Happily Ever After…or Not

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As most of Shakespeare’s comedies, the end of The Tempest is supposed to be a happy one.  Everyone marries who they’re supposed to, everything comes together.  The good live happily ever after and the bad get what they deserve.  Or so it’s meant to be…


However, I am not entirely sure that The Tempest’s ending could truly be considered a happy ending.  I would not say that I am even convinced Shakespeare wanted it to be one.  The most obvious thing to me at the end of the play is Miranda’s impending loss of innocence, which to me is nothing to celebrate. 


At the beginning of the play, Prospero verbalizes his disgust of his brother’s betrayal by saying, “Mark his condition and th’event.  Then tell me/ If this might be a brother” (I, ii, 118).  His statement is more of a rhetorical loathing than anything else.  However, Miranda, in her innocence takes it as a real question and responds, “I should sin/To think but nobly of my grandmother./Good wombs have borne bad sons” (I, ii, 119-20).  She takes his comment literally.  It is unlikely that Prospero was actually insinuating that Antonio was not his brother, but Miranda cannot tell the difference.


However, towards the end of the play, we see a distinct path towards the corruption of her innocence.  When Prospero reveals to Alonso and the others that Ferdinand is in fact still alive, Ferdinand and Miranda are playing chess together.  Their dialogue over their game is the following:


Miranda: Sweet lord, you play me false!

Ferdinand: No, my dearest love,

                I would not for the world.

Miranda: Yes, for a score of kingdoms you should wrangle,

                And I would call it fair play” (V, i, 171-4).


Miranda sees that Ferdinand cheats and instead of being completely shocked and chastising him for his behavior, she admits that no matter what actions he takes, she will turn her eyes away and pretend that he is fair.  She has been with him for only a short period of time and already his outside influence affects her values. 


Shortly after this conversation, upon seeing Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, and Gonzalo for the first time Miranda exclaims, “O brave new world/That has such people in ‘t!” (V, i, 183).  However, the people that she views (besides Gonzalo) have all participated in or intended to participate in corrupt schemes.  Alonso sent Prospero and baby Miranda off in a tub, Antonio took over Prospero’s dukedom, and Sebastian intended to kill Alonso for his crown.  Yet, when Miranda sees them she sees them as great people.  Granted she is still innocent to some degree and may not realize what they have done.  But combine this cry of wondering amazement with her comment on condoning Ferdinand’s actions and we can see that once Miranda leaves this secluded island of morality, her innocence will not stay long intact.    

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