March 1, 2005

Poor Miranda

It is always amazing that there are so many different interpretations of just one play. After awhile you would think that everyone would have run out of ideas on The Tempest and just leave it be. But nooo.

“The Miranda Trap” by Lorie Jerrell Leininger takes a look at the sexism in The Tempest. As I’ve noticed in another article I read for my research paper, Prospero is extremely controlling to his acquaintances, especially Miranda (and Ariel and Caliban, but this is not important here). As Leininger noted in her essay, “Hers is not to reason why, hers but to follow directions”. Miranda is not supposed to object to her father or questions his intentions- she is merely to go along with whatever he says, as demurely and virginally as he expects. Prospero even goes so far as to call Miranda a “foot”, a part of the body that does not contradict the head but strictly does what it says.

Leininger also notes that Miranda’s real purpose to Prospero is to just to be his virginal little daughter and nothing more. “Miranda is deprived of any possibility of human freedom, growth or thought. She need only be chaste- to exist as a walking emblem of chastity”. Yet is that all Miranda is really good for in the play? To be chaste? If this is the case, why have a Miranda character at all. Perhaps to show the cold personality of Prospero. By limiting Miranda’s input and seeing her only as a chaste innocent thing the reader learns that Prospero is not some wonderful being but is just a controlling parent. It takes away from his “mystique” and makes Prospero more like the rest of the characters- both good and evil.

This feminist view of The Tempest also questions whether Shakespeare was in fact sexist. Does he dislike women and therefore creates them only to be mere virginal characters like Miranda? We’ve debated this in class and (to me) the answer is a resounding “no”. Looking at other Shakespeare plays one can see a strong female influence, although it might not always be the best. I don’t think Miranda was written in her innocent way because of Shakespeare’s sexism but instead to show Prospero’s real character.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at March 1, 2005 8:47 PM | TrackBack

Well, I know it has been two years since this post, but I thought I would comment it.

Yes it is true that conventional interpretation of texts will remain, but it is inevitable that social change alter the mindsite through which a play is construed. In this instance, the rise of feminism in the past three decades has seen The Tempest more of a contradiction of the virtuous nature of Miranda (her name, from Latin origins, means 'to be looked at', 'wonder' etc.) Moreover, the male characters in the play see her as an object to be exploited (in different ways for different characters).
This objectification of women is paralleled in what Lorie Jerrell Leininger outlines of Miranda's repression.

anyhow, I think that's enough haha. I'm currently studying this play in my final year of high school. It is truly intriguing to see the different perceptions of characters amongst my fellow students (especially Prospero and Caliban)

Posted by: Makoto at July 22, 2007 8:52 AM
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