The Tempest

by: William Shakespeare

Wonder/admiration

1
Admired Miranda!
Indeed the top of admiration, worth
What’s dearest to th’ world! (III.i.)

Ferdinand exclaims these words after Miranda tells him her name, which is also a Latin word that means “admirable” or “wonderful.” As someone who has received the education of a noble, Ferdinand would know Latin, so it’s not surprising that he comments on the meaning of Miranda’s name. Yet his phrase “Admired Miranda” turns out to be more than just a pun, as he goes on to proclaim her supreme virtue in comparison to other women he has known: “But you, O you, / So perfect and so peerless, are created / Of every creature’s best!” (III.i.).

2
I perceive these lords
At this encounter do so much admire
That they devour their reason and scarce think
Their eyes do offices of truth, their words
Are natural breath. (V.i.)

In these lines, Prospero comments on the sense of wonder that has affected Alonso and his retinue during their time on the island. The basic sense of these lines is that Alonso and company have seen so much to “admire” (i.e., to wonder at) that they have lost the ability to think clearly. This is why they seem unable to believe their eyes when they seem to see Prospero in the flesh in the final act of the play. In this quote, “wonder” appears to have a negative effect, concealing truth (or at least obscuring it) rather than revealing it.

3
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.)

Miranda declares these words near the end of the play, just after Prospero draws back the curtain to reveal Miranda and Ferdinand playing chess. In this moment Alonso sees that his son is still alive, and Ferdinand has the same revelation about his father. Uttered in the midst of this highly emotional moment, Miranda’s words embody the kind of optimism that characterizes her role in the play. In addition to the fact that her name means “wonder” in Latin, Miranda’s marriage to Ferdinand represents optimism about new beginnings and the possibility of a more prosperous future.