Shakespeare’s play The Tempest was the origin of the expression “brave new world” that has since been used prominently by Rudyard Kipling and Aldous Huxley. Huxley used it as the title for his novel (published in 1932) that depicted a world populated by five castes (alpha through epsilon) of genetically stratified slaves, all ruled over by a tiny elite of ten “World Controllers”; while Kipling used the expression to describe a faux Utopian social condition that existed before an apocalypse, in his 1919 poem ‘The Gods of the Copybook Headings‘:
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
In Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah (hereafter, SSM), I showed that some Shakespeare plays have a hidden symbolic level which inverts the Flavian comic system of the Gospels and Josephus. Did Shakespeare have such an occulted meaning for the expression ‘Brave New World’, and how should we now understand the phrase?
On its surface, The Tempest seems to be a play about forgiveness, because at the end of the play the main character Prospero seemingly forgives the nobles that had stolen his dukedom. However, I have now discovered that the author has also created an occulted outcome that is completely different than the surface narration. At this occult level, far from forgiving his usurpers, Prospero is actually arranging their demise. This is, of course, keeping with the core structure of the Shakespearian plays shown in SSM, which reverse the black comedy in the Gospels and often end with a cannibalistic slaughter.
While this analysis shows that Shakespeare’s purpose in writing The Tempest is adequately explained by a Jewish sectarian agenda, there are other frameworks that have been proposed. More information will be appearing at this site shortly.
Isaiah’s apocalyptic vision
The plot of The Tempest is framed around a re-enactment of the apocalyptic and messianic vision of the book of Isaiah. Many aspects of Ariel’s character stem directly from the Bible story. In Isaiah 29:4, Ariel’s voice is said to come from the ground. Thus, Shakespeare ‘s character does “business in the veins of he earth, when it is baked with frost” and speaks directly from the ground to mystify the nobles. In the play Ariel is depicted as a spirit who does the bidding of Prospero, a usurped noble who represents the legitimate, righteous king described in Isaiah 32.
Isaiah begins his apocalyptic story in chapter 29, by describing ‘Ariel’ – in this case indicating the city of Jerusalem – as besieged and distressed with “heaviness and sorrow”. The city will be brought down so far that the voice of ‘Ariel’ (representing the spirit of Jerusalem) will come “from the dust”.
Beginning with verse 29:6, God intervenes, the tables are turned, and the multitude of ‘nations’ (Hebrew, ‘Goyim’) fighting against Jerusalem are judged and placed into a dream state, which is like a ‘tempest‘, the basis for the title of Shakespeare’s play. After this stage passes, the nations face an Apocalypse. They will be slaughtered, and their land will be turned into a wasteland where owls live and nest. Isaiah describes the ‘end of days’ for the nations, in which their world will ‘dissolve’ – a word often used in the Bible to depict the ‘End Times’ of those that wage war against Israel. Finally, the desert “blooms” into a paradise, a land of complete bounty, but only God’s chosen ones are permitted to enter.
The prophet uses the term ‘Ariel’ in a cryptic manner that can be seen as both as a synonym for Jerusalem and for the spirit of the Jewish people in general. Moreover, the word may also signify an altar of burnt offerings, which suggests the grim notion that the Jews and Gentiles who died in the battles for control of the city were sacrifices to god. It is important to recognize that the author of The Tempest is interpreting Isaiah’s story from Isaiah’s obviously Jewish prophetic perspective, in other words from the perspective that the vengeance of ‘Ariel’ is justified, not a perspective one would expect from a Gentile author.
Of course, other scholars have noted that Shakespeare made use of Isaiah in this play; for example, see Paul Olson, Beyond a Common Joy, pp. 130-136. But what has not been noted before is an element of very subtle cannibal humor, in which Shakespeare jokes about body parts such as ‘stinking feet’, which are ‘licked’, ‘trimmed’ or perhaps ‘severed’ in Prospero’s ‘court’ of justice. Thus, Shakespeare’s reenactment of Isaiah’s apocalypse also inverts the Flavian mockery of the sacrament of the Eucharist at Martha’s feast, where Lazarus’s smelly and decaying body was implicitly “made into a supper”.
Unlike Olson, I also show that the playwright’s careful use of the Biblical text continues through Isaiah’s chapter 34, where the prophet depicts the destruction of the nations arrayed against Israel; as well as chapter 35, which depicts post-apocalyptic bliss. This completes the apocalyptic vision of the author known as First Isaiah. It should be noted that many biblical scholars believe that the latter parts of the book of Isaiah (beginning with chapter 40) were written by much later authors.
34:1 Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it.
2 For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.
3 Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.
4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
A typological dream shipwreck
The play opens on a ship in a raging storm at sea. In fact the entire reality the characters are experiencing is a dream, a fantasy they have been placed in by Prospero’s magic spirit Ariel. The characters have essentially been placed inside the ‘dream’ reality described in Isaiah 29:6.
While shipwrecks, in general, are literary tropes, Shakespeare’s shipwreck contains specific elements that link it to well-known incidents in the New Testament and Josephus. Those, in turn, were written in homage to Aeneas’ shipwreck at Carthage in Virgil’s Aeneid; not to mention Ulysses’ shipwreck at Scylla and Charybdis.
Among tremendous bursts of thunder and wind, the courtier Gonzalo and several royal passengers emerge from their cabins to express their concerns to the crew. The Boatswain rebukes Gonzalo, saying: “You are a counsellor; if you can command these elements to silence, and work the peace of the present, we will not hand a rope more; use your authority.” Gonzalo replies with a prediction that the boatswain will survive the storm, if only to perish by hanging later on for his impertinence. Gonzalo’s prophecy is like Paul’s prophecy in Acts (27:22):
“And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship…
Watching the storm from the shelter of a nearby tropical island, Prospero’s daughter Miranda is alarmed at the fearsome prospects for loss of life on the ship, but Prospero tells her to calm herself, because he has ordered that “not so much… as an hair” of anyone on the ship will be harmed.
The shipwreck in the Tempest is typologically linked to those described in Acts and Josephus in which Paul and Josephus, respectively, are miraculously spared from perishing. Humorously, the characters of Gonzalo and ‘the Boatswain’ seem to represent both of Josephus’s types — Joseph of Arimathea and Paul, simultaneously present on Shakespeare’s boat.
Prospero’s action to rescue the ship has fulfilled Gonzalo’s prophecy, just as in both Acts and Josephus we find that all have survived, by God’s providence:
the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from [their] purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump [overboard] first and get to land, 44 and the rest, some on boards and some on things from the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land. (Acts 27)
our ship was drowned in the Adriatic Sea, we that were in it, being about six hundred in number, swam for our lives all the night; when, upon the first appearance of the day, and upon our sight of a ship of Cyrene, I and some others, eighty in all, by God’s providence, prevented the rest, and were taken up into the other ship (Josephus, Life).
Prospero’s ‘art’ has produced the first of the many dreams in the Tempest. In this case, the entire shipwreck was a hallucination that all of the victims experienced.
Prospero’s overthrow, a parallel to the fall of Jerusalem
Prospero then tells his daughter of his real background that he has kept secret from her. This scene may represent how the young Emilia Bassano was told about her family’s Jewish background and the real meaning of the Gospels. Miranda remembers that she once was attended by a royal court, but cannot remember how she came to be on a remote island with Prospero. Prospero goes on to tell his daughter that he was once the Duke of Milan:
Twelve year since, Miranda, twelve year since,
Thy father was the Duke of Milan and
A prince of power.
Sir, are not you my father?
Thy mother was a piece of virtue, and
She said thou wast my daughter; and thy father
Was Duke of Milan; and thou his only heir
And princess no worse issued.
Prospero’s cryptic language evades admitting directly to be Miranda’s father. This is, perhaps, an example of Prospero’s scrupulous honesty, in that no man (in the age before DNA testing) could ever be certain of paternity, except by relying on the virtue of his wife. However, it also seems to be the beginning of a theme of ambiguity with respect to Prospero’s gender.
Explaining the circumstances leading to the loss of his kingdom, Prospero admits he was preoccupied: “being transported And rapt in secret studies” in his library. These studies, presumably, culminated in Prospero’s gaining magic powers over the spirit ‘Ariel’, and the ability to create dream states as prophesied in Isaiah. But said magic powers were not brought to bear, as Prospero was overthrown by a conspiracy of his brother Antonio in concert with Alonso, the King of Naples. Prospero explains:
A treacherous army levied, one midnight
Fated to the purpose did Antonio open
The gates of Milan, and, i’ the dead of darkness,
The ministers for the purpose hurried thence
Me and thy crying self.
This evokes a parallel to the play-within-a-play in Hamlet depicting the fall of Troy, which in turn evokes the fall of Jerusalem to the Flavians. In this parallel, Alanso and Antonio are in the roles of Vespasian and Titus, with Alanso as the senior power and Antonio as the junior conqueror.
A pair of treacherous Flavian trinities
The Tempest depicts two mockeries of the Flavian trinity of emperors and gods; both sets are linked to Isaiah by their being depicted as drunkards. The first set is made up of Antonio, Alonso and Sebastian, who are described as a group of “three men of sin” who are “among men the most unfit to live”. Later Gonzalo states that “All three of them are desperate: their great guilt, Like poison given to work a great time after Now ‘gins to bite the spirits.” Alonso and Sebastian are the King of Naples and his brother and thus are easier to understand as types of the Flavians. The third member is Antonio, who is called the brother of Prospero — although Prospero repeatedly complains of his perfidy, and disputes whether such an evil personage could actually be his brother. One must also bear in mind that the author of the Shakespearian literature was aware that members of the group that conspired to create Christianity had Jewish blood. In fact, the Herods (the family of Bernice) had ‘grafted’ themselves onto the lineage of the Jews’ royal family (the Maccabees) by forced intermarriage.
The other depiction of the Flavian ‘trinity’ is a comic send up made up of the three clowns Stefano, Caliban and Trinculo. ‘Stefano’ – meaning crown – is Vespasian, the Flavian that seized the throne from the Julio-Claudians. ‘Caliban’ – an anagram of cannibal – represents Titus, the Flavian linked to the ‘flesh eating humor’ in the Gospels. Like Titus’s claim of ownership of Judea, Caliban falsely claims ownership of the island, ‘this island’s mine”. Prospero states that Caliban is of a “vile race” and that he has taught him “words”, indicating Titus’s use of Jewish typology in the gospels. ‘Trinculo’ – playing off of his focus on the number three and the ‘trinity’ – is Domitian. Joking with Trinculo, Stephano speaks of a jacket (a ‘jerkin’) using the enigmatic phrase “like to lose your hair and prove a bald jerkin”. This is typology based upon the description of Domitian’s baldness in Suetonius (Domitian 18), who claimed that he wore wigs and even wrote a book on hair care. Trinculo states, “I shall not fear fly-blowing”. ‘Fly blown’ means to be contaminated with the waste of flies and refers to Domitian’s penchant to be with flies that was also recorded by Suetonius:
“At the beginning of his reign he (Domitian) used to spend hours in seclusion every day, doing nothing but catch flies and stab them with a keenly-sharpened stylus. Consequently when someone once asked whether anyone was in there with Caesar, Vibius Crispus made the witty reply: “Not even a fly.” Suetonius, Domitian 3.
Trinculo’s “fly blowing” statement is witty in that it also captures the typology in Revelation describing the many-eyed creatures that surrounded the ‘Lord God’ Domitian. This is why ‘Trinculo’ states “I shall not fear” in order to mimic the “shall not fear” phrase of Scripture (Psalm 27, etc). Again notice that understanding Shakespeare as Jewish literature that reverses the Flavian typology provides an understanding to all of the play’s mysteries.
In keeping with the theme seen in Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Merchant of Venice (all analyzed in SSM), the hero Prospero has typologically stepped into the role of the ancient Jews who were destroyed or deposed by Titus; but also, above, he represents God himself, in his ability to control the storm and save every hair on the passengers’ heads.
Josephus and Gonzalo, keepers of (Prospero’s) Books
Now it is Prospero’s enemies who are in danger in their ship. Continuing his narration, Prospero tells Miranda that they themselves were saved from a similar plight at sea, also by divine providence.
How came we ashore?
By Providence divine.
Some food we had and some fresh water that
A noble Neapolitan, Gonzalo,
Out of his charity, being then appointed
Master of this design, did give us, with
Rich garments, linens, stuffs and necessaries,
Which since have steaded much; so, of his gentleness,
Knowing I loved my books, he furnish’d me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.
The character ‘Gonzalo’, presented in a positive light, may be representing primarily Joseph of Arimathea. To flesh out the typological linkage to the Gospels’ character, he is referred to as a counselor and described as a bringer of linen. Although Joseph of Arimathea ‘foresaw’ Joseph bar Mathias (that is, Josephus), Gonzalo does not necessarily represent the negative aspects of Josephus, the turncoat who became the historian for the hated Flavians. In the Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea was simply a “good counselor” that faithfully tried to serve the Christ, a role Gonzalo repeats by his faithful service to Prospero.
Prospero’s stomach bears up Miranda
Prospero goes on to tell Miranda the story of their loss of the Dukedom, and their arrival on the island. Speaking of the travails of their journey by sea, Prospero uses words strikingly similar to the way a woman would describe a pregnancy, continuing a theme of play with Prospero’s gender.
Alack, what trouble
Was I then to you!
O, a cherubim
Thou wast that did preserve me. Thou didst smile.
Infused with a fortitude from heaven,
When I have deck’d the sea with drops full salt,
Under my burthen groan’d; which raised in me
An undergoing stomach, to bear up
Against what should ensue.
Miranda wonders how this tale of woe is related to the storm and shipwreck she has just seen. Prospero explains that the shipwreck has brought his old enemies, Antonio and Alonso, into his hands for punishment.
Ariel’s magic drives Prospero’s enemies mad
Prospero tells Miranda that she must fall asleep, and as soon as she becomes quiet, we are introduced to the spirit Ariel, who reaffirms that he has created the tempestuous dream world in which the master’s enemies have been driven into a “fever of the mad”.
Prospero’s ability to command this spirit is nothing less than divine. The name of ‘Ariel’ (or ‘Uriel’) appears frequently in apocryphal and traditional sources as the name of a powerful angel or demiurge, and he is characterized as the voice of Jerusalem in Isaiah (29:4). Ariel’s words are evocative of God’s powers described in Job chapter 38, calling down thunder and fire, roaring and bold waves. These are powers beyond ordinary mortals, and reserved in the Bible to God himself, but Prospero commands the same, through Ariel. He also has power to preserve mortals from the mighty storm and shipwreck, fulfilling the prophecy given above.
The mariners on the ship (aside from the royal party) have been charmed and stowed asleep on their ship, which is also “safely in harbour.” After this awesome display, we are left puzzled as to the source of this power.
The Sycorax and her son Caliban
Prospero and Ariel provide much-needed background information in their discussion. Prospero states that the “damn’d witch Sycorax” has been banished from Argier, and the “blue-eyed hag” was brought to the island with her son Caliban, “a freckled whelp hag-born — not honour’d with a human shape”. Finding Ariel on the island, Sycorax, “by help of her more potent ministers”, confined Ariel into a “cloven pine” where the spirit was imprisoned.
Scholars have puzzled over the source of the character ‘Sycorax’. Our hypothesis is that this name is a pun or a composite of the names ‘Sychaeus’ and ‘Sicharbas’, which are the names given by Virgil and Servius respectively for the character that was the first husband of the Widow Dido, founder of the city of Carthage. The Widow Dido will be mentioned again in the play later on.
In the Shakespearian literature, Carthage – a Semitic city – is used as a type for Jerusalem. Dido is thus recognized as a ruler with Jewish connections, and her second marriage, to Sychaeus who was later killed by her son, probably represents a marriage of convenience to a Gentile. This is clarified by the fact that Sychaeus was a priest of Heracles. After Sychaeus’s death, Dido refuses to marry Aeneas, the founder of Rome, thus setting up the schism between Jews and Gentiles.
In The Tempest, Sychaeus (Sycharbus) is rendered as a woman (Sycorax), a “blue-eyed hag” and thus a Gentile like Sychaeus or Aeneas, and she has given birth to a son “not honour’d with a human shape.” This is ‘Caliban’ the type of Titus, and therefore the playwright can be seen as setting up a broad-stroke typology of the battle between Christianity versus Judaism.
Caliban enslaved by Prospero
Prospero is soon discussing Caliban with his daughter. Although Miranda says Caliban is “a villain… I do not love to look on”, Prospero admits that they need his services, to “make our fire” and “fetch in our wood”. Even as a refugee on this island, Prospero sees himself as an aristocrat, and Caliban is put to work as his slave to do menial tasks. Within Shakespeare’s comic system, Caliban typologically represents the ironic situation of a Christian slave in service to the powerful elite. The name ‘Caliban’ is an anagram of ‘Canibal’, prefiguring his role in re-enacting the Flavian typology.
Caliban, Prospero and Miranda meet. The men trade symmetrical curses, but Caliban has no power over Prospero, while Prospero’s curses strike terror into his defenseless slave. Then, they share their story that Caliban had been loved, cared for, and educated by Prospero and Miranda, until Caliban “didst seek to violate the honour” of Miranda. Caliban saw this as perfectly reasonable, that he wanted to have “peopled… this isle with Calibans”; but Miranda and Prospero recoiled in horror, like true aristocrats. The entire scenario is yet another reversal of the “root and branch” theme in the Gospels, in which Caliban has tried and failed to inject his genes into the Jewish pool.
Caliban is sent to gather firewood. As he goes, he remarks that Prospero’s power is great enough to make a vassal out of his ancestral god Setebos. ‘Setebos’ was the god of the Patagonian natives, who had been recently discovered in Shakespeare’s time. As ‘Setebos’ is used in The Tempest, it represents a false god of primitive Gentiles, the structure of Christianity understood by the author of Shakespeare.
Miranda discovers her divine partner Ferdinand
Moving on to the next scene, Ariel lures Prince Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples, to meet with Prospero’s daughter Miranda. Ariel sings of the prince’s father Alonso’s death, but notably without using any recognizable cannibal imagery. In yet another reversal of Josephus’s theme of the ‘new root and branch’, Prospero is planning to marry his daughter to the Prince, thus grafting his family back into the royal line. Miranda is quick to make her own declaration of Ferdinand’s divinity, as she first encounters him: “I might call him A thing divine, for nothing natural I ever saw so noble.”
Miranda and Ferdinand quickly fall in love, just as Dido fell in love with Aeneas. Prospero is delighted, but nevertheless resolves to put roadblocks in their path, “lest too light winning make the prize light.” He tells Ferdinand:
I’ll manacle thy neck and feet together:
Sea-water shalt thou drink; thy food shall be
The fresh-brook muscles, wither’d roots and husks
Wherein the acorn cradled. Follow.
‘Fresh-brook muscles’ would be a type of fish. Thus, within the Flavian system, this is a cannibalistic threat, and not entirely in jest, as Ferdinand’s royal line is to be subsumed to Prospero and Miranda’s Jewish line in the upcoming “new root and branch” reversal. Or as described above: a ‘withered root’. Prospero also gives Miranda his ‘opinion’ about Ferdinand:
Thou think’st there is no more such shapes as he,
Having seen but him and Caliban: foolish wench!
To the most of men this is a Caliban
And they to him are angels.
With this tongue-in-cheek verdict, Prospero expresses real disdain for royal privilege, and speaks the truth about what “most of men” think of the preening elite.
Royal villains and fish food
At the opening of Act II, the royal villains from the shipwreck are wandering around the island and exchanging seemingly harmless banter. Gonzalo remarks on how their clothing is as good as new, verifying Ariel’s report. They joke about the Widow Dido of Carthage (and the ‘Widower Aeneis’) while discussing the wedding of Alonso’s daughter Claribel in Tunis, which Gonzalo (almost correctly) asserts was synonymous to Carthage. This marriage is yet another cyclical repeat of the “root and branch” theme, as Claribel, a Gentile, has become attached to the king of Tunis (a Phoenician, an African and a type for the Moorish Jews.) The reference becomes ominous as the bantering discussion returns to Gonzalo’s doublet from the wedding, which Antonio says was ‘well fished for’, hinting that Claribel’s marriage in Tunis is similarly doomed. Remember that Dido’s first husband and true love had been killed by her brother, and Aeneas became a “widower” because Dido killed herself after his departure.
Continuing in this ominous vein, Alonso laments that his daughter might as well be lost. Indeed, in Shakespearean typology, she certainly has been lost, her bloodline ‘pruned’ by the intermarriage with Jewish royalty.
When I wore it at your daughter’s marriage?
You cram these words into mine ears against
The stomach of my sense. Would I had never
Married my daughter there! for, coming thence,
My son is lost and, in my rate, she too,
Who is so far from Italy removed
I ne’er again shall see her.
Next, Alonso is in despair with the realization that his beloved son Fernando has become fish food, and thus is lost as well. The correct interpretation of his statement is that he too will be pruned and grafted by his love for Miranda, and figuratively be eaten by the ‘fish’ in a reversal of the Flavian eucharist.
O thou mine heir
Of Naples and of Milan, what strange fish
Hath made his meal on thee?
Gonzalo plans his kingdom
After more such banter, Gonzalo tells of his ideal philosophy for ruling such an island as they have landed on. It will be a commonwealth with no riches or poverty, where everyone is idle, and “nature should bring forth, Of its own kind, all foison, all abundance, To feed my innocent people.”
Though, as widely noted, Gonzalo’s words are taken directly from an essay “Of Cannibals” by Montaigne, the sentiments are inspired by the prophecy of post-apocalyptic bliss that occurs in Isaiah 35 when “the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” This paradise will come after the genocide of the nations, and it is intended only for the “innocent people”, while the ‘unclean’ and ‘fools’ will be excluded. Gonzalo’s description of an “innocent people” will be contrasted with those who wish to be pardoned for their sins at the play’s conclusion.
Sebastian and Antonio ridicule Gonzalo’s inconsistency in wanting to be King of an egalitarian utopia, and Alonso rejects Gonzalo’s advice as “nothing”.
Sebastian also plots to gain a kingdom
Continuing the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah 29, Ariel charms Gonzalo and Alonso asleep, leaving Antonio and Sebastian (Alonso’s brother) to plot against Alonso. They realize that if Alonso and Gonzalo were killed, no one would be the wiser, and Sebastian would inherit the throne of Naples. Antonio and Sebastian reminisce about Antonio’s wicked theft of Prospero’s dukedom, and agree that guilty feelings have not been a problem. This is a rich and hilarious parody of the trinity of Flavian emperors, evocative of Domitian’s repudiation of the Flavian churches and his reconstruction and re-invention of the Christian religion after their deaths. Meanwhile, on the surface level, there is also rich irony in that it is far from obvious how the plotters will ever get back to Naples to claim their prize.
As Antonio and Sebastian are standing with their swords drawn and ready to plunge into Gonzalo and Alonso’s necks, Antonio’s speech includes another hint of cannibal imagery: Alonso is referred to as “This ancient morsel”. Ariel awakens Gonzalo and Alonso in the nick of time, foiling Sebastian’s bid for the throne.
Clowns need kingdoms, too
The next scene opens with Caliban giving yet another cannibalistic curse against Prospero: “All the infections that the sun sucks up From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall and make him By inch-meal a disease!” Caliban adds that it is by ‘trifles’ that Prospero is able to control him. This may be a reference to Pliny’s description of Christianity as trifles, or ‘toies and fooleries’.
Trinculo the clown enters, and Caliban drops to the ground, hiding under his cloak. Trinculo identifies Caliban as a ‘Fish’: that is, a Jewish or Christian hoi polloi, a victim of the aristocracy. He has a “very ancient and fish-like smell.” A storm approaches, and Trinculo decides to hide with Caliban under the cloak: “misery acquaints a man with strange bed-fellows”, he says.
Stephano enters drunk:
The master, the swabber, the boatswain and I,
The gunner and his mate
Loved Mall, Meg and Marian and Margery,
But none of us cared for Kate;
Stephano’s grouping of himself and five other ‘Roman’ shipmates courting different women whose names all derive from ‘Mary’, mocks the many ‘Marys’ in the Gospels, that were created by the Flavians to represent the rebellious females of the messianic movement.
Caliban believes at first that Stephano is an agent of Prospero; that is, a proxy of God. Stephano believes that his liquor “will give language to” Caliban, as Titus intended that the Gospels would give a new voice to the Jews. But, as Stephano and Trinculo exchange cheery banter, Caliban becomes convinced that Stephano is a god in his own right, and not just as a representative. Stephano accepts Caliban’s adulation, and promises that if Caliban will “kiss the book”, then he will “furnish it anon with new contents.” With this, Stephano again reminds us of the Flavians, who also furnished the New Testament with “new contents.”
Stephano tells Caliban that he has was once the man in the moon. Caliban has replied that he saw him there, along with his dog and his bush. This recalls Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which the character ‘Moonshine’ in the rough mechanical’s interlude also has a dog and a bush. Trinculo laughs that Caliban has been rendered “puppy-headed” by Stephano’s drink and propaganda, and has now become a suitable target for beatings.
Suddenly the conversation takes on a more serious tone: like Antonio and Sebastian, Stephano now confesses that it is the thirst for power on this deserted island that is his deepest motivation. Caliban fancies that he will win his freedom, even as his new boss, Stephano, is giving him his marching orders.
After the clowns go offstage, at the beginning of Act III, we find that Ferdinand has taken up Caliban’s burden and is carrying piles of logs, a task unbecoming a young man of royal blood; but in his view the task is ennobled by his love for Miranda, who reportedly told him “such baseness had never like executor.” Miranda tells him that Prospero the wizard is busy, “safe for these three hours” (a period reminiscent of Jesus’s time on the cross), tempting him to pleasures of the flesh; but actually Prospero is hovering in the background, watching everything that transpires. Ferdinand and Miranda continue to talk flirtatiously, and pledge themselves to be married.
Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban continue to wander about the island, and Trinculo has returned to his opinion that Caliban is a fish, because he drinks like one. Caliban pleads with Stephano to destroy Prospero and his books, take Miranda to bed, and take sole power over the island — while the spirit Ariel toys with them with ventriloquist tricks, and provokes them to quarrel.
We are reminded that Isaiah 29:4 warns Ariel, that is Jerusalem: “thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust”. Aside from making Ariel a type for the voice of Jerusalem (that is, the breath or spirit of the Jews), this also makes her an appropriate sprite for playing the role of a ventriloquist.
Stephano and Trinculo are alerted by the sound of Ariel’s pipe playing a tune, but Caliban reassures them:
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
Caliban’s wish to return to his dream continues the theme of re-creating the dreams of Isaiah 28. The sound of “a thousand twangling instruments” reminds us of Paul’s “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).
A cannibal feast for a king
Alonso, Gonzalo, Sebastian and Antonio continue wandering around the island in search of Fernando, and they are growing weary and about to sleep. Perhaps they are indeed asleep and dreaming when they suddenly find a marvelous banquet. The banquet is later taken away, creating a fantasy fulfillment of Isaiah (29:8):
It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.
Prospero watches invisibly over the group, as the banquet is laid out for them by “strange Shapes” seen as a “gentle-kind”. In an aside, Prospero contrasts these spirits against the royal court, who he describes as “worse than devils”.
Alonso is reluctant to eat, and Gonzalo’s words do not seem reassuring: he says the banquet reminds him of “mountaineers… whose throats had hanging at ‘em Wallets of flesh” and “men Whose heads stood in their breasts.” It seems that Gonzalo knows that the banquet consist of flesh and breasts of men — the understanding of the Eucharist in the Shakespearean literature. The cannibal imagery is palpable. But, Alonso quiets his concern, and agrees to partake.
Ariel suddenly appears “like a harpy, claps his wings upon the table”, and the banquet vanishes. Ariel pronounces a condemnation on the men, reminding them of their theft of Prospero’s dukedom.
The Gentile nobility are types of the Flavians and are thus described as the “most unfit to live” of all men. Ariel says that he has driven them mad, and threatens that “Lingering perdition, worse than any death can be at once, shall step by step attend you and your ways.” While this fate is generally consistent with the fate of Gentile lords in the Shakespearian literature, Ariel suggests that perhaps they can be guarded from the wrath of the powers, by “heart-sorrow and a clear life ensuing”. In other words, Ariel holds out the hope that perhaps the nobles can achieve forgiveness through contrition, and by reforming their lives.
Prospero, however, is satisfied that “these mine enemies are all knit up in their distractions; now they are in my power.” These words will help explain the symbolic meaning of the phrase ‘brave new world’ discussed below.
Wedding plans for Miranda and Ferdinand
Beginning Act IV, Prospero pronounces his blessing over Miranda, Ferdinand, and their love, and looks forward to a grand wedding. In the meanwhile, he chides them to remain chaste, and also calls Ariel to “bring the rabble”, presumably meaning two trios of captives. As Ariel exits, Prospero promises to bestow “some vanity of mine art” upon the young couple.
Prospero’s promised “art” is a vision of Juno, Ceres and Iris, who are conjured up to bless the marriage. These three are the steadfast Roman goddesses of statecraft, agriculture and information, while the eroticism of Venus is noted to be absent from the pageant. Thus, the marriage between Miranda and Ferdinand reverses the founding of Rome in which the righteous outsider Aeneas (son of Venus) marries Lavinia, heir to the royal throne of the Latins. This also repeats the theme of Titus Andronicus in which a Jew is inserted into the Gentile’s royal lineage.
While the vision is still unfolding, Prospero suddenly remembers that Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo are still at large on the island, threatening to kill him. He abruptly ends the revelry, and sends Ferdinand and Miranda off to his ‘cell’, instructing Ferdinand to sleep.
A trumped up trap for the clowns
Although the “revels” have dissolved, and Ferdinand and Miranda await quietly in the cell, Prospero himself is still very busy. Working with Ariel, he prepares a trap for Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo by putting “the trumpery in my house” onto a clothesline where the three clowns find it. They have lost their wine, which Stephano says is an “infinite loss”, perhaps a metaphor for loss of Christian faith.
However, as compensation for their loss, they have found the royal and priestly apparel that Prospero and Ariel have left for them, and they revel in playful pomp. The “trumpery” seems to be a parody of the banquet that was laid out for the King of Naples and his party: the gentile royalty aspire to eat real flesh, while the clowns, pretenders, get only the opportunity to fancy themselves as royalty for a moment. One commentator thought that the garments represent Shakespeare’s writings; that is, the “paschal lamb” prepared by Bassano in the Salve Deus.
Caliban warns the clowns that the moment to carry out their criminal conspiracy against Prospero is passing. Stephano shushes Caliban, making an enigmatic comment about a jacket that will lose its hair and become a “bald jerkin”.
As the clowns are playing, “divers Spirits, in the shape of dogs and hounds” enter to drive them away, as Prospero curses them. Thus, their plotting against the master is brought to an abrupt end.
Prospero promises forgiveness (??)
With both trios of scoundrels completely under Prospero’s control, this is where we would expect the prophecy of Isaiah 34:2-4 to be ultimately fulfilled, that is, with the slaughter of the unclean ones, and the stink coming out of their carcasses. But, the surface-level action proceeds in a most unexpected fashion from here. Ariel calls on Prospero’s pity for the royal party, and especially for Gonzalo, whose “tears run down his beard, like winter’s drops from eaves of reeds.” Ariel is sure that if Prospero were able to see their sorrow and dismay, his “affections would become tender.” The dialog then unfolds as follows:
Dost thou think so, spirit?
Mine would, sir, were I human.
And mine shall.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
Yet with my nobler reason ‘gaitist my fury
Do I take part: the rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent,
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown further. Go release them, Ariel:
My charms I’ll break, their senses I’ll restore,
And they shall be themselves.
Prospero, an aristocrat, elitist, and former duke himself, has seemingly decided to recognize his common humanity with his royal enemies, and to forgive them; that is, at least according to the surface narration. At this point one is tempted to speculate that ‘Shakespeare’ has been blackmailed into showing so much unfamiliar kindness; or perhaps, that the earlier author has been replaced entirely, and an alternate author has been enlisted to craft such an uncharacteristically happy ending.
Nevertheless: considering the relentlessly unforgiving nature of ‘Shakespeare’ as we know from Titus Andronicus, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, discussed in SSM — one must suspect that there is a trick. Along these lines, please note that Prospero’s promise of forgiveness is carefully couched: Ariel says he would forgive “were I human” but he is not human, but only a spirit of Prospero’s instrumentality. Prospero himself is not necessarily of the same ‘kind’ as the prisoners. Finally, Prospero tells us his intentions ‘shall’ become tender, but perhaps only after proper punishment has been dealt.
While he appears to be preparing to set the prisoners free, Prospero reviews how he has called upon the elves and spirits for his magic. In doing so, he uses the words of Medea from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. As discussed in SSM, ‘Shakespeare’ frequently refers to Ovid’s Philomela (book 6) but this time is different. The choice of this parallel is apt: in Ovid’s tale of book 7, the heroic Jason and the Argonauts have come to Colchis, where the king’s daughter Medea has fallen in love with him. Her passion burns, but she chastely waits until Jason agrees to marry her. Medea’s father assigns Jason the task of winning the golden fleece, which he accomplishes with the aid of Medea’s magic.
Up until this point, Medea is a parallel to Miranda, and Jason is parallel to Ferdinand. However, from this point forward in Ovid’s story, Medea’s life turns to wickedness, and then unhappiness. At Jason’s request, she conjures up a magic spell to restore his father Aeson’s youthful powers. Then she “pretended to a sham quarrel with her husband” and left him to go to the court of Pelias, where she used her trickery and magic to kill him. Meanwhile, Jason has remarried, and Medea kills his new wife and all the children too.
Rather than proceed down Medea’s wicked path, Prospero “abjures” this “rough magic” and promises to break his staff, and drown his book.
Prospero enchants the royal party, and chides and then forgives them, as they stand mute and motionless. Then, he speaks of a time soon to come when he will set Ariel free and the spirit will enter a world where owls cry and the boughs have blossoms. This is the post-apocalyptic world that Isaiah and Gonzalo described above, which will be inhabited by owls and blossoms, that will abide after all of Isaiah has come to pass.
Thou shalt ere long be free.
ARIEL sings and helps to attire him
Where the bee sucks. there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
Compare to Isaiah 34:11 and 35:1-2:
34:11 But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.
35:1 The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God. ….
As the play moves rapidly forward to its conclusion, the master and boatswain are brought forth, and set free. Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban come forward, and are given a blessing. Caliban accepts this blessing and promises to become wise, and “seek for grace”. He sheepishly regrets his folly, saying: “What a thrice-double ass Was I, to take this drunkard for a god And worship this dull fool!” The “thrice-double ass” is the false Christian/Flavian Trinity that Caliban has worshiped, and has now forsaken. It is also (as mentioned earlier) a reference to the ‘ass’ humor and ‘Lazarus’ humor in the Gospels.
Tomorrow, Prospero promises, there will be expeditious sailing back to Naples. From there, Prospero plans to go to Milan, where he will resume his dukedom.
The puzzle described in this post, concerning Prospero’s ‘cell’, begins to unfold during Prospero’s dream vision blessing the marriage plans of Ferdinand and Miranda. As this vision of goddesses nears its end, a country dance of nymphs and “sunburnt sicklemen” is organized. These “reapers” are symbols of the Apocalypse. Prospero states that he ended the ceremony because he had forgotten the conspiracy the Flavian clowns created against him, but the reapers have brought them back to his mind, and he states and that their “minute’ is almost up. The “minute” he is referring to is the time line of the Apocalypse laid out in the Book of Revelation.
This is made completely clear in the famous passage, the most important in the play, in which the enraged Prospero gives a description of the coming Apocalypse of the Gentiles envisioned by Isaiah.
Prospero’s use of the term ‘dissolve’ below is one of the two keys needed to understand the passage and he is using the term in the same context as Isaiah does in 34:2-4, describing the slaughter of all the nations, the stink of their carcasses, and the melting of mountains with their blood. As noted by scholars, when Isaiah describes the “dissolving” of the sun, moon and stars – the hosts of heaven – he is referring to the kings, empires and states that were hostile to Israel. In the passage, Isaiah is also repeating this concept as he had previously given it in 13:10 and 13:11.
Thus, in the first part of the passage, when Prospero indicates that actors are “the stuff that dreams are made of”, he is actually saying that the actors are part of the dream that Isaiah foresaw which leads to the apocalypse of the nations. His use of the term “globe” indicates the Globe Theater. That is, Prospero thinks of the plays themselves as part of Isaiah’s “dream”.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
The puzzle of Prospero’s ‘cell’
The second part of Prospero’s speech, which immediately follows, contains the second key that sets up the puzzle concerning ‘cell’. Shakespeare created this puzzle to show the informed reader that Prospero does not expect the Gentiles to be forgiven later in the play. In fact, he is setting them up for a cannibal feast to reverse the humor in the Gospels.
Sir, I am vex’d;
Bear with my weakness; my, brain is troubled:
Be not disturb’d with my infirmity:
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose: a turn or two I’ll walk,
To still my beating mind.
Notice above that Prospero sends Ferdinand to his ‘cell’ and instructs him to go to sleep. Miranda exits with Ferdinand, presumably also going into the cell, which is where we will next see her. The puzzle in The Tempest concerning Prospero’s cell is the second key needed to understand Prospero’s plan for his enemies.
To learn the solution to the puzzle one needs to understand how the Gospels made fun of the butchering of the Jewish Messiah Eleazar, and described the foul smell of his rotting feet, which then led to a vulgar strand of humor concerning the Messiah riding on three ‘asses’.
The author of Shakespeare has used a double entendre mocking the one in the New Testament. In this case, the author has used the same symbolic elements the authors of the NT used to create their vicious subtext, to create a hidden storyline inside of The Tempest.
Below is the explanation of the Gospels’ ‘smelly feet’ and ‘three asses humor’ humor as presented in SSM.
Recognizing the Gospels’ symbolism concerning the ‘ass’ begins with understanding the typological meaning of the phrase “there they made him a supper” (John 12:2).
In brief, the typological meaning of the phrase is established by its linkage to Josephus’ description of a ‘human Passover Lamb that was a son of Mary’ (Josephus, Jewish Wars 6, 201-219). Both Josephus and the Gospels’ stories of the ‘human Passover Lamb’ contain the concepts of Lazarus, Mary, eating, and a ‘fine portion’ that was not taken away. This linkage builds upon the foundation established by the positioning of the ‘human Passover Lambs’ relative to the overall sequential typological mapping that exists between Jesus’ ministry and Titus campaign.
Further, as I also show in Caesar’s Messiah, when Jesus ‘raised’ Lazarus from the dead, he did not restore Lazarus to life, but merely ‘raised’ his decomposing body from the ground.
These facts enable the typological meaning of the Gospels’ story that next describes Eleazar after he is ‘raised’ from the dead – the ‘anointing party’ where Jesus and his followers are described as ‘reclining’ and preparing ‘supper’ and ‘anointing’ – to become clear. When the author uses the pronoun ‘his’ to define whose head is covered with perfume is it not necessarily Jesus’. In fact, the passage links back – logically enough – to the Gospels’ last mention of a scent – the smell emanating from Lazarus’s corpse; and the author used the ambivalence inherent in pronouns to mask his real meaning.
Thus, it is the head of Lazarus that is covered with perfume in Mark 14:3. It was done to mask its odor. This is also why ‘his’ feet were ‘perfumed’ in the version of the story given in John 12; 1-9, and why the feet were ‘saved’ for the day of the burial. The dark humor behind this mentioning of Lazarus’s body parts is that to “make a meal” of any large animal it must first be butchered, and this is the activity that occurred during the ‘anointing party’ where ‘they made him a supper’. The supper being prepared was the “last Supper’ in the Gospels, which would eat the ‘bread’ of Eleazar’s body.
[….] The theme describing Lazarus’s ‘body parts’ continues in John 12:12-19 as, following the ‘anointing party’ Jesus is said to have previously found (the past tense) a ‘young ass’ to sit upon. Notice that in John 12:1 Lazarus is said to be ‘reclining’ – the only way the dead can posture – hence he was easy to be ‘sat’ upon. I must note that there is an unfortunate sexual ‘innuendo’ behind the image as the Romans sought to humiliate the Jewish Christ in the most extreme (and to them comic) manner possible.
[….] However, the typological relationship between the Gospels and the next event Josephus describes – concerning a ‘son of Lazarus’ and the ‘hauling of bodies through the Jerusalem’s gates’ – is much more difficult to determine and can only be understood once the typological meaning of the stories of Jesus’s ‘triumphal entrance’ on an ass in the synoptics is understood.
A reader must first recognize that the stories in Matthew, Mark and Luke occur following the ‘triumphal entrance’ in John, which took place four days before the Passover. This is necessary because, as shown below, it establishes Lazarus as an ‘ass that has been sat on before’ and therefore distinct from the asses Jesus asks to be brought to him in Mark and Luke, which he stipulates can not have previously been ‘sat on’.
What the author is actually doing is providing just enough details to make it logically clear that four ‘asses’ were brought to Jesus – Lazarus and the ‘donkey’ that are described in Matthew, and the two colts described in Mark and Luke. The image that the author is working to create is a spoof of the prophecy in Jeremiah 9:9, which, if read literally, seems to indicate that the king of the Jews rode three asses simultaneously.
See your King comes to you,
Righteous and having salvation,
Gentle and riding on a donkey,
On a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zech. 9: 9)
To digress, it should be noted that the literary technique the author is using occurs throughout the Gospels. The Romans loved to hide their meanings ‘in plain sight’, so to speak. Thus, the literal meaning of the words is often used to convey the typological linkage, as in ‘fishing for men’, or ‘eat of my flesh’. In this vein the synoptics’ story of Jesus’s ‘triumphal entrance’ is a literal ‘fulfillment’ of Zechariah 9:9 and shows that the Jewish ‘king’ did indeed ‘ride’ on three Asses.
To see the typological point they make, a reader must pay close attention to every detail of the three versions of the story in the synoptics. The ‘young ass’ in Matthew is said to be at Bethany – the place where Lazarus was last seen ‘reclining’ – and is not described as being ‘tied’, while the colts in Mark and Luke are both described as tied and having never having been sat upon before. Further, Mark’s colt is said to have been brought to Jesus immediately, while the one in Luke is not.
Thus, the logical reading of the stories indicate that the ‘young ass’ in Matthew must be Lazarus who has been depicted as an ‘ass’ in the earlier story in John. He must be the ‘young ass’ described at Bethany because not only was he last described there, but he was not ‘bound’ as the asses in Mark and Luke were as he has already been ‘loosed’. (Note that the same word that describes the untying of the asses in Mark and Luke was used to describe the ‘loosening’ of Lazarus from his burial clothes in the prior story in John.) And as he has been ‘sat on’ in the earlier story in John, he cannot be either of the asses described in Mark and Luke who have never been sat on before.
Moving through the typological storyline, the ‘need’ that Jesus tells his disciples in the synoptics’ ‘triumphal entrance’ story that he has for ‘asses’, is actually to transport the Passover meal – the butchered ‘ass’ Lazarus – to Jerusalem. And once he has his ‘quartet’ of ‘asses’, he places Lazarus’ body onto the team of three mules. Jesus can now ‘fulfill’ the prophecy in Jeremiah because he has assembled three donkeys and the ‘King of the Jews’ – the ‘ass’ Lazarus. The ‘triumphal entry’ that the Gospels actually describe is that of three mules carrying the butchered body of the king of the Jews, while he is being sat upon by the Romanized Christ, Jesus.
Only with this information can a reader understand the typology concerning ‘smelly feet’ Shakespeare created in The Tempest. To link the passages of the puzzle, the author placed the word ‘cell’ in all of the relevant passages, which are presented below. Note that the passages are not in a single place but scattered throughout the play.
The first ‘cell’ passages simply presented the concept of the smelly feet, to link to the Gospels.
Which entered their frail shins: at last I left them
I’ the filthy-mantled pool beyond your cell,
There dancing up to the chins, that the foul lake
O’erstunk their feet.
A second passage links the concepts of ‘cell’, ‘foot’, and ‘blind mole’, an unpleasant albino creature of the depths:
Pray you, tread softly, that the blind mole may not
Hear a foot fall: we now are near his cell.
Not to be outdone, the third passage speaks of ‘foot-licking’ near Prospero’s cell, which can only be a prelude to foot-eating.
Prithee, my king, be quiet. Seest thou here,
This is the mouth o’ the cell: no noise, and enter.
Do that good mischief which may make this island
Thine own for ever, and I, thy Caliban,
For aye thy foot-licker.
Thus, we have been primed to expect smelly body parts and cannibalism to be associated with Prospero’s ‘cell’.
The brave new world, and the chamber of horror
With Ariel departed, Prospero wakens the wandering royals, chides them again, and demands the return of his dukedom. Alonso questions whether Prospero is actually the long-lost duke, and Prospero insists it is true. As he pulls back a curtain covering his ‘cell’ to reveal the lost Ferdinand (with Miranda) to the bereaved Alonso, Prospero refers to the cell as a ‘court’.
This, you will remember, is the same ‘cell’ where we can expect to find smelly body parts being licked; perhaps these are the same stinking carcasses referred to in Isaiah 34:3, after the slaughter of the nations. A ‘court’, of course, is where a judge delivers justice.
The use of the word ‘cell’ is fairly unusual in the Shakespearean corpus. Using the concordance at Open Source Shakespeare, we find that the word ‘cell’ appears only 31 times in the entire collected works: 12 times in Tempest, 10 times in Romeo and Juliet, and 9 times in 6 other plays. In Romeo, the sinister Friar Lawrence has a ‘cell’. In Two Gentlemen of Verona, Friar Patrick has a ‘cell’, which is mentioned three times. And in the rest of the plays, a ‘cell’ often refers to a tomb, or perhaps a jail. More often, when Shakespeare wants to refer to someone’s bedroom or study, he uses the word ‘room’ (46 times in 28 works) or ‘chamber’ (99 times in 26 works.)
Miranda goes on to give the group her famous blessing, and Alonso then asks a less well-known question about Miranda’s identity.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!
‘Tis new to thee.
What is this maid with whom thou wast at play?
Your eld’st acquaintance cannot be three hours:
Is she the goddess that hath sever’d us,
And brought us thus together?
Sir, she is mortal;
But by immortal Providence she’s mine:
Miranda’s blessing recalls Hamlet’s soliloquy “what a piece of work is man”, but without the dark conclusion that “he delights me not”. However, Alonso’s conjecture that Miranda is “the goddess that hath sever’d us” may be equally grim as Hamlet’s conclusion. The passage may be playing with the ‘severed’ humor concerning Paul found in Acts and presented in SSM:
Prior to the scene in Acts 13, Saul/Paul had attacked a member of the ‘way’ – Stephan – who has been preaching for ‘Jesus’. In other words, Stephan had been preaching for the Flavian Christ. Following this event Saul shows up in Antioch with a group that includes a ‘stepbrother’ of Herod. Then the ‘Holy Spirit’, for some reason, orders Saul ‘separated’ – the Greek word used can also mean ‘severed’ – and the group then “placed their hands on him” – the word used for “placed” can also mean ‘attack’. Following the event Saul becomes ‘Paul’ (Greek: Paulos), a word that means ‘tiny’ (Latin: Paullus). In other words, Paul has been ‘severed’ – or castrated – by the group led by Herod’s ‘stepbrother’ as revenge for his participation in the attack on a member of the ‘Way’ – the Caesars’ version of Judaism – and Saul thereby became ‘Tiny’.
Paul’s original name of ‘Saul’ is also explained by this reasoning. Saul was the Jewish king that had demanded David obtain ‘a hundred Gentile foreskins’ and the Romans named their character ‘Saul’ to imply that his ‘circumcision’ involved – like the one ordered by his Old Testament forerunner – more than a single foreskin. The author of Acts clarifies the relationship by actually mentioning the Old Testament Saul in the passage where ‘Saul’ becomes ‘Tiny’ – Acts 13:21. The Old Testament Saul’s reign had the space of forty years. This foresees the forty years between the beginning of Paul’s ‘ministry’ at approximately 40 CE and the start of Domitian’s reign in 81 CE – a roughly forty year cycle parallel to the one which linked Jesus to Titus.
The typology is witty in that – logically enough – it suggests that castration may be an appropriate punishment for the gentile nobility, in retaliation for the Roman castration of the Christian hero ‘Paul’.
As the play moves rapidly forward to its conclusion, Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban come forward. Prospero tells Caliban: “Go, sirrah, to my cell; Take with you your companions; as you look To have my pardon, trim it handsomely.” Caliban accepts this blessing and promises to become wise, and “seek for grace”. He sheepishly regrets his folly, saying: “What a thrice-double ass Was I, to take this drunkard for a god And worship this dull fool!”
Caliban’s phrase “thrice-double ass” is a reference to the ‘three ass’ cannibal feast humor in the Gospels. The ‘three asses’, Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban, are sent into Prospero’s cell; that is, his courtroom of justice, where stinking body parts are found. Caliban has been instructed to “trim it handsomely”. Most commentators believe this is referring to the room itself, but we believe it more likely refers to its contents, including people and/or body parts.
Finally, Prospero invites Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio into his “poor cell” to rest and sleep. He tells them he will “waste” part of their night “With such discourse as, I not doubt, shall make it Go quick away; the story of my life And the particular accidents gone by.”
The words “make it Go quick away” are subliminally chilling. The hidden puzzle concerning ‘cell’ indicates that Prospero fully intends, at some occulted or symbolic or magical level, that the plan described in Isaiah shall be carried out — if not by Prospero himself (having abjured his magical powers), then perhaps by God.
The references to Prospero’s ‘cell’ have created a hidden storyline. A possible interpretation of this storyline is as follows:
Prospero’s ‘cell’ is where vengeance is delivered. First, Prospero describes his cell as a “court” – in other words where justice is delivered. Then he orders Ferdinand to sleep there. While he is asleep Miranda ‘severs’ Ferdinand – in other words castrates him. Then, Caliban is told to ‘trim it handsomely’ – meaning to circumcise Ferdinand’s castrated member. Finally, the Gentile nobility is told to spend a night inside the cell – to participate in a cannibal feast of the ‘trimmed’ member.
In Hamlet, the author refers to the murdered King Hamlet’s decaying body as “lazar-like”, and hints that the body has been consumed at his mother’s wedding banquet which followed quickly after the former king’s death. We take this as confirmation that ‘Shakespeare’ was broadly familiar with the view of Lazarus’ fate that we have described above. As to the usage of terms such as ‘sever’ and ‘trim’ to refer to cannibalistic cuisine, many more such instances are described in SSM.
Ferdinand, moreover, is important for the plan of grafting Miranda’s branch into the royal rootstock of Naples. Accordingly, perhaps rather than being castrated, he has merely been circumcised, and it is only the foreskin that has been ‘trimmed’ by Caliban and subsequently consumed by the remainder of the party. Circumcision may well be a form of ritual castration anyhow, in which case at a symbolic level there is little if any difference.
Or conversely, perhaps the entire ensemble of sinners will be sliced to pieces. The exact nature of God’s vengeance is veiled. But in Isaiah’s ancient tribal vision, mercy and salvation are reserved for the God’s chosen people, the Jews, and not for the goyim.
Given the depiction of the ‘Globe’ as an element in the dream state that leads to the Apocalypse of the Christian world, it is hard not engage in paranoid wondering of to what extent Jewish influence in the media is related to the ‘dream state’ for Gentiles described in the Tempest. Or as John Lennon stated –hopefully tongue in cheek – “show business is an extension of the Jewish religion.”
The dream state the Gentiles have been placed in is the basis for the expression “brave new world”. This is why writers such as Kipling and Huxley, who understood the typology in The Tempest, have used the phrase. The Oxford English Dictionary states that the word “brave” was used in Shakespeare’s time meant something that dazzled the senses and was often used as a word of approval or praise. In other words, it was more of a cognate of the modern acclamation “bravo!”, rather than the personal property of courage. The expression “brave new world” is a description of the “world” during the midst of the apocalyptic project that Isaiah describes, during the time that the goyim are held in a dream state, but before they have been annihilated. Note that the “goodly creatures” are the unjust Italian royal usurpers whose minds have been “enchanted”.
Isaiah’s assault on mercy
In the play’s epilogue, Prospero seemingly asks for the audience’s applause and their pardon to set him free to return to Naples. In fact, there is another darker meaning. The language is very precise.
SPOKEN BY PROSPERO
Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
First, the author is stating that the Gentiles must not understand the dream state they have been placed in for the ‘project’ to succeed. – Gentle breath of yours my sails Must fill, or else my project fails
The prayer that ‘pierces’ is Isaiah and it ‘assaults’ mercy itself. In other words, it provides the moral basis for creating an apocalypse for the Gentiles. The “crime” that the Gentiles must be pardoned from was their war against the Jews in the first and second century. And the applause for the play which is the accepting of the dream world the Jews have created will set free the author from her task – which is to bring about the apocalypse described by Isaiah, the “indulgence’ the Gentiles must pay and which will set the Jews free.
Prospero’s feminine aspect
The theme of Prospero’s gender ambiguity begins with his dance around his fatherhood of Miranda, and continues with his description of Miranda’s arrival on the island in terms suggestive of a pregnancy. The powerful parallel to Medea continues this theme. As we have mentioned earlier, the film director Julie Taymor noticed this feminine side of Prospero, and cast Helen Mirren in the role. This duality has a special poignancy if indeed the playwright ‘Shakespeare’ was not only a Jew masquerading as a Christian, but also a woman playing the part of a man in the world. The equation of Prospero with the author, especially in the epilogue, seems to constitute a hint that it is so. In an interview, Taymor explained:
In the era of Shakespeare’s time, again, women were burned at the stake for even dabbling in medicinal arts, let alone alchemy. And therefore the whole issue of white magic/black magic is right there in terms of a woman who was given the freedom by her husband, if you follow the backstory, to practice in the sciences and her brother uses it to have her accused of witchcraft to usurp her dukedom. So Prospera may feel and start as a benevolent sorcerer or alchemist, but because of the revenge factor of having her kingdom taken away and her daughter and she sent out to die, the vengeance part takes over her spirit and she moves into the dark side. I think what you get with Helen’s performance is this unbelievably complex woman who’s both powerful and vulnerable, has an incredible maternal side to her, which is very unique, to have this mother-daughter relationship, she’s got a sensuality and a humor to her because she’s Helen Mirren, and in the end when she puts her corset back on, it’s very different than when a man puts on his duke’s robes. You see that she is really giving up her life to go back into civilization for her daughter; she’s giving up her freedom, because to go back into that courtly society she has to go back into the corseted stays of women of that time. So there’s an enormous amount of the various changes that happen by putting a woman into this role, but ultimately the play is the play, and the themes of Shakespeare’s play don’t change.
The fact that the Jewish director, Julie Taymor, choose to cast Prospero as a woman, coupled with her informed transition of the conclusion of Titus Andronicus, suggests she may have an awareness of the occulted meaning of Shakespeare, as well as the identity of the author.
Discuss in Forum! Posting history: an earlier version of this article was posted in pdf format on 10/20/2014.
A few typos and other minor snafus cleaned up, 6/1/2016