David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 1

— 3.1 —

Ferdinand was busy doing the task that Prospero had given to him: moving pieces of logs, which would be used for firewood.

He put down the wood he was carrying and said to himself, “I am a nobleman, and noblemen are not supposed to do hard physical labor. Some jobs take effort, but the delight we get from them outweighs the effort. Some kinds of base jobs are nobly undertaken; even the poorest jobs can have rich ends. Although I am a nobleman, my job now is carrying wood. This mean task would be as wearisome to me as it is odious, except that the young woman whom I serve gives life to what is dead and turns my labors into pleasures. Oh, she is ten times gentler in temper than her father is sour in temper — and he is composed of harshness. My job is to move thousands of pieces of logs and pile them up — Prospero has harshly ordered me to do this job. The sweet young woman whom I just met but whom I love weeps when she sees me work, and she says that such a demeaning task was never performed by such a person as I am. But I had better get back to work and stop daydreaming.”

He picked up the wood and said, “These sweet thoughts refresh me as I work. Still, although my thoughts are sweet while I work, they are even sweeter and come to me in greater number when I take a break from work.”

Miranda now walked up to Ferdinand. Behind her was Prospero. He was invisible, and neither Miranda nor Ferdinand knew that he was present.

Miranda said to Ferdinand, “Please, do not work so hard. I wish that the lightning had burned up those pieces of logs that my father ordered you to pile up! Please, set the wood down and rest. When this wood burns, the resin that seeps out will be tears shed in repentance for having wearied you. My father is hard at study; please, rest for a while. He will be busy for the next three hours.”

“Dear young woman,” Ferdinand said, “the Sun will set before I shall finish the job that your father ordered me to do.”

“If you’ll sit down,” Miranda said, “I’ll carry your wood for you for a while. Please, give me that wood. I will carry it to the pile.”

“No, precious lady,” Ferdinand said. “I prefer to crack my sinews and break my back rather than allow you to undergo such dishonor while I lazily sit and watch you.”

Miranda replied, “This work is as appropriate for me as it is for you, and I would do it with much more ease because I want to help you and you would prefer not to do demeaning work.”

Prospero thought, Poor lass, if love is a disease, you have been infected! This visit of yours to Ferdinand shows it.

“You look tired,” Miranda said to Ferdinand.

“No, noble lady. It is fresh morning with me when you are nearby at night. I do ask you — mainly so that I can mention you in my prayers — what is your name?”

“Miranda — oh, my father told me not to tell you my name!”

“Admired Miranda! ‘Miranda’ means ‘to be admired.’ Indeed, you are the top of admiration! You are worth what is most valuable to the world! Very many ladies I have eyed with highest approval, and many a time the harmony of their tongues has brought into bondage my too attentive ear. I have liked several women for their various virtues, but never has any of these women had a perfect soul. Always some defect in her quarreled with the noblest virtue she had and defeated it. But you, Miranda, you are so perfect and so peerless — you are created out of the best qualities of every created being!”

“I have never known a woman, and I can remember no woman’s face except for my own, which I see in the mirror. Nor have I seen any men except for you, good friend, and my dear father. What people elsewhere look like I do not know, but I swear by my modesty and my chastity, which are the best jewels in my dowry, that I do not wish any companion in the world but you, and I cannot even imagine a man, besides yourself, whom I would like. But I prattle too wildly and I forget what my father has ordered me not to say and do.”

“I am a Prince, Miranda,” Ferdinand said. “I think, in fact, that I am now a King although I would prefer my father to still be alive and still be King! Except that I am forced by your father’s magic to endure this slavery of carrying wood, I would tolerate it no more than I would tolerate a fly’s laying its eggs in my mouth the way a flesh-fly lays its eggs on rotten meat. Hear me speak from my soul: The very instant that I saw you, my heart flew to serve you and be your slave. For your sake, I endure patiently this work of carrying wood.”

“Do you love me?” Miranda asked.

“May Heaven and Earth listen to what I say and give me good fortune if I speak truly! If I lie, then invert whatever good should come to me and make it evil! I love, prize, and honor you more than everything else in this world.”

Miranda cried and said, “I am a fool to weep because of what makes me happy.”

Prospero said to himself, “This is a beautiful encounter of two exceptional loves. May the Heavens rain grace on the love that is developing between them!”

“Why are you crying?” Ferdinand asked.

Miranda replied, “I am crying because I am not worthy to give you what I want to give you, and because I am unworthy to take what I am dying to have. But I am speaking in riddles — all the more it seeks to hide itself, the bigger bulk it shows.”

Prospero thought, My daughter’s words have sexual meanings. She has grown up.All the more a penis seeks to hide itself in a vagina, the bigger bulk it shows.

Miranda continued, “Go away, bashful cunning! Let plain and holy innocence give me words and allow me to speak openly! I am your wife, if you will marry me; if you will not marry me, I will die your maiden. You may keep me from being your wife, but I will be your servant, whether or not you want me to be.”

“You may command me, lady, and I kneel humbly before you.”

“You will be my husband, then?” Miranda asked.

“Yes, and with a heart as eager as a slave is to be free. Take my hand.”

They held hands.

“My heart is also as eager to marry you,” Miranda said. “And now farewell until half an hour from now.”

“A thousand thousand farewells!” Ferdinand said.

Ferdinand and Miranda left in different directions.

Prospero said to himself, “I cannot be as glad of this as they are — they were taken by surprise at their falling in love, but I was expecting it. Still, nothing can give me greater pleasure than this. I will go to my magic books, for before suppertime I must perform many things related to this.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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