Alonso: bothered, and bewildered; Prospero: tell you later (5.1.245-253) #StormTossed

ALONSO         This is as strange a maze as e’er men trod,

And there is in this business more than nature

Was ever conduct of. Some oracle

Must rectify our knowledge.

PROSPERO                                                     Sir, my liege,

Do not infest your mind with beating on

The strangeness of this business. At picked leisure,

Which shall be shortly, single I’ll resolve you

(Which to you shall seem probable) of every

These happy accidents. Till when, be cheerful

And think of each thing well.

[aside to Ariel]                       Come hither, spirit.

Set Caliban and his companions free;

Untie the spell.                      [Exit Ariel.] (5.1.245-253)


Alonso is still confused and anxious: this is as strange a maze as e’er men trod, his conceit suggesting both the confusing way in which they have ranged over the island and their mental and emotional disorientation. And there is in this business more than nature; he suspects supernatural involvement. Damn right. An oracle must be consulted, to rectify our knowledge. (A glance at Winter’s Tale, perhaps, in which Leontes sends to the oracle at Delphi in order to establish whether his wife Hermione has betrayed him with Polixenes, and then refuses to believe the oracle’s pronouncement.) This isn’t a conversation that Prospero wants to start now; he wants to remain in control not only of the action as it unfolds, but of any further disclosures too. Don’t trouble yourself, my lord: we’ll make a proper time to have that conversation, soon, single, just the two of us (so that Antonio and Sebastian can’t hear? And perhaps Ferdinand and Miranda too?) and I’ll give you a plausible explanation for everything, even the things that seem like random coincidences. But don’t worry about it: till when, be cheerful and think of each thing well.

And now the final piece of the puzzle, and Ariel’s second-to-last instruction: Set Caliban and his companions free; untie the spell. So Caliban is to be free, at least from this confining enchantment. When, finally, will it be Ariel’s turn?



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