Thursday, December 17, 2009

Discord and harmony are the major contesting values in The Tempest

Discord, harmony and reconciliation seem to be the central themes of the play The Tempest. Discord and moral chaos predominate the first half of the play. Bitterness, hatred and suspicion are always close to the surface. The discord exists between the boatswain and the royal party, between the Prospero and Antonio and his accomplices. The discord also exists between Prospero and Ariel and Cali ban. But at the end of the play all discords are resolved. And it is Prospero who masterfully resolves all disorders and gives the drama a happy ending.

Discord followed by harmony

In fact, the entire plot of The Tempest is an elaborate scheme designed by Prospero to bring his rivals to a state of regret so that he can pardon them and restore the rightful order of things to his dukedom of Milan. Since Prospero is seen as being all-powerful over the island, he could easily destroy or punish his enemies in the royal party by any method or means. Instead, he brings the past conspirators face-to- face with the sins of their past, which causes them to be repentant. In a god-like way, Prospero forgives each of them, allowing them to live and return to Italy. In appreciation, they promise to faithfully serve Prospero. It is a picture of full reconciliation, with the exception of Antonio. To add to the beauty of the reconciled image, Prospero masterfully brings Miranda and Ferdinand together as symbols of a new generation standing for hope and re- generation.

The opening is full of confusion

The Tempest opens with total confusion: action, sounds, and the elements produce a sense of discord in the universe. The opening confrontation between Gonzalo and the boatswain reveals one of the most important themes in The Tempest: class conflict, the discord between those who seize and hold power and those who are often the unwilling victims of power. When confronted by members of the royal party, the boatswain orders that they return below deck. He is performing his job, and to stop in response to Alonso's request for the master would be foolish. The boatswain cares little for Alonso's rank as king and asks, "What cares these roarers for the name of king?" (15 — 16). The king has no protection from the storm simply because of his rank, because the storm has little care for a man's social or political position.

Conflict between the colonized and the colonizer

Apart from this conflict, there are many tempests to be explored during the course of The Tempest. In addition to class conflict, there are also explorations into colonialism (English explorers had been colonizing the Americas) and a desire to find or create a utopian society. Other tempests will be revealed in subsequent scenes, such as the emotional tempests that familial conflict creates (consider the conflict between Antonio and Prospero, and the coming conflict between Sebastian and Alonso); the tempests of discord (consider Caliban's dissatisfaction and desire for revenge) and of forbidden love (consider the romance between Miranda and Ferdinand). Finally, there are the tempests caused by the inherent conflict between generations. So, although The Tempest might correctly be called a romantic comedy, the title and the opening scene portend an exploration of conflicts more complex than romantic.

Familial conflict

This theme of discord is farther developed in the second scene. Here in order to satisfy Miranda’s query Prospero reveals to Miranda that Antonio is his brother, and that he was once the rightful Duke of Milan, a position Antonio now holds. Antonio usurped Prospero's estate and wealth while Prospero became increasingly "rapt in secret studies" and oblivious to his brother's machinations; and in order to take Prospero's title as well, Antonio arranged to have his brother Prospero and Prospero's daughter Miranda killed secretly. But Prospero is widely known to be a good man, so those charged with his death decide not to kill him, Instead, Prospero and Miranda were set adrift on the open sea in a decayed vessel, and were able to survive off the supplies that the honest councilor Gonzalo arranged for them to have; thus, they landed on the island where they now live.

Discord between human and the supernatural

The discord is seen also between human and the supernatural beings.Prospero’s initial interaction with Ariel and Caliban gives us an impression that they are both little more than slaves to Prospero's wishes, and their relation with him is not harmonious. Prospero has clearly promised Ariel freedom and then denied it, and he treats Caliban as little more than an animal. The audience needs to understand that cruel circumstance and the machinations of men have turned Prospero into a different man than he might otherwise have been. But Prospero's character is more complex than this scene reveals, and the relationship between these characters more intricate also.

Any initial concern that the audience might have because of Caliban's enslavement evaporates at the news that he attempted to rape Miranda. His subsequent behavior will further prove his character, but he can be redeemed, and his redemption is necessary if the play is to succeed. Furthermore, Caliban, who is initially bad and represents the black magic of his mother, serves as a contrast to the goodness of Ferdinand and Miranda. The young lovers are instantly attracted to one another, each one a mirror image of the other's goodness. It is their goodness that facilitates the reconciliation between Prospero and his enemies. In this reconciliation lies Ariel's freedom and Caliban's redemption.

Beginning of harmony

But there is a suggestion of harmony with the entry of Fardinand at the end of Act 1 ,Scene 2.Ariel, playing music and singing, enters and leads in Ferdinand. Prospero tells Miranda to look upon Ferdinand, and Miranda, who has seen no humans in her life other than Prospero and Caliban, immediately falls in love. Ferdinand is similarly smitten and reveals his identity as the prince of Naples. Prospero is pleased that they are so taken with each other but decides that the two must not fall in love too quickly, and so he accuses Ferdinand of merely pretending to be the prince of Naples. When he tells Ferdinand he is going to imprison him, Ferdinand draws his sword, but Prospero charms him so that he cannot move. Miranda attempts to persuade her father to have mercy, but he silences her harshly. This man, he tells her, is a mere Caliban compared to other men. He explains that she simply doesn’t know any better because she has never seen any others. Prospero leads the charmed and helpless Ferdinand to his imprisonment. Secretly, he thanks the invisible Ariel for his help, sends him on another mysterious errand, and promises to free him soon.

Act II: Scene 1

Once again we see the glimpse of disorder and disloayalty.This scene exposes the wicked nature of Prospero's rivals. Antonio is pictured as the most vile amongst the royal party. Once he stole Prospero's dukedom and set him assail to die; now he persuades Sebastian to kill his brother Alonso, the King of Naples, and steal his kingdom. The hunger for power is shown by Shakespeare to be strong and corrupting.

Act II: Scene 2

Caliban drunkenly watches the happy reunion of Stefano and Trinculo and decides that Stefano is a god, dropped from heaven. Caliban swears devotion to this new "god," and the three leave together, amid Caliban's promises to find Stefano the best food on the island.

Act III: Scene 3

Here the major symbol the feast appears. The feast usually symbolizes harmony.
The weary members of the royal party are exhausted, hungry, and tired of searching for the "lost" prince Ferdinand. At Prospero’s command some island spirits on the island prepare a feast for the tired royalty. Ariel then appears in the form of a harpy, a bird- like beast with a woman's face, and sits on the table, making the food disappear. The amazed members of the royal party are stunned. Ariel, still disguised, begins to address the men who once tried to destroy Prospero. He recounts all of the events that led to Prospero's fall, blaming Antonio for conspiring, and Alonso and his brother Sebastian for helping. Alonso is completely awestruck and filled with remorse for his past actions. When he gets up and runs away, Antonio and Sebastian follow him. These two are angry, not repentant.

Final scene

This final scene indicates the extent of Prospero's forgiveness and provides an example of humanity toward one's enemies. Before he confronts his enemies, Prospero tells Ariel that "The rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance" (27–28). That is, it is better to forgive than to hate one's enemies. This is the example that Prospero provides in reuniting everyone in this final scene.

All the major characters, except Prospero and Miranda, find themselves unexpectedly thrown together after adventures and a long journey. Prospero is the contriver and agent of this reunion. In a gesture of reconciliation, Prospero embraces Alonso, who is filled with remorse and immediately gives up Prospero's dukedom. Gonzalo is also embraced in turn, and then Prospero turns to Sebastian and Antonio. Prospero tells them that he will not charge them as traitors, at this time. Antonio is forgiven and required to renounce his claims on Prospero's dukedom.

Those thought dead are discovered to be alive. A lost son is restored to a joyous parent. Those who have committed offenses repent and are forgiven. The one character who does not seem to be penitent is Antonio. A generous Prospero singles him out for pardon, but Antonio gives no reply.

Except for Antonio, the other members of the royal entourage respond to Prospero's forgiveness. Alonso and Gonzalo react most affirmatively, pledging themselves to the restored Duke of Milan. Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo respond with proper humility; they cannot be expected to participate in the general happiness on a higher level since most of their antics were more of a comic nature. Ariel, the long-standing servant to Prospero, is delighted to be set free at last.

Ariel enters with the master of the boat and boatswain. Although the ship lay in harbor and in perfect shape, the puzzled men cannot explain how any of this has occurred.

In the end, Prospero leaves Caliban to his island and to the natural world that he craves. The conclusion is about redemption, the personal redemption that so many of the participants reach. Caliban's regret during this final scene indicates he, too, has found the way to reconciliation.