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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Abhorred Slave
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1492  Thursday, 14 June 2001

[1]     From:   Vick Bennison <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Jun 2001 08:14:58 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave

[2]     From:   Christine Gilmore <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Jun 2001 11:45:32 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave

[3]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 00:27:33 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave

[4]     From:   John Lee <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 11:03:40 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Vick Bennison <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Jun 2001 08:14:58 EDT
Subject: 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave

By the by, the MIT online text still gives Prospero the line.  - Vick

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Gilmore <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Jun 2001 11:45:32 -0400
Subject: 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave

On 13 Jun 2001, at 6:51, David Lindley wrote:

> Indeed, though Miranda has usually had a bad press
> from feminist critics, one might have thought that at some level her
> response is understandable, justifiable, even worthy of some bonus
> points.

I'm curious about your remark here, David. Could you cite some articles
that give Miranda "bad press"?  I've never encountered this, and would
like to see what my be the grounds for such "press."

Thanks, cg.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 00:27:33 -0400
Subject: 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave

Vick Bennison assumes that since Caliban, having been taught language,
knows how to curse, he was taught how to curse. I don't think that
necessarily follows, nor that the play suggests it. It's an interesting
observation, but I wouldn't lean so heavily on it. I can't imagine
either Prospero or Miranda teaching Caliban how to curse. Since Prospero
does curse himself, in a way, Caliban might have learned by example, but
I feel, and feel I'm intended to feel, that he learned naturally, on his
own, because of his nature. The point, as I see it, is that he does not
learn what Prospero intends to teach him, but something else-something
worse, the opposite of what Prospero intended. His nature subverts his
nurture.

Miranda taught Caliban about the man in the moon-a kind of childlike
knowledge she might well teach him. But that's mentioned incidentally,
far from this scene.

When they arrived on the island she was three, or younger.

Why the Folio should give this speech to Miranda I don't know. People
make mistakes-that's the best I can do. I realize you need a good reason
to make this change. I think there are good critical reasons.

It's not exactly that young women shouldn't speak this way. It's more
that ideal young women, in this context, in this time and this play,
don't-and Miranda is an ideal young woman. I don't idealize modesty in
young women in quite the way Prospero, Miranda, and I think Shakespeare,
do here, but I believe they all do. The play presents Miranda as a
beautiful, innocent character, and part of her beauty and innocence is
her modesty-"the jewel in my dower".

When Prospero says it's time to go see Caliban, Miranda says "'Tis a
villain, sir,/I do not love to look on." Would she then jump out front
and into the middle of this fray spontaneously, at this level of anger,
with no notice, and no similar note in her speech anywhere else in the
play?

What may be most indicative here is that this speech is not only out of
character for the modest Miranda-her modesty a clear and important point
about her character-but perfectly in character for Prospero, and
particularly at this moment. Prospero enters into an angry dialog with
Caliban, as he had with Ariel. As with Ariel, he's angry at Caliban's
ingratitude and recounts the history which should have made Caliban
grateful. When he does this with Ariel, Ariel agrees; Caliban does not.
The characters of all three, Miranda, Ariel and Caliban are introduced
serially in this scene, all in dialog with an increasingly angry
Prospero. With Miranda his anger (at her), what there is of it, is
unjustified; with Ariel, perhaps partly justified, with Caliban, it
would seem, more, if not entirely, justified; yet with all three the
anger seems more abrupt and intense than the immediate provocation might
warrant. Prospero is an angry man. Through this scene we are learning
something about why he's so angry, but sometimes the justification lags
behind the anger.

"When thou did not, savage,/Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble
like/A thing most brutish, I endowed thy purposes/With words that made
them known" sounds to me not only angry but imperious, abstract-"endowed
thy purposes"-a tone of bitter, confident, preceptorial command that
would not likely be heard from a fifteen year old girl today, let alone
in 1611, but especially not from the modest, sweet, obedient Miranda.
Her sweetness, modesty, naivety and tenderness seem deliberately
contrasted, throughout the play, with her father's angry harshness. His
love for her helps to calm him down. Shakespeare could of course have
given her this one isolated outburst, when confronted with her
unrepentant rapist, but to my ear, and my mind, the speech fits Miranda
so badly, and Prospero so well, that I have to believe somebody made a
mistake. For these reasons, I would say the speech is out of character
for Miranda, but in character for Prospero.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Lee <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 11:03:40 +0100
Subject: 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave

Isn't the more pressing case for giving the 'abhorred slave' speech to
Prospero the fact that it makes better sense (indecency and character
being red herrings)?

If it's Miranda saying,

                When thou didst not, savage,
Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
A thing most brutish, I endowed thy purposes
With words that made them known.

then this is a little peculiar: Caliban has already said that someone
taught him some language (how / To name the bigger light and how the
less) shortly after Prospero and Miranda's arrival. Now, it might be
Miranda, but as she was not fully three at that time, it seems unlikely.
And it might be that Prospero only taught Caliban gabble, and Miranda
later taught him language. But that also seems unlikely, particularly
given Caliban's linguistic competence.

Whether this is good enough reason to make a change in the Folio is
arguable of course. Caliban's reply may also be of interest in his
switch back to 'You' from 'thou'-is this a switch to 'you' as a plural,
or to 'you' as a (fearful) recognition of subordinate place before
Prospero /isolation before language?

John Lee

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