weep] at mine unworthiness, that dare not offer
What I desire to give, and much less take
What I shall die to want. But this is trifling,
And all the more it seeks to hide itself
The bigger bulk it shows. Hence, bashful cunning,
And prompt me, plain and holy innocence.
I am your wife, if you will marry me.
If not, I’ll die your maid. To be your fellow
You may deny me, but I’ll be your servant
Whether you will or no (III.i.77–86)
Miranda delivers this speech to Ferdinand
in Act III, scene i, declaring her undying love for him. Remarkably,
she does not merely propose marriage, she practically
insists upon it. This is one of two times in the play that Miranda
seems to break out of the predictable character she has developed
under the influence of her father’s magic. The first time is in
Act I, scene ii, when she scolds Caliban for his ingratitude to
her after all the time she has spent teaching him to speak. In the
speech quoted above, as in Act I, scene ii, Miranda seems to come
to a point at which she can no longer hold inside what she thinks.
It is not that her desires get the better of her; rather, she realizes
the necessity of expressing her desires. The naïve girl who can
barely hold still long enough to hear her father’s long story in Act
I, scene ii, and who is charmed asleep and awake as though she were
a puppet, is replaced by a stronger, more mature individual at this
moment. This speech, in which Miranda declares her sexual independence,
using a metaphor that suggests both an erection and pregnancy (the
“bigger bulk” trying to hide itself), seems to transform Miranda
all at once from a girl into a woman.
At the same time, the last three lines somewhat undercut
the power of this speech: Miranda seems, to a certain extent, a
slave to her desires. Her pledge to follow Ferdinand, no matter
what the cost to herself or what he desires, is echoed in the most
degrading way possible by Caliban as he abases himself before the
liquor-bearing Stephano. Ultimately, we know that Ferdinand and Miranda
are right for one another from the fact that Ferdinand does not
abuse the enormous trust Miranda puts in him.