Human Relationships Between The Central Characters in William Shakespeare's The Tempest

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Human Relationships Between The Central Characters in William Shakespeare's The Tempest

In this essay I intend to explore the ways that William Shakespeare has presented the relationships between the main characters within his play “The Tempest”. I shall investigate Ferdinand and Miranda’s relationship, the father/daughter bond between Miranda and Prospero and Caliban’s lust after Miranda.

Shakespeare was intending to represent several different groups of people in society through his plays and “The Tempest” was no exception to the rule. I aim to show how the “human” relationships in the play reflect real life relationships within Shakespeare’s own society (as well as his future audience), for which his plays were written and performed.

Ferdinand and Miranda’s type of relationship shows Shakespeare’s ideas about true love, recognising not just the emotional side of love, but the physical nature too. Miranda promises Ferdinand “The jewel in my dower” which is her virginity, a prized thing in Jacobean times. This knowledge would have been known by Shakespeare’s audience and knowing this helps us to understand Prospero’s protection of his daughter from Caliban.

Ferdinand is asked not to have lustful thoughts about Miranda as “Sour-eyed disdain and discord shall bestrew the union of your bed with weeds so loathly that you shall hate it both” meaning that sex before marriage will poison the lovers’ marriage bed so that they will both grow to loathe it. So they have to be careful, and make sure they respect the holy institution of marriage and the lifelong vows that it entails. In direct translation, the metaphorical “weeds” that would be strewn across their bed if they had sexual intercourse before marriage, as opposed to the well known phrase “a bed of roses” that they would have if they waited until after their wedding. Shakespeare has used the word “weeds” to show that nothing good can come from the union of the lovers’ bodies, weeds are unwanted and disliked by any gardener, whereas roses are beautiful and symbolic of all that is pure.

We already know that Miranda and Ferdinand make small mistakes about each other and each other’s lives “sweet lord you play me false” and this backs up Shakespeare’s reasoning for Prospero’s warning against breaking his daughter’s “virgin-knot”. Prospero’s suggestion that they need to sort out these mistakes before committing themselves to each other, physically, are not only welcomed by the couple and Alonso and the other courtly characters, but also a reflection of Shakespeare’s own beliefs about sex before marriage.
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