising which caused those histories to be lost in the first place, (for example, the 'heritage' industry's packaging of Shakespeare in terms of history-as-pageant, national bard, cultural icon, and so on)
  • * political agenda: 3. They use a combination of marxist and feminist approaches to the text, especially in order to do the first of these (above), and in order to fracture the previous dominance of conservative social, political, and religious assumptions in Shakespeare criticism in particular

(From Peter Barry, Beginning Theory, 1995)

what cultural materialist do 2
What Cultural Materialist Do (2)
  • 4. They use the technique of close textual analysis, but often employ structuralist and post-structuralist techniques, especially to mark a break with the inherited tradition of close textual analysis within the framework of conservative cultural and social assumptions
  • 5. At the same time, they work mainly within traditional notions of the canon, on the grounds that writing about more obscure texts hardly ever constitutes an effective political intervention (for instance, in debates about the school curriculum or national identity)

(From Peter Barry, Beginning Theory, 1995)

starting questions39
Starting Questions
  • In the network of power the characters form, does Prospero, or anyone else, have absolute power?
  • How do different characters’ histories (e.g. Caliban’s vs. Prospero’s) interact with each other?
the tempest act 1 2 miranda and prospero
The Tempest – Act 1-2Miranda and Prospero
  • Is Miranda as innocent, meek and passive as she appears to be? What’s her views of knowledge and the past?

--She is sweet, kind, but with a desire to know, a memory repressed and some hints of an interest in sex and marriage (11. 21, 35; 42050; 55; 119).

the tempest act 1 2 prospero and ariel
The Tempest – Act 1-2Prospero and Ariel

Is Ariel all obedient? (ll. 189; 220; 242) --his use of ‘pains.”

  • Why and how does Prospero tells Ariel’s story to him?

By describing “once a month” in great details Ariel’s past history of tortures, scolding him and naming him (‘my slave’). (ll 250 -

the tempest act 1 2 prospero and caliban
The Tempest – Act 1-2Prospero and Caliban

Caliban, for sure, is disobedient but needed by Prospero (p. 118, l. 310). How is Caliban’s version of Prospero’s arrival different from the previous two he tells Miranda and Ariel respectively? (ll. 30) How is his story subversive?

the tempest act 1 2 prospero miranda and ferdinand
The Tempest – Act 1-2Prospero, Miranda and Ferdinand

How is authority constructed and denied?

  • What does Prospero do to achieve what he wants (marrying Miranda to Ferdinand)? In his intervention, how is his power challenged by the other powers? (e.g. pp. 126-27)
  • Aren’t Ariel’s songs (pp. 122-123) enchanting? Analyze the sound patterns.
caliban multiple interpretation
Caliban: multiple interpretation
  • Kermode: the ‘thing’: unregenerate, ordinary nature, the base . . . Ground against and upon which the moral battle for civilization is defined and played out;
  • Aime Cesaire: the ‘thing’ given its full dignity as the supreme, ordinary good, the good that is politically repressed and exploited, yet which promises to return in the future.
  • Brown: an effect of a multiplicity of texts and forces: he is a native of the Indies, a slave, a savage, a cannibal, a woodwo, a masterless man, an irish rebel, . . .(Wilson 14)
  • Which do you agree with?
  • Kiernan Ryan (ed.), New historicism and cultural materialism: a reader(London and New York: Arnold, 1996).
  • Scott Wilson. Cultural Materialism: Theory and Practice. Blackwell Publishers, 1995.
  • WILLY MALEY. “Cultural Materialism and New Historicism”
  • Francis Barker and Peter Hulme. ‘Nymphs and Reapers Heavily Vanish: The Discursive Con-texts of The Tempest’, in John Drakakis (ed.), Alternative Shakespeares (London; Methuen, 1985).
  • Frank Kermode. “Introduction.” The Tempest (Arden Shakespeare S.)
  • Robert Scanlan. “Shakespeare's NEW WORLD FANTASIA.” <>
  • Michel de Montaigne's "Of Cannibals"