Essay about Destabilizing Prospero s Superiority through Female Corroboration

Submitted By Anne-Laure
Words: 1404
Pages: 6

Anne Hockenberry
Professor McHale
English 3398
March 16, 2013
Destabilizing Prospero’s Superiority through Female Corroboration One of the most common feminist critiques of Shakespeare’s The Tempest involves the lack of female characters in the cast; apart from Miranda, the only other female characters are mentioned by the men in the play. Her apparent role in the play is as an indicator of rulership over the island, and political influence in Italy. Simultaneously, Caliban’s role as past antagonist and potential rapist to Miranda can make him an unsympathetic character to other readers, and further elaborates the underlying idea that Miranda and power over her is the indicator of true power on the island. In “Snapshots of Caliban”, Suniti Namjoshi makes Caliban female, thus blurring the lines of villainy and virtue and deconstructs Prospero’s power by removing his immediate competition for patriarchal authority over the sole female character and adding a plot revolving around the deconstruction of Prospero’s actual wizardry. When Miranda’s obedience as a woman is not the indicator of power on the island, Prospero’s power is confronted in ways he is less capable of facing. Female Caliban gives Miranda a peer/rival instead of a potential subjugator, and allows Namjoshi to develop the two as less polarized archetypes and develop their own prerogatives separate from Prospero’s influence. Caliban, operating outside of the aforementioned struggle for male dominance, is able to develop and display a startling sensitivity to the true nature of characters and things around her, and her attention to Miranda is based in affection rather than carnal desire and an ambition for power. Prospero’s struggle for power over the girls is first outlined in part II, where a youthful Caliban lying or being intelligent and truthful acts on her emotions. Prospero, acting on his judgments and disgust at Caliban’s raw state, puts it upon himself to rid the island of her. He is a would be murderer and Caliban, running, saves herself from Prospero and saves Prospero from his attempted homicide, foreshadowing later conflict in the play and setting Caliban on her mistrustful and negative trajectory. The question is—as Miranda inadvertently points out in part III—left to her own devices, would Caliban be a better person? Did Prospero’s own monstrous behavior (trying to kill her, and later using her as a servant and lesser) transform her into a monster, if her basic nature, without influence is good, albeit sad to behold? As perspective shifts from mortal perspectives to the spirit Ariel in part IV, the reader is next presented with the possibility that Miranda’s pure and goodly nature is not necessarily so. He describes the children arguing over a sand-castle, which can be seen as a metaphor for who has hold of the island. Miranda destroys Caliban’s castle, symbolic of her and her father’s encroachment on Caliban’s inheritance from her mother. Ariel also does not distinguish between the monstrous child and the “normal” one, explicitly stating that both of them are “not very pretty” to him, and implying that without human subjectivity they are kindred spirits. Prospero’s only role in this section is to exercise his authority when the children to misbehave, yet it is unneeded. According to Ariel, Caliban and Miranda are content as soon as the sun comes out. They do not need Prospero to dictate their behavior, and the imagery of their happiness being connected to the sun foreshadows the failure of his tempest and illusion (which is supposed to be the events in canon). As the events of “canon” unfold through Prospero’s power of illusion, Caliban begins to show care for the idea of gods, and expresses jealousy of Miranda’s affection for them, particularly the Ferdinand illusion. As with her realization of Prospero’s plan to murder her before, her perception and logic of the events are sound. Even though they are described as being simple, that does