National and Colonial Education in Shakespeare's The Tempest
Western Michigan University
[Carey-Webb, Allen]. "[National and Colonial Education in Shakespeare's The
Tempest]." Early Modern Literary Studies 5.1 (May, 1999): 3.1-39
- In Early Modern England there was an increasing systematization of schools
and school knowledge, a process that would, in time, transform a heterogeneous,
polyglot population into a self-consciously identified national people. Successfully
confronting aristocratic and ecclesiastical anxieties that schooling might
be heretical, seditious, or educate people above their 'station,' sixteenth-century
education advocates promoted new schools, unified instruction in Latin grammar,
and ushered in a new orthodoxy in education. Standardized school books were
imposed in the 1540s and, closely corresponding with Shakespeare's lifetime,
there was a boom in the founding of schools. Despite a great variety of forms
and purposes in the educational life of England, 1560 to 1640 has been characterized
as a period of "educational revolution... when the English education system
was more vigorous, more purposeful, better funded and better equipped at this
time than ever before."
- Spurred by the Reformation, education in the period was first and foremost
religious, but religious instruction was more and more conceived as necessary
to creating a prosperous and loyal citizenry. Protestant reformers connected
the ability to read and interpret the Bible to the process of individual salvation
and they addressed themselves with vigor to England’s widespread illiteracy.
With motives that were ethical as well as religious, education advocates viewed
schooling as a pathway to manners, fidelity, and respect for authority. In
1559 Thomas Becon extolled education in the following terms,
Through the schoolmaster the youth of the Christian commonwealth is brought
up in the knowledge of God and of his holy word, and also in the science
of good letters and virtuous manners; and so trained up in them from their
very cradles that as they grow in age so likewise they increase in godliness,
virtue, learning, knowledge, good manners and innocency of life, and afterward
become the faithful servants of God and profitable members of the commonweal,
yea, and good citizens of the country where they inhabit.
- Becon was not alone in connecting "good letters" and "virtuous manners,"
creating "faithful servants of God" and "good citizens of the country." The
historian Christopher Hill claims that "The whole trend of educational advance
during the century before the Reformation had been towards a more secular,
lay-controlled education in the vernacular. The dissolution of the monasteries
and chantries gave an opportunity for creating a national educational system"(39).
In his comprehensive historical study of the development of national consciousness
during the Early Modern period, Nations before Nationalism, John Armstrong
argues that educational organization was crucial to England's precocious consolidation
and development from feudal monarchy to nation-state (168).
- In examining the relationship between English pedagogical practices and
the development of national citizens and state sovereignty Shakespeare's enchanting
romance The Tempest (1611) is remarkably interesting. His ostensible
Italian background notwithstanding, Prospero can be seen as a figure of English
sovereignty who shapes the knowledge and develops the obedience of his subjects
through a pedagogical process. By inquiring into the language and practices
of education that pervade this literary work I want to investigate the connection
between schooling and national citizenship, a connection made at least as
long ago as the sixteenth century by the educational reformers themselves.
Though in his history plays Shakespeare attempts to narrate a common English
national past, I believe that it is in the magical, utopian projection of
his New World romance that we find best illuminated formal and informal processes
of education, processes that have much to do with developing the sense of
citizenship and national identity that influences the centuries to follow.
- Set on an island off the European mainland, and connected by historical
and verbal links to the new English colonies in the Virginias, The Tempest
has been recognized as presenting a model of colonial relationships and a
metaphor of colonial history. Deriving its plot from letters from the New
World, and drawing on European conceptions of "New World" peoples, the play
is widely understood to enact a colonial–or as Gonzalo calls it a "plantation"–economy.
Indeed, the play has served a pivotal role in the analysis of colonial history
by twentieth century intellectuals, from the Uraguaian José Enrique
Rodó (Ariel) to the Italian Octave Mannoni writing about Madagascar
(Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization) to the Cuban
Roberto Retamar ("Caliban: Notes Toward a Discussion of Culture in Our America").
 Since at least the mid 1980s, The Tempest has
been a focal point for exploring politics and colonial discourse in literature.
I do not intend to reproduce those extensive discussions here.
- Nonetheless, as I explore the connection between education and nation in
The Tempest, it is significant that Early Modern nationhood was modeled
on classical empire and an expansionist imposition of language and culture.
In a fascinating way this play brings together the practices of schooling
in early seventeenth-century England with the conception of the proper relationship
between Englishman and colonized natives. Indeed, I want to show that this
educational connection makes The Tempest’s colonial metaphor all the
more engaging. Colonial educational systems were a formative part of the experience
of hundreds of millions of people and spread European languages, culture,
economics, and, eventually, nationalism across the world. Many post-colonial
educational systems in Africa, Latin America, and Asia continue to follow
patterns established during the colonial period.
- Any discussion of the relationship between literary or dramatic works and
historical processes runs certain risks, which should be recognized from the
outset. Literature does not simply reflect political or historical trends.
Connections between literature and history are especially tenuous when history
(or literature) is understood in purely theoretical or monolithic terms. Political
criticism that focuses on the seamlessness of authority can miss a more complex
historical reality as well as obscure the subtleties of art. For instance,
sixteenth century England's political society was not a simple absolutist
tyranny but a complex hybrid of authority where parliament and a developing
merchant class tended to resist traditional nobility by supporting the consolidation
of power in the monarchy. Thus, if we are to read Prospero as a figure of
English sovereignty, it must be in terms of a personal monarchical rule that
might aspire to absolutism but never fully achieves it.
- Conversely, reading literature without a view to historical trends and the
shape of the world as we know it in the present can lead us to underestimate
the capability of literary artists and to trivialize the act of literary interpretation.
As a case in point, the connection between book-learning, schooling, and the
obedience of citizens was an important historical reality before, after, and
during Shakespeare’s life; it would be to underrate him to imagine that he
would not be aware of or interested in it. Education and the civic effects
of educational reform were not topics to be missed by a man as fascinated
by history and politics as Shakespeare. Consider, for instance, the way the
rebellious tradesman Jack Cade denounces Lord Say in 2 Henry VI :
Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in
erecting a grammar school; and whereas, before, our forefathers had no other
books but the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to be used, and,
contrary to the king, his crown and dignity, thou hast built a paper-mill.
It will be proved to thy face that thou hast men about thee that usually talk
of a noun and a verb, and such abominable words as no Christian ear can endure
to hear. Thou hast appointed justices of peace, to call poor men before them
about matters they were not able to answer. Moreover, thou hast put them in
prison; and because they could not read, thou hast hanged them; when, indeed,
only for that cause they have been most worthy to live. (IV, vii, 28-40)
If the references to the founding of schools, printing, and paper mills are
almost anachronistic to Henry VI and Cade’s Rebellion (1450), they are perfectly
apropos to Tudor and Stuart England. And, as with so many disreputable and
even comic characters in his plays, Shakespeare is able to incorporate enough
of the truth into Cade’s claims to make them seductive, even credible to his
- Just as the connection between education and authority was contemporary
to The Tempest, a link between colonial and pedagogical relationships
is also not a figment of postcolonial theory. References to Englishmen and
Europeans as having responsibility for instructing colonized natives were
common in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as in later periods.
Speaking of an event that took place just two years before The Tempest
was first performed, Gilles notes that "In 1609, the Revered William Crashaw,
who 'was serving as a sort of director of publicity for the company,' imagined
'Virginea' as a young woman being schooled by an older and male 'England'
in... an important sermon to the Counsel" (677). Joan Pong Linton has argued
that the intention to educate and Christianize Amerindians was contemporaneous
with The Tempest and served to justify English "husbandry" of Virginia,
leading to abduction of native children and Amerindian resistance (160-166,
- In this essay as I examine politics and colonial discourse, I seek to ground
them in a lived historical reality, that of schooling and teaching practices.
At the same time I remain conscious that even if there was an "educational
revolution" in the sixteenth century, the great majority of English citizens
remained illiterate and, as a percentage of the population, only a relative
few attended the expanding school system. Public spectacle, religious icons
and imagery, and the theater itself reached a broader spectrum of the English
population than schools or the written word and these mediums also influenced
the emergence of modern citizenship. Yet, I am convinced that our understanding
of The Tempest is enlarged when we can read it within the historical
interplay of conflictive absolutism, schooling, and precocious national consciousness.
PROSPERO AS SCHOLAR-TEACHER
- Magician, dramatist, patriarch, island sovereign, and colonial administrator,
Prospero is also eminently a scientist, an intellectual, a scholar, and a
teacher. Throughout the play Prospero teaches all the
characters, and the teacher role could be seen to fit him better than even
the customary "playwright." Except for Ariel, Prospero doesn't actually script
the other characters. Instead he manipulates, trains, and instructs them.
Just as in sixteenth century England where, according to historians, education
was more socially mixed than at any time before or after, Prospero develops
education for all classes of society, for aristocrats (such as Ferdinand)
as well as for commoners (such as Trinculo), an education that internalizes
bonds of allegiance that confirm and maintain Prospero's authority. Prospero's
"national pedagogy" resituates individuated subjects in a reinforced social
order. His ability to contain their movement and his all-knowing, all-seeing
observation bring the disparate spaces and times of the play into a single
spatial and temporal dimension.
- As the play begins we see that Prospero has prepared a "lesson plan" appropriate
to all those who land on his island. The nobles Alonzo, Sebastian, and Antonio
must learn that their crimes against Prospero cannot be forgotten, and they
must be made ready to reinstate Prospero in his position as rightful Duke
of Milan. Just as with students new to school, Prospero prepares his "pupils"
to gain this knowledge by separating them from the others, disorienting them
from their past knowledge, and providing them with knowledge of his role and
authority. The supposed "shipwreck," the "loss" of Ferdinand, and the confusing
magic of the island dislodge Alonzo, Sebastian, and Antonio from certainties
and prepare them for new knowledge. Ariel's appearance as a harpy after the
disappearance of the banquet is the critical scene of Prospero's instruction.
Beginning by redefining their identity, Ariel challenges their self-understanding:
"You are three men of sin. / I have made you mad; / And even with such-like
valour men hang and drown / Their proper selves" (III, iii, 53-8).
Through the words Prospero puts in his mouth, Ariel informs Alonzo, Sebastian,
and Antonio that the storm and the current disruption of their peace is the
work of supernatural powers "incensed" over Prospero's "supplanting." Consequently,
when Alonzo finally "discovers" Prospero in the final scene, he pronounces
"on his own" the words Prospero has trained him to say, "Thy dukedom I resign,
and do entreat / Thou pardon me my wrongs" (V, i, 117-8).
- The central action of the play could thus be seen as the carefully orchestrated
re-education of the principal characters by Prospero. In this period English
monarchs ruled not only through their person and the intrigue of the court
and parliament, but also through new means that reached an increasingly national
audience, both literate and illiterate. Christopher Hill argues that "In the
early seventeenth century the king ceased to exhibit himself to his subjects...
and royal propagandists began deliberately to use control of pulpit and printing
press to project a new image of monarchy (41). Indeed, Prospero's control
over the denizens of the island is achieved through magical spectacles, enchanting
music, and entertaining masques incorporated into his broader educational
- The wedding masque, the elaborate manipulation of illusion, the disappearing
feast, the invisible noises and music, the familiarity with spirits and quasi-humans—all
identify Prospero as a ruler patterned on the magus. Stephen Orgel claims
that "Prospero's art is Baconian science and Neoplatonic philosophy, the empirical
study of nature leading to the understanding and control of all its forces"
(20). Though it was sometimes cast into suspicion as anti-religious, in Shakespeare's
day magic could also be considered the active expression of formal knowledge
and the precursor to experimental science and social reform. According to
Alan Smith "Elizabethan and Stuart England was full of astrologers" and "almanacs
even more than the Bible were the 'popular press of the day'" (205). In his
study of Renaissance magic, John Mebane writes,
Compared to modern scientists, Renaissance magicians operated within
a cosmological framework which seems fantastic, and which had to be rejected
before genuine science could evolve. Nonetheless, in daring to believe that
the human mind could guide and command the creative forces of nature, they
asserted important attitudes and values which eventually contributed to the
evolution of genuine science. Hermetic magicians and Paracelsians often proclaimed
the overthrow of the traditional authorities which had imposed strict limits
upon the search for truth; together with the mechanical artisans with which
they frequently allied themselves, they are among Bacon's immediate predecessors
in emphasizing experience, rather than mere citation of Galen or Aristotle,
as the appropriate test of assertions about nature. Perhaps most importantly,
they predicted that the imminent renewal of all of human knowledge would bring
with it the reform of human society and of human nature itself. (7)
Mebane's analysis of magic underscores Prospero's position as scholar and
proto-scientist. Understanding the relation of book learning, science, and
magic in Shakespeare's day helps us recognize Prospero's position as Renaissance
intellectual engaging in social reform and rationalization of the social order.
- Prospero's dilemma, the choice he must make between the study of the liberal
arts (including science and magic) and effective management of the state,
is one increasingly faced by Renaissance monarchs (and all politicians) in
an age of expanding education. It is a theme that is repeated several times
in the play:
And Prospero the prime duke, being so reputed
In dignity, and for the liberal arts [included science and magic]
Without a parallel; those being all my study,
The government I cast upon my brother,
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies. (I, ii, 72-77)Me, poor man, my library
Was dukedom large enough; Of temporal royalties
He thinks me now incapable . . . (I, ii, 109-11)Knowing I loved my books,
he furnished me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom. (I, ii, 166-9)
- Rather than revealing an incompatibility between liberal arts and public
administration, Prospero's reeducation of the other characters puts knowledge
into the service of his political power. If books
distracted Prospero from his princely duties in Milan, he learns their utility
on the island where through his studies he finds the magic he needs to master
Caliban and Ariel and control the island and its visitors. Prospero's spectacles
intimidate his enemies and allow him to enforce his will. It is only close
to the end of the play, when his authority has been assured by their use,
that Prospero abjures his magic and "drowns" his books. This abjuration of
magic appeals to personal and pre-scientific notions of governance; it is
symptomatic, as we shall see, of the social crisis brought about by the imposition
of an increasingly absolutist authority.
- Prospero plans to perpetuate his authority through a marriage between his
daughter and Ferdinand; Ferdinand the future ruler must come to recognize
Prospero's magic and Prospero's role as master and teacher. Prospero orchestrates
his influence over Ferdinand through Miranda, and Ferdinand's first words
to Miranda invoke an educational relationship.
Most sure, the goddess
On whom these airs attend. Vouchsafe my prayer
May know if you remain upon this island,
And that you will some good instruction give
How I may bear me here. (I, ii, 422-6)
When Ferdinand attempts to resist Prospero with his sword, Prospero responds,
"My foot my tutor?" (I, ii, 470) The mixed metaphor of the school/body establishes
the proper hierarchy between the two men. Drawing on the image of the king's
two bodies, Prospero identifies himself as "head of state," and, at the same
time as teacher/ruler. Prospero's magic can control Ferdinand (it causes him
to drop his sword on their first meeting); however the naked exercise of power
is a less effective means of developing obedience than the internalization
of hierarchical relations via a pedagogical practice. Ferdinand's respect
for Prospero's superior knowledge prepares him for his future son-in-law status.
Prospero says that the trials he puts Ferdinand through are meant to make
him value Miranda all the more ("too light winning / make the prize light"
(I, ii, 452-3)), yet the course Ferdinand must follow serves a pedagogical
purpose: by taking Caliban's job of hauling wood Ferdinand (son of the king)
accepts an apprentice role that subordinates him to Prospero (outlawed duke).
- Apprenticeship was, of course, an important educational practice in Shakespeare's
day affecting education both in and outside of school. For girls' education
within the family, or for the wealthy, a private tutor in the home such as
is comically portrayed in The Taming of the Shrew, presented the most
likely pathways to literacy. As responsible patriarch and father Prospero
attends closely to Miranda's education. On the island he is her teacher: "Here
/ Have I, thy schoolmaster, made thee more profit / Than other princes can
that have more time / For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful" (I, ii,
171-4). It is a parody of teacherly power that Prospero's magic allows him
to put to sleep and wake Miranda at his will.
- At several points Prospero is insistent, to the point of disconcerting harshness,
with Miranda and Ferdinand about the dangers of unrestrained desire and the
importance of sexual purity. In this, of course, there is present the psycho-sexual
tension of the patriarchal father/daughter relationship. In a broader sense,
however, the inscription of a code of propriety can be seen as a way to establish
social control and internalize habits of subordination; that such a process
is part of the development of modern national authority is an argument put
forward by George Mosse. Prospero's inculcation of
propriety develops the "internal" policing that locates subjection within
the individual. In the sexual desire for Miranda, Ferdinand and Caliban are
alike; in their restraint they can be distinguished. Thus education in propriety
draws distinctions between "us" and "them," between "civilized" and "savage,"
separating "our" nation from "theirs."
CALIBAN AND COLONIAL EDUCATION
- Caliban is Shakespeare's most exotic character, yet in the context of European
travelogues, reports of the "wild man," and New World contacts, Caliban's
difference has an uncanny familiarity. This familiarity can be brought even
closer to home when the portrait of Caliban is seen as a figure of pedagogical
discourse, the reluctant student. The unwilling student is, of course, a familiar
image in Shakespeare whether identified by Jaques as one of the stages of
man, "Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel / And shining morning
face, creeping like snail / Unwillingly to school," or metaphorically by Romeo,
"Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books; / But love from love,
towards school with heavy looks..." Pedantic teachers of Latin and the classics
were clearly targets of popular derision, as exemplified in Shakespeare's
portrayal of the teacher in Love's Labour's Lost.
- A rich comparison can be made between Shakespeare's depiction of Caliban's
educational reluctance and Thomas Nashe's 1600 portrait of Will Summers, Henry
Who would be a Scholler? Not I, I promise you: my minde alwayes
gaue me this learning were such a filthy thing, which made me hate it so as
I did: when I should have beene at schoole construing Bate, mi fili, mi fili,
mi Batte I was close vnder a hedge or vnder a barne wall playing at spane
Counter or Iacke in the boxe: my master beat me, my father beat me, my mother
gaue me bread and butter, yet all this would not make me a squitter-booke.
It was my destinie, I thanke her as a most courteous goddesse, that she hath
not cast me away vpon gibridge. Oh, in what a mightie veine am I now against
Horne-bookes! Here before all this companie I profess myself an open enemy
to Inke and paper... Nownes and Pronounes, I pronounce you as traitors to
boyes buttockes... (Nashe 279)
Like Jack Cade, both Summers and Caliban are professed enemies of books,
which they personify as figures of evil and source of their punishment. Like
Caliban, Summers' education is focused on the acquisition of language (for
Caliban, English; for Summers, Latin). Like Caliban, Summer would prefer to
be out-of-doors, "under a hedge," close to nature. There is a similar patriarchal
pattern in the enforcement of learning for both of them. As Summers is beaten
by his master and father, so Caliban is beaten by Prospero. Both Caliban and
Summers appeal to female goddesses for protection: Summers personifies his
"destinie;" Caliban worships the god of his witch mother, Setebos. While both
Caliban and Summers are figures from a comic tradition, their outrage against
a disciplinary pedagogy is understandable, even convincing.
- Caliban's treatment by Prospero and Miranda should not be separated from
the larger English discourse on education, yet Caliban is not only Prospero's
and Miranda's student and servant, as island native he is also their colonial
subject. As part man part beast Caliban is both more and less than Jaques
"whinning school boy." As we shall see, an analysis of the training Caliban
receives on the island is relevant to the practices and assumptions that will
come to underlie European/Native encounters, most particularly European efforts
to ‘educate the savages’ in ensuing centuries of English colonialism. In this
sense, The Tempest offers one of the earliest representations of English
- In 1611, colonial education was new only in that it was to be organized
by the English in their own vernacular; the ability to impose the learning
of one's language onto others had been the hallmark of imperial rule for centuries.
While the educated in Renaissance Europe had to learn Roman Latin, the colonized
in the New World and elsewhere had to learn Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, or,
later on, English. In his discussion of the play Stephen Greenblatt calls
this process "linguistic colonialism" and turns his argument on the question
of the degree to which the likeness or difference of the native are recognized
by the colonizer. He points out that New World tongues were thought barbarian
and not even considered by many to be languages.
- Indeed, in The Tempest before Miranda teaches Caliban to speak she
says he "gabbled like a thing most brutish." Miranda's and Prospero's task,
then, is to give Caliban not merely a "civilized" tongue, but language itself.
Prospero's and Miranda's intentions in educating Caliban prefigure Macaulay's
1835 Minute on Indian Education where non-European learning is derided
and English is championed in order to create a useful class of natives, "Indian
in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in
intellect" (Macaulay 729). Colonial schools and educational systems in the
consequent centuries taught European languages, culture, and administration
to non-European subjects. Such schools, much like the schools of sixteenth-century
England, brought a multi-ethnic and polylingual youth of indigenous elites
of the colonial administrative unit into a single student body and provided
them with a uniform and systematized curriculum, instruction in a single language,
and an awareness of English (or other European) national histories.
- In Shakespeare's day as in other periods, when schools draw their pupils
from diverse regions, or when students in different places are trained in
a similar curriculum and educational process, they develop a sense of common
experience and allegiance. Consider the similarities between the effects of
education noted by an Oxford beadle in 1678 with the history of colonial education
we have been examining.
Miserable is the face of any nation where neither schools nor universities
be frequented: no law, no safe commerce, a general ignorance and a neglect
of duty both to God and man. Now that universities flourish and schools
are in many populous towns erected, from those places of public education
especially, persons are sent into all parts of the land, engaged in the
strictest bonds of allegiance.
- As the beadle's analysis suggests, Caliban's education as colonial subject
is intimately related to the play's own making of national subjects "back
home." Moreover, the teaching of language to Caliban holds up to the audience
a mirror in which they can recognize their own (London) vernacular English
as "national" (in the sense that, unlike Caliban, they understand the language
"naturally") and "imperial" (in the sense that Caliban must learn English
just as the English learn Latin). In the Globe Theater then, the otherwise
diverse audience can see itself as a nation united on linguistic lines, with
its own English raised to both national and imperial standards. Viewing Caliban
as reluctant student suggests the simultaneity of his role as exotic other
and familiar citizen. The juxtaposition of Prospero and Caliban is anticipated
by the pairing in Nashe's play of the Renaissance monarch--and Henry VIII
was an extensively educated king--with the reluctant Will Summers. Jack Cade's,
Caliban's, and Will Summer's defiant rejection of literacy should be seen
as one of the key motifs of the period, in both New World and Old.
- The relationship between Prospero's tokens of education and magical power
is clearly identified by Caliban. "I am subject to a tyrant, a sorcerer that
by his cunning hath cheated me of the island" (III, ii, 40-2), Caliban tells
Stephano and Trinculo. Since the contradictions of absolutist rule are sharpest
in the relationship of Caliban as slave and as colonized subject, it is he
who is best positioned to identify the functioning of Prospero's imperial
power. Writing and books are frequently identified as critical technologies
in the establishment of colonial authority; Caliban's animosity toward education
and the book is paradigmatic of the relationship between colonial subject
and colonizing nation. When Caliban plans revolt he advises Stephano and Trinculo
to capture Prospero's books,
First to possess his books; for without them
He's but a sot, as I am, nor hath not
One spirit to command—they all do hate him
As rootedly as I. Burn but his books.
He has brave utensils, for so he calls them,
Which when he has a house, he'll deck withal. (III, ii, 90-5)
Caliban emphasizes that without possession of the book Prospero will be "as
I am." For Caliban, the book is not the vehicle to knowledge but the tool
of the magician that makes possible the performance of authority. Books are
"utensils," magical instruments of power, and they are also, in themselves,
the legitimization of the right to authority, commodities increasingly on
display in the educated, aristocratic household (Smith, 188). At stake in
the struggle between Caliban and Prospero is ownership of books, the technology
of power/magic and the implements of educational practice.
PEDAGOGY AND PAIN
- "As well as grammatical and religious instruction no Tudor or Stuart schoolboy's
experience was complete without a measure of corporal punishment."
Indeed, the efforts to limit corporal punishment in Shakespeare's time are
indicative that "Nownes and Pronounes" really were "traitors to boyes buttockes."
Roger Ascham wrote The Scholemaster (1563) after participating in a
discussion about scholars at Eton who ran away from the school frightened
of physical brutality. Consider one headmaster’s ordinance composed in 1629
about acceptable corporal punishment:
I constitute and ordain that schoolmasters do not exceed in their
corrections above the number of three stripes with the rod at any one time,
that they strike not any scholar upon the head or the cheek with their fist
or the palms of their hands or with any other thing . . . that for speaking
English in the Latin school the scholar be corrected with the ferula, and
for swearing with the rod . . . 
- Corporal punishment plays an important part in the discourse of pedagogy
in The Tempest. In response to Caliban's cursing, Prospero administers
"cramps" and "pinches:"
For this be sure tonight thou shalt have cramps,
Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up. Urchins
Shall, for that vast of night that they may work,
All exercise on thee. Thou shalt be pinched
As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging
Than bees that made 'em. (I, ii, 325-30)
If thou neglect'st, or dost unwillingly
What I command, I'll rack thee with old cramps,
Fill all thy bones with aches, make thee roar,
That beasts shall tremble at thy din. (I, ii, 367-70)
The spirits Prospero sends to torture Caliban are, apparently, animals themselves,
whose purpose is to fill Caliban's head with frightful images and sounds.
[But] for every trifle are they set upon me,
Sometime like apes that mow and chatter at me,
And after bite me; then like hedgehogs, which
Lie tumbling in my barefoot way, and mount
Their pricks at my footfall; sometime am I
All wound with adders, who with cloven tongues
Do hiss me into madness. (II, ii, 7-14)
- Caliban fears that he may lose his intelligence, that he may turn into a
beast. In a warning to Trinculo and Stephano about what may happen if their
plot is found out, Caliban suggests that Prospero will transform them into
creatures farther down on the natural scale: "We shall loose our time, / And
be turned to barnacles, or to apes / With foreheads villainous low" (IV, i,
248-250). Ironically, Prospero's supposedly "civilizing" discipline produces
brutish behavior, and Caliban's fear of being reduced to bestiality is justified.
When Prospero and Ariel catch Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo they are hunted
down, like animals. Prospero's attending spirits recall the hunter's ravenous
dogs chasing the rebellious slave.
Fury, Fury! There Tyrant, there! Hark, hark!
Go charge my goblins that they grind their joints
With dry convulsions, shorten up their sinews
With aged cramps, and more pinch-spotted make them
Than pard of cat o' mountain.
[Ariel] Hark, they roar.
Let them be hunted soundly. (IV, i, 257-264)
The final lesson of Caliban's education is an acceptance of the inevitable
failure of revolt. In his last scene, Caliban appears in scraping submission
to Prospero's authority. Encountering Prospero again after being hounded by
the spirits, Caliban exclaims, "I shall be pinched to death!" (V, i, 276).
Yet Prospero does not punish him, but, as he does with the Neapolitans, offers
his pardon instead. The "generosity" of the disciplinarian in refraining from
torture, as with a trained dog, thus inspires Caliban's obedience. Told to
go quickly to Prospero's cell, Caliban now responds without the foot-dragging
resistance he customarily displays: "Ay, that I will; and I'll be wise hereafter,
/ And seek for grace" (V, i, 294-5).
- In The Tempest pain is administered after demonstrations of disobedience
or obstinacy. It is sharp, frequent and enduring, but not disfiguring (beyond
"leopard spots") or life threatening. Pain is not administered to extract
truth or knowledge or for the sake of sadistic pleasure, but to further subject
Caliban to Prospero's rule, to ensure his cooperation and development within
the master/slave master/student relationship. The infliction of pain is neither
interrogation nor purposeless punishment but part of a pedagogical discipline
accepted then and now. (I taught in a public high school in the 1980's where
the vice principal went unchallenged in his use of a ferula.) Closer to us,
perhaps, is the fact that in all the extensive scholarship on the play–often
sympathetic to Caliban–the infliction of pain and Caliban's disciplinary torture
receive scant attention.
- That such violence was (and is) seen as proper and necessary to the business
of civilizing Caliban relates to the role of punishment within the pedagogical
structure of Prospero's and English power. Through his knowledge of character
and his power/magic, Prospero fulfills the fantasy of the slave master/colonial
administrator who can subjugate his charges without diminishing their labor
power. Above all, in seeking to tame Caliban's "nature," Prospero's domesticating
discipline must not interfere with Caliban's usefulness as a servant.
- In a paradoxical way both the successes and failures of Caliban's education
serve to legitimate European cultural domination and ratify assumptions about
"uncivilized" Others. Once the master's language is learned by Caliban, it
becomes evident that his "failure" stems from "deeper" shortcomings. If in
the development of modern nationhood education allows the internalization
of authority, the incompleteness of Early Modern absolutism is evident in
the need for the direct and public use of violence. In the colonial context
violence may be particularly brutal. There is that in Caliban's nature which
no amount of nurture can cure:
Which any print of goodness wilt not take,
Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee,
Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour
One thing or other. When thou didst not, savage,
Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
A thing most brutish, I endowed thy purposes
With words that made them known. But thy vile race--
Though thou didst learn–had that in't which good natures
Could not abide to be with; therefore wast thou
Deservedly confined into this rock,
Who hadst deserved more than a prison. (I, ii, 357-9)
In this address Miranda admits that Caliban did learn, but believes that
his brutishness stemmed from belonging to a "vile race," one that "good natures
could not abide to be with." Described by Prospero as "hag-born," "savage,"
"brutish," Caliban seeks "to violate the honor of my child" (I, ii, 347-8).
The attempted rape invokes fears of racial mixture and savage sexuality that
neither begin nor end with the seventeenth century. The implication of such
fears is disturbing: Miranda's suggestion that Caliban's race deserves "more
than prison," sounds like a racist justification for violence, even genocide.
- Educational systemization was, of course, only one piece of a broader and
not always even process of modernization. Michel Foucault, in his now classic
work Discipline and Punish explicity draws connections between prisons
and educational instutions as he traces an evolution away from medieval and
feudal notions of power to Enlightenment and statist notions of centralized
and anonymous control. Drawing on examples from both
the Seventeenth (plague quarantine) and Eighteenth Centuries (Panopticon),
Foucault makes his famous argument that power increasingly "makes itself everywhere
present and visible; it invents new mechanisms; it separates, it immobilizes,
it partitions; it constructs for a time what is both a counter-city and the
perfect society; it imposes an ideal functioning..." (205). He shows that
the state becomes more and more like a laboratory "a machine to carry out
experiments, to alter behavior, to train, or correct individuals... To try
out different punishments on prisoners, according to their crimes and character,
and to seek out the most effective ones... To try out pedagogical experiments–and
in particular to take up once again the well-debated problem of secluded education,
by using orphans" (203-4).
- It is not inappropriate to connect Prospero's magical and utopian island
to a Foucaultian reading of history. Prospero's island does indeed become
a cell/laboratory/classroom, where the isolation and manipulation of characters
allows authority to "carry out experiments," "alter behavior," "train" and
"correct" individuals. Yet Foucault's analysis can also become monolithic
and unidirectional, calling for modification in specific textual and historical
contexts. Along with the tendancy toward internalized control, the representation
of education in The Tempest suggests an expanding threat of disruption,
treason, and rebellion. This should make historical sense to us; though Cade's
Rebellion was well in the past, the English revolution, however partial and
incomplete, was a mere generation away.
- Disruption, treason, and rebellion emerge from a utopian dream of freedom
that runs throughout the play. This dream is present in Gonzalo's imaginative
utopia, in Ariel's reiterated requests for freedom, in Miranda's and Ferdinand's
desire for each other, in the natural beauty of the island, in the relationship
of Caliban to nature and in his recollection of pre-Prospero independence
(when he was 'mine own king'), and, above all, in Stephano's, Trinculo's and
Caliban's treasonous rebellion. Their plans to kill
Prospero, burn his books, marry Miranda, take over the island and insure that
"thought is free" (III, ii, 121) lead to the interruption of the wedding masque
and render Prospero more "distempered" and "angry" than Miranda has ever seen
- Despite its philosophical or even oppositional possibilities in the English
or European context, the vision of Utopia serves to encourage New World colonization
and exploitation. As advertising propaganda for settlement the utopian myth
is effective in recruiting "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning
to breathe free." Simultaneously, the fantasy of New World utopia contains
within it the inspiration for colonial domination. While the attractive possibility
of the utopia depends, in part, on the imagined life of the Native American
(Sir Thomas More's 1516 work stages a conversation with a supposed member
of one of Vespucci expeditions about natives in Brazil), the reality of New
World colonization increasingly demands the reorganization of Native American
society in an acceptable, subordinate role. The disappointing discovery that
native life does not conform to European notions of utopia provides an insidious
justification for European governance of native society. The surprising difficulty
of survival in the New World led to desperate conscription first of Native
Americans and then African slaves into forced labor. Prospero instructs Miranda
that Caliban's services are necessary:
[Miranda] 'Tis a villain, sir,
I do not love to look on.
[Prospero] But as 'tis,
We cannot miss him, He does make our fire,
Fetch in our wood, and serves in offices
That profit us. What ho, slave! Caliban! (I, ii, 308-13)
The "failure" of the native to welcome the settlement of the European with
open arms leads to the European's vengeful use of force.
- Colonial education has contradictory effects, however. From Prospero's view
Caliban is congenitally recalcitrant, and his education thus wasted. Acquiring
language is not sufficient to alter his supposedly unregenerate nature. And,
as subsequent history has shown, racism and colonial exploitation make more
likely the native's rejection of colonial tutelage. At some point, then, the
native turns the colonizer's language against him and adopts Caliban's stance:
"You taught me language, and my profit on't / Is I know how to curse. The
red plague rid you / For learning me your language!" (I, ii, 362-4). Even
Caliban's awareness of Prospero's presence does not inhibit his rebellious
actions. Though he has been schooled to know that Prospero's tortures are
waiting for him, he is undaunted: "His spirits hear me, / And yet I needs
must curse" (II, i, 4-5).
- Caliban's rejection of Prospero's pedagogy points to the subversive danger
of the unruly pupil. This reading of The Tempest suggests that the
link between education and social control is nothing new: attempts to formulate
a disciplinary national pedagogy had analogs as early as the seventeenth century.
I close with Thomas Hobbes' 1688 advice to the English crown:
The core of rebellion, as you have seen by this and read of
other rebellions, are the universities; which nevertheless are not to
be cast away but to be better disciplined, that is to say, that the politics
there taught be made to be, as true politics should be, such as are fit
to make men know that it is their duty to obey all laws whatsoever that
shall by the authority of the king be enacted.
1. Cressy 9. Subsequent Cressy
citations are to a collection of English educational documents from the Tudor
and Stuart periods.
2. Cressy 21.
3. For a discussion of the role of educational systems
in the formation of national identities see Ernest Gellner. Benedict Anderson
makes a similar argument regarding the formation of colonial nationalism,
4. In Drama of a Nation (1985) Walter Cohen
argues that the national theater in Spain and England was unique in its incorporation
of noble and lower-class characters and the staging of tensions between an
homogenizing absolutist state and the popular will. In Forms of Nationhood
(1992) Richard Helgerson argues that despite this inclusion of the "popular,
marginal, subversive, and folk" Shakespeare's history plays contributed above
all "to the consolidation of central power, to the cultural division of class
from class" (245) that characterized an ambitious generation of Elizabethan
writers who sought to elevate English nationalism to a classical and imperial
standard. In Making Subjects: Literature and the Emergence of National
Identity (1998) I compare the development of national consciousness in
sixteenth century theater and twentieth century postcolonial novels.
5. For examination of The Tempest in anticolonial
thought see Nixon and Bruner.
6. For discussion of the connections between The
Tempest and the Virginia Colonies, see the introduction and appendices
of both the 1954 Arden edition of the play edited by Frank Kermode and the
1987 Oxford version edited by Stephen Orgel. See also Brockbank, Vaughn and
Vaughn, Hulme, Greenblatt, Griffiths, Brown, Linton, et al.
7. Prospero's role as teacher has not been extensively
examined. Hunt and Winson compare Prospero positively to Belarius (of Love's
Labour Lost). Hunt finds Prospero self-sacrificing:
A close comparison of Prospero's pastoral instruction with that of his
counterpart Belarius not only clarifies the effectiveness of the magician's
art but also directs our attention to its best working. When his teaching
requires an angry persona, Prospero, after all, self-sacrificially risks
his reputation as a kind father. (Hunt 38)
Winson argues that through the character of Holofernes Shakespeare mocks
the pedantry of teachers of Latin. Hawkes draws on the Caliban/Prospero relationship
in his examination of the early twentieth century national institutionalization
of literary study in England. Greenblatt focuses on alterity and language
in the colonial context.
8. Homi Bhabha describes the political unity of
the nation in this way: "Quite simply, the difference of space returns as
the Sameness of time, turning Territory into Tradition, turning the People
into One" (300).
9. All references are to the 1987 Oxford edition.
10. Peter Greenaway's 1991 film "Prospero's Books"
offers an interpretation of the play that foregrounds the importance of Renaissance
science and learning by emphasizing the content of Renaissance books, particularly
the development of investigative science. Interspersed throughout the film
are illustrations from Renaissance studies of anatomy, architecture, nature,
and foreign lands. Prospero is shown teaching Miranda out of a volume on different
kinds of plants. Magic and science are richly connected as pages of books
blow through scenes with Caliban, as white horses appear in Prospero's library,
as anatomical drawings made by the dissection of the human body are juxtaposed
with images of four legged creatures and unicorns.
11. By accepting Prospero's separation of knowledge
and power (in the abjuration of his magic) some scholars fail to recognize
the way in which Prospero's book-learned magic is necessary to his rule on
the island. Paul A. Cantor for instance argues in his article "Prospero's
Republic: The Politics of Shakespeare's The Tempest" (1981) that Prospero's
disinterested separation of knowledge and politics is precisely what makes
him an ideal philosopher-king: "His final disposition to philosophy guarantees
that he will remain aware of facts of life beyond the political, and this
larger perspective helps to moderate whatever ambition he develops" (254).
Cantor argues that the play is basically about "Prospero learning to be tough
when he has to" (244), and he follows Platonic logic to its Machiavellian
conclusion without so much as a wince, approving that "in the deepest sense
he [Prospero] has to refrain from sharing the truths he has learned about
rule with other men, for these truths, if spread throughout society, would
undermine his power to rule" (251).
12. Two centuries later the links between propriety
and nationalism were both more explicit and more closely tied to the class
antagonism of the industrial era. Nonetheless, Mosse's analysis of respectability
and nationalism has resonances with The Tempest:
In order to establish controls, to impose restraint and moderation, society
needed to reinforce the practical techniques of physicians, educators,
and police. But their methods had to be informed by an ideal if they were
to be effective, to support normality and contain sexual passions. In
most timely fashion, nationalism came to the rescue. It absorbed and sanctioned
middle-class manners and morals and played a crucial part in spreading
respectability to all classes of the population, however much these classes
hated and despised one another. (9)
13. Greenblatt's important essay examines the relationship
between colonizer and colonized demonstrating that either dismissing the native's
language altogether or, as was also done, assuming that there was no language
barrier, fundamentally denies both their likeness and their difference.
14. Cressy 19.
15. Cressy 90.
16. Cressy 92. "The ferule was a sort of flat ruler
widened at the inflicting end into a shape resembling that of a pear... with
a... hole in the middle to raise blisters" (OED). In the etymology of the
word "ferule" the Oxford English Dictionary quotes Ben Jonson. In 1636 he
wrote, "From the rodde, or ferule, I would have them free."
17. Shakespeare could not have known, of course,
that the first slave ship would arrive in Jamestown a mere eight years after
the writing of The Tempest or that by the time of the French Indian
wars, fully as much as two-fifths (40%) of the population of Virginia would
be black slaves. Yet he was obviously aware of the slave trade and the presence
of slaves, both Africans and Native Americans, in the Caribbean plantations.
By 1611 the African slave trade was 170 years old; a million Africans had
already been brought to the New World by the Spanish and Portuguese. In The
Tempest, Caliban is specifically referred to by Prospero as his "slave"
on four occasions.
18. For an exception see Breight.
19. The most extended Foucaultian treatment of
Shakespeare is by Christopher Pye. Though Pye doesn't analyze The Tempest,
he does make contributions to the understanding of the histories and of Macbeth.
While emphasizing the role of spectacle in the exercise of power, Pye does
not examine the way in which modern systems of discipline produce individual
identity. John Archer has attempted to historically pin down Foucault's concepts
in view of Elizabethan and Jacobean court society. He argues that spying and
intelligence though not fully systematized were "united in a culture of surveillance"
in seventeenth century English monarchy.
20. Beier's argument about masterless men helps
situate the rebellion of the jester and drunken butler within the context
of the threat of uprising in Shakespeare's England. For consideration of the
play in light of a "discourse of treason," see Breight.
- Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin
and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1983.
- Archer, John. Sovereignty and Intelligence: Spying and Court Culture
in the English Renaissance. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1993.
- Armstrong, John A. Nations before Nationalism. Chapel Hill: U of
North Carolina P, 1982.
- Beier, A.L. Masterless Men: The Vagrancy Problem in England 1560-1640.
New York: Methuen, 1985.
- Bhabha, Homi. "DissemiNation: Time, Narrative, and the Margins of the
Modern Nation" in Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi Bhabha. London:
- Breight, Curt. "Treason doth never prosper": The Tempest and the
Discourse of Treason." Shakespeare Quarterly 41.1 (1990): 1-28.
- Brockbank, Philip. "‘The Tempest’: Conventions of Art and Empire" in Later
Shakespeare. Ed. John Brown and Bernard Harris. London: St. Martin’s,
- Brown, Paul. "'This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine': The Tempest
and the Discourse of Colonialism." Political Shakespeare: New Essays
in Cultural Materialism. Ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield. Ithaca:
Cornell UP, 1985. 48-71.
- Bruner, Charlotte H. "The Meaning of Caliban in Black Literature Today."
Comparative Literature Studies 13 (1976): 240-53.
- Carey-Webb, Allen. Making Subject(s): Literature and the Emergence
of National Identity. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998.
- Cohen, Walter. Drama of a Nation: Public Theater in Renaissance England
and Spain. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985.
- Cressy, David. Education in Tudor and Stewart England. New York:
St. Martin's Press, 1975.
- Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.
Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.
- Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1983.
- Gillies, John. "Shakespeare's Virginia Masque." ELH 53.4 (1986):
- Greenblatt, Stephen. Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture.
New York: Routledge, 1990.
- Griffiths, Trevor. "'This Island's mine': Caliban and Colonialism." Yearbook
of English Studies 13 (1983): 159-80.
- Hawkes, Terence. "Swisser-Swatter: Making a Man of English Letters." Alternative
Shakespeares. Ed. John Drakakis. London: Methuen, 1985. 26-46.
- Helgerson, Richard. Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of
England. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1992.
- Hill, Christopher. The Pelican History of Britain: Volume 2 1530-1780
Reformation to Revolution. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971.
- Hulme, Peter. Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean
1492-1797. London: Methuen, 1986.
- Hunt, Maurice. "Belarius and Prospero: Two Pastoral Schoolmasters." Lamar
Journal of the Humanities 15.2 (1989) 29-41.
- Linton, Joan Pong. The Romance of the New World: Gender and the Literary
Formation of English Colonialism. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.
- Macaulay, Thomas Babington. "Minute of the 2nd of February, 1835" in Macaulay:
Prose and Poetry. Selected by G.M. Young. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1952.
- Mannoni, Octavio. Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization.
Trans. Pamela Powesland. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1990.
- Mebane, John S. Renaissance Magic and the Return of the Golden Age:
The Occult Tradition and Marlowe, Jonson, and Shakespeare. Lincoln:
U of Nebraska P, 1989.
- Mosse, George L. Nationalism and Sexuality: Respectability and Abnormal
Sexuality in Modern Europe. New York: Howard Fertig, 1985.
- Nashe, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Nashe. Vol. III. Ed. Ronald
B. McKerrow. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958.
- Nixon, Rob. "Caribbean and African Appropriations of The Tempest." Critical
Inquiry 13.3 (Spring 1987): 557-578.
- Orme, Nicholas. Education and Society in Medieval and Renaissance England.
London: Hambledon Press, 1989.
- Pye, Christopher. The Regal Phantasm: Shakespeare and the Politics
of Spectacle. London: Routledge, 1990.
- Retamar, Roberto Fernández. "Caliban: Notes Toward a Discussion
of Caliban in Our America." Caliban and Other Essays. Trans. Edward
Baker. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1989.
- Rodó, José Enrique, "Ariel" Jose Enrique. Ed. Brotherston,
Gordon. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 1967.
- Smith, Alan G.R. The Emergence of a Nation State: The Commanwealth
of England 1529-1660. London: Longman, 1984.
- Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Ed. Stephen Orgel. New York:
Oxford UP, 1987.
- Vaughn, Alden T., and Virginia Mason Vaughan. Shakespeare's Caliban:
A Cultural History. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991.
- Winson, Patricia. "'A Double Spirit of Teaching': What Shakespeare's Teachers
Teach Us." in New Scholarship from Old Renaissance Dictionaries: Applications
of the Early Modern English Dictionaries Database. Ian Lancashire and
Michael Best, eds. EMLS Special Issue 1.1: (April, 1997).
Responses to this piece intended for the Readers'
Forum may be sent to the Editor at EMLS@UAlberta.ca.
© 1999-, Lisa
Hopkins (Editor, EMLS).