Good vs. Evil = A Mixture of Both

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From Stephen J. Miko’s “Tempest”:

1. “Yet the point does not seem to be to mock evil or reduce it by parody, but to show us, as many have noticed, that it’s always there, fully preventable only in a magical world, where it may become the occasion for jokes.  What is more directly mocked is stupidity and narrow egotism, the traditional targets of comedy, yet unlike what happens in most comedy, the mockery does not convincingly triumph; the magical garden continues to harbor real snakes” (378). 

2. “The basic point, as I take it anyhow, is that good and evil are built into most of us (perhaps all—I’m holding out Miranda), and most of us are capable of being better—especially of being taught to be better” (381). 

I selected two quotes this time around; however, I think they are both related to each other and provide us with a better understanding of this article.  I really liked Miko’s article.  I liked it more than Wright’s (even if Wright’s was better than McDonald’s).  McDonald’s as I commented earlier simply said that there was ambiguity in The Tempest.  My response being, well so what?  Everything has some degree of ambiguity to it.  Wright’s article went a step farther.  While she again pointed out the ambiguity, she addressed why we should bother to find this ambiguity.  Miko takes things yet one step farther, he gives us a proposed reason for all this ambivalence.  While I realize contradictions are uncertainties are part of poststructuralism, it still seems to me to be the easy way out simply to point out the ambiguity of everything and then simply stop.  Miko takes the extra step. 

There are two main ideas (at least I think there are two main ideas) running through Miko’s article.  First, there is the whole idea that Shakespeare’s non-ending of the story and Prospero’s power parallel Shakespeare’s own limitedness because of the mutability of language.  And the second idea (and the one my quotes are about) is the deconstruction of good versus evil.

I found it rather interesting that good versus evil became his topic of deconstruction considering last week this is the idea which Erica and I played with on her blog entry.  After all, good and evil are not neatly defined terms.  How many mistakes can a person make before they receive the appellation of evil?  What if someone does bad things in order to reach a good end?  What Miko points out is that evil will always exist and the people who deserve to be mocked the most are those who through “narrow egotism” are unable to perceive this perpetual existence of evil.  Miko’s reference to the “garden” reminds us that as humans we are essentially sinful. 

The second quote I chose interested me because, like de Man did in his essay, Miko tries to draw us more intimately into his essay by relating it to us personally.  Miko does not say that good and evil are built into the characters of The Tempest, but that, “good and evil are built into most of us.”  Miko warns us not to take part in this “narrow egotism” ourselves.  Who are we to decide we are better than the characters in The Tempest?  We are all human and as such we live in a field of ambiguity and contradictory parts.

Read more about “Tempest.” 

2 Comments

Angela Palumbo said:

It's so interesting how Miko took such a seemingly simple topic like "good and evil" and really showed the reader how complex these two things can be. Greta, this is a very good entry. This whole conversation reminds me of the psychological/ethical debate that rages on. The debate goes something like this:

A man's wife is dying. However, her illness is very curable with a certain medicine that his insurance company won't pay for. He knows that he could rob a bank and get enough money to save his wife. What should he do?

In a situation like this, the lines between right and wrong/ good and evil are so blurred that people don't know which is the right choice. Should the man break his vow to care for his wife "in sickness and in health" in order to ensure he doesn't break a law? What is lawful?

I like how you pose the question of what makes something or someone good or evil. It seems to me these are relative terms. Angela coems up with an excellent point about the husband trying to save his dying wife. I also liked Miko's essay. I also wrote in my blog how perhaps Caliban, who is viewed, for the most part, as evil could be the one who is the most deserving of justice. Perhaps Prospero is the evil character.

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