Ariel- The Tempest


A02 Quotes+Analysis

  • Ariel is Prospero's servant spirit, who takes neither the role of male or female and is therefore gender fluid.
  • His role is to oversee and manipulate scenes, acting as Prospero's eyes and ears, such as scenes with Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban's conspiracy to usurp Prospero. This helps to further the illusion of his omnipotence.
  • Deals Prospero's justice, through his creation as a harpy, the tempest and his taunts of Ferdinand in full fathom five.
  • Ariel's association with air and water create him as an ethereal spirit, not quite human and emphasise his magical ability. The water, which literally embodies the spirit is a frequent motif and symbol in positive "azured vault" and its negative "set roaring war" throughout the play is used to demonstrate his power and his omniscience, setting him at times above Prospero in terms of power.
  • Ariel is also referred to as a "demi-puppet", whose purpose is to carry out Prospero's bidding. However the demi-puppet metaphor could allude to humanity as a whole, and its role as God's playthings- does free will actually exist? This ties in with Prospero's questions about the transient nature of life, exemplified by "the great globe too will dissolve...this insubstantial pageant faded".
  • "I will be correspondent to command, and do my spiriting gently"- Ariel is beaten into submission by Prospero's verbal and emotional torture, therefore embodies the complicit native, an alter-ego to Caliban.
  • "On their heads no hair perished, on their garments, not a blemish"- The rhyme here emphasises Ariel's taunt at the sailors who thought they were condemned to death, but could also be a jibe at Prospero's lack of power- it is his magic that enacted the tempest, not Prospero's? It also serves to convey the non malignant aspect of his magic- he wants revenge, not to kill, but also highlights their abuse of godly power and Prospero's choice over who lives and dies.
  • "Do you love me master? No?" Portrays Ariel's sycophancy towards Prospero, and seems almost forced in order to get across his gratitude (faked?) for being treated well and more humanely than Caliban.
  • "You are three men of sin...thou mongst men being most unfit to live"- Ariel is used in the form of a harpy, a mythological creature used to '****** evildoers' and take them to the Erinyes, the female deities of vengeance, who punish those who have sworn a false oath. It is interesting that Prospero uses women to deal justice, when throughout he has condemned them. It is also worth considering that Prospero is not dealing his own vengeance, he must use others in order to carry it out. "I and my fellows are ministers of fate" serves to reinforce this idea.
  • "Full fathom five, thy father lies, of his bones are coral made"- Ariel taunts Ferdinand over the death of his father- who is not actually dead in order to emotionally manipulate him into following Prospero and obeying him as a new father.
  • "Ariel, my chick" "my delicate Ariel" sharply contrasted with "Thou liest, malignant thing"- Prospero again using verbal manipulation to keep Ariel under control.
  • "To carry out her earthy and abhorred command"- Establishes Ariel as a truly good character- he would not help Sycorax with her black arts or do evil.

A03 Critical Quotes

A04 Context

  • "Shakespeare has stripped off from Caliban what is ethereal and refined, and compounded them into Ariel"- LINDLEY
  • "Ariel is the swiftness of thought personified, the embodiment of imaginary power"- LINDLEY
  • "Ariel is portrayed by (Rachel Sanderson) as a recalcitrant, other worldly teenager, bowed by parental expectation"- GARDNER, on the Nancy Meckler production. In this production, Ariel, when given freedom revealed a strikingly sexual costume-  a metaphor perhaps for female servitude and entrapment by society.
  • "Ariel's adoption of female costume portrays the feminine compliance that Prospero demands"- SANCHEZ
  • "In earlier times, the embodiment of a female Ariel was too culturally normative to be disturbing"- DYMKOWSKI
  • "Ariel and Caliban can be regarded as representations of Prospero himself, to render visible to struggle within the mind and soul of the hero"- LINDLEY
  • "Ariel's art was characterised by Auden's poem as amoral and unwordly"- LINDLEY
  • "Ariel is the indentured servant, bound to his master before being freed, where Caliban is the perpetual bondslave"- Gurr
  • "An elemental spirit robbed of freedom and tortured by the loss"- COLERIDGE
  • "Ariel is a characteristically Ovidian emphasis on metamorphosis"- BATE
  • "The presence of Ariel or Prospero in each scene focuses attention on their control rather than the development of the story line"- LINDLEY
  • "A disturbing affinity between Ariel and the mythical sirens, whose seductive singing mariners had to resist"- LINDLEY
  • "By the way music is dramatised to manipulate and control, Shakespeare questions its view as God-derived power"- LINDLEY
  • "Ariel challenges Prospero's absolute punitive control and precipitates the rejection of his magic"- LINDLEY
  • Ariel enacts the complicit native, bound to Prospero who freed him from the "knotty entrails" that Sycorax bound him in.
  • He represents an aspect of how colonisers turned natives against one another- complicit versus rebellious, using eachother to tear up the society and establish the white European as ruler. This is seen in the novel "When Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe.
  • Acts as an explicit contrast to Caliban- uses his own authority to punish him although Ariel is by no means the lord of the isle. The quote "for a true judge of character, see how men treat their inferiors, not their equals (Stanhope)"- this reveals therefore Ariel's desire to punish and get revenge for the injustice he suffers by inflicting worse upon Caliban.


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