The Tempest quotes

Here, Prospero promises to break his staff and give up his magic forever but immediately after delivering this speech, Prospero holds Alonso in a “charm” and later orders Ariel to make sure the seas are calm so the cast can enjoy a peaceful and safe passage back to Italy. So, is Prospero actually ready to give up his “rough magic”? ‘I’ll break my staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,And deeper than did ever plummet soundI’ll drown my book.’
In the middle of the dazzling performance of the wedding masque, Prospero is suddenly reminded of the “foul conspiracy” against his life. This reminds us that the magic of the theater has the capacity to suspend time and make us forget (if only for a short time) the problems of the real world. PROSPERO’I had forgot that foul conspiracyOf the beast Caliban and his confederatesAgainst my life. The minute of their plotIs almost come.’
In the rules of the court, Prospero would never have taken in Caliban this way—nor would Caliban do him service out of love (instead of duty). Initially, the rules of the courtly world were suspended on the island. CALIBAN’This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,Which thou tak’st from me. …When thou cam’st first… I loved thee,And show’d thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle…Cursed be I that did so!…For I am all the subjects that you have’
Miranda suggests that only the world of the court can breed nobility. She denies that nature has its own nobility and grace, and likens the world she doesn’t know (that of the court) to the divine world, perhaps because they’re both alien to her and might as well be the same thing. MIRANDA ‘I might call himA thing divine, for nothing naturalI ever saw so noble.’
Stefano’s leadership is a parody of the real court. Though he is rooted in the spirit of the pastoral (bawdy, drunk, and quick to fight), Stefano puts on the airs of the court and reveals how silly these formalities are against such a backdrop (while also casting some doubt as to how serious they are in any context). STEFANO ‘Trinculo, keep a good tongue in your head. If you prove a mutineer, the next tree. The poor monster’s my subject, and he shall not suffer indignity.’
Servitude in Prospero’s vision is a necessary gratitude for the kindness he has done. Does Prospero do anything in the play without expecting something in return? ARIEL ‘I prithee,Remember I have done thee worthy service,Told thee no lies, made thee no mistakings, servedWithout or grudge or grumblings. Thou didst promise To bate me a full year. PROSPERODost thou forgetFrom what a torment I did free thee?’
Some editions of the play attribute this rant against Caliban to Prospero. Others assign the speech to Miranda. Either way, the point is pretty clear. Here, the speaker suggests that because Caliban had no language of his own when Prospero and Miranda arrived on the island, he somehow deserves to be a slave “confined into this rock.” Scholars often point out that this is the same kind of rationale European colonizers used to enslave new world inhabitants. MIRANDA’Abhorrèd slave…I pitied thee,Took pains to make thee speak…But thy vile race,Though thou didst learn, had that in ‘t which good naturesCould not abide to be with. Therefore wast thouDeservedly confined into this rock’
There’s a lot to dislike about Caliban but his provocative retort to the above passage is pretty admirable. Here, he talks back and insists that one good thing came from learning his master’s language—the ability to curse. CALIBAN ‘You taught me language, and my profit on ‘tIs, I know how to curse. The red plague rid youFor learning me your language!’
Caliban doesn’t think he deserves to be in servitude for his attempt to rape Miranda, nor does he have any remorse. His servitude is simply the result of power politics—Prospero’s magic makes it impossible for Caliban to be free. CALIBAN ‘No, pray thee.[Aside.] I must obey. His art is of such powerIt would control my dam’s god, Setebos, and make a vassal of him.’
Prospero does have a knack for thinking up really nasty enslavements. When he enslaves Ferdinand, one wonders if he was always like this, or if this can be attributed to his getting comfortable as “king of the sandcastle” over the last twelve years. PROSPERO ‘[to Ferdinand] Follow me.[To Miranda.] Speak not you for him. He’s a traitor. [To Ferdinand.] Come,I’ll manacle thy neck and feet together.Sea-water shalt thou drink; thy food shall beThe fresh-brook muscles, withered roots, and husks Wherein the acorn cradled. Follow.’
Although Prospero has made a big show of bullying Ferdinand, the prince insists that as long as he can see Miranda, he’s free enough. That’s kind of sweet but also a little scary, don’t you think? FERDINANDMight I but through my prison once a dayBehold this maid. All corners else o’ th’ earthLet liberty make use of. Space enoughHave I in such a prison.
What compels Caliban to go from servitude to servitude? Why does he offer to be Stefano’s slave, though Stefano does not ask it of him? CALIBANI’ll show thee every fertile inch o’ th’ island, And I will kiss thy foot. I prithee, be my god.
Caliban has been a slave for so long that freedom to him is simply defined as being free from Prospero’s tyranny. CALIBAN [sings]’Ban, ‘ban, Ca-calibanHas a new master. Get a new man.Freedom, high-day! High-day, freedom! Freedom, high-day, freedom!
Ariel’s relationship with Prospero is greater than master and servant—Ariel takes care of the details that would otherwise worry Prospero. In turn, Ariel is sensitive enough that he cherishes the loving affection the sorcerer gives him in return. They have a Pat Sajack and Vanna White kind of relationship, without all the sequins and vowels. ARIEL Before you can say ‘come’ and ‘go,’And breathe twice and cry ‘so, so,’Each one, tripping on his toe, Will be here with mop and mow.Do you love me, master? No? PROSPERO Dearly, my delicate Ariel.
Gonzalo’s speech about how he’d rule the island is taken from Montaigne’s famous essay “Of Cannibals” (1580), where the Brazilian Indians are described as living at one with nature. Montaigne writes they have “no kind of traffic, no knowledge of letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate or politic superiority, no use of service, of riches or of poverty, no contracts, no successions… no occupation but idle, no respect of kindred but common, no apparel but natural, no manuring of lands, no use of wine, corn, or metal” (from John Florio’s 1603 English translation). This liberal concept is a pretty big deal, especially since at a time when Europeans were running around calling natives in the Americas “savages,” Montaigne suggests that the Brazilian Indians live a utopian lifestyle while European colonizers are the real barbarians. (This essay, by the way, is where the concept of the “noble savage” comes from.)What’s interesting is that Shakespeare puts this speech in the mouth of one of his characters. Is Shakespeare endorsing Montaigne’s ideas? Maybe. Gonzalo, after all, is the play’s ultimate good guy. On the other hand, Caliban, who is a kind of exotic “other,” is portrayed as a complete savage in this play. GONZALO Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,And use of service, none; contract, succession…No occupation; all men idle, all,And women too, but innocent and pure;No sovereignty—
Nature has always interacted in Prospero’s affairs. Here, he highlights that nature is not one big capital “N” Nature, but a mix of different elements, each with moods and tendencies. At the time of their exile, Prospero remembers the sea like an enemy, and the wind like a lover. PROSPERO To cry to the sea that roared to us, to sighTo th’ winds whose pity, sighing back again,Did us but loving wrong.
Was it in Caliban’s nature to ignore Prospero’s nurturing? When Caliban tried to violate Miranda, was he compelled by his own natural forces, greater than his moral reasoning? PROSPERO Thou most lying slave,Whom stripes may move, not kindness, I have used thee,Filth as thou art, with human care, and lodged theeIn mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violateThe honor of my child.
Nature is beautiful enough to bring out the very best in even its most “unnatural” creatures. CALIBAN Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voicesThat, if I then had waked after long sleep,Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,The clouds methought would open, and show richesReady to drop upon me, that when I waked I cried to dream again.
Miranda’s virginity, outside of its socio-cultural implications, is really also a simple mark that she is just as she was created: being a virgin, she is still in her natural state. If we think about virginity as a mark of childhood and naturalness, not as some deep moral and religious issue, we can take the edge off. What is Miranda’s state of nature, and is anything natural being lost in her union to Ferdinand? Then, as my gift and thine own acquisitionWorthily purchased take my daughter. ButIf thou dost break her virgin-knot before All sanctimonious ceremonies mayWith full and holy rite be ministered,No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fallTo make this contract grow; but barren hate,Sour-eyed disdain and discord shall bestrew The union of your bed with weeds so loathlyThat you shall hate it both. Therefore take heed,As Hymen’s lamps shall light you.
From the first sign that things might not be rosy, Sebastian shows he has no loyalty to his brother or his king (Alonso is both). He has a partner in callousness in Antonio—this foreshadows their later treachery on the island. ANTONIOLet’s all sink wi’ th’ king. SEBASTIAN Let’s take leave of him.
Prospero suggests that Antonio’s taste of power awakened in him an even bigger desire for power. Prospero’s loyalty to his brother was so great, and his trust so complete, that he really didn’t see this coming. That, of course, allowed Antonio to take it farther. PROSPERO To closeness and the bettering of my mindWith that which, but by being so retired,O’erprized all popular rate, in my false brotherAwaked an evil nature, and my trust,Like a good parent, did beget of him A falsehood in its contrary as greatAs my trust was, which had indeed no limit,A confidence sans bound.
Ariel is loyal to Prospero, but he is also loyal to nature—his source of power and home. Ariel serves two masters, but seems to delight in the natural more than the community service aspect of his job. ARIELAll hail, great master! Grave sir, hail! I comeTo answer thy best pleasure. Be ‘t to fly,To swim, to dive into the fire, to rideOn the curled clouds, to thy strong bidding task Ariel and all his quality.
Prospero is honest here, as he forgives everyone that’s wronged him as soon as they’re in front of him. It is pretty clear, though, that neither Antonio nor Sebastian is penitent about their awful behavior. Does it make sense that Prospero entirely ignores this? PROSPERO The rarer action isIn virtue than in vengeance.
Miranda has a naturally merciful temperament. She wishes her father to be merciful, regardless of his aim. MIRANDA O, I have sufferedWith those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel, Who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her,Dash’d all to pieces. O, the cry did knockAgainst my very heart!
Prospero may not be forgiving or compassionate by nature, as he’s accustomed to being unquestioned and a little tyrannical. It’s interesting that Ariel is actually the one who inspires Prospero to be merciful to his enemies in the end. PROSPERO If thou more murmur’st, I will rend an oakAnd peg thee in his knotty entrails tillThou hast howled away twelve winters.
Anger only begets more anger—both Caliban and Prospero expect the other to be awful, and they only get what they expect. Neither Caliban nor Prospero forgives the other’s past wrongs, and this keeps their relationship at a complete standstill. PROSPERO For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps, Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up.
Prospero definitely delights at having his enemies at his mercy, but again, is it okay to enjoy their suffering in the meantime? Would it be too much to ask, or too unrealistic, for Prospero simply be wholeheartedly forgiving? Is this kind of total forgiveness within the realm of human possibility? PROSPERO Lie at my mercy all mine enemies.Shortly shall all my labours end, and thouShalt have the air at freedom.
Caliban thinks the liquor divine because it is unknown to him. Is Shakespeare commenting that much of our own sense of what is divine simply springs from what we don’t know? CALIBANThat’s a brave god and bears celestial liquor. I will kneel to him.