The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0486  Wednesday, 20 February 2002

From:           Todd Lidh <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Feb 2002 11:50:11 -0500
Subject: 13.0477 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0477 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest

Adrian Kiernander interprets the relationship between Ariel and Prospero
in a familiar way, one strongly advocated by the likes of Greenblatt and

> Ariel has certainly been rescued by Prospero, but Prospero
> has then forced him into servitude against his will (i.e.
> Ariel too is a slave, pleading for his freedom), abuses him
> verbally ("Thou liest, malignant
> thing!") and threatens to put him back under an almost
> identical torture to that of Sycorax if he so much as complains:
>          If thou more murmur'st, I will rend an oak
>          And peg thee in his knotty entrails till
>          Thou hast howl'd away twelve winters.
> Prospero promises Ariel his freedom, but continually
> postpones the act, as he postpones many things during the
> play. The "promise" (sorry to point this out) is not
> "honored". The last thing we hear of Ariel is that on the day
> after the play finishes he will have to begin driving
> Alonso's ship back to join the rest of the "royal fleet far
> off" ("My Ariel, chick, That is thy charge") and only then
> will he be free. So Ariel is still an unwilling servant to
> Prospero when the play ends and for some indeterminate time
> after that, and Prospero has broken yet another deadline.
> Incidentally, Prospero also promises to renounce his "art",
> drown his book and break his staff, but doesn't do this on
> stage, and he apparently hasn't done it by the end of the
> play, because he is still controlling Ariel and practising
> meteorological magic. ( "[I] promise you calm seas,
> auspicious gales...")

I, too, felt this way for some time, but last summer -- while thinking
of a proposal for the Wooden O symposium in Utah -- 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. My
theory goes on to question what Ariel's motivations would be if Prospero
is no longer the powerful mage he once was, and my interpretation is one
completely opposite of what is espoused above.

I can't provide any more evidence than what people use for post-colonial
criticism as Adrian does here, but I can provide just as much.

The full paper will be appearing the publication of the proceedings from
the Wooden O if anyone is interested in the full addressing.

Todd M Lidh
Flagler College

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