“O Brave New World That Has Such People In It!”

While reading the final act of The Tempest I discovered the origin of Aldous Huxley’s allusion to the play in his masterpiece Brave New World. I always knew that the title alluded to Shakespeare, but never knew which play the quote came from. In the context of the play, Miranda, who had grown up on an island, isolated from society, was only acquainted with her father, Caliban, Ariel, and now her new husband-to-be, Ferdinand. In Act 5.1, upon seeing Alonso, Gonzalo, Antonio, and Sebastian, Miranda remarks, “O wonder!/ How many goodly creatures are there here!/ How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world/ That has such people in’t!” (5.1.184-87). Miranda’s limited knowledge instantaneously explodes, as the discovery of these few people indicates that there is a whole world of people beyond this island.
John “the Savage,” of Huxley’s novel, experiences a similar phenomenon. Bernard Marx, a citizen of Huxley’s Brave New World, who has feelings that there is something seriously wrong with the society in which he lives: people are made in test-tubes, in which their social classes are predetermined, and whenever a citizen feels any other human emotion than happiness he/she resorts to taking a pill called soma, which puts him/her in a trance-like state of utter bliss. To explore what other modes of living exist in the world, he and Lenina Crowne, the woman he is trying to court (but in the Brave New World, people do not date for fear of the strains of relationships, they only have sex and move on to a new partner), visit a savage reservation, where indigenous people live. Among these people lives John the Savage, who frequently quotes Shakespeare. Bernard and Lenina have no idea what he is talking about, because in their world, books are burned just because they are considered “old.” For instance, the Bible has also been discarded, and now they worship Ford, the creator of the assembly line and the Model T automobile.
John is enamored with Lenina, but does not know about the loose standards of relationships of her world, so he recites Miranda’s line before her. This takes place just after Bernard offers to take John to the New World—little does John know that Bernard selfishly wishes to gain fame by being the one to flaunt “the Savage” to shock the comfort-loving citizens of his society. After seeing the utter fraudulence, the dependence on false bliss, of the society, Miranda’s line becomes ironic. Huxley’s novel serves as a premonition of what society could be if some current trends continue, and by ironizing Miranda’s line, Huxley is saying that instead of making “progress” towards happiness, we should be reverting to times wherein art and struggle are valued. After the creator of the Brave New World, Mustapha Mond, explains to John how the world became the way it is, John states, “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin” (Huxley 215).
Since I read Brave New World before reading The Tempest, I see Miranda’s future of going to hierarchical society to be quite dismal. John, who ends up hanging himself due to the ugliness of the New World, would have been much better off if he had stayed on the savage reservation; perhaps the same would be true if Miranda stayed on her island. All she has to worry about there is her father’s rule, whereas in European society, where she will be a Queen, she will have to be subjected to the rules of politics and such other manmade artifices. I hate to end with a cliché, but here I find it fitting: Ignorance is bliss.

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