Free Essay: The Intersection of Marriage and Politics in Shakespeare's The Tempest

Published: 2022-05-03
Free Essay: The Intersection of Marriage and Politics in Shakespeare's The Tempest
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Politics Shakespeare
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1915 words
16 min read

The Tempest, by Shakespeare predominantly delves into the relationship between marriage and politics. In the play, Shakespeare depicts courtship and marriage in royal families of the Sixteenth and Seventieth Centuries and demonstrates how it greatly influenced the politics of the time. The drama reveals the how kings and princes of the day used marriage as a weapon for controlling power and achieving selfish goals. Sir Walter while writing to Prince Henry in 1612 regarding marriage comments: 'There is a noble and royal and deceiving in marriages between kings and princes" (Craig 132). From this, it is right to conclude that the society did not view marriage as based on love but rather for political exchange and benefits.

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While the play is full of mystical phenomena, it is palpable that the central theme discusses how marriage can influence politics. Prospero, who acts by Machiavellian philosophy in politics after being betrayed by his brother Antonio, twelve years earlier greatly brings out politics through his character. A critical observation of the play reveals that marriage cannot be regarded as a primary theme but employed by Shakespeare to demonstrate how politics can be influenced by several factors, marriage being one of them. Nonetheless, the union between Ferdinand and Miranda in the play profoundly portrays the complexly intertwined relationship between politics and marriage. The other union in the drama is the forced political marriage between Claribel and the king of Tunis, which also enables us to relate the intersection between marriage and politics of the era.

Arguably, Shakespeare, in this play does not mostly present marriage in the usual spectacular open way but instead paints in an odd awkward way. In the play, marriage doesn't quite happen on stage; rather it is portrayed as just about to happen but never happens. Indeed, the representation of marriage in this Shakespeare's plays can be compared to the depiction of war in Neoclassical and Classical tragedies. An insinuation of a marriage scene is present in the play with no concrete performance. (Robert 43). The real reasoning behind Shakespeare's intention for this is unknown but it can be argued that he thought of marriage as being a sacred and powerful right of passage based on love rather than just a ceremony as perceived in today's world. In the play, the intersection between marriage is politics is seamlessly depicted through the political marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda. We are not told of a concrete union between the two couples as Prospero asks Ferdinand to wait until the wedding is formalized so that he can break Miranda's virginity. The play suggests that the union between the two lovebirds is ultimate as Ariel is requested by Prospero to beckon spirits in the shape of mythological symbols to celebrate their engagement by carrying out a masque.

It is evident from the play that Prospero supports the royal marriage between Miranda and Ferdinand when he bestows a masque to the couple as a show of his blessings in their marriage. Stating the objective of his action to Ariel, he says, "I must Bestow upon the eyes of this young couple Some vanity of mine art" (4.1.3840). Scrutinizing the words in this statement, we conclude that the masque symbolized the glorification of the marriage between the couple that was just about to happen. Additionally, Prospero might be apologizing for the suffering he had caused the couples particularly Ferdinand by presenting the masque to them. (Robert 47).

The presentation of intersection between marriage and politics in The Tempest primarily revolves around various female character notably Miranda. She is depicted as the only female character on the island, and one can argue that her primary role in the play is to marry Ferdinand in accordance to Prospero's political plan to regain the Dukedom of Milan. Miranda's union to Ferdinand solves the political differences between Alonso, the king of Naples and a father to Ferdinand and Miranda's father Prospero which emanated twelve years earlier through a betrayal carried out by Prospero's brother, Antonio in accordance to the agreement between Antonio and Alonso. Miranda's virginity is portrayed as her most valued possession as virginity was highly valued in marriage. This is evident when Ferdinand inquiries about her virginity when he meets him at first," if you be maid or no?" (1.2,431). Virginity held the key to a woman's feature as it was highly treasured as illustrated in the play by Miranda who is inhospitably treated by his father Prospero, with the aim of keeping her innocent. Miranda would only become the "Queen of Naples" only if she were a virgin as stated by Ferdinand to Miranda and Prospero. That further shows the value of virginity in a woman life. (Blystone 6). As the play ends, the union between Miranda and Ferdinand occurs leading to the peaceful resolution of political misunderstandings between the king of Naples, Alonso, and Prospero, the incoming Duke of Milan courtesy of the marriage. (Stephen 55 In conclusion, a relationship between marriage and politics is certain and evident in the play as the union between Ferdinand and Miranda is used as an avenue to reconcile the political differences between Alonso and Prospero that emitted twelve years earlier as discussed above.

Moreover, it is evident in the play that marriage and politics intersect in the sense that political stability essentially depends on marriage. Marriage problems among the royal are equated with political instability (Pierce 43). This is depicted through the absence of Prospero's wife in the Island. Prospero is described as politically unstable due to the absence of his wife. While we are not told the reason for Prospero's wife absence, the play portrays Prospero as a loving husband who loved and adored her wife. He describes her as noble and virtuous. He would say, "Thy mother was a piece of virtue." Due to the political instability created by her absence, Prospero is prompted to search for a replacement to fill the empty political space and create a political kingdom; perhaps not through him but rather via Miranda in the younger generation (Orgel 55). He achieves this by using his magical powers to create a storm and wreck the ship in which the royalties, i.e., Alonso and his son Ferdinand were traveling from Tunis to Italy where they had gone to marry off Claribel, Alonso's daughter to the king of Tunis. Fortunately, Ferdinand survives the storm, and falls in love with Miranda and later marries her by Prospero's plan. Through this marriage, Prospero characterized by betrayal, loss of his Milan's Dukedom, personal strife, exile, and usurpation finds solace and rejuvenation. He gains the strength to prevent his usurpers, reclaims the Dukedom of Milan and foils his brother Antonio succession to the throne. Also, the marriage leads to a political reconciliation between Alonso and Prospero restoring political stability between Milan and Naples.

The connection between marriage and politics is also evident through Prospero who uses Miranda as a political pawn in his plan to regain the Dukedom of Milan after he was betrayed twelve years earlier by his brother Antonio. Prospero's political plans to regain his space in Milan involve giving away Miranda in marriage to the royalties. Miranda would then have a daughter who would one day be exchanged for a position in a political territory or kingdom. Miranda is innocent about her father's plan, and her logic in the sense of "a brave new world" (V.1, 186) portrays her ignorance of the incoming roles of being the Queen of Naples and later perhaps the mother to a princess. (Willis & Deborah 277-289).

At first, Prospero pretends to appear autocratic in his treatment of Ferdinand but later realizes that Ferdinand and Miranda will value each other more if there are fewer impediments to their courtship in accomplishing his plans. In Act III, Scene 1 Prospero unseen, listens to Ferdinand acknowledgment of loving Miranda who weeps, telling him that she is unworthy but will marry him if he wants it. With that, Prospero immediately changes his view on the couples' natural match and love for each other referring to them as "two most rare affections"(IV.1 75). Additionally, Prospero uses Miranda's sexuality to entice Ferdinand to marry her, with the aim of accomplishing his political plan. He emphasizes that just like her mother who was a perfect illustration of purity and nobility, Miranda is also noble and has purity and innocence. "Thy mother was a piece of virtue, and She said thou wast my daughter; and thy father, Was Duke of Milan, and his only heir, And princess no worse issued" (I.2, 56-59).

Additionally, Miranda is not provided with a full account of her mother but rather only what is vital to her-virtue, a characteristic of nobility and integrity. Prospero also admits his harsh autocratic rule to the couples and promises a reward that will alienate the young lovers' suffering. The reward which was in the form of a masque presented by the spirits of the Island also symbolized Prospero's recognition of Ferdinand and Miranda's love for each other. It also represented the passing of trials set before them by him in actual realization of his political plans. For the first time in the play, Prospero's true nature seizes to be punitive and autocratic. He instead acknowledges his wish for his daughter's happiness. We can categorically state that Prospero enjoys this moment, perhaps, as his political plan is progressing accordingly to fruition.

The play culminates in a betrothal ceremony which is sealed with a masque presented by Prospero coupled with nymphs entertaining the couple with singing. Prospero achieves the most prominent success by marrying Miranda to Ferdinand following his plans; he regains the position of The Duke of Milan coupled with the redemption of Alonso. Furthermore, Prospero's future of inheriting the throne of Naples gets the assurance through the marriage. The marriage is a sizable victory for Prospero as previously observed. We, therefore, can conclude that the relationship between politics and marriage is immense and can be used to influence future political leadership in a defined territory with the aim of benefiting individuals as evident in the union between Ferdinand and Miranda.

The author also portrays the relationship between marriage and politics through the political betrothal of Alonso's daughter, Claribel to the king of Tunis. While Shakespeare does not give a full account of the forced marriage, we can contemplate from Act II that Claribel was married to the king of Tunis contrary to her wish as stated by her uncle, Sebastian. Perhaps the most probable reason could be that he gave her in exchange for political colonization (Willis 277). Sebastian reminds Alonso who seems to be regretting the decision to marry his daughter in Tunis that, Claribel, was compelled to obey Alonso's choice and wishes in choosing a husband to marry her against her wishes. He says, "the fair herself, Weighed between loathness and obedience at, Which end o'th' beam should bow" (II.1, 129-131). The tradition required that she obeys her parent's decisions even if they went against her desires.

It is evident that Claribel's obedience to Alonso was greater than her wishes and desires in marriage. Furthermore, Sebastian relates their tragedy at sea to the marriage of Claribel to the King of Tunis against her wishes. In Act II, Scene 1, Antonio and Sebastian join the general comforting the king due to the suspected loss of his son, Ferdinand. But instead of soothing Alonso the king, Sebastian confronts Alonso saying that if he could not have permitted the marriage, the royal party could not have been at sea and that Ferdinand would still be alive.

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