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"Good wombs have borne bad sons" -William Shakespeare
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In Act 5 scene 1, Prospero announces that after he’s done seeking justice upon his adversaries, he will “break [his] staff and.. drown his book” (149). If one had not read the play, a person might believe that Prospero has changed for the better, that he has realized the harmful consequences of possessing power and has decided to remove the very notion of power from his life. But Prospero’s “realization” is not this simple because he conveniently realizes the destructive effects of his magical abilities when he is coming into another source of power, his restoration as the Duke of Milan. Without being reinstated to his position of former power, Prospero would most likely not have considered doing away with his cherished books. Not only that, but in the epilogue there is no mention that Prospero ever saw this thought through. So, is Prospero truly a merciful ruler, as everyone seems to believe, or in actuality is he a sneaky trickster with the upper hand?
Many people have brought up different discoveries about the epilogue in “The Tempest” and I thought I’d jump onto the bandwagon. In class, we talked about how Prospero rhymes in the epilogue and that when a character rhymes in a Shakespearean play, it signifies the character’s importance in the play. However, in this speech, Prospero is speaking to the audience about how they actually had/have the control during the play. Because the speech shows Prospero’s power and significance in the play and having him tell the audience that they had the power all along, I epilogue this as a contradiction. Do you guys find this contradicting? What else do you see revealed through his rhyming and message?
In the plat The Tempest, a ton of leaving takes place in the play. First Prospero and Miranda leaving Milan, then the ship leaving Milan, and everyone leaving the island at the end of the play. However after leaving becomes arrival, just as the saying about closing one door and opening another. Every time a character closes a door of their own they open another door that leads to a plethora of opportunities. For Prospero specifically he closes multiple doors at one time, leaving one open that leaded him back to where he came from. Now he is going back to the start his “little life is rounded with sleep” (133). Prospero has made a full circle in his lifetime and now has no choice but to follow it until the end.
So I am assistant directing a middle school production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, which is all about obedience. For those of you who are not familiar with the story, it is about a sassy shrew-ish girl named Katherine (Kate) and a man named Petruchio who tames her….there’s a lot of other things that happen too but for the purposes of this post, that’s all that matters. IN the end of The Taming of the Shrew, Katherine is completely obedient to Petruchio and both Katherine and Petruchio are praised for Kate’s good behaviour. In calls as well, when we discuss the Tempest, we spend a lot of time talking about Miranda’s obedience to Prospero and how she will make a wonderful wife for Ferdinad because she is so obedient. What do you think this says about women in Shakespeare’s time? Has is expectation of obedience changed?
“But release me from my bands/ With the help of your good hands./ Gentle breath of yours my sails/ Must fill, or else my project fails,/ Which was to please. Now I want/ Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,/ And my ending is despair,/ Unless I be relieved by prayer, Which pierces so that it assaults/ Mercy itself, and free all faults./ As you from crimes would pardoned be,/ Let your indulgence set me free. (Epilogue, 9-20)
As we wrap up on the Tempest I want to discuss a little bit about the epilogue. Knowing this was Shakespeare’s last play this epilogue is in a sense, his last hoorah. At the end of the play Prospero frees everyone from the charms he has been keeping them under and now that we have reached the end of the play he addresses the audience and suggests that he too, is trapped. Thus, he gives the audience the ultimate power. This helps develop Prospero’s character as one that is not power hungry but merely seeking justice. He gives the audience the ultimate power to send him back to Milan (breath of yours my sails must fill) or to keep him trapped on the island. Also, in addressing their hands he is basically just asking them for an applause. He also addresses death with “my ending” which reveals that now that the play is over he is now ready for death, In the very last line he says, “Let your indulgence set me free.” The use of indulgence as the note in the book states, has another meaning besides enjoyment, addressing theological indulgences during the time where buying indulgences from the church could free you from the punishment merited by sin. This double meaning contributes that the play itself can be an escape from sin and reality for the audience and in indulging in it it sets Prospero free. It’s ironic that Prospero is ultimately under the control of the audience considering the entire play he appears as the most powerful one. Do you guys think this was a good way for Shakespeare to end his last play or should he have done something different with the epilogue?
“Some subtleties o’ th’ isle, that will [not] let you/ Believe things certain.” (Act V, Scene 1, line 140-141)
This quote of Prospero’s reminded me of Caliban’s speech about the island (Act 3 scene 2, lines 148-156) when he talks about all the magical happenings of the island. In Caliban’s opinion all the sounds and spirits of the island and harmless and the island is wonderful. However, in Prospero’s note here we see that although the island is full of magic, this isn’t necessarily as great as Caliban sees it. The magic of the island that Caliban talked about, like the “sounds and sweet airs” cause Alonso and company to question the world around them and what is real and what isn’t. Also in this scene Prospero is having his sort of last hoorah with his magic before giving it up so in noting that the island causes people to question realities he could also be referring to the negative side of magic. This is a first for Prospero considering the entirety of the play thus far we have seen Prospero using magic to his advantage. With this view of the island readers can further see a change in Prospero from being strictly power hungry to being more forgiving and human in a sense.
In the beginning of Act 4, Scene 1, when Prospero allows Ferdinand to marry Miranda, I can’t help but notice the language that objectifies Miranda. Prospero describes Miranda as “my gift” or “my rich gift.” Propsero also says, “she is thine own,” implying that Ferdinand now owns Miranda and this is the act of passing on that ownership. Within that conversation, Prospero and Ferdinand never mention her name. Instead, she is mentioned as “my daughter” and “my gift,” which emphasizes Miranda’s objectification.
This quote is when Caliban decides to commit himself to Stephano’s slavery because they gave him alcohol. This quote is important because he decides to do all the dirty work that he promised Prospero before he turned on him. He told Prospero that, “And then I loved thee, And showed thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle. The fresh springs, brine pits, barren place and the fertile” (1.2 402-405). Caliban basically promised Prospero the same things he is promising Stephano, and doesn’t understand that although he may be escaping from Prospero’s slavery, he is actually subjecting himself to the slavery of someone else. Stephano is actually only a power hungry butler who plans on selling Caliban to the zoo, when they are back in Naples, while Prospero is a born and raised duke who took care of Caliban before Caliban tried to rape Miranda. The theme of colonization is prominent throughout the play and I believe that Caliban’s situation is an allusion to the different countries trying to take over native land by conquering the people. Caliban is very naive about the intentions of his “employers” so he believes that he can be free from his torture if he becomes a slave to someone else.