Question: Examine the relationship between Ferdinand and Miranda in The Tempest. Or, Comment on the love story of Ferdinand and Miranda in The Tempest.
Love is the predominant theme of Shakespearean comedies. The entire atmosphere is surcharged with love and this love dominates in The Tempest. The play’s main plot is a stay of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the love theme is pushed into the background. The love story of Ferdinand and Miranda constitutes only an episode in the play although it is skillfully integrated with the main story.
Purely artificial complexity
There is a difference in the treatment of love in The Tempest because, in the earlier comedies of Shakespeare, the parent opposed the love, as for example, in Midsummer Night’s Dream, but in The Tempest, it is Prospero who contrives for the first meeting between Ferdinand and Miranda with the help of Ariel. It is a part of his plan because Miranda cannot be the Queen of Naples, and the reconciliation with Alonso cannot be complete unless Ferdinand marries Miranda. Prospero inflicts imprisonment and punishment upon Ferdinand so that he can judge Ferdinand to be a true lover. He must create difficulties so that the winning of Miranda may not look easy. And his joy is unlimited when he finds that Ferdinand stands the test so well. Thus, the first meeting between the lovers has been admirable. Ferdinand is fascinated with the music of Ariel and considers it celestial. Therefore, as soon as he sets eyes on Miranda he takes her to be the goddess of the island for whom the music is being played. Miranda, on her own part, has never seen such a handsome creature, and considers him, “a divine thing”:
“I might call him
A thing divine; for nothing natural.
Love saw so noble.”
Ferdinand’s wonder knows no bounds when he hears Miranda speaking his own tongue “a cave of love at first sight”.
The paradigm of mutual love
The poetry and beauty of this love scene have been admired on all bands, though some critics accuse it of lacking spontaneity. Praising the scene Coleridge writes, “O with what exquisite purity this scene is conceived and executed”. Quiller-Couch considers it the most beautiful love-scene in Shakespeare and Mrs. Jameson admires and writes “There is nothing of the kind in poetry equal to the scene between Ferdinand and Miranda”. Those who regard it as unnatural point out that the whole thing is contrived by Prospero, and hence the scene loses its appeal. We cannot attach much importance to the words and deeds of the lovers when we are conscious of the fact that they are the result of magic. However, as Quiller-Couch points out that the result of their first meeting goes far beyond the expectations of Prospero. He did not expect that their love would be so intense and passionate in the very first meeting. It seems that love has taken possession of the heart of the young people, and now they are his devotees irrespective of the charms and contrivances of Prospero. It is the exercise of free will on the part of the lovers.
Love based on passion and compassion
Emotion and empathy are the lifeblood of true love and conjugal happiness. The second love-scene opens with Ferdinand’s moving logs of wood, and Miranda coming to meet him since she supposes that her father is a safe distance for the next two hours, though actually, Prospero watches the scene from behind the stage. Seeing him doing menial work, Miranda’s heart is full of sympathy, and she offers to carry logs for him, so that he may rest for some time. Her words reveal her innocence as well as the depth of her passion. Ferdinand, on the other hand, is a chivalrous gallant who has become a patient “logman” for her sake and even he would break his sinews rather than see her suffer such dishonor. Then follows their frank and deep dialogue of love. Ferdinand confers to make her the Queen of Naples, only if she will consent to marry him. Miranda, too, leaves her maidenly shyness and frankly expresses her love for the prince. She will be his wife if he would marry her. Otherwise, she would be content to die. The poetry and idyllic simplicity of this scene have been widely praised. Praising the scene Dowden writes, “Miranda speaks with the sacred candor from which spring the manners of a world more real and glad than the world of convention and proprieties and pruderies.” Miranda is the representative of a love that grows and develops like a flower in virgin soil. The scene also illustrates the moral: “True love consists in service”.
The paragon of high miracle
There is another exquisite love-scene, too, that of Miranda and Ferdinand playing chess in the cell of Prospero, Beauty, and the poetry of this scene arises from the exchange of words between the two, as they play the game. The words are natural, spontaneous expressions of true love. We forget for the time being the presence of Prospero and are transported to a fairy world. We cannot help echoing Sebastian’s words that it is “A most high miracle”.
Now, therefore, we can say that through the relationship between Miranda and Ferdinand Shakespeare has scattered the message that love and attraction are genetical facts. A father always wishes to have a trusty husband for his daughter and neatly it is Shakespeare’s lifelong struggle that how a human being can be happy in his very short materialistic life.