A tale to cure deafness? (lots more still to come in the Longest Exposition Ever) (1.2.97-106) #StormTossed

PROSPERO                                         He being thus lorded,

Not only with what my revenue yielded

But what my power might else exact, like one

Who, having into truth by telling of it,

Made such a sinner of his memory

To credit his own lie, he did believe

He was indeed the duke, out o’th’ substitution

And executing th’outward face of royalty

With all prerogative. Hence his ambition growing—

Dost thou hear?

MIRANDA                                          Your tale, sir, would cure deafness. (1.2.97-106)

The psychology here is penetrating: once Antonio is lorded, once he’s taken over, once he’s got control not just of the money, but of all the other perks and rewards of office too, he does what tyrants and usurpers have always done, convinces himself that it’s all his by right. Antonio is like someone who has told a lie so often that he now believes it to be true. The terms in which Prospero expresses this are striking: Antonio is like one who has made a sinner of his memory, corrupted, falsified his own memory (sin is another touchstone in the play), so that he really believes that he’s the true, rightful duke. He has performed power and status and dukedom so often, and so totally, that he has become the duke indeed. (What does this say about playing the king, thinking back to the histories? What does this suggest about being an actor?) But it seems that this power still wasn’t enough. Antonio’s ambition was growing (this too is the nature of power and tyranny) – and here Prospero breaks off to check on the attentiveness of his audience, and Miranda can, potentially, get a laugh: is she hanging on his every word, thrilled and engrossed? Or is she saying, come on, dad, you’re going on a bit, cut to the chase: how did we even end up on this island? (And there could be a dig at his delivery, not only long-winded, but potentially loud and bombastic too.)


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