Irving Wasserman on Shakespeare’s The Tempest: Class Notes

Irving Wasserman on The Tempest:

Class notes, from “Political Philosophy,” Grand Valley, 1981, 1983.

In a course that included the attempt to read Plato’s Republic,” Irving Wasserman paused to read with us The Tempest, with the essay of Barbara Tovey, then newly printed. This conjunction of intellect and imagination is surely a pinnacle of education in the twentieth century. The teaching of Professor Wasserman, even as preserved in class notes, is one of the best on the Tempest, with many unique teachings, as that on the magic of Prospero.

1981 Intro on Shakespeare: Bloom’s Shakespeare’s Politics

p. 55: The kind of ruler he was not in Milan. In Milan, he ruled in a certain way, but badly.

…consciously wanted to portray political wisdom

56: Difference in ruling, Milan and on the island.

Each group are political rulers.

60 In Milan, Prospero wasn’t the best ruler

About the situation of a wise ruler in a real city.

The wise ruler and the actual city against the background of the island.

How he got his kingdom back.

The Thirds: himself, Miranda, Milan. In first, Milan was ignored. Miranda and he, studies.

How Prospero sets out educating others.

About a ruler who wasn’t wise, who became wise.

Caliban, Ariel and Ferdinand think he is a tyrant. 3 views of tyranny. Gonzalo’s dream world.

Prospero Ariel/Caliban appetite. Caliban is not educable.

The magic is not omnipotent. Magic is merely remedial.

Nature, art and chance. By chance he came to the island. Working with what is given.

puts down powers in entering the real world.

61. Monday.

Emphasis- best community. Wisdom must rule.

The best city depends partly on chance.

If it did emerge, it would deteriorate.

61 Brother Antonio is going back to Milan. Can he make Antonio see in Milan?

Equivalent of magic in the real world.

The Tempest seems Platonic. “Something, best…in a profound way…not doctrine

Yet Plato and Shakespeare are the greatest teachers.

didactic…something different than we usually mean by the term.

It is nowhere, a utopia, literally nowhere.

p. 62 They came to the island by chance.

Not creator- invented not the nature of things (black magic)

Found Caliban with his nature. All natures are given.

Caliban, drunk, recognizes his true master, shakes the tyrant.

Powers: only 4 hours.

All he can do is try to make Ferdinand and Miranda better, to rule Naples.

Cannot ensure his successors. (succession?)

Nature /art. the highest art. Gonzallo’s best regime

A play within as play (Iris, Juno)

That is,Shakespeare (Prospero) puts on a show.

got interrupted.

Ferdinand is transformed by a vision of marriage. Future life. Fertility rites.

They’re always trying to rape Miranda. It breaks in upon the magic

Question: What can Prospero do and not do?

Not make nature. Makes the storm.

The tests and trials.

By their reaction to the storm, each character is revealed.

Antonio and Sebastian are conventional rulers.

They both go back to the world the way it is. There, realism.

Power shows who someone is. Top: The magic wand is broken.

The education of Ferdinand

Power. Guards. If it was not done with magic, the play would be concerned with those kinds of realities.

p. 63

Ariel The poetic imagination. Enslaved

disciplined in service to wisdom

Freed.

Power, police.

Miranda- first appearance. Compassion Prospero: be collected.”

Prospero mlearns something about his passion.

Masque Storm contrived for Miranda. “In care of thee.”

Nievety.

Art- Studies on the island are now used in ruling wisely.

64 bTop: The plat is the magic

Education and the trance of repentance.

Gonzallo’s Utopia- not morally harsh.

Private property- Caliban’s island.

Natures. Storm- Republic. Creates trials. Each character responds.

Powers impermanent and almost accidental. Only 4 hours.

Absolute power- rule must give way to Ferdinand and Miranda.

Power- trance of repentance- the sword. Education.

Propsero’s rule is not liker Gonzalo’s utopia (primative).

Morally harsh- equal treatment would be unjust.

Caliban’s attempt to rape Miranda ended education.

Then began his slavery, until alcohol.

Poetic imagination, Ariel- poet in service of wisdom.

Prospero’s compassion at the end of the play- withheld significance?

Only after Ariel says something.

Antonio and Sebastian transformed? No indication. Back to real world.

Gonzalo Corrupt regimes. Naples and Milan. Question of usurping.

Stephano Caliban The island is his. Tunis and Carthage.

Magic: to rule. Power to determine what men will honor.

Contrived love. Prospero effects world disappears. Un-political-ness of love.

Love is the leverage Prospero has on Ferdinand.

The Masque Through the beautiful things. Prospero! sorrow, labor, sexual self control.

Comes to be favored by Ferdinand, not a tyrant.

The Masque is interrupted.

The game of chess. Ferdinand is cheating. Miranda doesn’t criticize.

Even if the city did come into being- impermanence.

Restraint is as natural to man as freedom.- contrary to the moderns.

Caliban- power will show a man. Persuasion is insufficient

[Points of repetition

Best regime. Wise ruler- in a real city. About a ruler who wasn’t wise who became wise.

Utopian- nowhere, literally. The highest art.

Chance- came to the island by chance.

Art- the highest art. Studies on the island now used in ruling wisely.

On Magic

-not omnipotent. Nature/Art/Chance. Works with the given.

Puts down powers on entering the real world. What is the equivalent of magic in the real world?

Not a creator- invented not the nature of things (black magic{ Irv had a teaching that Prospero’s art is distinct from black magic in that it does not change the natures of things, as princes into frogs.} All natures given.

Play within a play- Shakespeare (Prospero) by magic puts on a show.

Magic wand broken.

Power. guards. if not with magic, play would be concerned with these realities. 

Powers impermanent, almost accidental.]

From beginning to end the play is about the possibility of realizing the best

Education- each has peculiar tests and trials

Trials of Ferdinand- Tempest, loss of father

being called traitor

the logs

Ther Masque

A test for Ferdinand- a fiery young Italian, hot blooded.

He must make this swift winning uneasy- he must make it difficult

Spirited element of Ferdinand needs taming.

Nature of Masque’s magic, stops the sword.

In the real world, one would need guardians.

Ferdinand has to learn how to rule- the logs, then the Masque.

Ferdinand must come to see that Prospero mis not a traitor- and he does.

Prospero should be ruler by nature- What if he didn’t act?Jerry: The act of the ruler is in the interest of the weaker. ruler doesn’t rule for self-aggrandizement….

Lecture II Tempest:

Act I scene i Gonzalo

Prospero: Be collected. (Has a picture of the whole, can say this).

“no harm” “I have done nothing but in care of thee.”

(puts aside his cloak- speaks as ordoinary man.

“Tis time” Within reach of his magic. The bounds of magic: not omniscient or omnipotent.

brother’s falsehood awakened according to his trust.

Books prized above my dukedom- through these books Prospero has the magic to rule.

Miranda- best educated of all Shakespeare’s heroes”For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful.”

Accident: the star is the moment to act, given by chance. “If In court not but omit, my fortunes will ever after droop.”

Twixt 2 and 6. 4 hours time limit, classical plays.

Ariel- wants to be free. Master, Dost thou love me?

Prospero’s anger. When the Masque gets interrupted, he gets angry.

Prospero is learning wisdom, and education in wise rule.

A play about the possibility of wisdom ruling.

The spirited element on the side of reason.

Prospero has to use the spirited and the appetite- not pure types.

Prospero pardons Antonio and Sebastian (going back to a Christian world)

Question of the possibility in Milan. They’ll be up to their old tricks again

What trials or tests does Prospero arrange for each of the three groups?

A: Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian 1. storm

B. Stephano, Trinculo, Caliban

C: Ferdinand and Miranda.

How does each group respond to the trials?

The Tempest is the first trial of those on the ship and of Ariel and Miranda.

Trials in Republic.

From Fall of 1981, likely in an Introduction to Philosophy course:

Trials of Ferdinand- Tempest, loss of father

being called traitor

the logs

Ther Masque

A test for Ferdinand- a fiery young Italian, hot blooded.

He must make this swift winning uneasy- he must make it difficult

Spiritedx element of Ferdinand needs taming.

Nature of Masque’s magic, stops the sword.

In the real world, one would need guardians.

Ferdinand has to learn how to rule- the logs, then the Masque.

Ferdinand must come to see that Prospero mis not a traitor- and he does.

Prospero should be ruler by nature- What if he didn’t act?Jerry: The act of the ruler is in the interest of the weaker. ruler doesn’t rule for self-aggrandizement….

Lecture II Tempest:

Act I scene i Gonzalo

Prospero: Be collected. (Has a picture of the whole, can say this).

“no harm” “I have done nothing but in care of thee.”

(puts aside his cloak- speaks as ordoinary man.

“Tis time” Within reach of his magic. The bounds of magic: not omniscient or omnipotent.

brother’s falsehood awakened according to his trust.

Books prized abovew my dukedom- through these books Prospero has the magic to rule.

Miranda- best educated of all Shakespeare’sheroes”For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful.”

Accident: the star is the moment to act, given by chance. “If In court not but omit, my fortunes will ever after droop.”

Twixt 2 and 6. 4 hours time limit, classical plays.

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