Will Mr. Hat and Mr. Blanket please stand up?

Objects and possessions hold a role almost equivalent to characters in “Return of the Soldier”. One of the most notable items that receives references repeatedly is the ugly cheap feathered hat worn by Margaret. It comes to symbolize the poverty and uncaring unfashionableness of Margaret, and although at one point Jenny even tries to preen it with her hands into a socially acceptable article, she finally admits it is an “inoperable case” and gives up (p106). Margaret is unaware of her ugly clothing, and even if it were pointed out to her, she would probably not care, for she does not have the means to do anything about it. Not only is she modest and humble, but as Jenny pointed out, the clothes in fact serve to put her beautiful personality and character in the best light. Like a rough frame around a masterpiece, Margaret has no finery to distract “from the message of her soul”(102).

Another object that obtains profundity is the blanket on which Margaret and Chris sit peacefully in the woods. The fact that Margaret spread it so carefully “smooth and comfortable” with her “dreadful hands” indicates that she can create kindness and loveliness even though she is poor, rough from work, and not pretty. Her devoted attention to the comfort of Chris is an indication of her golden personality, and it further impresses on Jenny that Kitty and Jenny herself are not and never were the sole providers of Chris’s happiness, as previously thought. This revelation probably continues to strike a dissonant chord on Jenny’s peace of mind as well as shaking her conception of her place in the world- no longer does she have a monopoly on his affections and comfort.

The blanket further symbolizes a tiny island of happiness, security, and beauty in the troubled world. Chris and Margaret are briefly recapturing the honeyed bliss of youth and true love. On their little island they are separate from reality and untroubled by the truth. Jenny notes that on their blanket they “sat thus englobed in peace as in a crystal sphere”(100). Her resulting envy of this admirable untroubled bliss is so strong that she is “forced to go and sit down on the the rug” beside them”(102). Although she doesn’t belong there, Margaret allows this with kind humility. Thus finally Jenny is able to step into the other world she’s observed and looked down upon for so long- she used to see peasants outside her gates sit on blankets and nap in just such a fashion. This symbolizes her final steps into empathy and self-awareness, which morphed throughout the novel from proud delight in wealth to scorning her selfish lifestyle and admiring the good at heart.

Why is it never that easy?

If the characters in Lady Audley’s Secret were simplified to the terms of protagonist and antagonist, hero and villain, (perhaps in some high school English class,) then Lady Audley would be the obvious antagonist and villain. But one of the main themes in the book is that people in real life cannot be categorized simply- lines between good and evil, victim and villain are often blurred and depend on point of view. Therefore, given the book’s intention to suggest this theme, it would be careless and crass to attempt to settle for simple categories.

Lady Audley made the most mistakes in the novel. But every other character made mistakes as well- especially George Talboys’ “desertion” of his young wife, who was left “with no protector but a weak, tipsy father, and with a child to support”(pg 361). He didn’t contact her the entire three years he was away. The ship journey to Australia and the gold fields in Australia were so dangerous in the 1800s, it is understandable for Lady Audley to come to the conclusion that her husband was dead. She moved on as best she could- as a dependent woman in the 1800s, she didn’t have the luxury of mourning him for the rest of her life.

But although she was victimized in this instance, her actions later upon the realization of George’s return are malignant and calculated. She posted the “advertisement of [her] death”(364), and left George for dead after knocking him into a well. It is difficult to conclude if her “inheritance of insanity” from her mother is real or imagined, and if it excuses her in any way (359). Her attempt to kill Robert with a fire is another blatantly villainous action. But her sad response later when Robert informed her that no lives were lost in the fire makes you doubt how truly villaionous she is; three times she repeats that she is glad- “I am glad of that…I am glad of that- I am glad no life was lost”(373). Is that something a villain would say?

Lady Audley is a strong active character, who takes her fate into her own hands, however misguided her decisions turn out to be. The book makes it clear that it is difficult when you are living the events to see what decisions will turn out good, and what bad. One must rely on past experiences and a well-trained moral compass, and Lady Audley’s experiences and moral values were from childhood deprived and neglected. It is no wonder that she found it difficult to choose auspiciously, when passion, fear, and limited information muddied the distinctions between ill-advised decisions and good ones.

We know there’s a secret, but how do we know it’s a bad one?

The nature of Lady Audley’s actions is impossible to classify as right or wrong because the reader is constantly lacking key information. It is impossible to discern her motivations in any occasion, and thus difficult to guess the nature of her secret. The only thing the reader is left with is a vague inclination that Lady Audley is putting on a skillful act to conceal something sinister- but we don’t know for sure.

We get the first instance of Lady Audley’s perplexing behavior when she agrees to marry Sir Michael. Despite her appearance as an agreeable, untroubled girl, her strange reaction to his request, falling to his knees and crying that he is “noble and generous” but that he “asks too much of her”, although she “cannot be blind to the advantages of such an alliance”, demonstrates some peculiar, strong emotion that is ever so slightly askew from what one would expect in the situation (52). It could be just the exclamation of a poor girl agreeing to an advantageous marriage, but something about the scene leaves the readers with an unsettled feeling.

She is described multiple times as simple, vain, and childish. She amuses herself in a “frivolous fashion”, trimming flowers, arranging her hair, and gossiping (113). She seems like the perfect angel of the house. Alicia alone dislikes Lady Audley; the Lady is able to win everyone’s affection with her beauty and naïve, pleasant ways. And yet, we are made skeptical by the revelation of her ring and bit of paper (53), and the baby’s shoe and blond hair that were hidden in her jewelry box (70). She obviously has some past connection with a child (her child?), and possibly a past love relationship. (It seems clear what the author is implying, given George’s parallel story line, but it remains to be seen if we are being misled by an obvious answer). This juxtaposition of her innocent appearance with suspicious circumstantial evidence makes it hard to judge her words and deeds. It could be that her famed secret is not a sinister one, but how can we know?

And even when we would expect to see her unnerved, when she discovers that George entered her chambers, which she locked presumably with the intention of keeping him in particular out, she only “chides Miss Alicia in a playful, laughing way”, and notices they looked at her picture with “mock indignation” (112). Her composure is too perfect- are we jumping to conclusions? She gives all appearances of a spotless conscience. But was her fear really of the thunderstorm, or of being found out by George? To be able to take furtive actions, but outwardly keep up such a different persona, seems hard to believe of Lady Audley- probably because we are given such limited knowledge about how she behaves in private.

A monster or a child?

The story that the monster tells to Victor is full of scenes calculated to make both Victor and the audience feel compassion for him. Told by an extremely biased narrator, it is not the scenes of blatant “woe is me” oration that strike a chord in the listener. Anyone who goes on and on about how badly they’ve been mistreated is bound to get odious after a while. Thus, his melodramatic, self-sorry laments of “Why did you form a monster so hideous” (pg 144), “cursed creator! Why did I live?” (149), and “I am malicious because I am miserable” (156), do very little to excite sympathy.

Rather, it is in the moments of unthinking narration, when the monster forgets himself and reveals truths about his character, like the Duke in “My Last Duchess”, when he is able to rouse his audience to real compassion. His blind adoration for the cottagers, whom he calls his “protectors” (137), is childish and endearing. He worships these “superior beings” (131) for their grace and gentleness, and aches at their misery. Although their troubles are above his head, like a parent’s over a child’s, he naively imagines “that it might be in [his] power to restore happiness to [those] deserving people” (131).

All of these explanations of his feelings serve to remind the reader that he really is a child, having just been created a few years prior. It is difficult to feel harshly against such a childlike character, so full of good intentions and innocence, and so pitifully disgusted by his own looks. It is heart-wrenching when he mentions that despite his “despondence and mortification” at his own appearance (130), he is still able to forget about it at times and find joy in the beauty of nature and people he loves. Anyone who has ever been self conscious about their appearance knows how hard it can be to forget about it and find enjoyment in your surroundings, so it is touching to hear the how the monster struggles to forget his looks and enjoy himself.

These are the moments when the reader is most convinced that the monster deserves compassion. Victor, also, seems to have found compassion during the cottage narration, as he points out that even his steady, deeply-fixed anger “died away while he narrated his peaceful life among the cottagers” (156). However, Victor seemed primarily moved by the revelation that the monster is in fact “a creature of fine sensations” (157), capable of feeling complex emotions besides simple monstrous rage and cruelty. Indeed, the key idea that he is emotionally still a child, and moved by unschooled, immature childlike emotions, does something to explain why he struggles with controlling his anger and his strength later in his story.

 

Your friend’s brother’s wife’s uncle told you WHAT?

A practice that occurs surprisingly frequently in classic literature is to start the story with a minimally developed main character, who hears from another character about a story told to them from a highly trustworthy third party…

This roundabout storytelling can annoy the modern reader. It feels like a trick- wait, I just got invested in this character, and now the whole story is going to be told to him by some random stranger? I wanted to hear about the first guy!

But there is method to this madness. First, it serves to distance the reader from the primary storyteller- in this case, Victor Frankenstein. We are not distanced emotionally from him, of course- far from it. From the start we are enthralled by Frankenstein’s very human and relatable tale, from his halcyon childhood (“no youth could have passed more happily than mine”, pg 67) to his obsession with creating life, during which he “lost all soul or sensation but for [that] one pursuit” (81). But all the while the reader is subtly reminded of the fact that he is retelling past events, and is currently old and “emaciated by fatigue and suffering” on Robert Walton’s ship (pg 59), waiting for his time to finally “repose in peace”(62).

So why would we want to have that distance from the story? Because it serves the key purpose of making the story more believable. Back when stories like Frankenstein were written, a lot of storytelling was done orally. Stories about things that happened to family members or friends of friends were frequent sources of entertainment. Thus real stories often started with preambles like “my brother once told me this story that an old sailor told him…”

To start a story with this kind of convoluted introduction, as Shelley does, serves to make a fictional story more realistic. Today the main character would be Frankenstein or even his monster, because the main action and story happens to them, and the author would cut out the middlemen.

But having an active “listener” like Walton also serves to give some artificial feedback to the story. It gives Frankenstein a way to address likely reactions of the reader, thus giving the reader a voice. We know that Walton shows great “eagerness” and “wonder and hope” while listening, desiring the details of how Frankenstein actually reanimated a creature, right where Shelley anticipates the reader will be eager to learn the secret too(79). But Shelley chooses not to create fake science, and avoids the details by making Frankenstein unwilling to burden Walton with the knowledge.

By beginning the story with letters, Shelley hopes to invest the readers more emotionally in the story by lending it an air of authenticity. Even modern ghost stories are told this way, usually around campfires- although the listener knows it’s made up, if the teller pretends it happened to them or someone real, the fun of being afraid comes all the more easily.

I’m in control! (My wife said I could be.) Right?

The opposite of control is submission. With this in mind, it is necessary to take a good look at who really has control in Eliza Haywood’s “Fantomina”: the Lady, or Beauplaisir.

Spoiler alert: it’s the Lady.

The Lady goes to great lengths to repeatedly win her Beauplaisir’s affections. This does not mean that he is in control, however. Never in the story could the Lady’s character be described as submissive. Instead, Beauplaisir is forced into submission repeatedly by his wonton libertine desire. The Lady uses this to control him, to manipulate him to suit her needs. Her desire “was once more to engage him; to hear him sigh, to see him languish”(p. 2572). She wants to feel desirable, admirable, and heartbreaking. Thus she takes on the different personas, cleverly and of her own design, and plays him like a violin.

The alternative title for this work is “Love In a Maze”. This title gives great insight into who really has control. The Lady is building an intricate maze, with moving parts painstakingly and precisely timed, to catch the ignorant and helpless Beauplaisir over and over again like a blind rat. The real precision of the timing can be seen when it’s revealed that “though she met him three or four days in a week at that lodging she had taken for that purpose, … she was never missed from any assembly she had been accustomed to frequent” (2571). You could say she gave the illusion of being in two places at once, which is not an easy thing to accomplish.

Beauplaisir is caught in the web of his desires and cannot wriggle out due to his own scruples. Although he only loves one of her personas at a time, whether Fantomina, Celia, the Widow, or Incognita, he feels obliged to continue seeing the “other girls” not out of greed or lust, but simply because “he had a greater share of good nature than most of his sex”, and felt unwilling to “break it entirely off, without any regard to the despair of the abandoned nymph” (2577). Thus he found himself tied to these “other girls” and morally obligated to continue spending time with “them” even though it was more “a penance than a pleasure” (2577). This is yet more proof that Beauplaisir is the victim of the Lady’s con, manipulated to meet her needs. However, if Beauplaisir was really deserving of pity, he would have chosen to do the decent and break up with her. Instead he has affairs and can’t muster the backbone to cut the old lovers off. It is true that she was pretending to be a prostitute as Fantomina, and it is generally implied that there is no continued relationship after one night. But he knew almost immediately that she wasn’t really a prostitute, and they carried on with a serious romantic attachment for many days.

Thus the ending is just when one considers that the Lady was in control the whole time. It was she who manipulated Beauplaisir from the beginning to repeatedly have affairs with her, starting with her prostitute act, and therefore, as the Lady’s mother says, “the blame is wholly hers” (2584). Although he could have done the decent and married her, knowing that she was so well suited to his taste and so full of changeable fun, he was under no obligation to, and it probably would not have worked out. After all, Beauplaisir is a libertine, and his wonton ways are what allowed him to be so dominated by the cunning control of the Lady in the first place.

Can we hear Laura sing, “Let It Go”?

Rosetti’s poem “Goblin Market” could well have been an early version of the screenplay for Disney’s Frozen. Although differing in setting and plot, they share remarkably similar characters and character development. In particular, Lizzie’s transformation almost exactly mirrors Princess Anna’s, evolving throughout the story into a profound expression of the greatest extent of love.

In the beginning, the sisters are blissfully happy and unquestioningly close. “Like two pigeons in one nest/ Folded in each other’s wings”, Lizzie is content in her self-assured love for her sister Laura (lines 185-186). They look the same, pale and golden-haired “like two wands of ivory/ Tipped with gold for awful kings”(190). They share daily activities like fetching honey, tidying the house, and taking care of their animals (203-208). In short, Lizzie has a close but uninspected relationship with her sister. It is all that she knows, so she has never had her devotion tested. Lizzie’s relationship with her sister at this point is analogous to Anna’s with Elsa in the beginning of Frozen. It is untested and innocent.

Then comes the test- the deception. Laura feasts on the fruit. This sets her down a path of assured destruction, just as Elsa’s concealed magic ensures that the villagers will hunt her down to kill her.

At first Lizzie hopes that if she ignores the problem, it will go away. She sets about her usual work “with an open heart…content…warbling for the mere bright day’s delight” (210-214). Although she knows that Laura has eaten the goblin fruit, and despite the tragic demise of a girl named “Jeanie” from eating the fruit (147), she chooses to cast the worry from her mind. This is a common reaction family members have to the suffering of other family members- it is scary and unpleasant, and most just hope it’ll sort itself out so they can stop feeling useless and uncomfortable. This is why tragedies like suicides and school shootings often take the families of the perpetrators by surprise; the family members don’t want to notice the warning signs, so they ignore them, allowing the troubled person to suffer alone and find their own solutions.

As her sister wanes away, Lizzie is troubled by the suffering that she cannot share with Laura. She “longed to buy fruit to comfort her,/ But feared to pay too dear” (310-311). Her reasonable fear of the goblins prevents her from buying the fruit for Laura. She is still valuing her own safety above that of her sister. She feels bad, but not enough to face the terrifying goblins and accept walk knowingly into certain doom for herself.

This changes when Laura is finally “knocking at Death’s door” (321). Upon fear of her sister’s immanent death, Lizzie forces herself to contemplate the importance of her sister and inspect their love. The frank inspection of their relationship and how far she is willing to go to protect her sister is a sign of both her loss of innocence, and her character maturing. It is an unpleasant question to face, how far one is willing to go for their family. Most do not have to find out. Lizzie does, making her a hero.

Finally she comes to her conclusion and “weigh[s] no more/ Better and worse” (322-323). By this point, Lizzie has evolved emotionally. Her love has transformed from a mutually convenient, fun, risk-free pleasure to a serious, self-sacrificing commitment. Lizzie no longer weighs her own life above her sister’s. She confronts the goblins and bears their abuse although in all likelihood it will lead to death. Like Anna sacrificing her life for Elsa, Lizzie knows that whatever happens, she probably won’t survive it.

Thus Lizzie’s character achieves its evolution from a simple, rule-following girl who loved her sister because it was a societal norm, to a daring, courageous girl with a heroic and deliberate self-sacrificing devotion to her sister. As in Frozen, the sisters are now able to enjoy a vastly more meaningful connection, and they retain their special bond for life.

Good thing there are no more sweatshops anymore- right?

Thomas Hood’s “Song of the Shirt” resonates on a particularly uncomfortable level because the problem at the heart of the poem is a problem that still exists today. This discomfort is supremely important, because it reminds us that there is something we should be caring about. Something we’ve chosen to forget, namely sweatshops and slave labor, both of which are really, truly going on right now.

Hood carefully wields his art in this poem to maximize the audience’s discomfort. One of the most effective ways he does this is through metaphors and subtle comparisons. When he states that the woman is “sewing at once…a shroud as well as a shirt”, the shroud is not for the person who will buy the shirt (lines 23-24). She is sewing her own death shroud with every stitch she makes in that garment. The ceaseless pain and both physical and mental exhaustion that she must endure day-in and day-out is slowly killing her.

Hood utilizes a clever religious comparison when the woman cries, “Oh! God! that bread should be so dear,/And flesh and blood so cheap!”(31-32). He gives you a clue by starting the sentence with an invocation of God, because he then goes on to reference the Eucharist. According to Christian belief, during Eucharist bread and wine becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus. Bread, flesh, and blood when mentioned together thus have very religious and sacred subtexts. In this reference, flesh and blood should be the most valuable, and the bread should be valued significantly cheaper, just as in Eucharist, the bread and wine is comparatively worthless until it becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus. But for the woman, bread is difficult to procure, due to the greed of the sweatshop owners, while apparently human life is insignificant, because it is abused and taken for granted. By drawing a connection between the woman’s flesh and blood and Jesus’s, Hood manages to make a religious appeal and also highlight the similarity between the audience and the woman, by reminding the reader that everyone, even the poor sweatshop laborer, is made in the image of God and can be considered sacred.

When the woman cries out to the audience that metaphorically, when they wear clothes made by sweatshops, “it is not linen [they’re] wearing out,/But human creatures’ lives!”, she very succinctly sums up message of the poem (19-20). By buying and wearing the clothing, we support the oppression. Every piece of clothing sewn is one step closer to the death, through starvation and exhaustion, of the abused worker who made it.

This poem shares a message strikingly similar to Oscar Wilde’s “The Young King”, which depicts a boy who, when discovering the abuse that laborers suffered to make his clothes and crown, refuses to wear them despite everyone’s arguments that his actions alone will not change anything, that the abused needed the money and by refusing to patronize them he’d be starving them, and that it won’t help because the suffering has already taken place- he might as well wear them. These kinds of arguments are common today, especially when people feel that their actions won’t make a difference. As Baba Dioum said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” It is through the art of writers like Hood and Wilde that people are taught to care about and understand the plight of others.

Who wrote “City Shower”- J. Swift or Stephen Colbert?

Swift’s “A Description of a City Shower” retains its entertainment value today because it emulates three tones of the popular modern humor style, found so often on late night talk shows and Youtube social commentaries: the careful balance of laughing with your audience (an earnest tone), laughing at them (a kind yet biting tone), and laughing at yourself (a self-deprecating tone).

Swift is attempting primarily to entertain his audience with his melodramatic description of a rainstorm. When he states that “Returning home at night, you’ll find the sink/ Strike your offended sense with double stink”, this would have made his contemporary audience laugh out loud, knowing full-well the awful smell of sewage that he refers to (lines 5-6). Few things are more funny than when a comedian legitimizes unpleasant common experiences by finding the humor in them- a fact well understood by today’s comedians like Late Show host Stephen Colbert, who currently provides ten-minute humorous rants about recent government issues every night.

Swift draws humor from more common experiences when he makes a crack about the looming cloud pouring water as if it had “swilled more liquor than it could contain/ And, like a drunkard, gives it up again”(15-16). He knows the majority of his audience has experienced the unpleasant effects of drinking too much, often as a coping mechanism for their difficult lives in the city. It is in this way also that his humor has a gentle edge to it- unlike griping about an unpleasant smell, here he makes a good-humored jab at the audience themselves.

He continues this pointed humor when he describes the “Triumphant Tories and desponding Whigs” who “Forget their feuds, and join to save their wigs”(41-42). Politics, as mentioned earlier, are always prime fodder for comedy, and Swift cleverly incorporates a pun while conjuring to mind an image of the two opposing parties huddled like wet cats underneath an awning, united by a common concern about their precious hairdos.

Swift finally draws a comparison that makes fun of both traditional poetry and himself as a poet when he draws a magnificent analogy between fancy men huddling in their covered sedan chairs, and the fearful yet heroic Greeks inside the Trojan horse (43-52). Drawing such an elaborate simile between a ridiculous situation and a well known epic poem (the Aenead by Virgil) is like saying “the fried chicken chalupa cradles its precious cargo like the majestic ship Titanic bore its innocent passengers, bravely bearing its load but resigned to its increasingly evident and tragic fate; it will not be intact come morning”. The sheer ludicrousy of such an analogy acknowledges that poets are often melodramatic, in a form of self-deprecating humor that provides a third tone of comedy to Swift’s amusing satire.

What do aliens have to do with it?

One of the hardest things to do is look honestly at ourselves. That’s why social analysts often resort to analogy: creating an analogous scenario that can be examined in an unbiased way, free from the cultural baggage that clouds our eyes when considering the real scenarios. Thus the common “alien planet” technique- “imagine an alien planet where people-spores will float into your window unless you put up a screen…”

Mary Robinson used the same method two hundred years ago when she created the horrible storm that sinks Draco’s ship in “The Negro Girl”. Robinson paints a vivid picture of the “boist’rous whirlwinds”, and conjures into being the white “billows, wide display’d/The clouds…black and low”(lines 2, 13-14). The key is in the color descriptions- the tumultuous mixing of white waves and black clouds. Robinson’s subject is not a tempest at all; it is slavery. The storm is an analogy for the turbulent whirlwind of hatred, ignorance and racism that swept through the streets of the white-man’s world. The “storm” that tears Zelma and her lover apart is nothing less than cruel, unfeeling slavery itself, which tore so many families apart with inhuman lack of compassion- one of Robinson’s main arguments against slavery.

Utilizing the imagery of a storm enables readers to distance themselves from the biases they feel about slavery, and instead experience the straightforward response of grief that comes from losing a loved one in a horrible disaster. No one would deny the pain of watching as a storm drowns someone you love- as Zelma does, as “frantic, on the sands she roam’d,/Now shrieking stop’d to view…Brave Draco sought the shore…Then sunk, to gaze no more!”(115-116, 122, 124). The audience can well imagine the feeling of helplessness and despair, as they pace the shore and cannot do anything to stop the storm from dragging down everything they know, tearing their lives apart and destroying their chances of being part of a family.

And then the audience remembers that the storm is slavery, and must transfer that feeling of grief and helplessness back to its cultural context. Thus the audience is coaxed into placing themselves in the shoes of the abused and unjustly treated slaves, separated from their loved ones violently and often permanently. This is highly effective, to such an extent that Robinson probably could have made the whole poem analogous, describing only a despairing girl watching her lover drown from the storm, and then at the end reveal her race, or suggest the true meaning in the title. The switch between the storm and the lament about slavery in the poem is somewhat of a non sequiter, since a storm cannot be directly linked to the conditions Zelma rails against- unless the storm is slavery itself. The physical storm serves as the culmination of all the horrible injustices that Zelma faced, only to be foiled at last by the dark and raging storm, which has the final word.

Prospero Vs. Ariel: Who Would Win?

Power is a prevalent theme in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and arguably the two most powerful characters in the play are Prospero and his servant Ariel. Prospero has obtained mastery over powers such as magic, enchantment, and the ability to summon gods and spirits to his side. Ariel, on the other hand, being a nonhuman spirit, has the powers of transformation, flight, and invisibility, as well as enchantment. So given Ariel’s (possibly superior?) range of powers, why is it that he still finds himself bound to Prospero, doing his every bidding?

It is unclear if Prospero actually has greater magical powers than Ariel. In fact, given that Ariel is constantly being sent to do magical tasks for Prospero, it is possible that Ariel’s magical powers exceed Prospero’s own. So is Ariel’s servitude only a matter of might? It seems unlikely.

Rather, there are two other powers in play that keep the formidable Ariel faithfully by Prospero’s side. The first is a power of Prospero’s that is superior to all the other players: brainpower. Prospero is the great puppeteer, the labyrinth builder, the weaver of the webs. He uses his massive intellect to carefully choreograph the shipwreck, the meeting of Ferdinand and his daughter Miranda, ensuring their undying love, manipulating the scheming courtiers and meting out punishment and reward with a wise hand. Ariel has magic too, but Prospero pulls the strings, as evidenced by the wedding revelry scene, in which Prospero bids Ariel to fetch lesser spirits for him: “Go bring the rabble, o’er whom I give thee power”(4.1. 40-41). Ariel is able to do it easily, but it is Prospero who gives him the authority for it. Although Ariel performs the feat, there can be no doubt as to who is in charge. With his brainpower Prospero is able to play Ariel like a violin, carefully promising reward and withholding gratification, praising and chastising, and stirring within the spirit both guilt and gratitude. This is evidenced especially in line in which Ariel brags of the alacrity with which he will perform his latest task, and then eagerly asks, “Do you love me, Master? No?” To which Prospero replies “Dearly, my delicate Ariel” (4.1. 52-53). Like a vain child, Ariel seeks his master’s approval and praise, and Prospero encourages him, knowing that it is the way to keep in flighty Ariel’s favor.

This leads to the second power, that belongs to Ariel and keeps him bound to Prospero until Prospero releases him: the powerful force of honor. Ariel, contrasting sharply with the ungrateful Caliban, unresentfully honors his promise of a year’s service, and would probably be too noble to renege on this agreement even if Prospero had no magical powers at all. If he were not willing and honor-bound to repay the service rendered to him, Ariel would be a petulant schemer like Caliban. Thus Prospero’s threats of trapping Ariel back in a tree are unnecessary (1.2. 349-351), for he already has Ariel completely under his command; Ariel is bound by his code of personal ethics, a rare and admirable power both in Shakespeare’s time and today.