Delayed Reactions – The Tempest & Repitition Compulsion

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OK, maybe its just me, but I always have a delayed reaction to things that the rest of world finds obvious. If someone tells a joke that is the least bit subtle, I’m the kid laughing 3 minutes after the punch line because “OMG, I just got it – that is hilarious”. So it shouldn’t be surprising that it is only now, after almost 8 weeks, that I start to notice the Repitition Compulsion theme as we were reading the book.

The connection was made in the lecture that there are Platonic themes in the Tempest, but since they were already discussed I’ll pass over that. I noticed a parallel between Prospero and Antonio, who takes over the state of Milan, and Eteokles and Polyneices. Not yet sure what the significance of this parallel is exactly. In Antigone, my sympathies lay with Polyneices, because he was exiled and didn’t get his turn to rule, but in The Tempest, I didn’t favour either brother. Prospero states multiple times that he loved his books/learning more than his dukedom, so he clearly just wasn’t a good fit. Antonio, although he might have cared more about the running of the state, still elicits no sympathy from me. If he were truly passionate about the proper care of his dukedom, he wouldn’t be such a big advocate of killing your brother to get power (as he advises Sebastian about Gonzalo).

I also noticed a similarity between Prospero and Penelope (in the Penelopiad) and Odysseus (in the Penelopiad and in the Odyssey). All of these characters are unreliable narrators. They each present and twist their stories (and in Prospero’s case, the stories of others (ahem, Miranda and Caliban, you poor kids)) to their advantage. Certainly, in the telling of any story there will be a bias, but after finishing each book, I as a reader felt uncertain whether I trusted what these characters had told me (there was an intentional bias).

Alright, so I only noticed two comparisons. Admittedly my opening may have been overly enthusiastic. Feel free to add in any I missed.

Also, adding to the colonizer-colonized topic – when it was first mentioned in lecture, I automatically thought, ‘obviously Caliban is the victim here, poor guy’. Looking back at the text however, a few things became clear. Firstly, Caliban is creepy. His attempted assault of Miranda is all kinds of not OK. Secondly, he is also a colonizer. Ariel, the original, indigenous inhabiter of the island has been twice colonized, which just kind of sucks for him. Caliban and Sycorax were also colonizers and also treated the inhabitants poorly (so Caliban shouldn’t be so quick to judge). And finally, he’s pretty dumb. He gets played by Prospero. Prospero’s initial friendliness only lasts as long as it takes for Caliban to show him the secrets to living on the island, at which point Caliban is essentially enslaved. Caliban becomes mopey, and as soon as there are new people on the island, after a few drinks and a sliver of friendship (coated in not-so-thinly veiled comparisons between Caliban and monsters, beasts, and the devil), Caliban is falling over himself to show them the tricks of the island (so they can take it over and then imprison him again, yay).