«by JANE ELIZABETH KINGSLEY-SMITH A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY The ...»
the early seventeenth-century colonialist, a symptom of how Victorian imperialism underlies some of our assumptions about Jacobean colonialism. More's Utopos may have created an island by cutting through a peninsular. He may have transformed 'a pack of ignorant savages into what is now, perhaps, the most civilized nation in the world', but that was a fantasy. 41 Seventeenth-century colonialism was concerned primarily with establishing trade routes rather than with recreating Western civilisation abroad.42 So perhaps this lack of commitment on Prospero's part and his failure to cultivate the land would have met with recognition among those who read contemporary reports of Virginia that reiterated the laziness of the colonists and their dependence upon the natives for food.43 Of course to do so, is to identify Prospero with the plebeian members of the colony and not with their leaders. Such a comparison may underline the fact that just as many of the Virginia colonists were not there by choice so Prospero is a reluctant coloniser, there by exile.
There is clearly a considerable discrepancy between Prospero's professed attitude towards the island, and the intentions of the Jamestown colony, as stated in The True and Sincere Declaration. These aims included the conversion of natives to the Christian faith, the creation of a 'Bulwarke of defence' against the Spanish, and the appropriation of all kinds of goods which England had previously been forced to import at great expense.44 One of the most 41 Utopia ed. by Paul Turner (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), 69-70.
42 See Palmira Brummett's Ottoman Seapower and Levantine Diplomacy in the Age of Discovery on sixteenthcentury conquest and the emphasis placed on expanding trade routes and exploiting resources rather than redrawing national boundaries (New York: State University of New York Press, 1994), as cited by Jerry Brotton, "This Tunis, sir, was Carthage"', m. 28, 41-2.
43 Peter Hulme examines the apparent paradox that though the colonists were sometimes figured by the natives as magicians because of their firepower, those colonists were yet unable to feed themselves or to be in any way self-sufficient. Prospero literally possesses magical powers but remains dependent on Caliban's labour for his day-to-day existence, Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean I492-T9 7 (London and New York: Routledge, 1986), 89-136, 127-32.
44 A True and Sincere Declaration, 3-4.
marked differences then between Prospero's experience on the island and this testament to contemporary colonial ambition is the fact that the magician's 'acquisition' does not profit the Old World. The only plunder that Prospero will take back to Milan is his dukedom, an Old World institution and identity. There is no gold on the island. It seems rich only in curiosities.
Prospero has little sense of the island's relation to Europe though again this may be partly determined by his exile. The magician no longer represents Milan and this may explain his failure to impose any culture on the island and his lack of interest in exploiting it.
Finally. I want to consider Prospero's rhetoric of redemption as regards his landing on the island. The planting of nations has often depended upon the wanderings of an outcast: Adam and Eve, and Cain in the Bible, Aeneas in Greek legend, Brutus in chronicle history. These founding narratives begin as tragedy but from a more removed perspective, even in the lifetime of the exile himself, they become providential. Shame is redeemed by the final triumph wherein the exile becomes a representative, not an outcast, of civilisation. The suffering attendant upon the journey and the early years in a hostile landscape become a penitential or heroic narrative.
Such rhetoric was a feature of some colonialist propaganda, particularly reports of the shipwreck of Sir Thomas Gates. A True Declaration of the Estate of the Colonie in Virginia (1610) insists on divine intervention to explain the survival of Gates and the other commanders setting out for the Virginia colony at Jamestown. We are told that it was God's hand that ensured the ship became wedged between two rocks in daylight and for sufficient time to allow them to remove all passengers and supplies before it sank. Similarly, it was Providence that ensured they landed on a fertile island where birds flew towards them as if offering to be killed and eaten, just as God sent ravens to Elias. 43 The salvation of Gates and his party reflects the redemptive nature of the expedition. The colonists are doing God's work in spreading the gospel and rescuing the natives from ignorance and possibly damnation.46 Similarly, in 1.2, Prospero describes how 'providence divine' brought him and his daughter from the perils of the sea safely onto land, also with such 'necessaries' as food, fresh water, rich clothing and Prospero*s books (160-9). The magus extends this divine sanction to his subsequent tyranny over the island and its inhabitants. He envisages his arrival as an alternative harrowing of hell, an exorcism of the black witch, Sycorax, whose magic kept Ariel literally imprisoned in a cloven pine. For this spirit in particular the magus has been a redemptive figure, rescuing him from 'a torment/ To lay upon the damned' (290-1).
Yet just as the Virginia apologists used this rhetoric in answer to outspoken criticism of the project, criticism which interpreted the shipwreck as evidence of God's wrath against the colonists,47 so Prospero repeats this providential narrative defensively. He is the only witness to the appreciable difference between his tyranny over the island and that of Sycorax. Ariel is still enslaved and threatened with imprisonment in a tree (295-7). Caliban has been taught Prospero's language but has apparently reverted to his bestial state. Crucially, the magus' reign does not seem to have made a significant difference to the island or its inhabitants.
But if these texts at least call into question Prospero's identity as archetypal or prototypical colonialist, they do not suggest that some connection was not made by the audience between English colonial ventures and Prospero's mastery of the island. Rather, these texts encourage 45 A True Declaration, STC 24833, 17, 24, 25.
46 A True and Sincere Declaration, 2-3.
47 See Skura, 'Discourse and the Individual', 53-4.
us to perceive a different kind of colonialist. If Prospero is not as self-assured, as heartlessly tyrannical or ambitious, as central a figure as the contemporary 'type', then he may reflect a more subtle and unstable colonialist, one more in keeping with England's possible ambivalence about the project at this early stage in its colonising history. In the rest of this study I want to consider Prospero as a marginal figure without assuming the relegation of his colonial identity. Rather, the association between colonialist and exile is central to Prospero's liminal anxiety. In her study of colonialism and postcolonialism in general, Ania Loomba quotes an essay by H. K. Bhabha regarding the implications of the hybridization of colonial master and subject.48 Where the subject may suffer a kind of identity crisis, being encouraged to imitate the European Other, but finding transformation impossible, the colonialist cannot replicate himself exactly either. The two depend upon each other for differentiation but are
equally 'contaminated'. Loomba comments:
Colonial identities - on both sides of the divide - are unstable, agonised, and in constant flux. This undercuts both colonialist and nationalist claims to a unified self... 49 This theory is particularly relevant to The Tempest in which Prospero spends so much time differentiating himself from Caliban and Sycorax. I would argue that the magician's encounter with the natives is primarily characterised by his fears of identification with them, and of the transformations wrought by the exile's contact with the barbarous.
Whilst Prospero would seem to be empowered by his transformation into the magician and the colonialist, both identities also reinforce the stigma of his exile and exacerbate his shame 48 'Remembering Fanon: Self, Psyche, and the Colonial Condition', referred to in Colonialism'Postcolonialism.
49 Ibid., 178.
at that condition. Sycorax combines these roles of exile, magician and colonialist. She was
born in Africa but has been forcibly ejected onto the island:
Prospero invokes the witch in order to differentiate from hers his magical powers, his banishment, and his subsequent rule over the island.50 He argues that her punishment was not incurred by sorcery per se but because her magic was evil. This distinction is a dubious one.
Although Prospero does not command devils to perform his magic, as Faustus and Friar Bacon do, his transgression in practising this forbidden art remains a grave one. In Daemonologie (1597), James VI distinguished between necromancy and witchcraft but considered them equally damnable. Sycorax has received a very lenient punishment, perhaps because she was pregnant, if we recall that contemporary European practice was to burn the magician or witch at the stake. James suggests that the magistrate who shows any mercy is not only failing in his duty but is himself committing a sin. 31 If banishment was not literally applied to the magician, it recurs frequently as a metaphor for the magician's state of damnation. 32 In Dr Faustus, Mephistopheles repeatedly attests to the agony that is absence 50 For an account of these similarities with particular reference to Prospero's anger and possible abuse of power see Margreta de Grazia, 'The Tempest: Gratuitous Movement or Action Without Kibes and Pinches' Sh. St. 14 (1981), 249-65.
51 Daemonologie (1597) and Newes from Scotland (1591) ed. by G. B. Harrison (London: Bodley Head. 1924), 78.
52 Yates describes Dee suffering a 'semi-banishment' in Manchester after losing Queen Elizabeth's patronage, The Occult Philosophy, 91, whilst Sherman argues against such a romanticised view in John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing, 12-26. Whatever the facts, Dee represented his state as that of near-vagabondage and exile
in a letter to the Queen's commissioners pleading for succour, The Compendious Rehearsal (1597), John Dee:
Essential Readings, 110.
from God and from heaven (1.3.78-81, 2.1.121-6). 53 Nevertheless, we have at least one seventeenth-century account which associates witchcraft with banishment and in a colonial setting. Curiously echoing The Tempest, a manuscript of 1638 describes the banishment of a number of Caribs by European colonists after the Caribs had successfully predicted the coming of a storm.' 4 Just as Prospero forbids a certain kind of magic, close to his own, so the European colonists decide that a power they do not comprehend is similarly demonic, ignoring the 'magical' aspects of their own power, most obviously gunpowder. But the prerogative of Europeans and of Prospero may be further undermined if we pursue this connection between colonialism and exile.
One recurring feature of the exile's lament in English Renaissance literature is the reference to weary travelling along untrodden paths. 55 The exile is an unwilling expansionist forced to journey into the wilderness, even if this is only a forest within the country of his birth. In The Maid's Metamorphosis, Eurymine describes her fate: 'Banisht to live a fugitive alone/ In uncoth paths and regions never knowne'. Christopher Marlowe's plays repeatedly dramatise the alien in an alien land, often within an imperialist context, to satisfy the audience's recent 53 See also one of Marlowe's sources, The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus (the English Faust-book) tr. by P. F. (1592) wherein the banishment of Lucifer from heaven is described. This is included in Christopher Marlowe: The Plays and Their Sources ed. by Vivien Thomas and William Tydeman (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 186-238, 199.
54 Peter Hulme offers this example in his work Colonial Encounters, 100, and gives as its source the Egerton manuscript 'Concerning Hurricanes and their Prognosticks' in the British Library, 2395/619-24. In fact this document defends the natives from the charge of witchcraft and tries to offer a scientific justification of their success. It offers no instance of their banishment. I have still thought it worth citing Hulme's example though the source eludes me thus far.
55 Richard // and The Wounds of Civil War both describe banishment in terms of 'stranger paths' or 'untrodden paths' respectively and in terms of the exile's weary steps. In The Rare Triumphes, Bomelio's song deploys a number of these tropes: 'Goe walke the path of plaint, goe wander wretched now/ In uncoth waies, blind corners fit for such a wretch as thou...', 3.613-4.
taste for the foreign, for 'spectacles of strangeness'. D6 Yet the connotations of banishment in contemporary drama may also reflect English ambivalence about such journeying. We can see the way in which colonialism is both exalted and debased by its association with exile in John Floyd's description of the perils of the Virginia project.
In a sermon published in 1610, William Crashaw justified the exclusion from Virginia of atheists, players and papists. 57 The Jesuit, Floyd, responded in 1612 with The Overthrow of the Protestants Pulpit-Babels. He points out that if it had not been for papists Britain would never have been converted to Christianity in the first place but would have remained barbarous and savage, as will Virginia whilst her conversion depends upon the ministrations of Protestant priests. He describes the reluctance of any such ministers, including Crashaw, to
journey to Virginia:
Virginia; these be such curses, & such hinderances, as you may speake of.
However, Floyd distinguishes between two kinds of exiled colonialist. First, there is the priest who willingly endures the sufferings concomitant with such a vocation. Then there is the colonist who has his mission thrust upon him. Floyd declares that the Protestant priests who do become colonists are in many instances 'the refuse of their [the Church's] Realme, whome they terme the very excrements of their swelling State' (324). Virginia's conversion depends 56 See Emily C. Bartels' introductory chapter to her work Spectacles of Strangeness: Imperialism. Alienation, and Marlowe (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), 3-26.