Storm of Ideas
The feel of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” is well captured in Ania Loomba’s article. Loomba jumps from one subject to the next in a seeming cacophony of words and ideas and yet, at the end, manages to pull everything together into one coherent argument—the argument that in order to read “The Tempest” from a post-colonialist standpoint, more than one viewpoint must be considered, and there is more to the issue than meets the eye. Loomba says it best when she writes, “The colonial conflict intersects with others—those of class, gender, caste and ethnicity—and “the colonial subject” is not a simple being.” (335)
This idea seems to be, though complicated, fairly succinct. But Loomba does not allude to this right away. She first talks about the white man’s dehumanization of the black man through characters, such as Caliban, who lust after white women. This view, according to Loomba, serves a double purpose in that it also undermines women’s power as well, reducing them to a passive role. Loomba then moves on to Sycorax, and then to the other mentioned, but not seen, women in the play. Sycorax is seen as the counterpart to Miranda, the “evil” that exists in women is placed in her, since it cannot be present in the pure Miranda. She is also the woman with knowledge, whereas Miranda is ignorant, and purposefully kept so by Prospero. Even so, Loomba points out, it is Miranda who mentions that Caliban does, in fact, have his uses, even if it is only in a slave capacity. And Claribel, the only other mentioned woman in the play, has been married off to a black man against her will, showing both the racial prejudice in the play, and the expectation that good women will be subservient to their fathers.
This article started out seeming very confusing to me. I will admit that I don’t really understand everything that she was talking about, probably because it is part of a larger text. But I do find her ideas intriguing. I was most captivated by the description of Miranda’s schooling and how Prospero’s teaching really left out all thought of rebellion, either of body or of mind. Miranda is so ignorant of the world that she cannot even think to question Prospero’s view of reality, even though it’s obvious she must have wondered about why she was different from the men, or why they were on the island. I also definitely agree with her about Claribel being very important, and that all facts of her marriage shed equal light on the treatment of all the issues in the play. Though she is barely mentioned, she encompasses the question of class, ethnicity, and a woman’s supposedly necessary obedience all into one event.
The one thing that bothers me about this article is that Loomba never really seems to fully address the fact that Caliban not only tries to rape Miranda, he’s not particularly sorry about it. She does comment that this implies to the audience that sexual violence is part of the black man’s nature. But the way in which she seems to gloss over the issue both before and after this small explanation, without really explaining how the passage implies this idea, struck me as a little strange. And when she pulled everything together at the end, this little bit was forgotten in the tide. The other thing that bothers me is a certain preoccupation with the schools for women in India. I wonder if she has any connection with them, because they crop up again and again in the writing, even when they do not seem to be connected at all.
Loomba, Ania. “Gender, race, Renaissance Drama.” William Shakespeare, The Tempest. A Case Study in Critical Controversy. Ed. Gerald Graff and James Phelan. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 324-335.