«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 ...»
57 'A Sermon Preached in London before the right honorable the Lord Lawarre, Lord Govemour and Captaine Generall of Virginea', STC 6029.
58 The Overthrow of the Protestants Pulpit-Babels, STC 11111,321.
on men presented with the choice of banishment to Virginia or the gallows. They are men conscripted in taverns, at plays, even in hedges. It was Crashaw himself who condemned the purgation of England by the deportation of such ruffians to Virginia and its effect upon the colony. Floyd suggests that the Protestant Church actively promotes this. To leave England for Virginia is a sign of heroism and of divine vocation but it is also an indication of one's superfluousness to the state and even of criminality.
This ambivalence about one's status as an exile is crucial to the characterisation of Prospero and to his apparent motives in the play. It informs his remarkable speech after the shipwreck, that Miranda knows him only as the 'master of a full poor cell/ And thy no greater father'.
Transcendence from the common lot of mankind also implies alienation from men, a state problematic by Aristotelian definition: 'he that cannot abide to live in companie, or through sufficiencie hath need of nothing [...] is either a beast or a God'. 59 Whilst Prospero seems to have attained power beyond the abilities of man, he also fears that bestiality or some innate corruption may explain his banishment. His response to this dilemma is to project banishment onto others. A number of critics have referred to the magician's reenactment of the conspiracy that deposed him through the Antonio and the Caliban rebellions.60 Peter Hulme sees this
pattern of repetition working on a larger scale:
The courtiers must repeat Prospero's primary suffering: the distress at sea, the absence of food, and the powerlessness in a hostile environment. Prospero takes pleasure in their suffering and then, when the moment is right, brings the suffering to an end in order to obtain his final purpose.
59 For a consideration of this maxim see the previous chapter on Coriolanus.
60 See 'Miraculous Harp', 261.
61 Colonial Encounters, 121.
Prospero creates a landscape of exile on the island and torments his captives with spectacles which reinforce the exile identity as monstrous and bestial. In doing so, he attempts to distance himself from this stigma, just as he tries to exorcise the spirit of Sycorax through repeated comparisons with his own providential exile. I would suggest that the magician's ambivalence towards his exile status may have been exacerbated by his relations with Caliban. To view Prospero as exile and Caliban as coloniser/native, is to significantly alter the power ratio between them.
Prospero's encounter with the 'native' seems to be informed by a number of 'colonialist' assumptions: that the native has no language of his own; that he is 'saved' through his education by the European; that he will quickly revert to violence and lust because he is little more than a beast. Caliban's supposed parentage, a black witch for a mother, the Devil for a father, might also conform to contemporary stereotypes.62 Yet if there is any character with colonialist ambitions on the island it is Caliban. He is the one who desires to people the island with copies of himself (1.2.352-3) and his claim to it is based on Sycorax's usurpation of whoever ruled there before her. In contrast with this ruthless self-expansion, Prospero might have other motives for patronising Caliban. The magician seeks not so much to create a society as to be accepted by one. When Caliban 'betrays' Prospero in pursuit of his own ambitions, the magician finds the original expulsion from Milan reenacted. The paternal relationship/patriarchal society he proposes upon the island is declined. Of course, Caliban's position in that society would always be deeply inferior and a testament to the civilised and 62 William Strachey describes the terrible reputation of the Bermudas: 'such tempests, thunders, and other fearefull objects are scene and heard about them, that they be called commonly, The Devils Hands, and are feared and avoyded of all sea travellers alive, above any other place in the world', A True Repertory of the Wracke and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight (1610) in Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his Pilgrimes, vol 4, chp. 6, Bk 9, pi 737. On the identification of the natives with devils see pp 1708. 1713.
virtuous qualities of his master. Yet Caliban's rejection of that offer also serves to reinforce Prospero's alienation. 63 The magus' response to Caliban here establishes a crucial pattern of exiling others and projecting his own supposed inhumanity onto them. Miranda tells their
Crucially, Caliban describes his punishment not only in terms of confinement but of exile:
'whiles you do keep from me/ The rest o'th'island' (345-6). This sense of alienation is reinforced when we consider Caliban's profound connection with the island, something that
always eludes Prospero. 64 For Caliban:
Like Prospero, Caliban's experience with other men during the course of the play is characterised by rejection rather than acceptance. With Stefano and Trinculo, he finds some temporary community and is determined to prove useful and to serve them. Yet his appearance determines that he will never belong. Indeed, his human status is never fully 63 According to Caliban, Prospero betrayed him. Caliban was offering the magus love which he rejected.
64 John Gillies describes the landscape as unassimilable, present only to Caliban's imagination, 'Shakespeare's Virginian Masque', 702. It seems doubtful that Prospero desires any such possession.
determined. He is at first a fish, then a man-monster, rising in rank from servant- to lieutenant-monster (3.2.3,15). When Caliban refuses to obey one of Stefano's commands, the latter threatens to turn him 'out of my kingdom' (4.1.250-1). The whole situation suggests parallels with Prospero, Alonso and Antonio in the bargaining over kingdoms and the expulsion of the lawful ruler.63 Nevertheless, the primary repetition of Prospero's original banishment is wrought upon the shipwrecked men. hi an astonishingly powerful reworking of his own guilt and insecurity about what banishment implies, Prospero sets about to create not a colonial settlement nor the Golden World of Gonzalo's dreams but a landscape of exile on the island. It is a place not only beyond civilization and other human society but suggesting the Isle of Devils, hell itself. 6 He expresses not the perfection and order in his mind as the Platonic magus was supposed to do but instead unleashes bestiality and chaos, creating a place so fearful that it deprives men of their wits. Prospero's projection of exile onto his enemies deflects the accusation of inhumanity from himself onto the banishers. hi Coriolanus, the protagonist declared 'I banish you? (3.3.127) in vengeance at his own expulsion. The unmetaphoring of the Roman's conviction that Rome lay within himself required the destruction of the city.
Prospero has the opportunity to banish those who banished him through the magical 65 Caliban repeats Antonio's role by offering to 'share' his kingdom with Stefano/Alonso in return for his support in overthrowing the present ruler. At the same time, Caliban as this usurped ruler reminds us of Prospero, particularly when he is threatened with exile by the man he has empowered.
66 Whilst the Bermudas were known as the Isle of Devils, this name had also been given to Britain. Josephine Waters Bennett quotes Claudian 'In Rufinum Liber Primus' (I, 34-5): 'There is a place where Gaul stretches her furthermost shore spread out before the waves of Ocean: 'tis there that Ulysses is said to have called up the silent ghosts with a libation of blood. There is heard the mournful weeping of the spirits of the dead [...] the inhabitants see the pale ghosts pass and the shades of the dead [...] Britain felt the deadly sound [of that place]', 'Britain among the Fortunate Isles', Stud, in Phil. 53 (1956), 114-40. 123.
transformation of this unknown and uninhabited island. He makes them experience the full horrors of self-loss he has known.
This peripeteia is recognised by the Neapolitan party to a limited extent. They surmise that their shipwreck has been caused by their own act of banishment.67 But it is not yet Prospero of whom they think but Claribel. Their sea journey has been necessitated by the marriage of Alonso's daughter to the Prince of Tunis. On their return to Italy, the ship has been wrecked and Ferdinand supposedly drowned. Sebastian makes a link between Ferdinand's 'death' and Alonso's crime against Claribel: 68
Claribel merely serves her father's desire to extend his influence into Africa. This dangerously overreaching and expansionist ambition is subsequently punished by the loss of his heir. Yet, it is Alonso's earlier act of expansionism that concerns a vengeful Prospero. The magician does not leave his victims in ignorance long.
After the banquet spectacle, Ariel descends as a harpy and addresses Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian in Prosperous words (3.3.85-6):
67 The identification of shipwreck as exile, specifically the wreck of the Sea Venture, is made in A True Declaration, 34. and quoted by Strachey in A True Repertory, Purchas his Pilgrimes, Part 4, Bk. 9, chp. 6, 1756.
68 Erasmus, as cited by Jonathan Bate, condemns foreign alliances on these very grounds that girls are sent away to marry 'men who have not similarity of language, appearance, character, or habits, just as if they were being abandoned to exile'. The Education of a Christian Prince tr. by Lester K. Born (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), 241. Such exile is a kind of death. Antonio describes Tunis as Ten leagues beyond man's life', 2.1.252.
The King James Bible, 4: 10-2.
island. They hear noises that might be wild beasts or damned spirits and meet monstrous shapes that might be islanders but they cannot be sure. They are acutely aware of humanity as a minority, even as an endangered, species. In fact, mankind no longer seems to bear the same defining shape or characteristics but exists in a state of metamorphosis or rather suspension between different levels of creation. 70 Prospero deliberately confuses the shipwrecked men by using spirits to perform many different roles that might or might not be human. In the masque of Ceres, spirits enact the parts of goddesses, nymphs and sicklemen. Ariel leads a pack of fairies as baying hounds and Caliban describes Prospero's meaner ministers who torment him in the shape of apes, hedgehogs and snakes (2.2.9-14). How these spirits are interpreted is personal and subjective. In very general terms, the shipwrecked men are united in their predilection to see devils, Gonzalo identifies men of differing kinds, whilst Miranda and Ferdinand perceive divinities at every turn. Prospero's magic tends to reinforce these convictions on the assumption that men thus recognise their own vices or virtues.
Act 2, scene 2 wherein Caliban, Trinculo and Stefano first encounter one another is built around repeated misunderstandings. Trinculo is identified first as a spirit, then as a monster, a devil and a Neapolitan. Stefano is a devil, Neapolitan and then a god. Caliban appears successively as fish, monster, islander-struck-by-lightning, devil and finally monster again.
Their fears of trickery and devils are realised when Ariel fools Stefano into beating his fellow and then leads them into a 'filthy-mantled pool ?. The magician's plan seems to be to inspire ambitions for greatness in these men only to cast them down as beasts. On emerging from the 70 Richard Marienstras describes in the play 'the feeling of a fleeting, changing universe in which reality is elusive and all creatures and things are involved in a constant metamorphosis', 'Elizabethan Travel Literature and Shakespeare's The Tempest" in New Perspectives on the Shakespearean World tt. by Janet Lloyd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 160-85, 171.
pool, they discover the glittering apparel Ariel has left for them (4.1.221-2). Glorying in this talse splendour, they are then hunted like animals and wracked with cramps and pinches (256-60). Prospero offers them glimpses of another life only to plunge them further into wretchedness. 71 The same process is enacted with the court circle. At the sight of the spirits 'in several strange shapes' who bring in the banquet, they conclude that creation is far more expansive and
wondrous than they had allowed, though with a note of irony:
Gonzalo goes on to identify the spirits as the 'people' of the island, monstrous in shape but more gentle than the majority of 'our human generation' (30-4). Yet these are spirits rather than men and their gentleness becomes aggression when thunder and lightning interrupt the anticipated banquet and Ariel descends as an agent of fate. The spirit leaves them distracted with Sebastian and Antonio fighting imaginary fiends.
The victimization of Ferdinand also works as exile. First Prospero denies the Prince's identity: Thou dost here usurp/ The name thou ow'st not' (1.2.456-7). In a sense this is true.
71 Similarly, Antonio and Sebastian's ambitions to rule Naples through regicide are facilitated by Prospero's spell which sends the others to sleep, 2.1.212-4. The men are encouraged in these hopes only to be condemned later.
Ferdinand has claimed to be the King of Naples on the false assumption that his father is dead whilst the Prince has also moved Prospero to anger by referring to that other usurped title, Duke of Milan. But Ferdinand's rightful identity as a prince and as a man is magically denied him. Where the other shipwrecked men questioned their human status, Ferdinand is emasculated and enslaved. Prospero deprives him of the use of his sword and then puts his nerves into a state of 'infancy' (487). In this humbler state Ferdinand is manacled and set to the work of the slave, Caliban.
Yet despite the shame Ferdinand feels and Miranda perceives in this usage, they remain enamoured of one another's shapes and see themselves as excelling nature (3.1.46-8, 56-7).