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"Good wombs have borne bad sons" -William Shakespeare
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Q and A
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?
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?
As Christine and Kelsey have touched on earlier, the debate between revenge and justice is a huge one. In The Tempest, Prospero has the opportunity to carry out the ultimate form of revenge by killing Antonio, Alonso and the whole crew during the storm created by Ariel. He instead allows them to arrive on the island, and he elongates their torture through a series of magical events. To me, this connects to the idea of the death penalty (a quick, relatively easy death) as reparation for a crime versus life in prison (a long drawn out punishment). In the Tempest, Prospero chooses to draw out the punishment and make the evil men feel guilty, vulnerable and homesick instead of killing them right away. He would rather have them feel true guilt than die immediately. In The Tempest as in real life, there is a line between justice and revenge. In our legal system today, we have both the death penalty and a life sentence in prison. Does the death penalty classify as revenge while the life sentence in prison as justice? Or are both acts of justice against convicted criminals?
“In one voyage / Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis, / And Ferdinand, her brother, found a wife / Where he himself was lost; Prospero his dukedom / In a poor isle; and all of us ourselves / When no man was his own” (Act 5. Sc. 1. Lines 249 - 254).
In this passage, Gonzalo and the rest of the boat party have just discovered that both Prospero and Ferdinand are alive. Gonzalo speaks out to the group as a whole, and points out the many positive aspects to their being stranded on Prospero’s island. The reason for their journey was the wedding of Claribel, Alonso’s daughter, to a prince in Tunis. Because of that journey, the ship was brought into the clutches of Prospero and Ariel, and the men from Prospero’s past were placed upon the island in order for him to enact him form of justice for past events. These events led to the eventual meeting of Ferdinand and Miranda, something which Prospero had planned as a way to regain his lost power in Milan, as well as a way to gain favor in the eyes of the King of Naples, Alonso. And, because of this marriage, Prospero was eventually able to regain the kingdom and power he lost due to his brother’s betrayal. I think that this passage symbolizes how, although the initial journey and arrival on the island was filled with many negative prospects, in the end, there were also several very positive outcomes, giving the whole play a more positive tone.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O, brave new world
That has such people in ‘t!
I think this quote really shows Miranda’s naivete. She is so surprised to see all the people on the island. Miranda, having grown up on this island alone with no one but her father and Caliban, has never seen other human beings. The first man she sees is Ferdinand and she is stunned by him and falls instantly in love with him. Now she sees all these other men on the island and refers to them as “godly creatures”. She is so open and accepting and easily impressed.
“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.
First, the ambiguity.
The most ambiguous and ever changing character in The Tempest is the one and only Ariel (my personal favorite). Ariel’s character is a spirit whom does not have a gender (but Prospero calls Ariel “he”), age, race, culture, sex, etc., but Ariel does have a connection to Prospero until set free. His attachment to Prospero allows the readers a way to envision a face behind the personality of Ariel, though Shakespeare does not give evidence to support any of the ideas. Ariel’s ambiguity directly relates to the optical illusion above because, like Ariel, the photo can be seen as multiple things, but no one knows exactly what it is. In this case the photo is a glass or two faces (fewer options than Ariel), but both options can not be proven 100% true. Just because Prospero calls Ariel “he” does not automatically make Ariel a man.
In The Tempest there are a lot of similarities with the epic poem we are currently reading in Latin class, Virgil’s The Aeneid. The fact that an intense, scary storm places the foreign men on a new, unfamiliar island where they must learn to survive, occurs in both works. But more intriguing in my opinion, is the mystic/magical/fatalistic experiences and events which occur in both works. In The Aeneid, the gods continuously influence and interfere in the lives of the humans to ensure that everything is playing out according to the predetermined fate. Similarly, in The Tempest, Prospero has all the power on the island, and he can manipulate and interfere in the lives of Alonso, Gonzalo, Antonio, Sebastian and all the other men (and Miranda) to ensure that all of them play into his desired plan. The question of whether humans really have control over the course of their lives is examined in both works. This idea is interesting because even in our society today, people have various opinions about whether all of our lives have a predetermined fate which is unchangeable or if there is a God who has a preset plan or if we as humans have the power to control and manipulate our own destinies. What do you guys think about this idea?
While reading our latest assignment of The Tempest, Act IV, I was astonished to realize how similar it was to today’s soap operas, dramas, or reality TV. We are about to get a happily ever after, the marrige of Miranda and Ferdinand, but WAIT past drama, Caliban’s murderous plot, surfaces causing Prospero to hault the services and dramatically exit. A common tactic to lengthen movies, keep watchers tuned in, or just a hook to hold people though commercials is about 3/4 of the way though, cause drama, something critical that could ruin the imminent happy ending. By giving a taste of the good, by showing us a bit of the wedding, the watchers/readers get excited for the ending, ready to watch it. Throwing in the drama gets the watchers more invested because they understand what is at stake if the crisis is not resolved. Shakespeare employs this tactic when we get to see Ferdinand finally free and ready to marry and then throws in Caliban, Triculo, and Stephano’s plot to rile up the audience against them and keep them involved.
Many people say that Hollywood takes Shakespear and ruins it by adding unnessasary drama or artistic flair. Critics point to Romeo + Juliet, She’s the Man, Westside Story, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Independance Day saying that the drama was not true to the story and takes away from Shakespeares masterpieces. But its interesting to see that even back then he shamelessly used a reality tv device of hooking the reader. Maybe he wasn’t as stuffy as we all think.
My heart fly to your service, there resides
To make me slave to it, and for your sake
Am I this patient log-man
Pg 95 (Act 3, Sc. 1, 76-79)
Act 3, Scene 1, is all about Miranda and Ferdinand and their love for each other. Ferdinand, earlier in his speech, says that “I am in my condition a prince.” He is stating that he is in a very high position. In this section of his speech, he is saying that he will give up his high position and be a “log-man” for Miranda. Love is often equated with sacrifice, and here, Ferdinand is sacrificing his pride and royalty for love. Miranda, later in the scene, proposes to Ferdinand and they basically swear their love to each other. Much like, Romeo and Juliet, Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love at first sight and quickly decide to marry. I can’t help but wonder whether they will end up in a tragic situation like Romeo and Juliet.