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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Abhorred Slave
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1525  Monday, 18 June 2001

[1]     From:   Richard Burt <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 10:32:31 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave

[2]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 23:42:07 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave

[3]     From:   P. D. Holland <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 16:30:31 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave

[4]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 20:31:32 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave

[5]     From:   Leslie Simmons <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 13:06:44 -0700
        Subj:   Re: Abhorred Slave

[6]     From:   Evelyn Gajowski <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 17:05:26 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave

[7]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Sunday, 17 Jun 2001 14:38:45 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 10:32:31 -0400
Subject: 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave

In her book, Gender, Race, and Renaissance Drama, Ania Loomba makes a
case for assigning the lines to Miranda.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 23:42:07 +0900
Subject: 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1507 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"?

I loved Adrian's reply, and have only quoted the best bit in order to
insert a pedantic rider: if we ask what "character" DID and COULD mean,
in Shakespeare's time, it didn't and couldn't mean what Adrian means. In
character, out of character, character consistency, etc, etc are all
potentially dangerous anachronisms, for the modern critic as for the
modern actor. Of course Adrian knows that, but it still seems worth
remembering that to smuggle in modern notions of interiority may be less
interesting than trying to retrieve alien notions.

In the same spirit one might notice that "slave" has meant different
things, and that current discussions of slavery are dominated by the
later and peculiar American experience and related concepts (loss of
individual rights, etc) which many ancient historians and
anthropologists have hesitated to regard as universals, or as part of
the world's fabric and furniture that can just be "read off".

I love Nietzsche's maxim, "Always doubt what you most want to believe".
And its sourly smiling sister: "Belief is a form of not wanting to
know." If "we" want to reassign Miranda's line, shouldn't we be asking
questions about why we want to do that, as well asking questions about
the text (where John Lee and David Lindley have such wise things to
say)?

So far as our notions of the "inner life" are concerned it seems to me
striking and strange and, well, silly, that Shakespearean critics so
seldom engage with what cognitive linguists have been reporting for
rather a long time now. E.g. our conceptualizations of the Self, or
inner life, or Hamlet's "that within", etc., always involve metaphorical
conceptualizations, and are always split (meaning: that hurts!), because
the metaphoric systems in question always involve a Subject and one or
more Selves. I wonder, am I in a tiny minority, in thinking that this
could and should cut through many of the politicized discussions that
have dominated literary critical discussions in the last two or three
decades? From the point of view of cognitive science, "we" Eng. Litters
are still lost in the "Folk Theory of Essences"...

Best wishes, Graham Bradshaw

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           P. D. Holland <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 16:30:31 +0100
Subject: 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave

Adrian Kiernander's responses to this thread chime absolutely with mine.
Those who find that the line is 'out of character' for Miranda need to
explain why every Miranda I have ever seen has made the line entirely
'in character', expanding our sense of who Miranda is by the way they
deliver it (as each and every line expands our knowledge of a
character). Is this a case where some critics have a problem but actors
do not? If so, I side firmly with the actors.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 20:31:32 +0100
Subject: 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave

Two things:

Productions may, of course, choose to give the 'Abhorred slave' speech
to Prospero or Miranda - but editors are rather more tied to respect the
Folio text everywhere, unless there is both a good reason to suspect
some kind of corruption and a plausible explanation of how that
corruption came about.  So I have no compunction about choosing to print
'so rare a wondered father and a wife' because I think it makes better
sense, and at the same time can be construed as an example of a fairly
frequently found confusion of 'f' and long 's' - controversial though
such a decision might be. But I can't think of a convincing reason why
Ralph Crane the scribe, or the compositors of the Folio would be likely
to substitute the speech prefix 'Mira.' (or 'Mir.', the more usual
prefix) for 'Pro.' or 'Pros.' at this point in the text, particularly
as, if Hinman's account of the order in which the sheets were set laid
out is correct, Compositor B had met neither of these names before he
set this sheet.

Anything is possible - Shakespeare may have had a momentary mental slip
as he was writing the 'original' MS;  Ralph Crane, who presumably
(unlike the compositors) did begin at the beginning and transcribe until
he came to the end, might have made a change either intentionally or
unintentionally.  But the question which began this thread was in
important respects the wrong way round.  The onus is not on modern
editors to demonstrate that the ascription of this speech to Miranda is
'correct', but upon those who want to reascribe it to Prospero to
provide a convincing reason why it is not and a coherent demonstration
of how such misascription might have come about.

Secondly.  I'm not entirely convinced by the description of Miranda as
passive and dutiful daughter.  In 3.3. she effectively marries the man
her father disapproves of (they conduct an exchange of promises in the
present tense and take hands - sufficient in canon law to establish a
binding  marriage contract) - and you can't get much more disobedient
than that.

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

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Leslie Simmons <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 13:06:44 -0700
Subject:        Re: Abhorred Slave

> David Bishop writes:
>
> 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.

>> Vick Bennison writes:
>>
>> 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.

I am reminded of E.T., in which four-year-old Gertie teaches the alien
how to talk with her Speak-and-Spell...

Leslie

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Evelyn Gajowski <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 17:05:26 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave

In addition to the articles which David Lindley mentions, Ania Loomba
devotes a section of a chapter to gender/Miranda in *Gender, Race,
Renaissance Drama* (MUP, 1989) which is reprinted together with Ann
Thompson's article under "Feminist Responses to Postcolonial Criticism"
in The Tempest: Case Studies in Critical Controversies, ed. Gerald Graff
and James Phelan (Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999).

Evelyn Gajowski
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Sunday, 17 Jun 2001 14:38:45 -0400
Subject: 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1507 Re: Abhorred Slave

I suspect that the answer to Simon Morris's question, why does Prospero
put Miranda to sleep, is that Prospero and Shakespeare both want to
separate the innocent Miranda from Prospero's magic workshop: his
commands to Ariel. She knows he has power, but she doesn't get to
witness its workings too intimately. Her innocence of the details of
Prospero's magic is one aspect of her overall innocence. Magic, however
good, remains suspect. That's why Prospero puts Miranda to sleep and
later drowns his book.

Though I mainly agree with John Lee's specific point about the time
sequence, I obviously don't dismiss the importance of consistent
character. The concept of consistent character can be a red herring, as
for example, deliberately, in Beckett. In Shakespeare different
characters, plays, moments can work in different ways. Shakespeare
demands alertness. In this case I think he has made Miranda a character
who would not speak this particular speech. I can't prove this. It
depends on your sense of the play. If you say, like Adrian Kiernander,
that you can imagine a Miranda who would speak these lines, I would say
that I can too, but not in this play. As I comprehend the play,
Shakespeare's Miranda would not say those words.

I'm not sure what Kris McDermott means in saying that Miranda's modesty
is sometimes a product of Ferdinand's courtly imagination. However, I
can see that I was misleading in speaking simply of her modesty,
sweetness, etc. As Prospero places token difficulties in their path to
union, "lest too light winning/Make the prize light", Miranda shows a
token rebellion against her father's orders. The difficulties, like his
anger at her supposed lack of attention in 1.2.-and "Thou attendst not"
is a very light brushstroke of anger-or his more pronounced harshness
when she pleads for Ferdinand-"Silence! One word more/Shall make me
chide thee, if not hate thee"-are barely sketched in.  They could be
called dramatically inadequate gestures, or beautifully simple
expressions of an archetypal situation. The point, as I see it, is that
Prospero wants to prompt Ferdinand and Miranda to come together, and at
the same time he wants them to do it on their own, to show a spark of
independence from him in their free choice of one another.  Shakespeare
seems to see a certain amount of rebelliousness as a good thing in
teenagers: a rite of passage.

Nevertheless, I don't think this significantly changes the picture of
Miranda as ideally natural, modest, innocent, pure and sweet, as well as
generally obedient to her father. She's more ideal for being, in an
innocent way, a little rebellious. It's important that she usually obeys
her father because she loves him, and believes in his wisdom.  Gratitude
comes into it too, though that becomes a more prominent motivation for
Ariel's obedience. Caliban, in contrast, is completely ungrateful and
has no belief in Prospero's wisdom, though he's all too well aware of
Prospero's power.

Miranda's modest humility, or humble modesty, has put off many feminist
critics, as David Lindley points out. Her gestures of rebellion, which
they tend to ignore, can be played up, as Kris McDermott says, to make
her spunkier. It is after all amazing to see a modest young girl propose
marriage to a man, let alone a prince. But he has already said that if
she's a virgin he'll make her the Queen of Naples, and that he loves
her. Her proposal is prompted by "plain and holy innocence"-it couldn't
be spoken by a princess raised at court. Her innocence allows her to be,
in a way, immodest. She also says that if he refuses to marry her she'll
be his servant. The character of Miranda does include, along with her
modesty and obedience, a capacity for normal rebelliousness against
apparently unjust and unfeeling restrictions. But in 1.2., before the
rebellious moments-and even after them-she would need a lot more than
spunk to speak the "Abhorred slave" speech.
Falling in love with Ferdinand, even against her father's apparent
wishes, is not out of character, but to my ear that one furious speech
is. I can't even imagine her using just those two initial words.

I can't agree with Vick Bennison in hearing "When thou did not,
savage..." as a gentle reprimand. Nor do I see where in the play Miranda
expresses anger. She pleads with her father, but does not get angry at
him. She disobeys, in a small way, but again I just don't see any
expression that would come close to "Abhorred slave". I do think Miranda
would be justified in being angry at Caliban, but I don't think she
could express it this way. Shakespeare, it seems to me, makes Prospero
the great expresser of anger in The Tempest. "Abhorred slave" is a good
example of his fury.

Prospero's "control of her sexuality", as David Lindley and numerous
feminist critics would put it, seems to me a little misleading. We feel
his sermon on chastity as more oppressive than either Miranda or
Ferdinand seem to. It was such a different time, before birth control,
before women's suffrage, before Title IX-before democracy!  If you could
go back in time and advise a young woman in 1611, would you advise her
to act and live as a modern woman (in certain places) is (happily) free
to act and live? I don't share this reverence for pre-marital chastity,
but I can understand, in part, where it was coming from, and still to
some degree feel the beauty of it in this case, and context. It doesn't
outrage me. It also is not a mere rule, but given for a reason:
otherwise, "discord shall bestrew/The union of your bed with weeds".
(Shakespeare may have been speaking from personal experience.) It
doesn't make Prospero an oppressor, or a control freak, nor Miranda a
puppet. As she knows, he has her best interests at heart.

Mike Jensen's Miranda-as-proto-usurper is funny, as I hope it was
intended to be. Their chess game seems to me another light sketch, this
time of future happiness.  Politically, it suggests that in the future
all the wrangling over kingdoms in their vicinity will take place on a
chessboard. More personally, how can life stay interesting after you've
found your love and settled down? For one thing, through play, as in
games like chess, and the play of wit. An example would be the way at
the end of MoV Lorenzo and Jessica twit each other, with images of
Troilus, Thisbe, Dido, and Medea, which could be dangerous. They don't
worry about that danger because they're superbly confident in their
love. Ferdinand doesn't rise to the bait, but in time, this little sally
suggests, Miranda may teach him how to play.

Unlike Adrian Kiernander, I don't find assigning the "Abhorred slave"
speech to Miranda just a harmless contribution to satisfying my desire
for unpredictability. Nor do I take it as Shakespeare's way of
indicating that she's her father's daughter. Not that having her speak
the speech destroys the play in the theater. This too passes, and we
move on. I just think it's better, and probably what Shakespeare
intended, if she doesn't.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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