Comparing The Tempest 'And Peripheral Vision'

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Shakespeare’s play of 1611, The Tempest, presents several discoveries which interrogate established power structures between different groups of shipwrecked survivors on the island. Gwyneth Lewis’ short poem, ‘Peripheral Vision’, relates a chance discovery by a woman who glimpses a new aspect of her pet dog. In both texts characters encounter challenges to their ways of thinking and values; whether these challenges result in new ways of thinking and new values depends on how sincerely characters integrate their discoveries. The most evident challenge to values in both play and poem occurs through an initial flattening of the social hierarchy; its unexpectedness produces both high and low comedy when characters struggle to cope with it. The…show more content…
The eponymous tempest in Act I of Shakespeare’s fantasy achieves this. The illusion of the storm, created to place everyone (including the credulous audience) in Prospero’s power, reveals: the physical island; the new rules and values by which they must play, and the sad reality of humans' self-regard. Shipwrecked on an unknown island, the courtly order of Milan becomes meaningless when the courtiers become castaways. Comically unaware of its impropriety, Gonzalo presses the struggling boatswain to ‘remember whom thou hast aboard,’ and is told ‘None that I love more than myself.’ The speed and honesty of this retort reveals how superficial rank becomes when life is threatened - a definite challenge to values. Much of the comedy of II.i and III.iii derives from characters’ unwillingness to relinquish their positions of dominance. Even Ferdinand’s opening gambit to Miranda references his rank – ‘I am the best of them that speak this speech’. (Although he qualifies it by acknowledging his present reality – ‘were I but where ‘tis spoken’). Ferdinand identifies metonymically with his kingdom (‘Myself am Naples’) but Prospero cuts these values down in order to reconstruct him as Miranda’s husband. The discovery of the island, and the woman on it, therefore, generates a challenge to the courtiers' values by showing them how little power they…show more content…
She cannot maintain the sepia-tinted fantasy, and a normal domestic order reasserts itself. ‘Then, back on all fours, he was wagging his tail by the kitchen door’ uses descriptors of canine features and behaviour to show the reversion to normality, and sentence’s break for a descriptive clause uses a change to the rhythm to affirm this. The terrier’s subordination is shown by his wagging tail. Lewis’ final line cleverly asserts the ambivalence of her new way of thinking: the discovery has revealed that ‘Beauty hides in the beast. This is the law.’ But this gnomic line is ambiguous: is the antecedent of 'This' hides or Beauty? Is it the law that the dog’s courtly nature must hide? Or is it the law that beasts must be beautiful within? Since the poem is a free-verse piece, we cannot rely on iambs or trochees to guide us. Both texts’ have ambivalent endings; how much do the protagonists really abnegate their authority, even in light of their discoveries? To determine how deeply their new ways of thinking penetrate, we must apply our own experiences, our own discoveries, and evaluate the texts as mature

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