A prince’s education, and a beating mind (1.2.169-177) #StormTossed

PROSPERO                             Now I arise.

Sit still and hear the last of our sea-sorrow.

Here in this island we arrived, and here

Have I, thy schoolmaster, made thee more profit

Than other princes can that have more time

For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful.

MIRANDA      Heavens thank you for’t. And now I pray you, sir,

For still ’tis beating in my mind, your reason

For raising this sea-storm? (1.2.169-177)


Almost, almost, almost. Prospero gets up (Miranda’s still seated, and he instructed her to sit still, keep listening) – it seems as if he’s finally going to tell her why the storm, why the shipwreck; is this going to be the big reveal, for which he needs to be upstanding, dominating the stage? Not quite, not yet. Sea-sorrow is vivid, and resonates with Shakespeare’s other storms and shipwrecks, and other fathers and daughters – especially, perhaps, with Pericles, and his daughter Marina, born at sea, and her mother Thaisa, who (apparently) dies giving birth to her. What Prospero’s at pains to establish here, though, is that he has educated Miranda, and specifically as a prince (the word can be used for either gender). And it’s apparently been a rigorous education, which will serve Miranda well; he has been careful, taken pains (but also been full of care, which is worry as well as affection) and not allowed her to fritter time away with pointless things, in vainer hours. So Prospero has brought Miranda up, and educated her, as the heir to a dukedom, as a prince. This too has been part of his plan; he has imagined a future for her beyond the island. Although grateful – Heavens thank you for it – she wants to move on, a little impatiently. Why did you do this? Why the storm? How does all this connect up? And the conceit that Miranda uses, of a question or an idea beating in my mind, is a vivid and perhaps unsettling one, although not an unusual usage in the period, or in Shakespeare; it will return later in the play. This is a play in which thoughts and ideas and abstractions can have a physical, tangible presence. One of them – perhaps – is about to appear…

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