David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 1

— 4.1 —

Prospero was talking to Ferdinand and Miranda outside his dwelling.

He said to Ferdinand, “If I have too severely treated you, the compensation you will receive makes amends because I have given you here a third of my own life: the person for whom I live. Once again I give her to you. All the vexations I have put you through were only my trials of your love — you have wonderfully passed the tests. Here, before Heaven, I certify this my rich gift. Oh, Ferdinand, do not smile at me when I boast about her and show her off because you shall find that she will outstrip all praise and make it limp behind her.”

“I do believe everything you say,” Ferdinand said, “and I would believe it even if an oracle were to contradict it.”

“Then take my daughter as my gift and as your own acquisition that you have deserved to win, but if you take her virginity before the sanctimonious ceremony of marriage has with full and holy rite been ministered, then Heaven will allow no sweet sprinklings of grace to fall to bless this marriage. Instead, barren hate, sour-eyed disdain, and discord shall bestrew your marriage bed. It will not be covered with flowers but with weeds so loathsome that you both shall hate it. Therefore, take heed. If you two behave properly, the torches of Hyman, god of marriage, that we light on your wedding day will burn clearly and with a good light — a good omen. But if you two do not behave properly, the torches of Hyman, god of marriage, that we light on your wedding day will create lots of smoke — a bad omen.”

Ferdinand replied, “As I hope for quiet days, fine children, and long life, with such love as Miranda and I have between us now, I will not allow the murkiest den, the most opportune place, the strongest temptation to make me take your daughter’s virginity before we are married. All of us have a good nature and a selfish nature. I will not allow the selfish part of my nature to take away the anticipation of that day’s celebration of our marriage when I shall think either that Phoebus’ steeds that draw the Sun-chariot have collapsed through overwork and so the daytime will never end or that Night is kept chained below the Earth’s surface and so our wedding night will never arrive.”

“Well spoken,” Prospero said. “Sit and talk with her; she is your own.”

Prospero then called Ariel to appear before him: “Ariel! My industrious servant, Ariel!”

Ariel appeared and said, “What does my powerful master want? Here I am.”

“You and the lesser spirits performed your last task — the tantalizing banquet — well, and I must use you in such another trick. Go bring the other spirits, over whom I give you power, here. Tell them to be quick because I must show the eyes of this young couple an example of my magical art. I have promised to do so, and they expect it.”

“Immediately?” Ariel asked.

“Yes, in the time it takes to wink.”

Mischievously, Ariel said, “Before you can say ‘come’ and ‘go,’ and breathe twice and cry ‘so, so,’ each one, tripping on his toe, will be here in his place, showing off and making a funny face.”

Ariel paused, then added, “Do you love me, master? No?”

“I love you dearly, my delicate Ariel,” Prospero said, and then he added, “Do not approach until you hear me call.”

“I understand,” Ariel replied and then flew away.

Prospero said to Ferdinand, who was hugging Miranda, “Make sure that you are true to the words you said to me just now. Do not engage in heavy petting. Do not allow your passion to run free. The strongest oaths are straw when the fire in the blood is aroused. Indulge yourself less, or else say goodbye to your vow!”

“I promise you, sir, that the white, cold snow of Miranda’s chastity cools the heat of my heart,” Ferdinand replied. “I have taken your words to heart and will not take your daughter’s virginity until she and I are married.”

“That is good,” Prospero said.

He then said, “Now come, my Ariel! Bring too many spirits with you — that is better than not bringing enough spirits. Appear promptly!”

He said to Ferdinand, “No talking — that will break the spell! Be all eyes and no tongue! Be silent.”

Soft music played, and a spirit appeared who played the role of Iris, goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods and especially messenger of Juno, Queen of the gods.

Iris said, “Ceres, goddess of fertility and agriculture, you most bounteous lady, I have a message for you. Juno, the Queen of the gods, commands you to leave your rich fields of wheat, rye, barley, tares for fodder, oats, and peas; your grassy mountains, where live nibbling sheep, and flat meadows thatched with winter fodder to feed the sheep; your streams with shaped and reinforced banks, which wet and rainy April at your request adorns with flowers, to make cold virginal nymphs chaste crowns; and your thickets of broom bushes, whose shadow the rejected bachelor loves, having lost his girl; your pruned vineyard; and your seashore, sterile and rocky hard, where you yourself do take the air. Juno, whose watery arch — the rainbow — and messenger I am, with her sovereign grace commands you to leave these, and here on this plot of grass, in this very place, to come and play. Juno’s peacocks fly and quickly pull her chariot here. Approach, rich Ceres, so you can entertain Juno.”

Juno’s chariot appeared in the sky.

Ceres arrived, stood by Iris, and said, “Hail, many-colored messenger, who never disobeys Juno, the wife of Jupiter, King of the gods. Iris, you with your saffron wings sprinkle honey-drops and refreshing showers upon my flowers, and with each end of your blue bow you crown my bushy acres and my bare plains, rich scarf to my proud earth. Why has your Queen summoned me here to this short-grassed green land?”

“She wants you to celebrate a contract of true love and freely bestow a gift on the blessed lovers.”

“Tell me if you know, Heavenly rainbow, whether Venus or Cupid, her son, do now attend the Queen? Venus and Cupid plotted to help dusky Dis, god of the underworld, to kidnap and marry Persephone, my daughter, and so I shun their company.”

“Don’t be afraid,” Iris replied. “You will not see them. I met Venus as her chariot cut the clouds as she flew towards Paphos. Her son was with her in her chariot drawn by doves. They had thought to put some wanton charm upon this man and maiden, Ferdinand and Miranda, who have vowed that they will not sleep together until Hymen’s torch has been lit and they have been married. But Venus and Cupid plotted in vain. Mars’ lustful mistress, Venus, has returned again; her spiteful son has broken his arrows. He swears that he will shoot no more arrows but will instead play with sparrows and simply be a boy.”

Juno’s chariot descended, and she walked over to Iris and Ceres.

Ceres said, “The highest Queen of state, great Juno, is coming. I know her by her gait.”

Juno said to Ceres, “How is my bounteous sister? Go with me to bless these two, Ferdinand and Miranda, so that they may be prosperous and have fine children.”

The two goddesses — played by spirits — began to sing to Ferdinand and Miranda.

Juno sang, “Honor, riches, marriage-blessing,

Long continuance of marriage, with children and love increasing,

Hourly joys be always upon you!

Juno sings her blessings upon you.”

Ceres sang, “Earth’s increase, abundance plenty,

Barns and granaries never empty,

Vines and clustering bunches growing,

Plants with goodly burden bowing.

Always you shall have food and wines.

Spring come to you at the farthest

At the very end of harvest

Never a winter in your lives!

Scarcity and want shall shun you.

Ceres’ blessing thus is on you.”

Ferdinand whispered, “This is a very majestic vision, and harmoniously charming.”

He asked Prospero, “Am I right in thinking that these are spirits?”

“Yes,” Prospero said. “They are spirits, whom by my art I have called from their homes to enact this masque.”

Ferdinand said, “Let me live here forever. So rare and wonderful and wonder-working and wise a father-in-law makes this place Paradise.”

Juno and Ceres whispered, and then they sent Iris on an errand.

Prospero said, “Now, silence! Juno and Ceres whispered seriously. Something more is coming. Hush, and be quiet, or else our spell is marred.”

Iris said, “You nymphs, called Naiads, of the winding, wandering brooks, with your crowns woven of water lilies, have ever-harmless and -innocent looks. Leave your small-waved water channels and on this green land answer your summons. Juno commands you to come, chaste nymphs, and help to celebrate a contract of true love; do not be too late.”

Some spirits in the form of water-nymphs entered.

Iris continued, “You sunburnt sicklemen, made weary by August labors, come here from the furrows and be merry. Make holiday. Put on your rye-straw hats and perform a country dance with these pure and innocent nymphs.”

Some spirits dressed like reapers entered and danced gracefully with the nymphs, but Prospero suddenly remembered something.

He thought, I forgot about that foul conspiracy of the beast Caliban and his confederates against my life. The time they appointed to carry out my murder has almost come.

He broke the spell by speaking to the spirits: “Well done! Leave now! No more!”

The spirits reluctantly departed.

Ferdinand said to Miranda, “This is strange. Your father is strongly upset about something.”

“Never until this day,” Miranda replied, “have I seen him so overcome by anger.”

Prospero, noticing Ferdinand looking at him, said, “You do look, my son, distressed and dismayed. Be cheerful, sir. Our revels now are ended. Our actors, as I told you before, were all spirits and have melted into air, into thin air.

“Like the baseless fabric of this vision, the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, and all who live on the Earth, shall dissolve and, like this insubstantial pageant that has faded, leave not a wisp of ourselves behind. We are made of such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is ended with a sleep.

“Sir, I am vexed. Bear with my weakness. My brain is troubled. Be not disturbed by my infirmity. Please retire inside my dwelling and rest there. I will walk for a while to quiet my agitated mind.”

“We wish you peace,” both Ferdinand and Miranda said.

Prospero called Ariel: Come with a thought. I thank you, Ariel, for this masque. Come.

Ariel arrived.

“I know your thoughts,” Ariel said. “What is your pleasure?”

“Spirit, we must prepare to meet Caliban.”

“True, my commander,” Ariel said. “When I played the role of Ceres, I thought to have reminded you of Caliban’s plot, but I was afraid that I would anger you.”

“Tell me again. Where did you leave these varlets?”

“As I told you, sir,” Ariel said, “they were red hot with drinking. They were so full of valor that they smote the air because it was blowing in their faces and they beat the ground because it kissed their feet, and yet they always moved toward their project. Then I beat my drum, at the sound of which, like unbroken colts, they pricked up their ears, raised their eyelids, and lifted up their noses as if they smelled music. I charmed their ears so that like calves they followed my lowing music through thorny briers, sharp furzes, pricking gorse, and thorns, which entered their frail shins. Finally I left them up to their necks in the scum-covered pool in back of your dwelling. The water stinks more than their feet.”

“This was well done, my flying bird,” Prospero said. “Stay invisible for now. Go to my dwelling and find rich clothing and bring it here. I will use it as bait to catch these thieves.”

“I go, I go,” Ariel said as he flew away.

Prospero said to himself, “Caliban is a devil, a born devil, on whose nature nurture can never stick and on whom my pains to educate him, all of which were humanely undertaken, were all lost, quite lost. As his body grows uglier with age, so his mind grows uglier day by day. I will plague them all so much that they will roar with pain.”

Ariel returned, carrying a load of rich clothing.

Prospero said, “Hang the clothing on the branches of this lime tree.”

As they waited, Prospero and Ariel were invisible to others. Soon Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo, all wet and stinking, arrived.

Caliban said, “Please, walk quietly, so that even a blind mole — that has excellent hearing — will not hear a foot fall. We are now near the magician’s dwelling.”

Stephano said, “Monster, your fairy, whom you say is a harmless fairy, has done little better than treat us as knaves. That spirit has played a dirty trick on us.”

Trinculo complained, “Monster, I do stink like horse piss, because of which my nose is greatly offended.”

“My nose is also offended,” Stephano said. “Do you hear me, monster? If I should take a dislike to you, look out —”

“You would be a ruined monster,” Trinculo said.

“My good Lord,” Caliban said to Stephano, “give me your favor still. Be patient, for the prize I will bring you to will make you forget this mishap. Therefore, speak softly. All is still as hushed as midnight.”

“Yes, but we lost our bottle in the pool —” Trinculo complained.

“There is not only disgrace and dishonor in that, monster, but an infinite loss,” Stephano said.

“Losing the bottle of wine hurts me more than this wetting, but yet this is your ‘harmless fairy,’ monster,” Trinculo complained.

“I will find my bottle and carry it away even if I have to be in the water over my ears,” Stephano said.

“Please, my King, be quiet,” Caliban said to Stephano. “Look, this is the mouth of the cave in which the magician dwells. Make no noise, and enter. Do that good evil — a murder — that may make this island forever your own, and make me, your Caliban, forever your foot-licker.”

“Give me your hand,” Stephano said. “I do begin to have bloody thoughts.”

Trinculo saw the rich clothing that was hung on the lime tree and sang this song:

King Stephen was and is a worthy peer.

His breeches cost him but a crown;

He held them sixpence all too dear.

With that he called that tailor a lout.”

Then he added, “Oh, King Stephano! Oh, peer! Oh, worthy Stephano! Look what a wardrobe is here for you!”

Caliban said, “Let the clothing alone, you fool; it is only trash.”

Trinculo replied, “Monster, we know what belongs in a secondhand clothing shop, and it is not this kind of clothing!”

Trinculo put on a cloak and said, “Oh, King Stephano!”

Stephano said, “Take off that cloak, Trinculo; by this hand, I swear that I will have that cloak.”

Fearing Stephano’s hand, Trinculo took off the cloak and handed it to Stephano, saying, “Your grace shall have it.”

Keeping his eyes on the prize, Caliban said, “May dropsy drown this fool named Trinculo! What do you mean to dote thus on such unnecessary baggage? Let it alone and do the murder first. If the magician awakes, from toe to crown he’ll mark our skins with torments and turn us into strange stuff.”

“Shut up, monster,” Stephano said. “Tree, or should I say clothesline, isn’t this my jacket?”

He removed the jacket from the tree and said, “Now is the jacket under the line. Now, jacket, you are likely to lose your fur lining through use and prove to be a bald jacket just like sailors traditionally have all their hair cut off when they for the first time cross the line that is the equator.”

“That’s the way to do it,” Trinculo said. “We steal by a plumb line and a carpenter’s level. We steal properly and according to the rules, as I hope that your grace will agree.”

“I thank you for that jest,” Stephano said. “Here’s a garment for it. Wit shall not go unrewarded while I am King of this country. ‘Steal by line and level’ is an excellent sally of wit; there’s another garment for it.”

Trinculo said, “Monster, come, put some sticky lime upon your fingers so that you have the sticky fingers of a thief, and carry away the rest of the clothing.”

“I want nothing to do with that clothing,” Caliban said. “We shall lose our opportunity to kill the magician, and we shall all be turned into barnacles or into apes with villainously low foreheads.”

People in this culture believed that barnacles were a kind of geese that began life as shellfish.

Stephano ordered, “Monster, get to working with your fingers. Help to bear this clothing away to where my barrel of wine is, or I’ll fire you and turn you out of my kingdom.”

He handed Caliban a garment and said, “Come on, carry this.”

Trinculo added another garment and said, “And carry this.”

Stephano added a third garment and said, “And this.”

A noise of hunters sounded. Several spirits in the form of hunting hounds chased after Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo.

Prospero and Ariel encouraged the dogs to chase the thieves.

“Hey, Mountain, hey!” Prospero shouted.

Ariel shouted, “Silver! There it goes, Silver!”

“Fury, Fury! There, Tyrant, there! Listen! Hark!” Prospero shouted.

As Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo ran away, Prospero said, “Go order my goblins to make sure the thieves’ joints convulse painfully. Tell my goblins to make the thieves’ sinews grow shorter with the cramps of old people, and torment the thieves and cause bruises until they are more spotted than a panther or mountain cat.”

“Listen to them roar with fright!” Ariel said.

“Let them be hunted soundly,” Prospero said. “Now, all my enemies are at my mercy. My labors shall end shortly, and you, Ariel, shall freely fly in the air. For just a little while longer, serve me and obey my commands.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved




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