Holding her hand, Prospero took Miranda to where Ferdinand sat on the top of the logs that he had piled up. Prospero beckoned him to come down. Ferdinand looked apprehensively at Miranda, but she smiled encouragingly at him.
‘If I’ve punished you too harshly,’ said Prospero, ‘this compensation makes up for it.’ He placed Miranda’s hand in Ferdinand’s.
‘Here. I give you a third of my own life,’ said Prospero, ‘or at least everything I live for.’ He lifted her other hand and gave it to Ferdinand, too, so that Ferdinand stood facing her, holding both her hands. ‘Once again I give her to you,’ said Prospero. ‘All the trials you underwent were only a test of your love, and you’ve passed it very well. Here, before heaven, I confirm my rich gift.’
Prospero seemed to misunderstand Ferdinand’s smile of delight because he shook his head. ‘Oh Ferdinand, don’t smile at me because I boast about her,’ he said. ‘You’ll find that she will outstrip all praise and make it limp behind her.’
‘I believe that, even if an oracle had said otherwise,’ said Ferdinand.
‘Then, as my gift, and your well earned prize, accept my daughter,’ said Prospero. ‘But if you take her virginity before the sacred ceremonies of marriage can be performed nothing good will come of it to make your union grow: only barren hatred, sour-eyed contempt and conflict will strew the union of your bed with such loathsome weeds that you’ll both hate it. And so take notice: let the god of marriage light your way.’
‘I look forward to a quiet life, beautiful children, and many years with our love just as it is now,’ said the stunned Ferdinand. ‘Neither the murkiest places nor all the strongest temptation that our lower nature can offer will ever melt my honour into lust to endanger the joy of our marriage. The day that happens will be when the sun has stopped in its path and night has been chained up in a dungeon.’
‘Well-spoken,’ said Prospero. ‘Sit down then, and talk to her: she is yours.’
Prospero left them holding hands and talking. He went and stood where he could see the sea. He opened his arms wide. ‘What, Ariel!’ he called. ‘My industrious servant, Ariel!’
A breeze brushed his face, and Ariel was there before him. ‘What does my powerful master want? Here I am.’
‘You and your lesser spirits performed the last service extremely well,’ said Prospero. ‘Now I must use you in another such trick. Go and fetch the others over whom I’ve given you power. Bring them here. Tell them to hurry, because I have to show this young couple some of the more showy aspects of my magic. I’ve promised them, and they expect it.’
‘Right now?’ said Ariel.
‘Yes, in the wink of an eye.’
‘Before you can say ‘come’ and ‘go’, and breathe twice and cry ‘so-so’, each one, tripping on his toe, will be here with mop and mow.’ Ariel looked right into Prospero’s eyes. ‘Do you love me master? No?’
‘Dearly, my delicate Ariel. Don’t approach until you hear me calling you.’
‘I understand,’ said Ariel.
Prospero went back to the lovers who were talking, their heads close together. ‘Make sure you keep your word,’ he told Ferdinand. ‘Don’t give way too much to dalliance. Even the strongest protestations are straw to the fire of passion. Stay away from temptation or else you can say goodbye to your vow!’
‘I assure you, sir,’ said Ferdinand, ‘that the cold white virgin snow of my beloved’s heart is a match for the heat of my passion.’
‘Well,’ said Prospero. He motioned them to follow him and he led them to a nearby open space, where he invited them to sit at its edge. Then he walked a little away and called for Ariel. ‘Well come now, my Ariel!’ he whispered. ‘Bring more spirits – rather too many than too few. Come on, and be sharp about it!’
The young couple were sitting close together. ‘No talking,’ said Prospero. ‘Watch! Be silent!’
He bowed his head slightly then raised his hands and placed his fingers on his forehead. Then, as he concentrated, a beautiful, slow music began to play, full and harmonious, although soft. The area in the centre of the space brightened and took the shape of Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, in her splendid colours. As Prospero stood, deep in his meditation, and the young couple watched, Iris spoke:
Ceres, most bounteous lady, thy rich leas
Of wheat, rye, barley, vetches, oats and pease:
Thy turfy mountains, where live nibbling sheep,
And flat meads thatch’d with stover, them to keep:
Thy banks with pioned and twilled brims,
Which spongy April at thy hest betrims,
To make cold nymphs chaste crowns: and thy broom – groves,
Whose shadow the dismissed bachelor loves,
Being lass-lorn: thy pole-clipt vineyard:
And thy sea- marge, sterile and rocky-hard,
Where thou thyself dost air:–the queen o’ the sky,
Whose watery arch and messenger am I,
Bids thee leave these, and with her sovereign grace,
Here on this grass-plot, in this very place,
To come and sport: her peacocks fly amain:
Approach, rich Ceres, her to entertain.
The music changed slightly to introduce a new element. Ceres, dressed in the brown colours of the crops she presided over, appeared. When she spoke, her voice was like the music of summer rain:
Hail, many-colour’d messenger, that ne’er
Dost disobey the wife of Jupiter:
Who with thy saffron wings upon my flowers
Diffusest honey-drops, refreshing showers,
And with each end of thy blue bow dost crown
My bosky acres and my unshrubb’d down,
Rich scarf to my proud earth: why hath thy queen
Summon’d me hither, to this short-grass’d green?
Iris stretched her arm out to the young couple.
A contract of true love to celebrate:
And some donation freely to estate
On the blest lovers.
Tell me, heavenly bow,
If Venus or her son, as thou dost know,
Do now attend the queen? Since they did plot
The means that dusky Dis my daughter got,
Her and her blind boy’s scandal’d company
I have forsworn.
Iris went to her now and placed an arm reassuringly around her:
Of her society
Be not afraid: I met her deity
Cutting the clouds towards Paphos and her son
Dove-drawn with her. Here thought they to have done
Some wanton charm upon this man and maid,
Whose vows are, that no bed-right shall be paid
Till Hymen’s torch be lighted: but vain:
Mars’s hot minion is returned again:
Her waspish-headed son has broke his arrows,
Swears he will shoot no more but play with sparrows
And be a boy right out.
The music changed again, to a more regal theme. The Queen goddess of marriage was approaching. Ceres knelt:
High’st queen of state,
Great Juno, comes: I know her by her gait.
Juno went straight to her and raised her up:
How does my bounteous sister? Go with me
To bless this twain, that they may prosperous be
And honour’d in their issue.
Juno took her sister goddesses’ hands and went towards the couple and stopped in front of them. Then she sang:
Honour, riches, marriage-blessing,
Long continuance, and increasing,
Hourly joys be still upon you!
Juno sings her blessings upon you.
When she had finished Ceres stepped forward and sang:
Earth’s increase, foison plenty,
Barns and garners never empty,
Vines and clustering bunches growing,
Plants with goodly burthen bowing:
Spring come to you at the farthest
In the very end of harvest!
Scarcity and want shall shun you:
Ceres’ blessing so is on you.
Prospero smiled at the astonished Ferdinand. ‘This is a most majestic vision, and the music is magical,’ said Ferdinand. ‘Am I right in thinking these are spirits?’
‘Spirits that I have conjured from their confines to act out my fantasies,’ said Prospero.
‘I want to live here forever!’ exclaimed Ferdinand. ‘Such a strange and wise father, who has turned this place into a paradise.’
Juno and Ceres whispered together and then sent Iris away on some task. ‘Now silence!’ said Prospero. ‘Juno and Ceres are whispering earnestly. There’s something else that must be done. Hush and be quiet or our spell will be broken.’
Iris went to the centre of the space and raised her arms up.
You nymphs, call’d Naiads, of the windring brooks,
With your sedged crowns and ever-harmless looks,
Leave your crisp channels and on this green land
Answer your summons: Juno does command:
Come, temperate nymphs, and help to celebrate
A contract of true love: be not too late.
A dozen or so shepherdesses came tripping out of the woods. The music changed to a rustic folksy tempo and they danced. Iris raised her arms again:
You sunburnt sicklemen, of August weary,
Come hither from the furrow and be merry:
Make holiday: your rye-straw hats put on
And these fresh nymphs encounter every one
In country footing.
A group of male reapers, fully equipped for their work, appeared and joined the nymphs in a graceful dance.
Prospero, who had been standing in deep concentration during the pageant, looked up suddenly. The music lost its sweetness and harmony and slowed to a discordant stop, and was replaced by the sound of distant thunder. The spirits’ costumes disappeared and they assumed the various weird shapes that they’d had before. The sky darkened.
Prospero stood in dismay. He’d lost his concentration as the thought of the foul conspiracy against his life, on the part of Caliban and his new friends, struck him. The moment of their plot was almost here. He waved the spirits away. ‘Well done. Off you go. No more!’
‘This is strange,’ whispered Ferdinand. ‘Your father’s in a really furious mood.’
Dark clouds were rolling in and the thunder was coming closer.
‘I’ve never seen him so angry before,’ said Miranda.
Prospero, seeing that Miranda and her new betrothed were concerned, pulled himself together and smiled. ‘You look upset, my son – as though in dismay,’ he said. ‘Be cheerful, sir. Our revels now have ended. These, our actors, as I told you before, were all spirits, and have melted into air: into thin air. And like the non-existent ingredients of this vision, the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples – even the great globe itself, and all who inherit it – will dissolve, and like this unsubstantial pageant that’s just faded away, leave no trace behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am agitated: bear with my weakness: my old brain is troubled. Don’t be disturbed by my infirmity. Go back to my cave, if you like, and rest. I’ll walk around a little to quieten my unsettled mind.’
Miranda kissed her father and, taking Ferdinand’s hand, led him away.
Prospero shut his eyes and silently summoned Ariel, who was there immediately.
‘I’m always listening for your thoughts,’ said Ariel. ‘What can I do?’
‘Spirit, we must prepare to meet Caliban.’
‘Yes, my commander. While I was playing Ceres it occurred to me to remind you of it, but I was afraid of making you angry.’
‘Tell me again: where did you leave those ruffians?’
‘I told you, sir, they were crazy with liquor. They were so bold that they were striking the air for breathing in their faces. They were striking the ground for kissing their feet, yet always moving forward in their project. Then I beat my drum, at which, like unbroken colts, they pricked up their ears, opened their eyelids, and lifted up their noses as though they smelled the music. So I put a spell on their ears so that, like calves, they followed my lowing through sharp briers, prickly shrubs, and thorns that pierced their delicate shins. I finally left them in the scummy pool on the other side of your cave, up to their chins, dancing up and down, so that the foul water on them stank more than their feet.’
‘This was well done, my bird,’ said Prospero. ‘Stay invisible. Go and get some of the cheap finery in my house and bring it here as bait to catch these thieves.’
‘I go, I go.’
Prospero produced a rope from nowhere and tied it between two trees. Caliban was a devil, a born devil, whose nature could never be changed by good treatment. All the trouble he had taken with his slave had been in vain – lost, quite, quite lost. And just as his body grew uglier as he got older, his mind grew more evil. Prospero resolved to torment them until they screamed with the pain.
Ariel was back with a heap of cheap, gaudy clothes. ‘Come, hang them on this line,’ said Prospero.
When they had completed the task Prospero made himself invisible, too, and they watched as the three conspirators, led by Caliban, approached. They were all wet and their smell was pungent.
Caliban stopped and turned. He placed a finger over his mouth. ‘Walk softly, so that even the blind mole won’t hear your footsteps. We’re very close to his cave.
Stephano was cross. He was wet and scratched, and he stank to high heaven. ‘Monster,’ he said, ‘your fairy, which you say is a harmless fairy – has done little better than play tricks on us.’
Trinculo’s face was full of dismay. ‘Monster,’ he said, enjoying the way his friend had reprimanded the savage, ‘I smell of horse-piss, which greatly offends my nose.’
‘Me too,’ said Stephano. ‘Do you hear, monster? If I should take a disliking to you, listen…’
‘You’d be a lost monster,’ said Trinculo.
‘My good lord, don’t turn against me,’ said Caliban. ‘Be patient because the prize I’ll bring you to will make you blind to this setback. So speak quietly: all’s as quiet as midnight.’
‘Yes, but to lose our bottle in that pool!’ exclaimed Trinculo.
‘There’s not only disgrace and dishonour in that, monster,’ said Stephano, ‘but also an infinite loss.’
‘That means more to me than getting wet,’ said Trinculo. ‘But this is your “harmless” fairy, monster.’
‘I’m going to go and get my bottle, even if I’m buried in filth for my trouble,’ said Stephano.
‘I beg of you, my king, be quiet,’ said Caliban. ‘Look there. That’s the mouth of his cave. No noise now, and go in. Do that good mischief that will make this island your own forever, and I, your Caliban, your foot-licker forever.’
Seeing the entrance to the cave, and the closeness of their goal, Stephano relented. ‘Give me your hand,’ he said. ‘I’m beginning to have bloody thoughts.’
They began moving forward stealthily but then Trinculo suddenly let out a delighted cry. ‘Oh king Stephano! he exclaimed. ‘Oh peer! Oh worthy Stephano! Look what a wardrobe there is for you here.’
‘Leave it alone, you fool,’ snarled Caliban. ‘It’s just trash.’
Trinculo tried a cheap, heavily decorated, gown on. ‘Oh ho, monster,’ he said, excitedly. ‘We know what belongs in a cheap clothes shop. Oh King Stephano!’
‘Take that gown off, Trinculo,’ replied Stephano. ‘By my hand, I’ll have that gown.’
He tugged at the gown. Trinculo pulled it off hurriedly. ‘Your Grace shall have it,’ he said.
‘May this fool drown in dropsy!’ exclaimed Caliban. ‘What do you mean by doting on such rubbish? Leave it alone and do the murder first. If he wakes up he’ll cover our skin with pinches from head to toe and make strange creatures of us.’
‘Shut up, monster.’ Stephano tried a jacket on and looked down at himself. ‘Madam line, doesn’t this jerkin suit me!’ he said. ‘But it’s a bit old, it’s losing its hair and will be a bald jerkin!’
Trinculo clapped his hands. ‘Bravo! We’ll steal down the line like professionals, if it please Your Grace.’
‘Thank you for that joke,’ said Stephano graciously. He pulled a doublet off the line. ‘Here’s a garment for it. Humour will not go unrewarded as long as I’m king of this country. “Steal down the line” is an excellent joke.’ He pulled a hose off the line. ‘Here’s another garment for it.’
Trinculo beckoned to the horrified Caliban. ‘Come, monster. ‘Put some bird-lime on your fingers and steal the rest.’
‘I’ll have none of it,’ said Caliban. ‘If we lose our chance we’ll all be turned into geese or apes with hideously low foreheads.’
Trinculo and Stephano weren’t listening. They were removing the items from the line and putting as many of them on as they could.
‘Monster, get your fingers working,’ said Stephano. ‘Help us carry this to where my barrel is or I’ll expel you from my kingdom. Go on.’ He dumped a pile of clothes on Caliban’s head. ‘Carry this.’
‘And this,’ said Trinculo, dumping another on him.
‘Yes, and this,’ said Stephano.
Suddenly there was the sound of a hunter’s horn, the barking of hounds and the clatter of horses’ hooves. And then a full blown hunt came into view, rushing towards them.
Prospero laughed and called to the spirits that had taken the form of hounds. ‘Hey, Mountain, hey!’
‘Silver!’ called Ariel. He pointed to the three would-be murderers. ‘There it goes. Silver!’
‘Fury, Fury! There,’ shouted Prospero. ‘Tyrant, there! Hark, hark!’
The three dropped the clothes and ran, soon disappearing from view as they tried to outrun the hunt, which was gaining on them.
‘Go and tell my goblins to grind their joints with dry convulsions,’ said Prospero, ‘tighten their muscles like the cramps of old age and pinch them until they’re more spotted than leopards or wildcats.’
‘Listen to their cries!’ laughed Ariel.
‘Let them be thoroughly hunted,’ said Prospero. ‘Right now all my enemies are at my mercy. My work will end soon and you will breathe the air of freedom. Follow me and serve me for just a little longer.’