Prospero/Prospera

I was very intrigued by the idea of some directors making the choice to cast Prospero, originally a male character, as Propsera, a female role. While watching the film version with a female Prospero, I did not feel that it was proper way to treat the role. Like I mentioned in class, Shakespeare did not write Prospero as a mother to figure to Miranda because the mother-daugther relationship was not one of note during Shakespeare’s time. Like I noted in my last blog, the mother-son and father-daughter relationships are the prominent ones in Shakespeare’s works. As we saw in Hamlet, with the relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet, one that was defined by patriarchal undertones and a borderline Oedipal tendencies, was representative of that of Shakespeare’s time. The father-daughter relationship, like that between Polonious and Ophelia and Prospero and Miranda, which is defined by a property bias, where the daughter is owned by her father, was also very prevalent within in Shakespeare’s time. The mother-daughter relationship and father-son relationships were not a societal issue, and Shakespeare did not put as much emphasis on those familial relationships. Therefore, I think it is a mistake and does not does the play justice to make Prospero a female. An intrigal part of the father-daughter relationship is choosing a husband  for their daughter, i.e. Fernando for Miranda. Normally, like in the written play, Prospero gives Fernando the fifth degree just like a father would in the time, to make sure that he is getting his moneys worth in the exchange. Having this exchange, is typical, believable and on par with what the audience would be expecting. While watching the film version with a female Prospero, the scene between Fernando, Miranda, and Prospera was not true to what Shakespeare’s society would be. It did not make sense and I feel Prospera came off less motherly and more monstrous. The mother-daughter relationship was less forceful and more of a bond of womanhood. In that scene I feel it is important for the patriarchal tendencies to come through Prospero’s speech to Fernando, as is goes along with the post-colonial aspects of the play. If a mother-daughter relationship is present, the same kind of understanding of the play is not had, and I feel Shakespeare’s message about the privilege of the white, middle class man does not come across as boldly.

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About stewingthepot

Colleen Stewart is a freelance writer and photographer based in the Hudson Valley. She is currently finishing her Master's degree in English Lit at SUNY New Paltz. Her published work has appeared in The Valley Table, Hudson Valley Magazine, and The Shawangunk Review. She is also a self-taught cook, avid photographer, and budding food stylist.

4 thoughts on “Prospero/Prospera

  1. Samantha Meyer

    I find your take on the whole Prospero versus Prospera debate interesting. Personally, I have seen this play performed with both a male Prospero and a female Prospera and both were highly successful at getting the controlling aspect of Prospero across without forgetting the importance of the relationship with Miranda. I believe that either could work, but you need the right audience and the right interpretation of the character. If you try to play the role differently just because of gender, then you will end up with a sub-par version of what Shakespeare was trying to get across. However, if you keep the same tones and power that Shakespeare was implying, it could be successful and a similar relationship could be created. It is important to remember that in life there are always fathers who act more like mothers to their children and mothers who act more like fathers. Just because the role is stated in one specific way of the text doesn’t mean that it couldn’t transcend to the opposite gender. It all depends upon the actor. That being said, I don’t think that having a Prospera would have worked in Shakespeare’s time simply because of the role of women. The audience wouldn’t have been as understanding of the role if it was a Prospera instead of a Prospero because that kind of power wouldn’t have been given to a woman. So in that sense, I believe that having a Prospera back then wouldn’t have worked, whereas it could work nowadays.

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  2. klindberg94

    You make a lot of interesting points. While I agree that switching Prospero to Prospera definitely changes the meaning of the play/the effect Shakespeare sought out to have when he gave Miranda a father and not a mother, I don’t really agree with the idea that Prospera came off as more monstrous and less motherly in the film – in fact, I thought that the relationship seemed almost more caring with a mother/daughter versus a father/daughter.

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  3. caitoconnor13

    I really liked Prospera as a female character, but I also found her female character very limited. I’ve written several blog posts on Shakespeare’s status as a feminist, and I think the limitations that Prospera faces as a female antagonist in the play speaks to Shakespeare’s limited views of women. Seeing the dynamic that Prospera could have created as a female character, when we watched in class, had me really excited at first to see the gender-bending, but then I found it to be really discouraging and just a point of technicality and not really a note of female empowerment. I agree also with your statement that the film made Prospera this evil character, as if she was offending order by being someone who owned property and acted as a leader. It also breaks down a norm by making Prospera’s daughter less of an object, because women (as the actual script of the Tempest tells us), were owned by their fathers until they were again repossessed by their husbands. Women, in this vein, were mere companions or equals on the lower half of the social ladder.

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  4. tarabutler93

    I have to respectfully disagree and say that I think the mother-daughter relationship did hold value during Shakespeare’s time, and that is it possible that it was just Shakespeare who did not consider it important. I think that the giving away of Miranda is just as, if not more so, touching from a mother’s perspective than a father’s since a mother can actually relate and empathize with that experience.

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