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Shakespeare?S The Tempest Essay, Research Paper

The Tempest: Effective Use of Humor

In Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, the cast of characters are squeezed into some archetypal roles. Prospero is our noble hero, Miranda is the beautiful maiden, Antonio is the “villain”. Shakespeare gave each of the characters a sense of humor, a tool that allows us to see the subtle details of their minds; a glimpse at the inner workings of each character’s personality. It is through the humor that Shakespeare employs , that we are able to see “roundness” in characters that could be otherwise doomed to exist as “flat” characters. Shakespeare uses humor to give his players new life, to help them expand beyond the bounds off mere characters and turn into real people.

Miranda is a good example of a character whose humor enriches her personality. At the beginning of the play, it is explained to us, largely through Prospero’s exposition, that Miranda is perfect child. She’s compassionate, beautiful, well educated and obedient; She’s the apple of Prospero’s eye. At the beginning of the play of Act I sc ii , however, she comes off s being too perfect. Perfect to the point of annoyance. Perfect to the point of being sterile. despite her assets , she’s no more then a china doll. Throw Ferdinad , our handsome prince, into the mix , ND she becomes much more interesting. Gone is the virtuous maiden, replaced by a goggly eyed , puppy headed, hormone stricken teenager, smitten with love. She is so ga-ga over Ferdinad that she refers to him as a ‘noble creature’. He is so perfect to Miranda that she insists that “ nothing ill can dwell within such a temple” (Act I, sc ii ) . She dotes on him s if he were a Conrad Birdie. It’s a wonderfully musing transformation, to watch Miranda, the envy of women around the world, go bananas over a boy to the point where she is volunteering to carry gigantic wooden logs for him. This humor allows us to see the Miranda underneath the class act and obedient demeanor, the lonely, man craving vulnerable little girl. Her transformation shows her as any other girl fumbling to impress someone. Miranda is really a wonderfully goofy person who in any other situation, as not being stranded on an island, would have her wall decorated with sketches and paintings of young, charming nobles.

Antonio is another character whose humor has helped to make his personality richer. Prospero describes his brother in Act I as being villainous and ambitious. By the time Prospero finishes his story, we’re so disgusted with Antonio that we expect nothing less then a cold blooded, ruthless monster who chews on nails. However, once we finally meet Antonio in Act II, we find out that he’s a really funny guy. Sick, but funny. He and Sebstian have no end of fun tearing into Sir Prudence Gonzalo, snickering and joking constantly while the old goat yammers on about whatever. Even when it comes to deposing his own brother, he can reply nonchalantly that his “ garments rest well upon his shoulders” (Act II sc I ) . By giving Antonio humor, Shakespeare erases the image of the clear cut, serial villain and gives Antonio an added layer of complexity. The way he snickers and whines, you could see him back in Milan, mocking other nobles behind their backs. He’s probably very disappointed or anxious with his position in life; Wielding power, but never enough to quench his insatiable ambition. Antonio is probably a very melancholy, unhappy person who uses jokes and mockery to vent his frustrations and pass the time between his scheming. Humor has transformed Antonio from a two-bit villain into a very real, sour person, using a charming sense of humor to mask his seething disdain for others.

Who else to better display Shakespeare’s revealing use of humor then the comic relief, Trinculo and Stephano? Even though it is their function in the play to be goofy, their antics often serve to reveal much about their personalities (besides being drunks….). In Act II sc ii Stephano relates to Trinculo that he survived the tempest and “ escaped on a butt of sack that the sailors threw o’er board”. (Act II sc ii ) Whereas Ferdinad leapt into the sea crying “ hell is empty”, Stephano, when faced with life and death , chose to swim after a barrel of booze. He must hate his life of servitude so much that he would rather spend his last moments in drunker stupor then swim for his life. Both he and Trinculo must resent their noble masters so much that their drunken revelry takes the form of plotting to murder the authority figure of the island. Their constant labor makes them so jealous of their masters that they get suckered in by Prospero’s clothesline of gaudy robes. Trinculo and Stephano take their time pretending to be dukes and kings , even forcing Caliban to carry their luggage, in spite of Caliban’s warnings. Even though Trinculo and Stephano are silly creatures, their humor does a lot to reveal the kind of resentment they bear for their powerful masters. They are clearly frustrated by their years of unrewarding toil, and it manifests itself in their wackiness. Shakespeare’s humor shows us that they are not just drunks, but angry , disgruntled drunks.

Shakespeare uses his gift for humor and goofiness to reveal new facets of his characters. By making his players laugh and be stupid, we get to see them as actual , complex people with thoughts and vulnerabilities and weird agendas. He uses humor as the tool nessecary to make humans out of words, as opposed to roles.

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