Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Miranda and Ariel

When I tell my kids the story of The Tempest, I usually spin it so that Ariel is a playmate of Miranda's, playing hide and seek (tricky with someone who can turn invisible), turning into various animals, and generally hiding from Caliban.

But I read somewhere that, every time we see Ariel, Prospero makes it a point to put Miranda to sleep.  Ariel is always invisible, said this source I can't remember, and Prospero didn't want Miranda to see him talking to nobody. If that's the case, then Miranda wouldn't even have known that Ariel existed.

Is that right?  Takes some of the fun out of the story. 


Craig said...

The thing about Prospero is, he's kind of a jerk.

In his little island kingdom, he is in charge, unquestionably, and he controls who sees what, who does what, and who knows what. Give him just a little static, and he'll threaten to imprison you in a tree for the rest of time--just ask Ariel.

Miranda in particular, he has been very careful to keep under absolute might say domination. He has taught her what she needs to know to be a gentlewoman...she is clever and well-spoken, even plays chess...but there is never the first hint he has allowed her to learn the secrets of the island or his books. She has no interaction with the spirits such as Ariel, and you have to think that's deliberate.

Perhaps it was different in the past, when Caliban was more like one of the family and Prospero was trying to teach him "civilization." But then there was that unpleasantness when Caliban attacked Miranda, and the old man clamped down. Caliban was demoted to the status of a slave, for one, and perhaps Prospero became a bit protective, locking Miranda away from the dangers of the world until he was able to find her a husband.

Anthony Ervin said...

Although no Shakespearean character is an abstract, instead being a singularity in and of itself, Prospero, through the course of the play, is sojourning to his re-entry to human society. Wielding his powers on the island, all other entities must be kept ignorant of the methods Prospero uses for his omniscient state; and Ariel is the tenor of this state. The methods, of course, is the language. How else, while still using language, can Prospero's magic exhibit itself other than to deny others access to his dialogue/command with Ariel? There must be a disconnect for Prospero thee omniscient and the rest of the human playrs, and that disconnect is Ariel. Of course, this does not mean that the fantasy of hide 'n seek of Ariel and Miranda didn't happen. Au contrare, I am sure it did; only, Miranda never communed with Ariel although Ariel would always be there acting as guardian angel; perhaps even being ordered by Prospero to teach her about the island through manipulation of the environment. I've devolved into speculation, but the point is this: Ariel is fantastical in nature, and to help maintain that fantasy, when language is the tool shaping the drama, Ariel must be separated from the the other non-fantasy players who would otherwise understand the language in Ariel's presence.

I do, however, believe that Prospero speaks to Ariel in the presence of others at the end but I'll double check that later