The Tempest- The Significance of the love story between Ferdinand and Miranda in the play as a whole
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Examine the significance of the love story between Miranda and Ferdinand in the play as a whole. On one level Miranda and Ferdinand can actually be seen as 'insignificant' in The Tempest, because they are such a 'clichéd' romantic couple. So their actions and speeches in the play are fairly limited, because of the simple and very 'typical', "love story" and also because they are both young and naïve and so their plot is quite static. On the other hand they can also be seen as vitally significant in The Tempest because they are one of the components that contribute to the main theme of the play, "Order", and to many of the other themes surrounding this main theme, such as the nurture/nature debate, Elizabethan hierarchy, fate, love, reconciliation etc... All these themes relate to or are the build up of the 'mother' theme, order. Prospero's plan is to restore 'order' following the injustice done to him and Miranda. To do this he needs to restore himself as duke of Milan but also bring harmony between the people with whom he has had conflict with i.e. Alonso. The love between Miranda and Ferdinand is the key to this as Ferdinand is the heir to Alonso's throne and Miranda is Prospero's heir. Therefore they can be seen as holding the theme in place because they consolidate Prospero's plan of order and reconciliation. Also, by them coming together we are reassured that the future of Milan and Naples will also be close friends for the next generation and the next because now they're allies. So even though their characters are simplistic and so can seem insignificant it is their ultimate function that makes them significant in the play as a whole. They are the future generation that represent a 'fresh start', (which could be the reason why Shakespeare made them both such naïve, young characters); Miranda and Ferdinand can be seen as a blank page, (clear of sins).
Miranda is also a very loving character. At the start of the play she displays an emotional nature; she sincerely cares for the people in the tempest. Her feelings of compassion set the tone of the main theme of the play, reconciliation. "O I have suffered With those that I saw suffer!" This quote shows her to be 'selfless' and caring; she suffers by seeing others suffer, not even knowing who they are. Living on the island, the only two people she knows are her father Prospero and the deformed slave Caliban, and she hasn't seen another female other than herself. This makes her seem very ignorant of the world by having very little experience with people and of anything outside the island. However, she must have learnt a lesson from her acquaintance with Caliban, who had tried to rape her after she was kind to him. It would then seem she would learn not to trust people so easily because not everyone is as nice as she is! But then, when at the end all Alonso's people from the ship come together and Miranda meets them she thinks them all to be so amazing; "How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is!" This shows how she still has her naivety about people. But Miranda, against her nature, really hates Caliban and avoids his company "Tis a villain, sir / I do not love to look on." She also speaks in a way towards him that you would not expect Miranda who is of a gentle and sympathetic nature. "..Abhorred slave, Which any print of goodness wilt not take, Being capable of all ill!" This speech by Miranda is spoken with such courage and vehemence, that some modern editors give it to Prospero, because it's so unlike her character.2 However what must be remembered is that Shakespeare is the writer and he must have had a reason for giving Miranda who is the 'ideal woman', a character without blemish or artifice, a speech which seems to go against her nature.
Alonso was also unfaithful as he joined with Antonio to strand Prospero on the island so that Antonio could take over, therefore letting down a fellow leader. But Prospero's plan was to 'forgive and forget'; he forgives Alonso, and wants to start afresh. When Prospero and Alonso finally meet again near the end of the play Alonso immediately asks for forgiveness. "Thou pardon me my wrongs." And when he mentions he has lost his son, Prospero says he has lost his daughter as well (of course they meant it in different ways). Alonso: "A daughter? O heavens, that they were both in Naples The king and queen there!" This reaction was of course extremely convenient as that is how it actually was, Ferdinand and Miranda did wish to marry and be king and queen of Naples, and it was also the intention Prospero had. This confirms that their relationship is important in the play as a whole. Alonso and Prospero both understood that this reunion would enable Naples and Milan to have a closer relationship and move on from the past. And so Alonso and Prospero's way of reconciliation is through their children's marriage. Love, Fate, Nature Vs Nurture, Elizabethan Hierarchy, Reconciliation, all of these themes are under the umbrella of the main theme of Order and all these themes as discussed, play a part with the characters Ferdinand and Miranda. Their individual characters are understood and explained through the themes but also their love determines the outcome of the entire play. Their love brings the harmony between Naples and Milan (Prospero and Alonso), and this leads to reconciliation which then proposes the order between people. Therefore Ferdinand and Miranda's love story is extremely significant in the play The Tempest because they help to shape the themes and overall establish the meaning and moral behind the play as a whole, the maintenance of order. 1 Elizabethan World Picture, E.M.W. Tillyard 2 Shakespeare's The Tempest critical essays 3 Elizabethan World Picture, E.M.W. Tillyard 4 Redefining Elizabethan literature, Georgia Brown ?? ?? ?? ??
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