The Triumph of Purity in William Shakespeare's The Tempest (1610-11)
ROLL NO. – E 11
Purity is defined as the absence of impurity or contaminants in a substance. The term also applies to the absence of vice in human characters. As for women, the term 'purity' encompasses the notion of chastity which is a prerequisite of a 'good/gentle woman'. The virtue of purity as embodied in human beings was to become quite a popular trope since the ...view middle of the document...
Imogen in Cymbeline, Perdita and Hermione in The Winter’s Tale, Miranda in TheTempest, all exemplify the purity of women and even though they go through a period of hardship they are finally showered with happiness.
We might have deemed it impossible to go beyond Viola, Ophelia and Perdita as pictures of
feminine beauty; to exceed the one in tender delicacy, the other in simplicity and the last in ideal grace if Shakespeare had not created the character of Miranda. Miranda shows how completely the purely natural and the purely ideal can blend into each other. She is the quintessential example of feminine innocence and purity. She is beautiful, modest and tender; it comprises her whole being, external and internal. She is so perfectly unsophisticated, so delicately refined that she is all but ethereal. In Miranda , Shakespeare epitomizes the idea of what a pure woman in every sense, would be like . She is a virgin being “Goddess”; like in her natural grace. The sweet encounter of Miranda and Ferdinand where the innocent Miranda who has never seen a man but her father and Caliban, is juxtaposed with the worldly wise lover Ferdinand who has seen many women and flirted through momentary love of them. Even then Ferdinand on beholding Miranda, is lifted out of his atmosphere of light-love on to the level of her frank and innocent passion, such as Eve might have felt when she first looked into Adam’s eyes. Ferdinand offers pure noble. chivalrous love to Miranda. She loves with a complete self-surrender, yet guards her modesty, the reserve of her sex and moral dignity. Ferdinand is soon charmed by her innocence and purity. The love they feel for each other is pure, without a trace of selfishness or egotism. It is a love fully capable of washing away the sins (Alonso) and misgivings (Prospero) of their parents.
The witch Sycorax is dead well before the action of the play begins. She and Miranda are represented as embodiments of alternate versions of feminity in The Tempest. Sycorax’s evil power and ugliness makes her an outcast to the society. Prospero also describes her as a non-white “Algiers” whose outward appearance seems to mirror her inner malevolence. In contrast to Sycorax, Miranda is seen as the ideal woman throughout the play. She is characterized as beautiful and innocent, everything which Sycorax condemns in her ugliness and lack of virtue. Miranda is a woman of virtue whereas Sycorax is not a virgin and therefore seen as impure. Her illegitimate pregnancy, “…was brought with child”is seen as a devil's deed. Miranda’s status as a virgin helps to redeem the island’s naturalness. The last woman on the island was Sycorax who was unnatural by virtue of being a witch but also because when she came to the island she was already with child. If the island is to be a place of redemption for all the characters in the play, Miranda’s purity is symbolic of the promise of a new and pure beginning. In The Tempest, the marriage between Miranda and...