Prospero and Fernando in the Tempest
Fatherly Figure Prospero and Miranda in The Tempest The relationship between Prospero and his daughter Miranda is one of the deepest and most interesting in the play. His paternal presence in her life is stronger than she is at first aware of, and Shakespeare displays this nicely through the sense of sight. In the first scene of the third act, Prospero oversees a pivotal conversation in the relationship between his daughter and Ferdinand, possibly by using his magic to stay invisible.
It is unclear how exactly Shakespeare wanted the viewer to perceive this scene without seeing it directed by him, but one possibility is that he uses Prospero’s magic metaphorically to show the reader or viewer that he is more of a presence in Miranda’s life than she may know. In the opening scenes of the play, Prospero displays an unmatched depth in character as he uses supernatural powers and steadily reveals important new details from his past, but as the story unfolds, Miranda is just as clueless about her father as the audience.
The second scene of the first act serves as the opening into their relationship, where Miranda has a frantic reaction to the terrible storm and tragic shipwreck. While bothered by the notion that her father could have prevented the devastation and chose not to, Prospero tells her that she is unaware of the reality of the situation. He gently reprimands her by saying, “Of thee, my dear one, thee, my daughter, who Art ignorant of what thou art; naught knowing Of whence I am, nor that I am more better Than Prospero, master of a full poor cell, And thy no greater father. This is really just a nice way of saying, “you know very little about yourself or me,” which perfectly sets up Prospero for a vital moment in his relationship with his daughter: explaining to her the detailed truth about their past. A long discussion allows her to learn a significant amount about him, but in the following scenes Miranda proves she still is unaware of her father’s full capabilities. After a few more character introductions, the scene’s attention draws back to Miranda but this time upon Ferdinand’s entrance into the play.
Mostly because he is the first man she has ever seen other than her own father and their slave Caliban, she falls in love with him immediately and the feeling is mutual. Although his intention is to see his daughter fall in love with Ferdinand, as he senses a quickening pace of their fledgling relationship he makes the experienced fatherly decision to intervene by accusing Ferdinand of pretending to be the Prince of Naples. Prospero’s unmatched wisdom surfaces throughout the play one tactful action after the other, this one serving as an example.
Scene one of act three is where the audience notices that Prospero is the driving force in not only his relationship with his daughter, but also the relationship between her and Ferdinand. Miranda continues her naivety toward her father as she encourages Ferdinand to stop working, falsely telling him, “My father Is hard at study. Pray now, rest yourself. He’s safe for these three hours. ” The audience can see Prospero watching and listening to them from a distance, although Miranda and Ferdinand think they are completely alone.
To the reader/viewer, this can be seen as either an intrusion on an otherwise private affair, or as a perfect opportunity to test the character of his prospective son-in-law. Assuming the latter, Ferdinand passes the first test by not only refusing to leave his log-stacking duty unfinished but also by refusing to let Miranda help him. By being there, Prospero can see that this is a reliable man for his daughter. He can trust Ferdinand to get his job done when he’s not around, and also that he will take it into his own hands to care and provide for Miranda, which he proves by not letting her step in to help.
Prospero sees here with his own eyes that Ferdinand is capable of handling his daughter. In addition to seeing the way Ferdinand treats his daughter when he has her to himself, in this scene Prospero is also able to see that his daughter has truly fallen in love. Being the wise parent that he is, Prospero wants to make sure his daughter is in the right hands, but still holds true to what he has taught her. When she tells Ferdinand her name and professes her love to him, Prospero can see that she feels guilty for doing so without his consent.
Shakespeare decides to portray Prospero as content with seeing that his daughter has found true love, and is comfortable with the match as well. In these scenes, Shakespeare has illustrated a three-way relationship between Prospero, Miranda and Ferdinand, with Prospero as the driving force behind it all. He serves his role as the fatherly figure in Miranda’s life, which Shakespeare shows us by depicting him in scenes with her when she is unaware of it. All in all, Prospero proves himself as ever present in his daughter’s life.