The temptation to regard The Tempest as an allegory has proved irresistible to critics, although opinions differ on what it might be an allegory of, and what the principal figures might represent. In this essay I wish to discuss the character of Ariel, who has received less attention than either Caliban or Prospero. If The Tempest is an allegory then each of its characters should fulfil some representative function. Prospero is generally associated with the playwright (or even, which amounts to much the same thing in some views, with God) as he controls the action on stage. Caliban is taken to represent the physical aspect of humanity, or the 'will', his uncivilised condition making him close to the beasts. In this view, Prospero represents intellect (in seventeenth-century terms 'wit', or 'reason'). The opposition of 'infected will' and 'perfected wit' is a common trope of Protestant discourse, as in Sir Philip Sidney's 'Defense of Poesie'. FN1 Ariel, then, ('an airy spirit' in the 'Names of the Actors') might represent a third part of the self, the soul or spirit, but at this point the allegory seems to break down, in that Ariel is clearly not Prospero's immortal soul, or the divine part in man, as he is under the control of Prospero as intellect, and in fact performs the action of the play just as Prospero directs it.
Frank Kermode, in his introduction to the Arden edition, criticises the tendency to allegorical interpretation, and seems to have imbibed something of the late Shakespeare's insistence on the importance of Chastity. 'It is not surprising that The Tempest has sent people whoring after strange gods of allegory' (p.lxxx) and most modern attitudes to the play ar...
... middle of paper ...
...s the barrier. If The Tempest is an allegory, then Nora Johnson is probably closest in describing Ariel as 'a delicate theatrical spirit' a figure representing the essence of theatre. If performing Ariel must have presented great technical challenges on the Jacobean stage, the problem for a modern production is to encourage the suspension of disbelief in the audience whilst avoiding comparison with the fairies and principal boys of Pantomime.
1. Sometimes called 'Apology for Poetry'.
2. Nora Johnson, 'Body and Spirit, Stage and Sexuality in The Tempest' (in) Political Shakespeare, (eds) Stephen Orgel and Sean Keilen, Volume 9 of Shakespeare, the Critical Complex, Garland Publishing, New York and London, (1999), pp. 271-290.
3. Horace Howard Furness (ed.), The Tempest, A New Varorium Edition, J.P. Lippincott, Philadelphia, (1895).
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Interpretation Alternatives of The Tempest A production of The Tempest should emphasize the idealized methods in which Prospero uses magic to solve the problem of revenge which is so prevalent throughout his tragedies, perhaps the production might be a direct allegory for the magic of the theatre itself. In this conception of the play, the scattering and bringing together of the characters in the script is significant in that theatre also could be said to bring people together and allow them to share in an experience of emotion, magic, and finally, of resolution.... [tags: Tempest essays]
1264 words (3.6 pages)
- A Jungian Interpretation of the Tempest Shakespeare’s Tempest lends itself to many different levels of meaning and interpretation. The play can be seen on a realistic plane as a tale of political power and social responsibility. It can be seen as allegory examining the growth of the human spirit. The Tempest investigates marriage, love, culture. It is symbolic of man’s rational higher instincts verses his animal natural tendencies. This is a play of repentance, power, revenge and fate that can also be seen as fantasy, dream, imagination, metaphor or magic.... [tags: Shakespeare The Tempest]
2401 words (6.9 pages)
- The Significance of Sound and Music in The Tempest ‘The Tempest’ is on a basic level a play about a magical island, complete with its own wizard, monster and handsome prince. However, it is much more than a fairytale. Complex themes such as usurpation, colonialism and the supernatural are interwoven into the plot to produce a play so diverse that it is widely considered to be one of Shakespeare’s finest works. Music and sound are dramatically significant in this diversity. This makes ‘The Tempest’ very different to other Shakespeare plays.... [tags: Papers]
815 words (2.3 pages)
- The Tempest, considered by many to be Shakespeare’s farewell to the theatre, has of all his plays the most remarkable interpretive richness. The exceptional flexibility of Shakespeare’s stage is given particular prominence in The Tempest due to its originality and analytic potential, in particular in the presentation of one of his most renowned and disputed characters, Caliban. Superficially portrayed in the play as a most detestable monster, Caliban does not evoke much sympathy. However, on further examination Caliban presents himself as an extremely complex character and soon his apparent monstrosity is not so obviously transparent.... [tags: essays research papers]
1852 words (5.3 pages)
- The Tempest: Allegorical to the Bible The Tempest is not a pure fantasy tale, but a purposeful allegory. The characters in the play are all representative of characters found in the bible. The first, and perhaps most persuasive, arguement would be Prospero symbolizing God. Prospero is seen to be a representative of God for several reasons. First, he is obviously in control of the actions and has an omnipotent quality. This has been demonstrated by several scenes throughout the play. Consider the power that Prospero possesses, as shown in the Epilogue at the closing of the play: I have bedimmed The mooontide sun, called forth the mutinous winds, And 'twixt the green sea and the azured vault... [tags: English Literature Essays]
1163 words (3.3 pages)
- Prospero and Ariel in The Tempest by William Shakespeare Throughout the years since The Tempest was first published in the 1623 Folio, there has been much debate among Shakespeare’s contemporaries and critics as to the significance of the figure of Prospero and other major characters featured in the work. In this paper, I want to examine the figure of Prospero and his relationship with the character Ariel. In doing this, I want to show how Prospero is a figure for the artist, how Ariel is a figure for the poetic imagination, and how the relationship between Prospero and Ariel explores the relationship between the artist and his or her poetic imagination.... [tags: Tempest William Shakespeare Essays]
2317 words (6.6 pages)
- Relationship between Prospero, Caliban and Ariel in The Tempest Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest is set on a mysterious island surrounded by the ocean. Here the magician Prospero is ruler of the isle with his two servants Caliban and Ariel. Caliban is the abrasive, foul-mouthed son of the evil witch Sycorax. When Prospero was shipwrecked on the island Prospero treated him kindly but their relationship changed when Caliban tried to rape Prospero's daughter, Miranda. Caliban then became Prospero's unwilling servant.... [tags: Shakespeare Tempest]
1503 words (4.3 pages)
- William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is a magnificent piece of literature that explores various aspects of nature and man, illusion versus real, and deception. The Tempest was written between the years 1610 and 1611. Many believe Shakespeare based the majority of this play from the colonization that was taking place in the Americas during this time, and Montaigne’s essay Of the Cannibals. Shakespeare was able to incorporate and write, a poetic magical play showing what was going on during this time, and also how the human existence was changing due to new discoveries of other humans.... [tags: Colonization of Ariel and Caliban, Analysis]
1356 words (3.9 pages)
- In Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, there are two characters who appear to be polar opposites. The characters of Caliban and Ariel both play very important roles in the play. The term caliban is defined as “a brutish or brutalized man,” and the term ariel is defined as “a spirit of the air” (Dictionary). The definitions of these two characters names even show the huge difference in the two characters before readers or viewers even get to know the characters. There are also differences in how the two characters feel about the self-proclaimed king of the island, Prospero.... [tags: English literature, literary analysis]
1012 words (2.9 pages)
- Women's Fight Against Social Convention in Sylvia Plath's Poem, Ariel "Ariel" is the title poem from Sylvia Plath's controversial collection of poetry written during the last few months of her life in 1963. The traditional gender roles of 1960s America promoted a double-standard and wrongly imposed upon women the idea of a "Happy Housewife Heroine" who cherished "the receptivity and passivity implicit in (her) nature" and was "devoted to (her) own beauty and (her) ability to bear and nurture children" (Friedan, 59).... [tags: Sylvia Plath Ariel]
657 words (1.9 pages)
- Measure for Measure Essay: The Bed Trick
- freedol Nora's Freedom in Ibsen's A Doll's House
- tempcolon The Theme of Colonization in The Tempest
- Caliban Portrayed as a Child in The Tempest
- tempnature Caliban as Representative of Natural Man in Shakespeare's The Tempest
- Comparing the Theme of Technology Versus Nature in Frankenstein and Neuromancer