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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0518  Friday, 22 February 2002

[1]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 Feb 2002 14:53:20 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0486 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest

[2]     From:   Todd Lidh <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 Feb 2002 13:03:06 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0512 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest

[3]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 Feb 2002 15:26:45 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0512 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Thursday, 21 Feb 2002 14:53:20 -0000
Subject: 13.0486 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0486 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest

> From:           Todd Lidh <
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> I decided to rethink
> this relationship with the theory that Prospero is, in fact, no longer a
> magician by the time the play opens. As I traced magical events through
> the course of the play, I found that he never performs any direct magic
> (I treat the slumbering of Miranda, yes); it is Ariel who does so.

I'm not sure that this contradicts Prospero's magical powers.  In a
passage in the _Platonic Theology_, Marsilio Ficino writes:

"He uses not only the elements, but also all the animals which belong to
the elements, the animals of the earth, of the water, and of the air,
for food, convenience, and pleasure, and the higher, celestial beings
for knowledge and the miracles of magic."

From this perspective, Prospero is the magus, and Ariel, the "higher,
celestial being", his instrument.

Robin Hamilton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Todd Lidh <
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Date:           Thursday, 21 Feb 2002 13:03:06 -0500
Subject: 13.0512 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0512 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest

Mike Jensen writes,

> Some people I respect, like Valerie Ross of Stanford
> University, also believe this.  It provokes my incredulity.
> There is not only Miranda's snooze button, and NO INDICATION
> IN THE TEXT THAT ARIEL PUSHES IT, there is also the masque,
> and the command of heavenly music, to name just three.  I've
> never understood why Valerie is so convinced of this. Perhaps
> you can navigate these rocks?

Yes, there is no indication that Ariel pushes the button. Neither is
there any indication in the text that Prospero does, either. He
*comments* that she is growing drowsy ("Thou art inclined to sleep; 'tis
a good dullness, / And give it way. I know thou canst not choose."
1.2.186-7). Immediately, he calls Ariel, and I conjecture that, if Ariel
is acting as the agent of magic throughout the play, it is Ariel who
causes the dullness, not Prospero (having been so close at to appear
forthwith).

My ultimate argument is that *Prospero is not aware* of the loss of his
magical powers, and Ariel provides the magic for him out of...loyalty?
When Prospero claims that his "high charms work" (3.3.88) with the
vanishing food for Alonso, it is the charms of Ariel that have done the
work. As for the masque, Prospero himself says, "Thou [Ariel] and they
meaner fellows your last service / Did worthily perform, and I must use
you / In such another trick" (4.1.35-7), indicating that the trick of
the masque does not have to generate from his personal magical powers
(although he believes his power gives him control over the "fellows").

Nowhere in the text is there an unequivocal moment of Prospero
performing magic; on the other hand, there are moments left and right
where Ariel is performing magic on Prospero's behalf. It takes some
doing to disregard, even for argument's sake, the long-standing
tradition of mighty Prospero wielding his magics, controlling everything
around him. But, I think once you do, the case for his not having magic
during the play becomes a compelling one.

Theatrically, it would be a remarkable achievement, I think. I can't
help but wonder what the audience's reaction would be...I go into that
in my paper, as well, conjecturing a possible staging of this
interpretation.

Todd M Lidh
Flagler College

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 21 Feb 2002 15:26:45 -0500
Subject: 13.0512 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0512 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest

Mike Jensen wonders if we can navigate between the rocks of the active
magician Prospero and the passive observer Propsero who has Ariel do all
the hard tricks. I think we can. In early modern Europe it was a sign of
power to be an unmoved mover, one who moves others but is himself as
stone (or rock, in this case). Petruchio, for example, is introduced as
a man who has his servant knock at doors for him. That Propero has Ariel
do most, if not all, of the magic would not have surprised an auditor in
the early seventeenth century, but would only have added to the aura of
power: Prospero can command creatures like Ariel.

But Ariel isn't always around, so every once in awhile Prospero has to
gesture hypnotically -- and the aura of power is hardly diminished.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

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