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in Tunis. As a counterpart to this, were it not that PROSPERO's wishes are too plainly declared, he might seem to be losing his daughter's obedience in the letter, only to find it in the spirit, when she plots for her lover's rest against her father's orders, or again when she reveals his name, though she breaks her father's hest to do so.
All this would be monotonous if it were not for the other note, which breaks in continually, when “open-eyed conspiracy”
" " takes its time," and ALONZO is twice so nearly killed by ANTONIO'S “ obedient steel ;” and other passages in which it seems as if the cardinal idea was-‘How short is life! and yet the madness and wickedness of men are for ever curtailing the few moments of satisfaction which it contains;' while to prevent our horror at this villany from turning into a serious tragedy the light masque or romantic drama, for which the Tempest is evidently intended, these plotters or seekers who never find are for ever parodied by the interludes of the grotesque trio, who “arrive at the minute of their plot” for “braining" PROSPERO when asleep, but only succeed, like the jay, in decking themselves with the peacock's feathers, suffering for their theft as he did.*
The Characters. The simplicity of the plot in itself makes us the more inclined to dwell on the characters in detail.
PROSPERO, himself once Duke of Milan, that“chief of all the signories” of Italy, by the contrivance of the basest and most unnatural of enemies, has been cast upon a haunted island, with CALIBAN for his sole subject. All the time he has been there he has been brooding over his wrongs; and it requires a strong effort of his nobler nature to restrain himself from gratifying, when the opportunity occurs, that rooted desire for vengeance which has been
* Notes on the plot and structure of the play will be found on pp. 61, 71, 75, 86, 88.
fixed in his Italian soul. Hence he is stern, even to his own loved MIRANDA ; hence also, when FERDINAND becomes his daughter's recognized lover, he reiterates expressions of his fear that the prince may show himself a true son of his father, and soil the paradise on whose threshold he stands. The severity of PROSPERO's island government of the spirits contrasts with his ready forgiveness of the traitors, and may be explained by supposing him to have learnt by experience that a lax governor injures both himself and those he rules. The charm of his character lies in this--that ill-used as he has been, and holding unlimited power in his hands, he yet can lay his magic arts aside when he has brought his enemies to repentance, and behave to them on the footing of a man superior to them only in moral goodness. His resolution to bury his “wand deeper than ever plummet sounded,” when once he has gained his end, is what we should expect from his wisdom when he again finds himself in the company of human beings, and accords with his practice of keeping his dealings with the spirit-world in the background before MIRANDA, who is evidently not taken into her father's counsels. And we are conscious that he will have lost none of his mastery over mankind when he parts with his magic power, but will retain it in virtue of the calm spirit of reflection, autumn-like in its seriousness, which in its mercy and slow-footed justice reminds us of the steps of Providence itself.
We may notice here how, while other poets of Shakespeare's time rest the success of their plays on a number of magical tricks, designed to startle the spectators into pleasure, Shakespeare himself uses his magic with such delicate art, that even in the Tempest-where the whole motive power is PROSPERO'S will—it never overpowers our sense of the natural, even in reading the play ; still less would it do so on the stage. For instance, in the shipwreck scene we feel that the sailors do their utmature, and had they but sea-room would probably save
ship. So when PROSPERO wishes to talk to ARIEL, he tells MIRANDA he knows “she is inclined to sleep," and
cannot choose but give way to it;" and when MIRANDA awakes at his word directly the interview is over, she believes it was the strangeness of his story put heaviness in her. When ARIEL separates FERDINAND from his companions, it may only have been because he was the first to leap out of the ship, and to save himself by swimming ; when ARIEL keeps the other princes separate from the crew, it may be because the former sprang overboard, but the latter did not ; when ARIEL bewitches the sailors with sleep, he says himself that their weariness had done half the work for him ; when he leads the princes astray by apparitions, it may be that
Their great guilt,
Now 'gins to bite their spirits : while the episode of the horse-pond may be fairly paralleled by incidents in islands which are not known to be enchanted. “Thus we might strike the magic out of the play, and nature would remain.”
In this respect the Tempest should be contrasted with Vidsummer Night's Dream--the one the play of Fancy, whose exquisite delicacy of touch can catch the surfacecolours of things and group them anew by laws of beauty; the other the play of Imagination, by which poetry sees into the heart of things, and reveals their inmost harmonies. The one then is really a dream, a fairyland where spirits make man their sport; in the other human life is only removed into an ideal sphere, in which the spirits serve the wise. To try and fancy Puck taking ARIEL'S place as PROSPERO's minister would give some measure of the difference of the two, and the harmony of the parts
in cach. * Note:tel is, as his name implies, a spirit of the air, on pp. 61, . he often, at PROSPERO's bidding, plays the part
of the other elemental spirits. So irksome is it to his volatile nature to have any restraint put upon his liberty, that in spite of his gratitude to PROSPERO---always quickly revived when his master reminds him of the torments he was released from-he cannot be patient in his servitude. He longs to be no more accountable, 110 more bound to one course, than the winds of heaven are. “Unchartered freedom” will never tire him, because chance is the element in which he naturally lives. The key-note of his nature is contained in his exquisite half-appeal to PROSPERO, in favour of SEBASTIAN and ANTONIO (act v. scene 1), “Mine would, sir, were I human ;” and there is nothing more touching in the play than the kind of approach which the creature of air, himself without feelings, makes towards sympathy with the feelings of human beings. The bond between PROSPERO and ARIEL is unnatural, because common sympathies are wanting between man and spirit; but in this case we see it maintained merely by kindness on the one side, and gratitude on the other. This relation supplies a foil to the unnatural division between PROSPERO and ANTONIO, who not only share the same nature as men, but are united by the closest ties as brothers. The perfect consistency of ARIEL's character, as of CALIBAN'S, is a marvel of art. We feel that though unrealized in nature, he is yet true to nature; though unreal, he is yet most real.
Little notice has been taken by commentators of CaliBAN'S being African by birth, his mother, SYCORAX, having come from Algiers. We seem to catch in him an echo of tales told by prisoners on their return from that Algerine captivity which overtook so many a seafarer of the time. Shakespeare transmutes such rude accounts by creating a being who, though fierce and vile in every way, is still penetrated with the spirit of that surrounding nature of which he is a part. Thus it cannot be overlooked, that in spite of his low and degraded nature,
CALIBAN is one of the poetic characters of the play, as distinguished from the commonplace sot and jester to whom he joins himself.
Just as in Macbeth Shakespeare has made the fatal sisters not mere witches, but weird sisters full of the poetry of Norse mythology, so in the Tempest he has thrown a magical light on CALIBAN. The key to his character is given in his first words, when he prays that
as wicked dew as e'er his mother brushed with raven's feather from unwholesome fen should drop on both” his visitors; and his whole being is in keeping with the wondrous island, where the barrier between man and the spirit-world is broken down, and all is realized that superstition ever dreamed ; an island whose inhabitants should be alike excitable and credulous, and should speak with all the overflowing imagery that marks the wild eloquence of the barbarian child of nature. CALIBAN is the very reverse of ARIEL. He can feel neither gratitude nor attachment. The only reverence he shows for PROSPERO is a brutish fear of what he may suffer from a superior being whose motives he imagines to be revenge or mere caprice ; while, with a fine irony, he is represented as eager to fall down and worship STEPHANO and his bottle. 'To him he gives his loyalty as to his true king, and joins with him in the conspiracy to dispossess PROSPERO, a burlesque parody on the conspiracy of the princes. The character may have had a special bearing on the great question of a time when we were discovering new countries, subjecting unknown savages, and founding fresh colonies. If PROSPERO might dispossess CALIBAN, England might dispossess the aborigines of the colonies.* Even if there were
* It may be remarked, that CALIBAN's name can hardly have any more connection with the word 'Cannibal’ than his nature has. The mention of his mother's country points to a Moorish origin for his name, which may possibly be the Kalebôn, or 'vile dog,' of Aral slang.