Important Quotations for Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'


''You taught me language, and my profit on't I know how to curse. The red plague rid you For learning me your language!''

This speech, deliverd by Caliban to Prospero and Miranda makes clear in a very concise from the vexed relationship between the colonised and the coloniser that lies at the heart of this play. The son of a witch, perhaps half-man and half-monster, his name a near anagram of 'cannibal', Caliban is an archetypal 'savage' figure in a play that is much concerned with colonisation and the controlling of wild environments. Caliban and Prospero have different narratives to explain their current relationship. Caliban sees Prospero as purely oppressive while Prospero claims that he has cared for and educated Caliban or did until Caliban tried to **** Miranda. Prospero's narrative is one in which Caliban remains ungrateful for the help and civilisation he has received from the Milanese Duke. Language, for Prospero and Miranda, is a means of knowing oneself, and Caliban has in their view shown nothing but scorn for this precious gift. Self-knowledge for Caliban, however, is not empowering. It is only a constant reminder of how he is different from Miranda and Prospero and how he is different from Miranda and Prospero and how they have changed him from what he was. Caliban's only hope for an identity separate from those who have invaded his home is to use what they have given him against them.

''There be some sports are painful and their Labour Delight in them sets off. Some kinds of baseness Are nobly undergone, and most poor matters Point to rich ends. This my mean task Would be as heavy to me odious, but The mistress which I serve quickens what's dead And makes my labour's pleasures.''

Ferdinand speaks these words to Miranda, as he expresses his willingness to perform the task Prospero has set him to, for her sake. The Tempest is very much about compromise and balance. Prospero must spend twelve years on an Island in order to regain his dukedom; Alonso must seem to lose his son in order to be forgiven for his treachery; Areil must serve Prospero in order to be set free; and Ferdinand must suffer Prospero's feigned wrath in order to reap true hoy from his love for Miranda. This latter compromise is the subject of this passage from Act III, scene i, and we see the desire for balance expressed in the structure of Ferdinand's speech. This desire is built upon a series of antitheses-related but opposing ideas: ''Sports... painful'' is followed by ''Labour... delights'';'' baseness'' can be undergone ''nobly''; ''poor matters'' lead to ''rich ends''; Miranda ''quickens'' (makes alive) what is ''dead'' in Ferdinand. Perhaps more than any other character in the play, Ferdinand is resigned to allow fate to take its course, always believing that the good will balance the bad in the end. His waiting for Miranda mirrors Prospero's waiting for reconciliation with his enemies, and it is probably Ferdinand's balanced outlook…


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