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An article analysis of Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Miranda by John William Waterhouse. Tchaikovsk...

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Hey guys,

Today I thought I would share an article analysis of  The Tempest.  The article will focus around the character analysis of Miranda and how she interacts with other characters.  She is one of the only female characters in the text, besides the King’s daughter who is mentioned and Caliban’s mother, Sycorax, who is mentioned.  Miranda is the only female who has a speaking role and she has little dialogue.  She is really the only female in the play since the King’s daughter is in Africa and Caliban’s mother is dead.  The analysis I am sharing is written by a classmate of mine, Kylie Manzie.  I wanted to share her analysis because mine would have been almost exactly the same and I would have felt I was plagiarizing.  I do NOT claim credit for these next lines for my classmate wrote them for a report.

Character Analysis of Miranda:

Throughout the play, Miranda may be primarily viewed as sweet and innocent: the “perfect” female character.  Is this seriously the case?  It appears that Miranda’s character is drawn in a way that characterizes her within these childish boundaries.  I find it ironic though that she seems characterized this way, but yet her father is trying to enchant both her and Ferdinand so that they may both fall in love with each other and get married.  In the beginning of the play she displays more of an innocent attitude and demeanor about herself to the audience.  She also becomes enchanted or duped by her father.  I feel as though a feminist critic would be astonished by this.

Question: How do you respond to Prospero’s control of his daughter?  What is her character saying about “female nature”?(Since it represents a female totally untouched by socitey/civilization).

Below are some examples of Miranda’s innocent nature:

*Miranda to Prospero: “If by your art, my dearest father, you have put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.  The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch But that the sea, mounting to th’ welkin’s cheek, Dashes the fire out.  O, I have suffered With those that I saw suffer!  A brave vessel! (Who had no doubt some noble creature in her) Dashed all the pieces! O, the cry did knock Against my very heart!  Poor souls, they perished!  Had I been any god of power, I would have sunk the sea within the earth or ere It should the good ship so have swallowed and The fraughting souls within her” (Davis 498).

*Miranda to Prospero: “O my heart bleeds To think o’ th’ teen I have turned you to, Which is from my remembrance! Please you, farther” (Davis 513).

*Miranda to Prospero (about Ferdinand): “I might call him A thing divine; for nothing natural I ever saw so noble” (Davis 513).

The above quotations help to decribe Mrianda and her innocence.  To a feminist, Miranda might be considered weak.  Her actions and use of character would be the topic of discussion because she appears to have no form of backbone until we see it unfold through her interactions with Caliban, her father, and Ferdinand.  She tries to defend  herself to her father at times, including issues relating to her sexuality and virginity.  That may be the switch that flipped inside of Miranda.  Toying with her morality and virtue in order for her to become more aggressive and less innocent feminine role.  An example of this may be seen later in Act I where Miranda is conversing with Caliban (who once had lustful feelings towards Miranda).

*Miranda to Caliban: “Abhorred slave, Which any print of goodness wilt not take, Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee, Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour One thing or other.  When thou didst not, savage, Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like With words that made them known.  But thy vile race, Though thou didst learn, had that in’t which good natures Could not abide to be with.  Therefore wast thou Deservedly confined to this rock, who hadst Deserved more than prison” (Davis 511).

Question: Does she represent “female nature” or Prospero’s “benevolent” rearing of her (i.e. Is she his product or creation or is she a “natural” woman?)

Question: Is her attitude towards Caliban a product of her upbringing by Prospero?

Question: If you were/are a feminist, how would you characterize Miranda?  Would you like her?

Question: Do you like Miranda’s character and how she was depicted?

Question: Do you find her to be a heroine in a way or not?

Manzie, Kylie. “Miranda: Sassy Feminist or Charming Innocent?” Roanoke College. 14 Nov., 2011.

Thanks for reading!  If you leave any comments I will be sure to pass them along to Kylie.

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2 thoughts on “An article analysis of Shakespeare’s The Tempest

  1. Nothing to do with the post in this comment about its particulars. It is academic and meaningful in its analysis and presentations. But what struck me is to question how accurate our examinations of fictional or real personalities are from long ago. This is because we fit them into our 21st Century psychological way of analyzing things. For a view wherein as in this case we have 500 years of hindsight which makes us compartmentalize people from incongruent sociological and anthropological mindsets separated by time. In other words , do they fit into our analyses as they are not the same humans? For example, I am reading The Rise of Christian Europe( Hugh Trevor-Roper,1965) and he suggests that people that lived in the Middle Ages didn’t know they were living in the Middle Ages. Neither did Renaissance or Enlightenment people know they were living in the age we now ascribe to them. But we define them according to those categories. We examine them from our 21st Century definitions of things. I doubt if everyone that lived during the Enlightenment was running around with light bulbs flashing in their brains. I am also reading Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles, serious of historical fiction about end of and post Roman Britain. And those people do seem so very much like us in the basic ways of fear, sadness, hopes, acceptance, love, the chores of daily living , eating, suffering from illness and so on. So my question is how do we examine people as you have in this essay with a degree of assurdness when they are so different in their humanity and yet so similar? How valid are our conclusions?

  2. Yes, it is true we often do look at things from a modern perspective. For the time, I am sure Miranda was considered a “perfect” woman. Through our modern eyes though some people might view her as a “weak” female character, as suggested in Kylie’s article. I would still say though our views our valid because opinions do change over time. It is impossible for viewpoints to stay the same since society is always changing. Literature though, always remains timeless. I think that is what makes literary criticism interesting. We can share our opinions as a modern audience on text such as The Tempest and other generations after us will perhaps have different critiques to make.
    Yes, our interpretations may be different than those of Shakespeare’s time, but I do not think it matters. If we so desired, we could look back at history and see what the people of the timed thought of such matters. I am sure there is scholarly pieces written at the time and now, that talk about these very issues. Thanks for the post!

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