The Tempest

by: William Shakespeare

Miranda

If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them. (I.ii.)

Miranda’s words open the play’s second scene, and with them she makes a plea to her father to calm the violent tempest he has roused. From her very first lines, Miranda identifies herself as an empathetic figure, a mediator who wants to calm tensions and make peace. Her plea for peace is both literal and figurative: literal because she wants the storm to cease, and figurative because she wants her father’s rage (i.e., the source of the tempest) to settle.

Your tale, sir, would cure deafness. (I.ii.)

Miranda utters these words of horror in response to Prospero’s story about the failed attempt on his life. Her powerful words express empathy for her father, but even more so they also indicate her own sense of shock. After all, this tale belongs to her as well, and her overstatement suggests just how overwhelmed the story makes her feel.

I should sin
To think but nobly of my grandmother.
Good wombs have borne bad sons. (I.ii.)

Miranda says these lines after Prospero implies that he could no longer consider Antonio a brother after his act of betrayal. By emphasizing that her grandmother must have given birth to one good son and one bad one, Miranda at once insists that Antonio is indeed Prospero’s brother and that Antonio’s sins cannot tarnish Prospero’s goodness. On the one hand, her words seek to soothe her father’s anger. She may also mean to convince herself of her father’s innate goodness, since she has personally born witness to Prospero’s violent temper on numerous occasions.

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. (I.ii.)

With these words, Miranda tries to instill a sense of gratitude in Caliban for the education she gave him. Like Prospero, Miranda sees Caliban as an ungrateful creature, a “savage” who needed to be saved from his own “brutish” nature. Her insistence on the importance of education and civilized speech demonstrates that Miranda functions in some ways as an extension of Prospero’s imperialist attitudes.

When this burns,
’Twill weep for having wearied you. (III.i.)

Miranda says these words to Ferdinand near the top of Act III. She refers to the pile of wood that he has moved at Prospero’s command, and she wittily suggests that when Prospero burns the wood, the wood will experience a kind of deathbed regret at having driven Ferdinand to exhaustion. Her playful comment at once shows her empathy for Ferdinand and her attraction to him.

How features are abroad
I am skilless of, but, by my modesty,
The jewel in my dower, I would not wish
Any companion in the world but you,
Nor can imagination form a shape
Besides yourself to like of. (III.ii.)

Here Miranda explicitly expresses her faith in and commitment to Ferdinand. Miranda admits that she knows nothing of the world beyond the island. Nevertheless, she solemnly swears by her modesty (i.e., “The jewel in my dower”) that she wants no other companion than Ferdinand.

Sweet lord, you play me false. (V.i.)

Miranda lovingly chastises Ferdinand for cheating in a game of chess. Although her tone is lighthearted, her suggestion that Ferdinand has cheated has an important symbolic resonance. Each player in a game of chess attempts to capture (i.e., kill) their opponent’s king, and as such chess is an allegory for regicide. The Tempest has already told of three separate assassination plots, including two against Prospero and one against Alonso. Each of these plots is characterized by unexpected treachery. Ferdinand’s alleged cheating at chess recalls all of these plots, and may be an ill omen for the future that otherwise seems so positive at the end of the play.

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in ’t! (V.i.)

These words form Miranda’s most famous lines. She delivers the lines in the play’s final act, upon first seeing Alonso and his company of men. Aside from Prospero and Ferdinand, Alonso and his men are the only people she has ever laid eyes on, and the sight fills her with a great deal of hope at the idea of a “brave new world” populated by such “beauteous” individuals. In the larger emotional arc of the play, Miranda’s words of wonder express optimism about the possibility of new beginnings.