Men (eternal hunters, novelty seekers, insatiable beings), men in their natural lives, pursue the concrete no less than the ideal - qualities not seldom found combined in fairy childhood.(Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli, p. 696)
Do you love me, master? No?
Mine would, sir, were I human.(The Tempest 4.1.48; 5.1.20)
He got out his Tempest and tried, as a beginning, the sortes. And he went no further.(The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole, p. 199)
This essay is concerned with one small episode in the afterlife, long, rich and often strange, of The Tempest. At different times, to different people, the play has meant very different things: the triumph of harmony and order; the imposition of tyranny; a farewell to art. That last response is an especially persistent one. Legends of autobiography and finality have long invested the play. The beleaguered author, Shakespeare/Prospero, works his magic in splendid isolation, aided only by his own powers of inspiration; the end of the play is the end of the plays. That old interpretation - so well known and so very unfashionable now among critics - is important in the background of this essay; my subject is a sort of development of this, a development into something much less familiar.
The Tempest has been many things to its recipients, but one thing it has hardly ever been is a love story. What critic has shared Prospero's concern for Miranda's sexuality? And yet, earlier in this century, the play did offer one class of reader a parable not only about creativity but about love. Not, however, Miranda's love. For at least two writers, both oncescandalous, the relationship between Prospero and Ariel provided an image of extraordinary suggestiveness and appeal.