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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Abhorred Slave
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1507  Friday, 15 June 2001

[1]     From:   Simon Morris <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 14:17:25 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

[2]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 08:58:55 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave

[3]     From:   Kris McDermott <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 10:27:02 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

[4]     From:   Vick Bennison <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 10:36:00 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

[5]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 16:17:38 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

[6]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 08:39:31 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

[7]     From:   Adrian Kiernander <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 17:18:28 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Morris <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 14:17:25 +0100
Subject: 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

Is it possible that the speech was Prospero's in an earlier draft, and
given to Miranda, perhaps so she wouldn't be entirely silent in
Prospero-Caliban part of this scene?

I can't see any real evidence to support this, but, inversely, perhaps
someone who knows the Quartos/Folio differences well can point out that
it that's rare for such a long speech to be reassigned?

Incidentally, the speech seems to me to jar, not only with her
character-as-suggested-by-her-other-speeches, but with her
function-in-the-rest-of-the-play, which perhaps is a less nebulous
category. Miranda has no back-story - her story begins in the play.
Prospero is almost all back-story, as is this speech ("any print of
goodness wilt not take", "I pitied thee", "good natures could not abide
to be with").

Even more incidentally, why does Prospero put Miranda to sleep just
before this, in the Prospero-Ariel part of the scene? I wildly and
unfoundedly speculate that an earlier draft had her asleep for the
Prospero-Caliban part of the scene, too, so that she can literally wake
up to Ferdinand. Then the "fringed curtain" of her eye would actually be
moving, if not exactly advancing, as she sees him for the first time.

S.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 08:58:55 -0500
Subject: 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1477 Re: Abhorred Slave

>Adrian Kiernander writes:

>I can imagine a Miranda who is unlikely to speak
>such words and doesn't, and a Miranda who is likely to say them and
>does, and a Miranda who is unlikely to speak them and yet does, taking
>me by surprise. So what does "out of character" mean? Even more,
>"entirely out of character"?

There are, I think, two senses of "out of character." In one, the actor
drops the character he or she is portraying and speaks to the audience
(or a fellow actor) as actor. Of course, all sorts of games can be
played with this concept, including the playwright scripting such
events, or planning for them to be done ad lib (like jazz riffs).

In the other, which is what is under discussion, either the playwright
writing a character, or an actor on his or her own, does something that
conflicts with what had been already established for that character.

Obviously, characters can change. The wimpy hero can suddenly become
courageous. The heroine can suddenly fall in love with the hero that she
previously despised. We usually demand, however, that there be some
clear cause for the significant change in the character and that it be
the sort of thing that fits in with kind of work at hand. If there
isn't, then we sense something wrong: the playwright screwed up; the
actor / director screwed up; it isn't the kind of work we thought it
was; perhaps other possibilities.

In the case in point, we usually assume a kind of innocence and purity
in the character of Miranda-deliberately written into the text by WS-
that sorts ill with the passage in question. Thus we plunge into the
exchange that's gone on, wherein, lying in the background, are the
matters of the kind of play we think WS was writing, the character of
Miranda, and whether the dialogue is "out of character" for that figure
in that play.

Of course, my whole response is predicated on assuming that great works
of art usually have high degree of coherence to them, both technical and
spiritual. Not everyone on this list agrees.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kris McDermott <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 10:27:02 EDT
Subject: 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

While I agree with the respondents so far that assigning the speech to
Miranda raises various potential problems of both theme and
characterization, I don't agree with David Bishop that such a speech is
inconsistent with Miranda's "sweetness" and "modesty."  Miranda's
modesty is, more than once in the play, shown to be a product of
Ferdinand's courtly imagination-she does, after all, propose marriage to
him, after reminding herself (unsuccessfully) not to "prattle too
wildly."  She makes a distinction between "bashful cunning" and "sweet,
holy innocence," and hopes that in marriage, she'll be Ferdinand's
"fellow."  The best performances of Miranda I have seen (particularly
that of Tricia Kelly in the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express's 1995
season) have created humorous and appealing dissonances between the
"goddess" and "cherubim" that Ferdinand and Prospero see, and the warm,
energetic, flesh-and-blood teenager that Miranda reveals in her own
words.  I've seen several productions in which Miranda yanks the logs
out of Ferdinand's arms and carries them for him.  Remember also that
Prospero has observed Miranda's declaration of love and, even though she
swears to die a virgin if Ferdinand won't marry her, he apparently has
enough doubts about Miranda's "modesty" to stage the wedding-masque to
instruct both young people about the joys of self-control.  And this
list has already discussed the ways in which Miranda might be "playing"
Ferdinand in the Act 5 chess game.

Kris McDermott
Central Michigan University

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Vick Bennison <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 10:36:00 EDT
Subject: 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

David Bishop writes:

>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.

You are correct that I was thinking that, and I agree I was mistaken.

 >I can't imagine
>either Prospero or Miranda teaching Caliban how to curse.

The three question marks I placed after my comment I hoped would make
you realize that it was a joke.  I have never suspected Miranda of
teaching Caliban to curse.  A modern day teenager, yes, but ....

 >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.

I don't see how it matters where this comment arises, and learning the
difference between the sun and moon that burn day and night is hardly
any less childlike.  I'm sure my children, when they were four, could
have taught Caliban the difference between the sun and the moon.  They
could both recite "Goodnight Moon" in its entirety at that age.

> 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.

Generally, when obvious miss-attributions occur, the one to whom the
line is wrongly assigned is one of two or more characters involved in a
dialogue.  That is the situation where a compositor can easily put the
wrong name down.  In this case, Miranda doesn't have another line for
miles on either side (about 50 lines either side).  That is the main
reason I have trouble believing this to be a clerical error.

> 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".

Remember however, that Prospero has been her only model.  He speaks out
against Caliban, so why shouldn't she, particularly on the subject of
her abuse by Caliban.  He was her only playmate and friend on the
island, and he betrayed her.  It must have stung her deeply.

> 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?

Yes, for the reason I noted above, and because she knows that Caliban
can not harm her with Prospero present.

>. With Miranda his anger (at her), what there is of it, is
 >unjustified;

Most of his anger at Miranda is faked to help throw her into Ferdinand's
camp.  The only other anger I can think of is his reminding her to pay
attention while he is telling her their story, and that's not really
very angry.

> "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"

I have no trouble at all reading these lines as gentle reprimand.  But
again, she seems perfectly justified in being angry at his betrayal  I
had my Miranda read them somewhere in between.

>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.

Nay, not obedient.  She opposes her father at every turn just like a
modern teenage girl.  She even makes out with Ferdinand before the
masque.  But again remember, her only model has been Prospero.  Did
Prospero model for her the proper behavior of a teenage girl in 1611?
Perhaps it was Shakespeare's intent to have her represent such a girl,
but the situation on the island is so unusual, that I don't think
Shakespeare would feel obliged to do so.  One wonders how she would have
behaved if it weren't for Prospero's magic powers.

> 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.

Again, she shows anger at her father several times in the play,
particularly regarding the treatment of Ferdinand.  But it makes sense
that her deepest anger would be toward Caliban.

John Lee writes:

>Isn't the more pressing case for giving the 'abhorred slave' speech to
 >Prospero the fact that it makes better sense?

To whom?

 >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.

This speech does not indicate a point in time.

 >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.

"shortly" is a bit of a stretch.  Caliban's speech covers the events of
their entire stay, starting with early strokes, and ending with being
styed in a rock for attempted rape of nubile Miranda.  Perhaps
everything up to the stying is early, perhaps it is not.

> Whether this is good enough reason to make a change in the Folio is
 >arguable of course.

Indeed.

>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?

In this scene he seems to switch to "you" when he is cursing.  "I am all
the subjects that you have", does not sound like he is referring to both
Prospero and Miranda, but only to Prospero.  In fact, in his first
curse, he says "drop on you both", which "both" would not be necessary
if  "you" was understood to be plural.

 - Vick Bennison

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 16:17:38 +0100
Subject: 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

>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."

Two articles I had in mind were Ann Thompson, '"Miranda, where's your
sister?": reading Shakespeare's Tempest', in Susan Sellers, ed.,
Feminist Criticism: Theory and Practice (Hemel Hempstead, 1991) pp.
45-55, and Lorie Jerrell Leininger, 'The Miranda Trap: Sexism and Racism
in Shakespeare's Tempest', in The Woman's Part, pp. 285-94.

It is Miranda's apparent passivity, her dutiful daughterliness and
submission to Prospero's control of her sexuality etc. etc. which makes
the reading of the play, for Thompson, a melancholy experience for the
modern feminist.

David Lindley
Professor of Renaissance Literature
School of English
University of Leeds

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 08:39:31 -0700
Subject: 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

David Bishop writes:

>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 shalln't belabor, since this was discussed is some depth recently -
the subject line read "Chess" - but a good case can be made for Miranda
not being so ideal.  Note her comments of approval for swiping kingdoms
after she accuses the future hubby of cheating at chess, and excusing it
for reasons of fair usurpation!

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Adrian Kiernander <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 17:18:28 +1000
Subject: 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1492 Re: Abhorred Slave

John Lee writes:

>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 "makes better sense" means "is more predictable", my answer is
probably yes. But given that "more predictable" usually makes for less
interesting theatre, my preference is to stick with the Folio and let
Miranda's sudden vehemence (if that's what the actor does) take people
by surprise, and perhaps ask questions about the reasons for her anger
(or whatever). In addition, those with a penchant for stage psychologism
might see it as reflecting an underlying similarity to her father.

Adrian Kiernander

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