Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: March ::
Re: *The Tempest* and Universals
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0230.  Tuesday, 15 March 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Adrian Kiernander <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Mar 1994 19:04:54 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0222  Tempest & Universals
 
(2)     From:   William Russell Mayes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tueday, 15 Mar 1994 09:45:48 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Tempest & Universals
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Adrian Kiernander <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 15 Mar 1994 19:04:54 +1000 (EST)
Subject: 5.0222  Tempest & Universals
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0222  Tempest & Universals
 
Ben Ross Schneider's sensitive ear tells him, and us, that "what really happens
in The Tempest is that Prospero reforms, breaks his magic wand and adopts an
entirely different method of administration. It's clear as anything."
 
My ear, perhaps less sensitive and certainly working from Stephen Orgel's
edition, fails to detect any moment at which Prospero actually breaks his
staff, though of course he talks about it, as he talks a great deal about
liberating Ariel. But where is Ben Ross Schneider's sensitive ear when
Prospero, in his last speech of the play before the epilogue, charges Ariel to
organise "calm seas, auspicious gales,/and sail so expeditious that shall
catch/ Your royal fleet far off."? To my ear this is precisely the same
meterological magic, though in a more temperate form, that he practices at the
beginning of the play.
 
Admittedly he ends the speech: "Then to the elements be free, and fare thou
well", but Ariel's heard all this before, including at the very start of Act V
when he points out to Prospero that the time is "[o]n the sixth hour, at which
time, my lord, you said our work should cease."
 
My ear tells me that if Prospero is still giving orders to Ariel in the last
speech of the play he has neither broken his magic wand nor adopted an entirely
different method of administration. So who is ignoring the climax of the play
and rewiting the last act?
 
Adrian Kiernander
Department of Theatre Studies
The University of New England
Armidale, NSW 2351
AUSTRALIA
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Russell Mayes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tueday, 15 Mar 1994 09:45:48 -0500
Subject:        Re: Tempest & Universals
 
I have been uneasy about entering this debate, but as it does interest me, I
thought I'd chime in with a few thoughts about Ben Ross Schneider's recent
post.  In that message, he states that it is "clear as anything" that Prospero
reforms at the end of the play, ceases to be an imperialist, and becomes
another type of administrator (what type is not clear).  I would not deny any
of this, but I think this argument, like many of the others in this debate,
misses some of the (dare I use the phrase?) rich ambiguities in Shakespeare's
texts.
 
Yes, Prospero does say he will give up his magic, but to read the entire play
in light of this late incident is to do violence to the previous acts (this, at
least, is where I hear the text in pain).  In _Lear_ when Edmund says "I mean
to do some good" and sends men to prevent the execution of Lear and Cordelia,
does that mean he is reformed?  Or does the fact that it comes too late mean he
is unreformed?  I don't have an answer, and I think the text intentionally
fails to supply one.
 
Let me put this in the context of _The Tempest_.  No matter what we think about
Prospero's moral standing at the end of the play, the question of Caliban still
looms large in the final scene. What does the phrase "this thing of darkness I
/ Acknowledge mine" mean?  What sort of reward does Prospero have in mind in
his final address to Caliban?  Is Prospero going to take Caliban with him?  If
so, it seems Caliban would at worst be ripe for exploitation by more savvy
Stephanos and Triculos, at best he would be a monstrosity, an outcast in any
society.  Is Prospero going to let Caliban stay on the island?  It would seem
to be rightfully his, but he has been infinitely changed by Prospero and
Miranda (not to mention S & T).  In either case it is difficult for me to
imagine Caliban happy.  And that is how a Romance is supposed to end.
 
My point here is that we must keep the personal histories of the characters in
mind when making a reading of the final act.  I think Cultural Materialists et
al can and do make interesting, useful additions to our understanding of these
plays.  Whether or not Shakespeare and his company knew the works of the
explorers and colonialists seems less interesting to me than the fact that
members of their audience may have.  I think historicists work is at its most
interesting when it reveals meanings that were available to consumers of the
work of art, whether the author intended them or not.
 
Well, I have gone on much longer than I intended.  I look forward to responses.
 
W. Russ Mayes Jr.
University of Virginia

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.