Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Father? Daughter? Relationship?

In the Shakespeare's play The Tempest the relationship isn't shown as one of much love from the father Prospero. After being trapped on an island for twelve years, he waits until the information is beneficial to himself as well as his daughter Miranda before telling her about her heritage and why they are on the island. He could have told her years before in order to calm her curiosity as to why her father was the only person she's even seen that she remembers. But Prospero waits until by happenstance, his enemy's ship was blown off course near the island that Prospero and Miranda are stuck on.
It is then, in Act one, Scene 2, that Prospero tells Miranda that he was once the Duke of Milan and a Prince of power until his brother Antonio betrayed him and took his position. After their conversation Miranda "falls" asleep when really Prospero put her to sleep with his magic "Will ever after droop. Her cease more questions./ Thou art inclined to sleep. 'Tis a good dullness,/ And give it way. I know thou canst not choose" so that she is out of the way until he needs her. Throughout the play he seems to be thinking about her happiness by wanting her to fall in love with and marry Ferdinand, the son to the King of Naples. But in reality it was his way of using them to get of the island and possibly get his position back "Ay, with a heart as willing/As bondage e'er of freedom. Here's my hand."
Throughout the Play it seems as though all Prospero cares about is getting off the island and not about what will happen to his daughter. Although in the beginning it says, "You have often/Begun to tell me what I am, but stopped/ And left me to a bootless inquisition,/Concluding, "Stay, not yet." Showing that he was waiting for the right time not caring that Miranda was a little lost and confused because it is in a child to know who they are and he wasn't ready to share that information.

As to say the this particular father/daughter relationship isn't one of much love and devotion, unless that devotion is veered towards the use of one's daughter to benefit for yourself. Although in the end they all win Prospero was more focused on himself but in that he wanted love to form between Miranda and Ferdinand would show that he does love his daughter and wants her to be happy but only if things go his way and he can get off the island.
This shows that Prospero's love for his daughter isn't a traditional one. To gain from the use of others seems to be Prospero's "thing", which is what he does to get what he wants, through his own daughter and his magic.
The traditional father/daughter relationship is usually one of love and the daughter being spoiled and the father being OVER protective. Prospero and Miranda don't fit this traditional mold.


  1. Stephany,
    While I agree that there is many instances where the father/daughter relationship features spoiled girl and protective dad, I do not know if this is the typical when it comes to Shakespeare. As far as I can tell, in the plays we've read, there is no typical mold. I know in my play, both daughter's practically despise their fathers (for different reasons and to different extents), but they nonetheless, do not have a high amount of respect for their dads. I can see how "The Tempest" shows Prospero benefiting from the use of his daughter, but do you feel he never truly cared for her? That would be the question that needs answering. Perhaps that was the way he showed affection.
    Father/daughter relationships are trick, and Shakespeare does not provide any true reason for what he puts his characters through. I am trying to think of a play where the father/daughter relationship is "normal"..."Hamlet" perhaps? That is about as close as I can get to it.
    Nice work.

  2. Good post Stephany. It makes me think about the father daughter relationship overall in Shakespeare’s plays and how fathers treated or valued their daughters. Would you agree that Prospero’s feelings for his daughter and how he treated her was pretty much in line with other fathers of the time? Keeping her in the dark and then wanting to marry her off for his benefit seemed to be a common occurrence during those days. As you mentioned, this is not typical, but more in within the context of today rather than back then.

  3. I kind of agree with Kyle...and Steve too. There are many instances where there is the spoiled daughter and the overprotective father, but with Shakespeare it's never that way. However, yours seems to address the way that society viewed daughters--also in a way similar to Romeo and Juliet, as pawns for social advancement and personal gain. Prospero is doing "business" which was the man's job, and this "business" was his personal gain by manipulating his daughter. I wouldn't call this love, personally, but I would consider it what society accepted for a father/daughter relationship, so Shakespeare wrote about it.

  4. Katie, did Shakespeare write about this type of father/daughter relationship because it's a type that society accepted? He must be getting at more than that. If I remember correctly, Caliban tried to rape Miranda fairly early in the play. During the Renaissance, rape was a MAJOR crime because it compromised, as Kyle said, "what belongs to" a father. Would it have been grounds for murder for revenge? Probably. So, why would he keep Caliban around? It's a barter; he doesn't revenge her attempted rape, but he gets to have a slave. The fact that he did might be enough to provoke Shakespeare's audience to question the motives for a father protecting his daughter's virtue. Should a father protect his daughter as property or as a person who he loves?

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