In Summer's article "A Double Heuristic for Shakespeare's Doubling", the author suggests that some of the roles in Shakespeare's plays were meant to have double roles as a means of creating artistic themes rather than practical themes. According to the author, the aim was not to show the character's prowess but rather to display the complexity of a character through ironies and metaphors (Summers 75). A prime example of the use of doubling can be seen in Shakespeare's The Tempest. The major theme presented through the use of doubling is power struggle among kings. The use of doubling in the play helps in conveying power struggle through characters such as Prospero, Trinculo, Caliban, and Stephano.
In The Tempest, the use of doubling takes a complicated turn. The main focus of doubling in Shakespeare's play is Prospero. The play begins in Milan whereby Antonio overthrows Prospero from his throne and banishes him into exile. In a bid to save his reputation Prospero overthrows Caliban. The focus was for Prospero to regain his kingdom back. The Prospero's narrative begins with his brother in Milan while Caliban's narrative begins with Prospero arriving to the island. The power struggle begins when Antonio tries to convince Sebastian to murder his brother Alonso so he can take over the throne. On the other hand, Trinculo, Caliban, and Stephano come up with a plan to overthrow Prospero from his throne in Act 3, Scene 2. The Prospero narrative provides the base to which the play is established. Prospero's character creates a smoke screen full of deceit distracting people from what is taking place in the background.
Prospero: Puppeteer and Complex Character
Shakespeare try's the create an illusion between fiction and reality using Prospero as a character. The playwright further employs the use of doubling by using Prospero as a puppeteer of all other characters. At first, Prospero appears to be more of a considerate person. However, in one instance, he uses Ariel's powers to crash the ship on the island in order to scatter people around the island. His aim was to ensure that all the members don't communicate with one another. Despite wanting his people to crash on the island, he still has concerns for his people. He asks Ariel "But are they, Ariel, safe?" (I ii 217) Despite these concerns, his main focus is to become the ruler again.
As the play continues, Ferdinand, the king's son falls in love with Prospero's daughter. Prospero uses the budding romance between the two to help him come out of exile from the island. Prospero in act IV sets free Ferdinand and gives hi his blessings to marry his daughter. In the end, Prospero brushes off the questioning from other characters terming the events as coincidence which is ironic.
An internal conflict exists within Prospero as he tries to come to terms with Miranda as she enters into womanhood. In Act IV, Prospero grants Ferdinand his wish to marry his daughter. However, Prospero gets angry when Ferdinand mentions in Act I ii (450) "O, if a virgin, And your affection not gone forth, I'll make you The queen of Naples." As the play progresses, it is evident that Prospero gets a change of heart by allowing Ferdinand to marry his daughter. However, since he wants to be sure that he will be allowed to come out of exile, he warns Ferdinand from taking Miranda's virginity before marriage.
"Then, as my gift and thine own acquisition. Worthily purchased take my daughter: but If tho dost break her virgin-knot before All sanctimonious ceremonies may With full and holy rite be minister'd, No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall To make this contract grow: but barren hate, Sour-eyed disdain and discord shall bestrew The union of your bed with weeds so loathly That you shall hate it both: therefore take heed, As Hymen's lamps shall light you." (IV i 15).
The Irony of Coincidences: Doubling and Deception
It seems that Prospero uses the statement in a bid to be assured that Ferdinand will not break his covenant of making Miranda the queen of Naples. The statement is a strategic move to ensure that Prospero comes out from his exile and have a chance back to his throne. To solidify the covenant, Ariel summons the spirits such as Ceres, Iris, and June to bless the matrimony. The ceremony proceeds until Prospero changes his mind after remembering the acts of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo to try and assassinate him. The result is an outburst which leads to an end of the ceremony. Prospero plans to humiliate his enemies after the wedding.
Another case of doubling appears in the last act, everyone is waiting for Prospero's final judgment. Prospero displays empathy despite wielding more power. He chooses to forgive his enemies. And shows his human side. "For you, most wicked sir, whom to call brother Would even infect my mouth, I do forgive Thy rankest fault; all of them; and require My dukedom of thee, which perforce, I know, Thou must restore." (Act V i 130) Caliban after much deliberation realizes that Stephano was not a god which leads him to seek forgiveness. Prospero takes pity on him which is unusual having viewed them as enemies. He grants Caliban a second change to serve under him and to take orders from him as Ariel and Ferdinand earlier did. In the end, Ariel gets her freedom from Prospero as promised which showed the dual nature of Prospero. Prospero regains his throne through crafty means and restores order all from the marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda. At the end of the play, Prospero feels like his powers will come to an end and thus appoints Ariel to take over him.
Prospero was keen to show his power stating "some vanity of mine art" (IV.i.41). Prospero's aim was to bestow power unto Ariel. It is this scene where Ariel is presented as a reasonable and mature individual obeying Prospero's commands and serve his best interests as he is a key successor to Prospero. They both share the same interests complimenting one another.
The use of doubling helps develop the play by highlighting the power struggle among the Kings. Doubling is employed to drive the narrative of Prospero struggling to recover his throne back. The conflict with Ferdinand highlights the challenges Prospero undergoes including coming to terms with his daughter being married. However, in the end, Prospero turns his concerns into an advantage allowing him to use the marriage between Miranda and Ferdinand to regain his throne and end the conflicts by reconciling with Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo.
Shakespeare, William. The tempest. Vol. 9. Classic Books Company, 2001.
Summers, Ellen. "A Double Heuristic for Shakespeare's Doubling." Staging Shakespeare. Essays in Honour of Allan C. Dessen: 60-78.
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