«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 ...»
Moreover, the twelve long years that were Prospero's exile and the entirely human and political rationale behind it are rejected in favour of a larger picture in which Prospero benefits from exile. That the magus has manufactured his own salvation and that the loss of self-knowledge suffered by the three men of sin was his work, as their recovery was his, are details wholly lost on Gonzalo. He tells a romance in which men have been lost and found through the agency of Providence, the story of Pericles or Cymbeline rather than of The Tempest.
Yet it seems unlikely that Prospero will tell a different tale. The deferment of narrative is a common feature of the endings of Shakespeare's plays. 78 Although the characters may need more information about the plot, the privileged insights offered to the audience usually allow 77 That other characters should contest Prospero's official story seems unlikely. Miranda and Ferdinand have remained conveniently silent throughout Alonso's questions, Gonzalo's false summary and Prospero's prevarications. Nor is their knowledge of his powers extensive, for example they have never seen Ariel, and Miranda has only a hazy grasp of the plot perhaps because of her charmed sleep. Caliban's claims for the Duke's sorcery are unlikely to be given much credence nor does it seem likely that he will return to Italy with them.
78 See Barbara Hardy, Shakespeare's Storytellers: Dramatic Narration (London and Chester Springs: Peter Owen, 1997), chp 3, 72-90.
it to leave the theatre with a sense of narrative closure. Two important exceptions to this convention are late plays. The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. In the former, Leontes
expresses the wish of the majority of the audience:
Yet the audience is not allowed to follow and put the most obvious question of where Hermione has been for the last sixteen years. In this case, the dramatist's refusal to explain seems to be dictated by his wish to preserve the atmosphere of mystery and awe created at the end. In The Tempest we know that Prospero is a magician and that the play's reconciliations and resurrections are the products of his art. For Prospero to reveal this to his stage audience, however, would be to destroy what he has achieved by the end of the play, namely his acceptance as one of them. Thus, in response to their demands for revelation, Prospero urges
I would suggest that Prospero's use of the word 'probable' here supports the idea that the magician will not reveal his magical potency. The definitions offered by the OED and cited as 79 Compare Prospero's deliberately ambiguous promise with the Duke in Measure for Measure who will relate 'What's yet behind that's meet you all should know' (5.1.538). One might argue that the Duke's future authority will partly depend on his maintaining some of the mysterious insight associated with Providence that his theatricals at the end of the play have given him.
Shakespearean usages include (2a) 'Such as to approve or commend itself to the mind;
worthy of acceptance or belief and (3a) 'Having an appearance of truth; that may in view of present evidence be reasonably expected to happen, or to prove true; likely'. 80 Gonzalo is clearly ready to believe it was all the work of Providence whilst Alonso too expects the revelation of a divine hand. For Prospero to have orchestrated events will be far more difficult for them to believe than Gonzalo's version.
In Utopia, More criticises Hythloday for trying to force his ideas on other people and
despairing when they had no effect:
there is a more civilized form of philosophy which knows the dramatic context, so to speak, tries to fit in with it, and plays an appropriate part in the current performance [...] If you can't completely eradicate wrong ideas, or deal with inveterate vices as effectively as you could wish, that's no reason for turning your back on public life altogether. You wouldn't abandon ship in a storm just because you couldn't control the winds.81 On the island, Prospero has raised the storm himself, fortified the ship and held the whole company of mariners in his power yet he has not been able to 'eradicate wrong ideas or deal with inveterate vices'. However, I have chosen to conclude with this quotation because of its surprising irrelevance to The Tempest. It seems clear to me that Prospero's ambitions on the island are not for the redemption of Caliban or the three men of sin, but are simply for revenge and his return to the civilised world. It is tempting to read Prospero as the failed humanist, politician, or philosopher, empowered by magic, who subsequently chooses to return to Milan and to put what he has learned into practice. Like Hythloday, he may have
found that the 'appropriate part in the current performance' is not seclusion on an uninhabited island but the cut and thrust of Renaissance Realpolitik. Yet Prospero is one of Shakespeare's most fascinating banished characters, if you like, the Hamlet of exiles, because he reveals the absolute solipsism of that state. Banishment renders Prospero more introspective than he was in Milan and even less concerned with the government or perfection of society. He uses his magic to transform the island to reflect his own suffering. He brings down his enemies so that Prospero himself may triumph, casting off the shame of exile by imposing it on them. The 'redemption' he proffers to the shipwrecked men is another spectacle of his own power and 'humanity'. His dramatisation of the state of exile exemplifies the way in which banishment is performed and transformed in English Renaissance literature and in life. To see Prospero as a seventeenth-century colonialist will illuminate multiple facets of his experience on the island. But until he is perceived as an exile, with all that this might imply for the English Renaissance audience, he will remain a strange, contradictory and elusive figure.
Perhaps the central preoccupation of Shakespearean criticism towards the end of the twentieth century is to discover the marginal in Shakespeare. It is hard to imagine an oeuvre less marginalised than Shakespeare's yet despite the dramatist's vast iconic status which has often been appropriated to serve as a force of oppression itself, acting as a sign of white male imperialism, Shakespeare's texts are being reexamined for their insights into liminal culture.
Post-structuralist analysis of history insisted that there was no single authoritative account but rather a multiplicity of histories. By de-prioritizing and deconstructing the master narrative, the histories of oppressed peoples would be revealed. Feminist and post-colonial studies of Shakespeare in particular have set about deconstructing the master-narrative of his texts and their critiques. How Shakespeare uses contemporary stereotypes and is thus implicated in the perpetuation or the repudiation of these prejudices, whether he occupies some complex middle ground; these are all fruitful areas of debate.
In Shakespeare from the Margins, Patricia Parker is concerned with the edification of reader and audience from the margins of Shakespeare's text. Her aim is to illuminate some of the darker corners of the canon in which the prejudices surrounding Moors, Jews, women and artisans are expressed in a rich and revealing context of associative anxieties and fears. Parker focuses on the wordplay through which these assumptions are expressed, for example the play on 'Moor' and 'more' regarding the pregnant black African in The Merchant of Venice and on 'Barbary'. with its connotations of African barbarousness and female aggression in Othello. What is particularly interesting about Barker's 'marginalism' is its extensiveness. She evinces surprise that there is 'so much in the plays attributed to Shakespeare that has been either marginalized or ignored...'.' This sleight-of-hand about attribution suggests the relegation of the author himself and, indeed, Parker is eager to work outside the parameters of criticism which prioritizes on the basis of authorial intention, and psychological or structural coherence or logic. She points out that wordplay has occupied a liminal, perhaps stigmatized position in Shakespearean criticism since Dr Johnson deplored Shakespeare's fondness for the pun, or 'fatal Cleopatra'. This association of puns and women expresses the marginal fate to which both had been consigned, considered as decorative and/or trivial. But Parker is also concerned with 'apparently inconsequential lines' that editors largely ignore and directors tend to cut, and with plays that have been relegated to a secondary position in the canon (The Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour's Lost, The Merry Wives of Windsor):' Parker even spares a thought for those who compile the dictionaries of Shakespearean puns and the concordances she relies on, 'often products of the unsung labor of marginalized scholars'. 3 With the prevalence of this critical approach to Shakespeare and the revelation that there is much still to reveal in the oeuvre, it seems ironic that Shakespeare's representation of banishment should continue to be ignored. When I came to the subject I was surprised at how little attention banishment received within monographs on individual plays let alone collectively. The investigation of the margins has necessarily involved the shifting of emphasis away from 1 Shakespeare from the Margins: Language, Culture. Context (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
2 Ibid., 6, 15-6.
3 Ibid.. 18.
holds the subject's identity safe, the walls that repulse him, or the walls of some other town. If the character wears different clothing then an audience may not recognise him. He may be perceptually transformed due to the emphasis placed upon clothing as status and identity at this time. If he cannot give his name, as in Coriolanus' case, or if he changes his name to something else, as Kent does, then the extent to which that dramatic character still exists is perhaps a moot point.
The fictionality of self is also suggested by the conventions of exile biography that we have considered in this study. The exile as self-dramatist draws upon a number of different texts in order to account for his exile and to redefine himself. Falstaff might have turned to those defences of his literary and historical predecessor, Oldcastle, which celebrated the Lollard as a Protestant martyr. Touchstone invokes Ovid to explain the tragedy of being a brilliant poet exiled among savages. Prospero employs the providential narrative of the colonial apologist. Yet this possibility of literary self-fashioning leads to more serious questions about the contingency of all human identity.
The banishment of Romeo dramatizes the dependence of the self upon civic definition. Romeo's horror at that word 'banished' is not hyperbolic or embarrassing if we perceive the extent to which he is a Veronese creation. He has never imagined a life outside the city and the lovers' tragedy is at least partly dependent on that fact. This explains why Shakespeare chose to ignore the possibility of elopement altogether though he allowed his comic exile. Valentine, to embrace it. Where national and familial boundaries wholly define the lovers, in Richard II and Coriolanus the protagonists endure a more sophisticated identity crisis. Here, a particular state-sanctioned mythology or ideology is central to the definition of king and warrior. It is not that the exile has never imagined a world elsewhere, but that he has been encouraged to believe in himself as a microcosm. Banishment reveals his insufficiency and his irrelevance. If Richard can be banished and deposed then his absolute security as the divinely-appointed king begins to look like mythology and his poetic conceits appear insubstantial. According to his noble spectators, kingship is a role that Richard plays unconvincingly, rather than his essential being. Similarly, in Coriolanus, the man who could not be banished because he was the embodiment of Rome finds himself not merely superfluous but redefined as the city's enemy and anathema to Roman Republicanism, though he was one of those who fought to establish that system of government.
When Coriolanus refuses to prostitute his integrity for the sake of political expediency, Rome rejects its warrior, denying that he is any longer the hero denoted by his name. For both Richard and Coriolanus, a system of beliefs that they believed in or adhered to absolutely, is revealed to be irrelevant and disposable. Divine right kingship and 'Romanitas' do not reflect the reality of fourteenth-century England or of Republican Rome in Shakespeare's plays.
Yet Shakespearean drama also celebrates the suspension of social identity and of ideological constrictions. In As You Like It, exile means relinquishing centrality for the liberation of the margins. Rosalind at least is permitted to forget the limitations of her gender and of her political position for the opposite privileges of masculinity. Whilst Rosalind's pleasure is won through her maleness, it is also taken at the expense of men. In the fantasy realm of Arden it is hinted that the woman, the shepherd and the youngest son might be more worthy of power and influence than those who currently hold sway. Nevertheless, there are a number of safety clauses built in to the play to curb its recklessness. The pastoral interlude is by definition temporary and when the tyrannical usurper has been deposed, the court appears once more far superior to the pastoral society. At the play's close the exiles are reabsorbed into the old world and normal hierarchy is resumed as signified by the marriage and silence of the women and the aristocratic patronage of the shepherds. Though Shakespeare's exiles may enjoy their liberty, they long to play the roles society has fashioned for them. Despite the self-authorship that banishment encourages, their own creations do not outface those of society. Even Prospero, the Neoplatonic mage, desires nothing more than to return to being Duke of Milan though he has the universe to play with.
Similarly, in King Lear, banishment is an opportunity for saturnalian self-fashioning but again the characters all seek to return to society and the play encourages the expectation that they will.