Ferdinand- The Tempest

Personality

Role

  • Religious- he is "at prayers" in Act 1 Scene 1 and believes the shipwreck is due to "devils".
  • Noble, chivalrous- "I'd rather...break my back/Than you should such dishonour undergo."
  • Proud- "I am the best of them that speak this speech [Italian]"
  • Sexist? He asks if Miranda is a virgin before even asking her name, claims women have often tricked him with "th'harmony of their tongues."
  • Loving- Miranda is "So perfect and so peerless"
  • A caring son- at the start he is "weeping again the king my father's wrack," and rejoices to see Alonso in Act 5
  • Like Miranda, Ferdinand serves to unite Milan and Naples and so facilitate Prospero's political aims
  • To provide the sub-plot of the romance, something which would probably have appealed to the upper classes in Shakespeare's audience
  • His supposed drowning provides the "penance" and suffering Alonso must go through in order to be forgiven, if the play is read from a Christian/moralistic point of view
  • Ferdinand is the audience for whom the masque is put on
  • He represents the wonder of the Europeans at the magical new world- "Let me live here ever"
  • Ferdinand may represent the hope of the younger generation who will not repeat the mistakes made by Prospero and Alonso

Development (Growth & change)

Readings of Ferdinand and AO3              

  • Ferdinand claims that Prospero and the island have given him "second life"- is this simply an expression of thanks at surviving the shipwreck, or a hint at deeper personal growth?
  • Ferdinand belives himself the king of Naples and at the start seems quite arrogant for it- "I am the best of them that speak", and his promises to make Miranda "Queen of Naples" (should she be a virgin, that is)
  • Love seems to make Ferdinand more humble- for Miranda's sake "Am I this patient log-man"
  • He is respectful towards Alonso by the end, kneeling at his feet, and to Prospero, his "second father"
  • Ferdinand is probably not as innocent as Miranda in their relationship- unlike her, he has "eyed with best regard" many other women but found flaws in all of them. In Jacobean society, women rarely had a choice in their husband while men could
  • He could be read (especially by feminist critics) as a sexual predator who exploits Miranda's innocence, hence the constant checking whether she is a virgin before he makes a move on her. Lots of the images of their marriage refer to Ferdinand being active in their sexual relationship with Miranda fairly passive- "If thou dost break her virgin knot"
  • Prospero warns Ferdinand several times not to let his sexual desires get out of control before the wedding- many productions have had Ferdinand and Miranda kissing behind Prospero's back in Act 4 Scene 1 or something similar in order to provoke Prospero's warnings to Ferdinand. Is he overly lusty?
  • Most critics of the Tempest conclude that Ferdinand is a "good" character and, while he seems fairly wet and bland, perhaps his dramatic function and what he represents is more important than his actual character

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