The Tempest-Natural World Essay, Research Paper
In The Tempest how is human understanding of, and relationship with the natural world presented?
In The Tempest, the natural world is presented in a variety of ways through different characters. Prospero has the ability to control nature through his education and the use of Ariel and the teachings of Caliban. Caliban himself represents nature as he is seen by many to be a product of nature. It is fair to view him as being a native on the island as it all he grown to know. Miranda, Prospero s daughter is a product of his renaissance education. He is able to control her through his patriarchal status. In the opening scene we see that nature has the ability to override hierarchy. All of the Europeans have different initial perspectives towards nature however towards the end of the play, they all seem to change. Gonzalo is the only European with a different perspective on nature. His ideal world is eutopic. In The Tempest, the island is enchanted and is set to look normal, untouched and uninhabited, however it is a new world, that is of the supernatural bodies and acts.
Almost immediately, during the opening scene of the play, the natural world is presented to be more powerful and dominative over human civilization. As Prospero controls nature, in this case it is the storm (the tempest), it tends to override class and hierarchy as the Boatswain, who represents a lower class citizen, cares not about status of himself and the king or those present on board. He soon becomes the one with the power most capable to deal with the storm. You mar our labour. Keep your cabins you do assist the storm When the sea is. Hence! What cares these roarers for the name of the king?
Prospero represents the European colonist. Prospero controls nature through magic, and in this ability he is able to control everyone on the island. He has power over the spirit Ariel who represents the elements of nature (earth, wind, fire, water) and by using her, gives himself the power to conduct marvellous acts with nature. An example of this would be the tempest itself, both masques and setting out of the survivors on the island. Prospero is seen as a stage director. He stages his set in order to plan a marriage and a reunion. He is manipulating nature to construct a harmonious ending. Ariel, the spirit of nature is the character that prompts change in Prospero s nature. Prospero is transformed from having vengeance, to forgiveness towards his brothers and enemies. At the end of the play Prospero relinquishes his control of nature to return to the world of politics, the complete opposite world to that of nature. Ironically this is the most natural act for Prospero.
Caliban in a way represents the indigenous person of the island. He may be perceived as being a product of nature. Caliban is a preacher of the earth. Many times throughout the play he is said to be half-fish, half-monster and to have a strong horrid odour. He is also seen as being sub-human as he was a product of failed nurture. It was Prospero who tried to civilize him however Caliban retained his mother s immorality by attempting to rape Miranda. In a way this act was justified as Caliban s intentions were to populate his island with more of himself. This act was conducted so that he could fulfil his natural urges. One thing to note is that although this act may be justified when referring to Caliban as an animal or product of nature, Prospero educated him so he should have seen the immoral value in it from a European point of view. In Australia, ever since the discovery of the aborigines, the Europeans have tried countless times to civilize them, in particular with the stolen generation. It all ended with disastrous effects like that towards Caliban and Prospero. Caliban does have his poetic and civilized side to him that shows he is capable of human understanding and moral values as well as proving the statement that he is sub-human. It is the speech below that shows that the island is delightful as well as painful. Caliban shows an appreciation towards the sensual, ecstasy of the island. We see different view to the Caliban, than that portrayed in the play constantly cursing others, as it shows a sense of humanity in his perceptions. This shows how nature is able to open and show the true nature of the person.
Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,
That if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I walked
I cried to dream again
In this scene Caliban claims that not every spirit is a punitive one. Caliban states that in his enchanted dreams he dreams of freedom. We now see the humanity in the beast as opposed to the beast in humanity. As Gonzalo would see it, we could learn from Caliban, as Prospero does about the secrets of the island. However it is Caliban that feels he has been cheated from what is rightfully his, that being his island. He seems to be the native turned slave, as was seen many times with reference to the aborigines in Australia.
Gonzalo has a eutopic vision of the way that people should live i.e. in harmony with nature. His beliefs and sentiments are influenced by a French essayist named Montaigne who wrote essays based on what we could learn from natives. He claimed that if we allow ourselves to be taught rather than exploit and use natives for personal gain we could find many faults with our society and possibly learn to work towards a more perfect, ideal environment. Gonzalo has a utopian vision of the ideal commonwealth. Utopia refers to a place that is not real and does not exist in our world. It is a place in the imagination. In this passage he speaks about his ideal world. His perceptions of nature and the natural world are much different to the other Europeans who bag him out for what he believes in. This is his initial perception of nature, it seems that he appreciates the island and prefers it to Europe.
I th commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things, for no kind of traffic
Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known: riches, poverty,
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
No occupation, all men idle, all,
And women too, but innocent and pure;
Trinculo makes some very interesting observation when pondering about Caliban. He notes the moral hypocrisy back in England. His initial reaction to nature, in this case Caliban, is to make money out of him by turning him into a freak show. Shakespeare staged this scene in a way that it shows the immoralities of the Europeans.
There would this monster
Make a man any strange beast there makes a man.
When they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar,
They will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.
The audience is invited to look at nature and its relation with the European world that seems to be corrupt and unjust when compared with the natural world. It is nature that tends to bring out the true person in each European and their unnatural plans and works. This is showed with the death threat of Alonso as it shows the unnatural act of killing a brother for reasons of greed presented by Antonio and Sebastian. Another act appears in the history of Prospero and Antonio with another attempted killing that did not go according to plan. Again this is another unnatural act as it is brother against brother. If nature can be compared as being pure and heavenly then it is the Europeans, who claimed to be civilized for the better, that are tainted and may represent evil.
The Europeans initial perceptions of nature are euro-centric and are based on their culture and their societies perceptions. The Europeans have been transformed after their experience in the wild and their dealing with supernatural effects. Alonso has changed for the better and asks for forgiveness from Prospero for the difficulties that he faced in the past. Sebastian and Antonio may not have changed much but they are now well aware of Prospero and his abilities. They began to loose their minds and were psychologically starting to fragment because of the guilt placed on them by Ariel in the first masque. Their understanding of nature is low as they are exhausted from being in the wild. They are poor survivors.
Each masque is symbolic of the relationship and understanding of nature. The first masque is a particularly important scene as it deals with Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio. It is presented in a way that it brings out, and is symbolic to, the greed, lust of power and evil urges of these three sinners. Ariel presents a banquet of food that is needed by the Europeans to satisfy their hunger. It is nature that brings out the truth in a person whether that is unnatural (Sebastian and Antonio), or natural (Gonzalo). When Ariel appears as a harpy and mentions the name of Prospero all fear for their lives and are filled with guilt. When Ariel leaves, along with the banquet, Gonzalo notices that the spirit, which represents nature, tended to behave in a more ideal fashion than most of the humans who live in the civilised society. This echoes the voice of Montaigne. Gonzalo believes the spirit acted in a more superior manner to those of Europe.
For certes these are people of the island
Who though they are of monstrous shape, yet note
Their manners are more gentle-kind than of
Our human generation you shall find
Many, nay almost any
The second masque is a play within a play and Prospero is the stage director. This is an example of nature blessing and inspiring people. In this case it is Ferdinand and Miranda. The moment each meet, Ferdinand believes that Miranda is something supernatural, as does Miranda to Ferdinand as she has never seen another human other than Caliban and her father. The irony is that they are both natural and possibly the purest in the play .The second masque scene shows a deep relationship with nature as Prospero conjures up spirits that represents a major form of nature. He is able to show lush images of nature and its plenitude. Nature is captured in its ideal form and is represented as art in a theatrical masque.
The Tempest presents nature in many forms. Some forms are pure such as the beliefs of Gonzalo and his eutopic visions, and others are unnatural, that being the acts of evil from one brother towards another. Prospero has the greatest understanding of nature through his education, magic and help from Ariel and Caliban. With this he is able to control everyone on the island. Caliban is a representative of nature and Ariel is a spirit of the elements of nature. Both give Prospero the knowledge to relate to nature and use supernatural powers to conduct things such as the tempest. The Europeans all have euro-centric views of nature that may be based on their societies perceptions. However it seems that the uncivilized have greater ability to survive in the wild and relate better to nature, so why did Prospero attempt to civilize Caliban? Gonzalo believes that we can learn from the natives in order to build a better society. Nature is presented in the form of masques that s shows the beauty as well as the evil of nature. Towards the end of the play we see that it is nature that brings out the true nature of humans and has the ability to transform them into better people.