Ariel, chick … to the elements, be free (5.1.312-319) #StormTossed

ALONSO                                             I long

To hear the story of your life, which must

Take the ear strangely.

PROSPERO                                         I’ll deliver all,

And promise you calm seas, auspicious gales

And sail so expeditious that shall catch

Your royal fleet far off. [aside to Ariel] My Ariel, chick,

That is your charge. Then to the elements

Be free, and fare thou well.

[to the others] Please you, draw near.

Exeunt omnes.            (5.1.312-319)

The story will be told, finally, and Alonso is apparently keen to hear it: yes, Alonso, it will indeed take the ear strangely. (Strange is as much a Tempest word as is wonder.) I’ll deliver all, says Prospero, tell you everything—but deliver hangs in the air here, full of other possibilities—of liberation and release—of everything and everyone. There will be no more storms, but calm seas and exactly the right sort of wind, enabling the king’s ship to catch up with the rest of the royal fleet. It’s all going to be alright.

And the words we have (perhaps) been waiting for, to Ariel. They are to be responsible for the ship’s fair sailing, its propitious winds. Then to the elements—to water, fire, and air (surely not earth?)—be free, and fare thou well. And, chick. Ariel flies, yes, but chick: this is affectionate, lovingly parental. Ariel has been in effect enslaved, for all that they have been treated less harshly than Caliban, and called a servant, not a slave. Here they are finally set free, albeit conditionally, and in the (near) future. But there is also, here, the answer to their question: do you love me, master? Prospero’s not good at talking about feelings, but in that little word, chick, so unexpected in this controlled, magnanimous, formal summation, there is such tenderness, such sharp awareness of imminent loss (the farewell to Ariel here can only anticipate his leave-taking from Miranda; the chick must be fledged and fly away) – and love. Go with love, Ariel.

The Epilogue remains.



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