Stranger Than Fiction: A Rich & Stranger Than Fiction Reading

Returning to literature, I was thinking about studying The Tempest in grade 12. I remembered that many of the questions on quizzes were rather unoriginal, and thought it could be fun to revisit some of them with the AHT. Instead of writing too much about any one topic, I chose to answer in straightforward manner questions which i found on a site for grade 12 English teachers.

Question 1: What is the nature of Prospero’s relationship with Miranda?

Card: 8 of Knives The Paradine Case

8 knives paradine case.jpg

Answer: Prospero really has no clue who Miranda is as a person. Similar to the way the lawyer Keane feels for Mrs. Paradine, Prospero’s love for Miranda blinds him to reality. Further, his fixation with his abilities and what he believes is the truth is a weakness; it may cause him to ruin himself again as it did leading up to his exile. But whether he screws up again or not, Miranda will be there for him, the same way Keane’s wife Gay remained there for him. Charles Laughton’s character, the horrible Judge Horfield, who acts lecherously with Gay, reflects Caliban’s ugliness and lechery with Miranda. Prospero and Miranda are further illustrated in the father-daughter relationship of the tertiary characters in The Paradine Case, Sir Flaquer – a stuffy, archly-conservative solicitor – and his daughter Judy – a bright, open-minded young woman.

Question 2: Why did Prospero stage the pageant for Miranda and Ferdinand?

Card: 7 of Cups Vertigo

7 cups vertigo.jpg

Answer: It had numerous reasons. One was to entrance the young lovers with spectacle and fantasy, to show that they are living in something of a fantasy world. Prospero is at pains to show how love is not all flowers and magic, but rather hard work, loyalty, dedication, and sometimes heartache. Further, The Tempest was likely performed for a wedding – in fact, it may itself have been a wedding gift – so the pageantry would be part of the real-life wedding ceremony’s pageantry. In this way, Prospero is giving his blessing. Prospero is also, of course, in a veiled way, admonishing the young lovers to not be deceived by appearances, suggesting that their love-at-first-sight is illusory. Prospero is impelling them to look deeper, at the real person beneath the masque.

Question 3: Why does Caliban hate the way he’s treated by Prospero in The Tempest?

Card: 6 of Clubs Saboteur

6 club sab 2.jpg

Answer: As with the saboteur Fry in Saboteur, Caliban was angry and spiteful. As with the Nazis in Saboteur, Caliban believed he was the rightful ruler of the island. Prospero’s liberty infringes on Caliban’s true nature, just as the average person’s liberty infringes on a Fifth Columnist’s nature and vice-versa. But most significantly, this film/card speaks of the danger that lurks within. This suggests that Prospero, in his exile and righteous indignation, harbors impurities and malice. As Prospero himself says of Caliban, “This thing of darkness I acknowledge as mine.” This has deeper, confessional undertones, since Prospero is something of an avatar of the author Shakespeare.

Question 4: Who is Ariel?

Card: The Sun 19 North By Northwest

sun 19 nbnw.jpg

Answer: Ariel does not really exist; Prospero merely inhabits him. Or, depending on your perspective, Ariel inhabits Prospero, just as Roger Thornhill inhabited George Kaplan and vice-versa. This is to say that Ariel is an invention, a fiction – more to the point: he is fiction. Prospero released Ariel from being trapped in wood, becoming the manifestation of Prospero’s will. Prospero, it will be remembered, is a stand-in for Will Shakespeare, hence Ariel is Shakespeare’s muse, his fiction, his invention. North By Northwest‘s Roger (whose name means “Spear of Fame”) is an ad man who doesn’t come alive until he becomes George Kaplan. As suggested above, Ariel – like Caliban – is an aspect of Prospero himself, an aspect Prospero is presumably proud of. It could even be said that Ariel and Caliban are akin to being Prospero’s sons (suns). The idea that Prospero represents Shakespeare is corroborated by the allusions in North By Northwest to Hamlet, the reason being that Hamlet himself is quite unquestionably a self-portrait of the author. North By Northwest was self-consciously written to be “the Hitchcock film to end all Hitchcock films”; Hitchcock and co-writer Lehman filled it with every Hitchcock trope they could. At the end of The Tempest, Prospero drowns his book, frees Ariel, and returns to reality.

In short: Within The Tempest, Ariel is Prospero’s thaumaturgic agency; in metaphorical terms, Ariel is Shakespeare’s art, and Shakespeare’s art is capable of discovering love, facing the onerousness of the past with humor, defeating evil, and becoming someone else – or, in other words, Shakespeare’s art is capable of performing magic.

Published by Chas Tringham

Chas Tringham wasn't so much born on February 26 1969, as he was raised in absentia. He is the son of J.J. Bieber and a discounted sack of millet. Chas' mother was 17 years old when she became 18. His parents would never marry, or merry, Queen of Scots, but maintained a close call and the common cold regarding their son's personal acne and professional malfeasance. Growing up, Chas taught those closest to him to resent the trumpet. On or about September 9/11, Chas' step-uncle's memoir, the eminently readable "Chaps", was publicly ignored. The book tells of his/her early dinners and reads it a story before bedtime. Looking back, Chas maintained contacts with his optometrist, who later married two women and an unemployed bird enthusiast. Interested in honkies, soccer, and ice-chests, Chas keeps his aspirations in a sweat sock.

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