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Ferdinand’s Wife and Prospero’s Wise

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Peter Holland
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame, Indiana
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Summary

In the last quarter of a century, no textual variant in the works of Shakespeare has captured the attention of his serious readers quite like The Tempest’s wise / wife crux. During the wedding masque presented by Juno, Ceres, and Isis in Act 4, Ferdinand either praises both Miranda and Prospero’s powerful magic –

Let me live here euer,

So rare a wondred Father, and a wife

Makes this place Paradise.

–or he praises exclusively his father-in-law’s magic and ignores altogether his newly betrothed:

Let me live here euer,

So rare a wondred Father, and a wife

Makes this place Paradise.

Both textual scholars (bibliographers and textual critics) and literary critics have invested considerable time and energy to debating the issues concerning the variant. In preparation for the Shakespeare Electronic Archive, Peter S. Donaldson gave it a remarkably high profile: ‘In the early stages of planning the digital Folio collection’, he recounts, ‘I used this variant in our first prototype, creating digital images of the line from several of the Folger copies’. Similar status is accorded to the crux by the Arden3 editors, who find in it a fitting conclusion to their introductory discussion of The Tempest. For them, the crux ‘encapsulates several of the play’s major issues: the role of a chaste female (daughter/wife) in Prospero’s generative project; the magician’s wisdom and control of events (or lack thereof); and, most centrally, the question of what it takes to turn a paradise into a “brave new world” in a universe corrupted by greed and egoism’. As the editors suggest, the crux cuts across the lines of inquiry initiated by both textual scholars and literary critics; the Vaughans are, after all, both editing The Tempest and commenting on the implications the crux has for interpretations of the play as a whole.

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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 79 - 90
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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