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The Tempest. Problem: To avoid making Prospero seem paternal, Miranda insipid. Method: Understand their quirks and problems, including their relationship to Caliban. . Solution. The Tempest is about freedom.

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the tempest
The Tempest
  • Problem: To avoid making Prospero seem paternal, Miranda insipid.
  • Method: Understand their quirks and problems, including their relationship to Caliban.
  • The Tempest is about freedom.
  • Prospero promises to set Ariel free, asks the audience to free him by applauding, frees himself from need for vengeance, his enemies from their crimes by pardons, but cannot free Caliban (scapegoat, his own dark side, unfortunate dependent child).
pursuit of illusions an ordeal and symbolic vision
Pursuit of illusions, an ordeal, and symbolic vision
  • Ferdinand led by Ariel’s music, trial at the woodpile, and vision of wedding masque
  • Stephano and Trinculo: hunt for Prospero, ordeal of the horse-pond; symbolic vision of “trumpery”
  • The Naples court party: hunt for Ferdinand, ordeal of meandering, banquet of symbolic desires
    • (from Northrop Frye, intro to Pelican edition)
romance as myth of renewal
Romance as myth of renewal
  • life of discipline represented by Miranda’s chastity, contrast Alonso’s despair
  • Gonzalo’s speech comes from Montaigne’s essay on cannibal (anagram of Caliban): how can Europeans who murder each other in the name of religion condemn savages for merely eating each other?
  • Fourth and fifth acts give a “renewed and ennobled vision of nature.”
  • Play combines comedy, tragedy and history, both “primitive and sophisticated, childlike and profound.”
biblical echoes
Biblical echoes
  • Iris’s rainbow like rainbow God uts in heaven after Noah’s flood as a promise or covenant that he will not again destroy the world again
  • St. Paul’s shipwreck (“Not a hair perished,” Acts 27:34)
  • Ariel from Isaiah 29:1.
  • Contest of magic: Prospero v. Sycorax = Moses v. Pharaoh
  • Virgil was considered a Christian based on Fourth Eclogue about the birth of a son; his Aeneid about personal costd of founding agreat civilization.
masks and visions
Masks and Visions
  • Ariel’s shipwreck
  • The Banquet destroyed by Harpies (Alonso and others “worse than devils” 3.3.35)
  • Prospero’s Vision of Ceres (bountiful wedding, his “present fancy” 4.1.122)
  • Hounds chasing the would be murderers 4.1.252.
songs of freedom
Songs of Freedom
  • Ariel’s invitation to Ferdinand 1.2.375 and song about Ferdinand’s dead father, 1.2.398.
  • Stephano drunk, 2.2.45
  • Caliban going to work for Stephano, 2.2.177.
  • Ariel dressing Prospero, 5.1.87
comic bits
Comic bits
  • Antonio and Sebastian make aside comments, mocking Gonzalo’s attempts to cheer up Alonso, 2.1
  • Drunken Stephano finds a four-legged monster 2.2
  • Invisible Ariel does voice imitations to sow dissension between Trinculo and Stephano, 3.2
magic bits
Magic bits
  • Ariel controls the weather.
  • Prospero puts Mirando to sleep, 1.2.
  • Prospero controls goblins the pinch Caliban; Ariel conjures up music.
  • Ariel puts Alonso to sleep, 2.1
  • Prospero contains the court party inside his magic circle, 5.1.55, before releasing them.
  • Prospero abandons his art.
  • We should be aware of the brutalities of history and how they can be hidden.
  • The play takes hierarchical power as a premise but reminds us of its unsteadiness.
  • It uses the language of firm obedience and also alerts us to its costs.
  • You need to be aware of the horrors of European settlement: George Washington burned the Indian settlement at Vincennes.
  • But that does not make Shakespeare a dead white man, but one who unflinchingly recorded and imaginatively resolved the contradiction between English ideals and practice.
  • Romance finds an imaginative way (via magic) to resolve contradictions.
rules for action statements
Rules for Action Statements
  • Only one character can perform the key action of the scene.
  • Decisions do not count.
  • Anything planned before the scene starts does not count.
  • The action is something the character does in thoughtful response to some cause or causes.
  • Talking to the audience can be an action.
  • When writing a full statement, put the main action in the main clause of the sentence.
moral action
“Moral Action”
  • “The origin of action is choice [proairesis], and the cause of choice is desire and reasoning with a view to an end. This is why choice cannot exist either without reason . . . or without a moral state; for good action and its opposite cannot exist without a combination of intellect and character [ethos].”
  • (McKeon trans. 1024;Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics 1139a30-35).
  • 1.1 Gonzalo recommends himself to the will of “the gods.”
  • 1.2 Prospero orders Miranda not to intercede in his dealings with Ferdinand.
tempest 1 2 ross
Tempest 1.2 (Ross)
  • Having arranged at length for Miranda to ready herself for a socially conditioned marriage and sent Ariel to bring Ferdinand to her presence, and then ordering Caliban to carry in more wood even though it’s not normally need since he wants enough for Ferdinand to labor on (we can’t figure this out till later), Prospero orders Miranda not to intercede in his dealings with Ferdinand when he orders Ferdinand to follow him (to a job on the wood pile—no free ride from dad-in-law), presumably since he doesn’t explain things to her, or us.
1 2 paul brown
1.2 Paul Brown
  • “Prospero interpellates the various listeners--calls to them, as it were, and invites them to recognize themselves as subjects of his discourse, as beneficiaries of his civil largess. Thus for Miranda he is a strong father who educates and protects her; for Ariel he is a rescuer and taskmaster; for Caliban he is a colonizer whose refused offer of civilization forces him to strict discipline; for the shipwrecked he is a surrogate providence who corrects errant aristocrats and punishes plebeian revolt. Each of these subject positions confirms Prospero as master.”
  • From Paul Brown, “This Thing of Darkness I Acknowledge Mine”: The Tempest and the Discourse of Colonialism,” in Political Shakespeare, ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (Manchester UP, 1985), 229-246.
problems with brown
Problems with Brown
  • Does Miranda think Prospero is strong? (Dad!)
  • Does Ariel object to his tasks? (flying around)
  • Does Prospero colonize Caliban’s island (or leave it as soon as he can)?
  • Do the shipwrecked know how Prospero pardons his enemies?
orgel p 15
Orgel, p. 15

Prospero calms Miranda’s fears for the victims of the shipwreck, then narrates his and her history in order to control it, blaming himself and others.

(His point is to show the characters are complex, the play open to interpretation, not to focus on the scene as a structural unit.)

action statement pattern
Action Statement Pattern
  • 1.1: Gonzalo commits himself to the will of God.
  • 1.2: Prospero hides from Miranda why his mistreats Ferdinand.
  • 2.1: Gonzalo prays for Ferdinand’s protection.
  • 2.2: Caliban sings a song of (mistaken) freedom.
  • 3.1: Miranda asks Ferdinand to marry her, wthout consulting Prospero
  • 3.2: Caliban leads Stefano and Trinculo in pursuit of Ariel’s music.
  • 3.3: Gonzalo sends others, younger than he, to protect the those with guilty consciences (Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio).
  • 4.1: Prospero keeps Ariel loyal by promising him that his moment of freedom is nearing now that all his enemies are at his mercy.
  • 5.1: Prospero charges Ariel to provide calm seas for everyone’s return to Italy, which if Ariel does, he will be free