The Relationship of Prospero and Miranda

As we’ve seen previously, the men of Shakespeare’s plays are not exactly feminists. Several of the male characters we’ve seen definitely view women as the weaker sex. Though not all male characters are as disrespectful towards women on an extreme level like Iago’s character, most of Shakespeare’s male characters treat women differently than they would treat a man. Having discussed this a few times in class, I think it is now clear that women had it rough in the 1700s.

Keeping this in mind, it is useful to compare the father-daughter relationships of the plays we’ve read so far to the relationship between Prosper and Miranda. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the relationship between Egeus and his daughter, Hermia, is one that seems common of a Shakespearian play. It is common in that we expect to see Egeus treat Hermia like she is his property. We know that this is what it was like for women of this time period. Egeus is outraged because his daughter believes she is eligible to make her own decisions. If she disobeys Egeus and married the man she actually loves, rather than one he has picked out for her, she will either be killed or forced to join the convent.

Similarly, we see an equally controlling relationship between Desdemona and Othello. Othello’s male friend tells him that Desdemona might be having an affair. Instead of confronting his wife about this ongoing issue, Othello chooses to believe the manipulative Iago. Clearly, Desdemona’s word could not be trusted because she is a woman, a member of the weaker sex. When Othello strangles Desdemona out of rage and jealousy over something that never even happened, it is proven that a woman’s word in a relationship is never enough.

As the males in these relationships dominate their female counterparts, it is significant to note the relationship between Prospero and Miranda in Act I of The Tempest. To me, their relationship seems atypical from what we’ve generally seen between a male and female in Shakespeare’s plays. Prospero seems to actually respect his daughter, Miranda. Miranda feels as if she was a burden to Prospero when she was young and they were alone on the island. She says to Prospero, “Alack, what a trouble/ Was I then to you!” (1.2.152-153). Prospero responds to this by basically telling Miranda that she is the reason why he even survived. He says, “O, a cherubin/ Thou wasn’t that did preserve me. Thou didst smile,/ Infused with a fortitude from heaven,” (1.2.154-156). Along with this, Miranda refers to Prospero as “sir” and Prospero to Miranda as “dear lady.” It seems as if the two have a lot of respect for each other, which is something that seems rare in Shakespearian times. When Prospero does not want Ferdinand to court Miranda, he says it is because Ferdinand is a traitor. Unlike Egeus, Prospero has an actual reason for not wanting a certain man for his daughter. Prospero is looking out for his daughter, he tells her she deserves someone better. I am intrigued by the relationship between Prospero and Miranda and I’m hoping that throughout The Tempest, Miranda is able to make choices for herself. 

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3 thoughts on “The Relationship of Prospero and Miranda

  1. Jordan White

    I see what you’re saying about the difference in dynamic between father and daughter in The Tempest, but I think one could argue that the relationship between Prospero and Miranda is just as one-sided as the other father-daughter relationships we’ve read about. When Miranda is so quick to apologize that she was a burden to Prospero when they were banished from Milan, I would argue that Miranda has internalized this patriarchal ideology so much that she feels guilty for being alive and therefore burdening her father (who is, of course, responsible for taking care of his offspring). Although his response is semi-convincing that he loves her, his manipulative actions (e.g. putting her to sleep through magic and cutting her off from Ferdinand) lead me to believe that he is not the loving father he claims to be.

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  2. jelicia93

    Although I feel your interpretation of Prospero and MIranda is refreshing, I agree with Jordan, I feel that this relationship is almost entirely one sided. Prospero hypnotizes Miranda whenever he feels necessary, and although he is pleased that Ferdinand has a thing for Miranda, Prospero selfishly denies their love because it is not on his own terms. Miranda is ridden with guilt for being a burden to her father because of his incessant manipulation and warping of her brain. Prospero feels that Miranda is his property to do with what he pleases and I predict that we will only see more of Prospero manipulating Miranda instead of her liberation.

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  3. anikakrempl

    I feel that part of the reason that their relationship appears so smooth is that Miranda is quite young, I believe not even sixteen yet. Prospero’s apparent ‘respect’ for her might be stemming from a fatherly affection, rather than his feeling that she is a mature, independent young woman capable of making her own decisions. Later on, as Jordan mentioned, he controls every aspect of Miranda’s and Ferdinand’s relationship. I agree that there appears to be more of a father-daughter team aspect, but I am not sure it is without its faults.

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