The Tempest (B)

Prospero as tyrant Prospero is not compassionate by nature, as he’s accustomed to being unquestioned and tyrannical, therefore repeatedly subjugating Caliban and calling him a “thing of darkness” and a “poisonous slave”. Prospero’s magic makes it impossible for Caliban to be free, thus, Caliban “must obey: his art is of such power”. He “must” render himself submissive as he fears the enormity of Prospero’s power. Caliban has been a victim of Prospero’s subjugation for so long that freedom, to him, is merely defined as being free from Prospero’s tyranny: “‘Ban, ‘ban, Ca-caliban/Has a new master. Get a new man.”
“I must…. obey: his art is of such power”
Helen Mirren as Prospera In Julie Taymor’s cinematic production of the Tempest, Helen Mirren plays the role of “Prospera”. As a female, Mirren removes the uncomfortable patriarchal, oppressive sense of feeling that Prospero has when played by a man. Mirren strips him of his tyranny while still maintaining his power, strength and authority.Mirren reverses traditional societal roles to perhaps develop a modern feminist reading of the play, suggesting that the issues a strong woman faces at different points of her life are increasingly similar to the issues a strong man faces: power, justice, legacy, knowledge and authority.
Meta-theatricality – Prospero as a director Prospero’s theatrical art serves as his weapon of power, his instrument of control. Prospero describes the shipwreck as a “direful spectacle” thus a theatrical show staged by himself. He orchestrates the events of the play as the director, with the help of Ariel, his stage manager or assistant director. The play is his attempt to undo the past by restaging it.
Andrew Greene Prospero is a “composer of all the events in the play”
Orgel on magic Orgel poses the question, “is the magic [of Prospero] a strength or a weakness?” therefore underlining the ambiguity and ambivalence of the nature of magic.
Magic robes In Act 5, Prospero enters the scene dressed in his “magic robes”; his robe is a prop that alludes to his ability to transition between different characters and different roles, underlining the enigmatic and deceptive nature of magic. This draws a visual parallel to 1:2, where Prospero entered wearing his “magic garments” only to ask Miranda to “Lend thy hand/And pluck” it from him. This foreshadows Prospero relinquishing his magic at the end, alluding to the cyclical nature of the play.
Prospero describes his magic as “rough” therefore defining magic as a curse. Magic is presented through its sense of disorder and threat to stability.
There is an abrupt ending to the betrothal masque of Act 4 Prospero is enjoying the masque ceremony when he suddenly remembers that he “forgot that foul conspiracy” of Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban. This scene is a reminder of his failure in Milan as a result of his magic leading him astray. Shakespeare reminds his audience of the dangers of indulging too readily and too completely in pleasure.
Wolfbane 2011 production The audience visually witness Prospero’s changing disposition through the changes in lighting onstage, such as the transition from a colourful array of hues to a darker, ominous range of colours. Prospero is bathed in orange-red lighting as a reinforcement of the rancour and animosity looming over him
Forgiveness intro Shakespeare is mocking the folly of penance and forgiveness. Prospero can never attain true forgiveness when facing his enemies because he is a flat representation of a power-hungry man. Everything he does is to assert his dominion over people and situations.
Ariel n Prospero After Ariel compels Prospero’s “affections [to] become tender”, he undergoes a shift in attitudes, from crazed and resentful to abruptly forgiving: “And mine shall” because he has come to a “Christ-like” realisation. (Soloman)
Prospero “traces…. a circle”, exhibiting a different kind of strength within this scene; Prospero uses his powers to unite the play’s characters to a single scene, an act of reconciliation. The circle symbolises the restoration of the play’s nfatural cycle.
Soloman Prospero has come to a “Christ-like” realisation.
Wilson “Prospero as a manipulator but also as an unresolved, struggling human being”Struggle of bearing power as one can potentially abuse it
“the most… wicked sir whom to call brother Would even infect my mouth”
Prospero’s quality of mercy… is strained; a truly sincere reconciliation fails to develop when Prospero confronts Antonio is Act 5, where he calls him the “most wicked sir whom to call brother Would even infect my mouth” Prospero goes through motions of forgiveness but his sincerity is lost to usThere is little exchange of dialogue between Prospero and Antonio, perhaps because Antonio does not feel any remorse at all. Given his inherently malicious nature, as exemplified by his previous actions when plotting to kill Alonso,
Robert G. Hunter “Antonio’s evil nature has not changed and Prospero knows it, nor is Sebastian any more trustworthy. Prospero can only control them [..] through the power of his knowledge of their evil”. (Robert G. Hunter) Thus, by pretending to forgive the ones who wronged him, Prospero gains control of the situation in an even greater way.
Globe – magic robe In the Globe production, immediately after Prospero removes his “magic robe”, he transitions into a more empathetic and understanding version of himself. He truly resembles a father figure to insinuate that Prospero is heartfelt when stripped of all his magic, therefore echoing the opening of the play where Prospero “had done nothing in care of thee”.
Singh Singh contends that Prospero’s “actions are motivated by only one desire: to secure a happy future for [Miranda]” and the audience are convinced of this reading when Prospero states in his soliloquy at the end of 3:2 states that “So glad of this [marriage] as they I cannot be”. To believe that choreographing Ferdinand and Miranda’s romance was fueled by self-interest and selfish motivates would be to overlook Prospero’s poignancy and emotional devastation in losing his daughter.
Dryden and D’Avenant 1670 Adaptation Dryden and D’Avenant’s Prospero is very different to Shakespeare’s original; Auberlen summarises the changes, “in the adaptation, Prospero loses control of the outer events and is reduced to the status of a Polonius-like overbusy father”The Restoration Prospero is bent on controlling events and people. He undergoes no change of heart.
18th century Prospero The Tempest remained Prospero’s play through his wisdom and authority
20th century prospero However, by the late 20th century, when Prospero had come to be viewed as a tetchy, if not a tyrannical imperialist, the play itself seemed more problematic.
Attitudes to a female playing prospero Contemporary productions feature a woman playing Prospero but a Jacobean audience wouldnt have accepted this, particularly bc women were banned from appearing onstage.
“How many…. goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is!”
Miranda’s guileless innocence is a stark contrast to the malicious plots and conquests for power present in the play. Miranda’s guileless innocence is a stark contrast to the malicious plots and conquests for power present in the play. She exclaims, “How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is!” to highlight how she is motivated by the positive force of love, than deterred by the threat of violence, alluding to her significance and how she indirectly guides the play to a positive resolution. Shakespeare allows her to become his mouthpiece to express the idea that human beings are marvelous, despite our flaws and fallibility.
Hazlitt – M “goddess of the isle”
David Lindley “Miranda raises the question as to how magic power can and should be legitimately be used.”
Jameson Suggests that all who behold Miranda are struck with wonder at her “soft simplicity, virgin innocence, total ignorance” Miranda’s most salient feature is therefore a void – a lack of experience, knowledge and sophistication.
Female worth Ferdinand worships Miranda, calling her “so perfect and so peerless”; Alonso calls her a “goddess” and Prospero calls her a “cherubin”, all adding to Miranda’s angelic and ethereal nature – an image of female perfection. The terms of praise border on idolatrous and potentially dangerous, as women who are seen as divine raise high expectations and runs the risk of disappointing her worshippers. As the sole woman on the island, her femininity becomes an extremely valuable commodity; she becomes a coveted prize. Stephano is convinced of the plot to kill Prospero because he can take Miranda as his queen; in this sense, Stephano exemplifies the male desire to possess female beauty as a way to express status.
19th century Miranda Miranda’s diminished roles onstage and her omission from the 19th century’s philosophical speculations, Vaughan and Vaughan states, “reflects the 19th century’s patriarchal perspective”. Browning has her sleep through Caliban’s monologue and Renan drops her altogether.
Browning Has miranda sleep through Calibans monologue
Renan drops Miranda altogether
Miranda as a pawn as a father intro Voyeuristic nature of Prospero’s involvement with his daughter’s engagement suggests that he is in full control of even the romantic elements of the plot, even if the other characters are unaware of his influence.
Valdivieso Valdivieso argues that “Miranda will remain property that has passed from father to husband”. Miranda is a “rich gift”, a symbol of her role as a piece of “property” or a sort of transaction/goods that can be traded for male benefit. Shakespeare depicts Miranda as something to be bartered over or “passed down”, rather than a self-determining human in her own right.
Prospera as a mum In the Julie Taymor cinematic production of The Tempest, Helen Mirren plays “Prospera”. Prospera’s role as a mother to Miranda, rather than a father, protects Miranda from the extremes of patriarchal control and helps Miranda to defend herself against undiluted patriarchal power
Mike Brett Miranda’s freedom is “entirely illusory […] her actions are secretly approved and manipulated by Prospero”
1667 Dryden and D’Avenant on Miranda In 1667 D’avenant and Dryden’s adaptation, Dorinda and Miranda are disobedient to a certain extent, because they do go and visit Hippolito against their father’s will. The girls are portrayed as young, and naive products of nature, who have not yet learnt how to behave themselves yet, portrayed through their curiosity and natural sensibilities.
Jacobean vs modern Miranda as a passive sexual object While a jacobean audience may perceive miranda as a passive sexual object, a modern reader erases this image. In Derek Jarman’s 1979 cinematic production of The Tempest, Jarman underlines Miranda’s lack of beauty or sexuality in the scene where she is washing herself. Although she is fully undressed, she does not act embarrassed or angry when Caliban enters the scene; she does not cover herself or act angrily to underline her unerotisication
“fortitude from heaven” “cherubin” Religious emblematic images allude to Miranda’s purity and chastity, the greatest gift she can offer Ferdinand. Her chaste nature makes her acceptable for marriage, and that is more important than any mercenary value she may have. The symbols of jewels “by my modesty, the jewel in my dower” again allude to her virginity; the recurring symbols of Miranda’s purity suggest she is no more than an object of trade to her father
The masque as a materialisation…. of Prospero’s will and power. It is a visual spectacle; Prospero wants everyone to watch, “No tongue! All eyes! Be silent!” whereas in 1:1, Prospero wanted his daughter to listen and to drink in his tale. This time, he wants visual attention so he can render both the audience and the characters onstage astounded by his magic prowess.
Orgel – Masque (nobility) “Masque […] refers us to a sophisticated society” reminder of the nobility Prospero was once a part of
Globe – Masque Prospero is onstage during the masque rather than offstage to provoke the idea that perhaps it is just a way for him to enforce his powers.
Rarer action….. is/In virtue than in vengeance”Prospero alludes to the idea that power does not necessarily have to lie within suppression, underlining the restoration of Prospero’s humanity. However, this scene is placed directly before the anti-masque – an exemplification of P’s oppressive tendencies – thus suggestive of the falsity behind his kindness. Audience might be skeptical about the genuinity of his kind behaviour.
Joanna Williams on filfth “Call a man filth and he will behave like filth”
“Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else This isle with Calibans”
“The white cold… virgin snow upon my heart/Abates the ardour of my liver”
Williams on appetite Caliban represents the “primitive, unrestrained appetite” and indeed, this is a convincing argument as Caliban’s relentless appetite – more specifically, his sexual/lustful appetite – is a reinforcement of his brutal nature. “I must eat my dinner” he demands, reflecting non-conformity to civillised notions of self-control. The savage Caliban is licentious, lustful, and without the discipline of restraint, thus feels no remorse having attempted to rape Miranda: “Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else. This isle with Calibans”
Ferdinand vs Caliban Ferdinand’s love for Miranda is a foil against Caliban’s lust. Although Ferdinand is bowled over by Miranda, he reassures Prospero that his desires are under firm control: “The white cold virgin snow upon my heart/Abates the ardour of my liver” The lustful rage of Caliban, the natural being, is in stark contrast with honourable self-discipline of superior cultivated nobleman.
Montaigne In his essay “Les Cannibales”, Montaigne describes the island savages as “unadorned and unfettered” essentially the “most natural form of life” therefore depicting Caliban in a positive light and suggesting his brutality is not necessarily an adverse quality.
Dryden and D’Avenant on Caliban Caliban’s role was significant reduced in this adaptation, perhaps because the role of the natural man is displaced on to Hippolito. Caliban is seen as merely a buffoonish monster.
19th century romantics Caliban’s role as a natural man would be received positively. Coleridge, a romantic being, believed Caliban displayed power and truth of the playwright’s imagination, his character grows “out of the soil where it is rooted, uncontrolled, uncouth and wild”. Viewed in this light, Prospero is, perhaps, to be frowned upon for his attempt to restrain Caliban’s natural impulses and liberty.
Frank Benson playing Caliban in the early 1900s at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, researched and observed monkeys in order to portray Caliban as more of a savage beast, hanging upside down and swinging from poles.
Coleridge Coleridge, a romantic being, believed that Caliban displays power and truth from playwright’s imagination. His character grows “out of the soil where it is rooted, uncontrolled, uncouth and wild”
Globe Production 2013 on Caliban Caliban’s costume depicts vulnerability at the hands of strangers. The newcomers of the isle are fully clothed, while Caliban is only dressed in a loincloth to allude to his role as a victim. His role into subjugation is made pitiable.
Modern audience – Caliban Modern audiences have tended to sympathise with the victims of political power structures; Caliban represents a political statement for post-colonisation, therefore, a modern audience would view Caliban’s subjugation as an abuse of power. In Jonathan Miller’s radical production of The Tempest, Prospero is a white colonist and Caliban is a black slave.
Revenge – Caliban Caliban in his desire to find revenge shows emotional, passionate journey; his intense, feverish outbursts are uncivilised and savage-like; he wants to “batter [Prospero’s] skull or paunch him with a stake”. Caliban, having been shown very little mercy, has no capacity to show mercy to others, and in fact takes delight in others’ suffering. The audience must question where this a defect of his character, or the result of a vicious circle of mercilessnessAlthough Caliban’s resentment is tragic, there lies comedy in Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo’s plot as the stark contrast between their plot (which ultimately results in failure) and Prospero’s plot to regain his dukedom (which the audience anticipate will be successful), therefore further painting the trio as foolish characters.Although Caliban’s resentment is tragic, there lies a great deal of folly as a result of the stark contrast between Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo’s plot (which ultimately fails) and Prospero’s plot to regain his dukedom (which the audience anticipate to be successful), thus further painting the trio as certainly a set of foolish characters
Caliban n Prospero foil Caliban and Prospero represent two different extremes on the social spectrum: that of the natural ruler, and the naturally ruled. Caliban responds almost wholly to passions, feelings of pleasure his senses, while Prospero is ruled more by his intellect and self-discipline his mind. However, Williams argues that “Caliban’s base instincts” are “a side of Prospero’s personality”. Prospero calls Caliban a “thing of Darkness I/ Acknowledge mine” because he is possibly taking responsibility for the dark side of his own personality. Shakespeare could be insinuating that humanity has a “natural” tendency toward uncontrollable appetite which is covered by a thin layer of civilisation
Collaboration between RSC and South Africa’s Baxter Theatre In the collaboration between RSC and South Africa’s Baxter Theatre, Caliban is depicted as an old man leaning on two sticks; he has tragic stature and speaks with such a commanding beauty that when he says “This island is mine”, you believe him.
Caliban as sensitive Caliban’s monologue in Act 3 is a poetic and stirring moment, he reassures Trinculo and Stephano that the island has “sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not”, thus depicting the island as an idyllic fantasy untouched by humanity and, as the son of the witch Sycorax, Caliban believes he should be the master of the island. Therefore, Caliban feels bitter and resentment in having the island stolen from him; Caliban’s sensitive nature is revealed in his love for the island.
Ariel and Caliban to… Prospero are like “Plato’s two seeds of the soul, the noble and the hideous, the two potentialities of the human spirit” -G.Wilson Knight
Neo-platonic dualism As an airy spirit, Ariel can be seen as one pole of a neo-platonic dualism: air as opposed to Earth. For example, Priscilla Reed Horton, a 19th century Ariel, was seen sporting wings for the character to depict Ariel as airborne while Caliban is commonly seen as hunched and close to earth as portrayed in Globe Prod. 2013
“A southwest blow on ye. And blister you all o’er!”
Ariel v Caliban Ariel greets Prospero formally as “great master” to symbolise respect and reverence; Ariel’s is depicted as that of a slave who binds himself to his master without question. Ariel’s obedience is an important symbol of Prospero’s humanity, because he ameliorates Prospero’s role on the island and humanises the action that Prospero takes against his old adversaries. Ariel’s willingness to serve Prospero contrasts strongly with Caliban’s attitude of sardonic rebelliousness exhibited in the same scene. While Ariel greets Prospero with an affirmation of his greatness, Caliban greets him with a curse, “A southwest blow on ye. And blister you all o’er!” to reflect the perpetually conflicting and contrasting nature of the two.
“Earthly… and abhorred commands”
Although the play identifies Ariel as a non-human he has his own independent thoughts and feelings. For example, he refuses to enact Sycorax’s “earthly and abhorred commands” and in the RSC 1993 production, Ariel is resentful of prospero.
Nancy Meckler The Nancy Meckler production establishes Ariel’s female sexuality. At the end of the play, Ariel signals her freedom by stripping off her costume of restrictive white tabard with long sleeves to reveal the female body underneath.
Ariel – power Ariel is loyal to Prospero, but he is also loyal to nature – his source of power as well as his home, thus he serves two masters. For instance, he is repeatedly associated with emblematic images of water; he implements the tempest and is disguised as a “nymph o’th’ sea”. Water in its positives, “azured vault” and it in its negatives “set roaring war” demonstrate Ariel’s abilities, setting him at time above Prospero in power.
“You fools: I and my fellows Are ministers of Fate”
Kate Kellaway “more a dangerous slave than a ‘delicate’ sprite”
Coleridge, romantic critic, thought Ariel to be “imaginary power, the swiftness of thought personified”
1700s-modern day ariel 1700s: Early 1700s Ariel played by a girl – all the way up until 1930s – seen as more feminine and softer as a girl – less threatening.1930: Harcourt Williams takes role of Ariel, and after this it becomes rare to see Ariel played by a woman.Modern: Directors embrace androgyny, not establishing a permanent sex for the character. This is fitting as the sexlessness of the spirit helps perpetuate Ariel’s airy, magical quality. Arguably, he is above too powerful and above human status to be assigned a definite gender.
Chess Miranda and Ferdinand are found in Act 5 “playing at chess”. Chess is a prop used symbolically to represent Miranda’s potential to restore the natural order of the social hierarchy, thus acting as a vehicle to further the reconciliation of the two fathers. The game of chess exhibits Miranda behaving in an aristocratic manner, reflecting her growth into an intellectual, mature queen through her understanding of social propriety.However, Ferdinand and Miranda’s game of chess alludes to a sense of deceit and trickery as Miranda says, “you play me false”, alluding to the underlying, dark conspiratorial world of the play and thus highlights their marriage as a key aspect of Prospero’s plot to regain his dukedom. Shakespeare perhaps highlights the idea that their relationship is centred more on power than love.
Leslie Fiedler Leslie Fiedler points out that the chess-game therefore indicates Prospero’s loss of power over his daughter: “the strongest piece is the queen; and the combat always ends with the cry, ‘Checkmate’, meaning ‘The king is dead'”.
Globe 2013 Romance In the globe production, miranda and ferdinand’s initial encounter is highly exaggerated as Miranda acts melodramatically and is physically drawn toward Ferdinand. Their hyperbolic love reiterates the fairytale-like nature of the play and the comic aspect of their romance.
Ferdinand w logs In 3:1, Ferdinand enters the scene “bearing a log”, a visual parallel to the previous scene, 2:2, where the audience also witness Caliban carrying a “burden of wood”. By purposely drawing this link, Shakespeare degrades Ferdinand from his royalty and emphasises how far he has fallen from nobility. Shakespeare subdues Ferdinand as Caliban’s equal to underline the difference between proven mutual love and attempted rape.
Globe Romance levels The Globe production foreshadows Miranda’s role as a future queen. There is initially a significant power difference between Prospero and Miranda, as represented by the difference in levels – Prospero would usually be placed higher onstage than his daughter. However, by Act 5, they are positioned on the same level, elevating her sense of authority and foreshadows her role as a future queen by suggesting that her power will eventually parallel Prospero’s.
Spring come to you….. at the farthest/In the very end of harvest!”
Wharton “we are transported into a fairy-lad”
Kalpakgian Prospero’s magic “resembles God’s work”
Hazlitt on M+F Their romance is “one of the chief beauties of this play. It is the very purity of love”
Masque celebrates Prospero’s The masque celebrates Prospero’s paternal magnanimity and his ability to defy the laws of time and nature — “Spring come to you at the farthest, / In the very end of harvest!”: seasonal imagery shows winter as being excluded from Prospero’s seasonal cycle. Abundance emanates spontaneously from nature’s inexhaustible resources; the masque is a departure from the real world of The Tempest
Wedding ceremony, the masque, is a colourful and picturesque vision of “blue” and “green” to highlight both an operatic and fairytale-like quality. The sense of tranquility and momentary perfection obtained from the masque is a symbol of the promising future between Miranda and Ferdinand, therefore rendering the audience in anticipation of the peaceful denouement.
Jacobean audience on romance By putting into motion the relationship between Ferdinand and Miranda, hoping they will fall in love and thus confirm his dynastic design, Prospero is doing no more than what a typical Renaissance parent aimed for.
1870s on romance Attempts were made to produce the play as Shakespeare originally intended. Directors broke away from the technical extravaganza and aimed to direct the play as a realist drama than a romantic poem.
RSC on trinculo n stephano In the RSC production, Stephano speaks in a fake posh accent and Trinculo has a beer belly; their hyperbolic image is comic
Magic robes trinculo In Act 5, Prospero enters the scene wearing his “magic robes”. In the previous scene, 4:1, the audience witness Trinculo borrowing the magical garment to wear it; the audience immediately know to undermine Trinculo as he is too low in the social hierarchy to be a genuine threat to power, thus rendering the scene comic and humorous in nature.
1667 Dryden and D’Avenant In 1667, Dryden and D’Avenant adapted The Tempest for a post-Restoration audience. Their version, the “Enchanted Island” is a light-hearted comedy, lacking the depth and tragic elements of the original.
C+T+S plot tragedy There is irony in the instance that Caliban is so eagerly accepting of Stephano as his master and in his desire to ingratiate himself with a useless drunk. Caliban asks him to “let me lick thy shoe”; this scene’s humour is undercut with sadness as we see the folly of Caliban’s belief that he has found a master out of a drunkard.
Orgel on T+S+C masque Everything that Prospero’s wedding masque excludes is impending in the conspiracy of T+S+C, suggesting the masque is a form of escapism from the outer world. Orgel argues that, therefore, the play has made Prospero “forgetful of the realities of the world of action” Although t+s+c’s plot is inept and comic, WS reveals the underlying, dark conspiratorial world of the play as the magician loses his awareness of the play’s continuing action. Prospero’s forgetfulness reveals a degree of impending catastrophe.
David Troughton production In the david troughton production 1993, caliban wears the label MONSTER hung around his neck to further accentuate his subjugation
modern on t+s+c vs jacobean A modern postcolonial reading could interpret this comic interlude as a somewhat darker presentation of suffering caused by colonisation. In contrast, a Jacobean audience would associate the “foul speeches” with the very real threats to the throne that existed throughout James 1’s reign, and would therefore identify more w tragic elements of play