Modern Prose

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When Prospero returned to his cave he took satisfaction from the speed with which his scheme was successfully coming together.

“Ferdinand, I have punished you too harshly, but your compensation makes amends,” Prospero said, indicating Miranda. “Here you have a third of my life, that what I live for. I give her to you. All your vexations were simply tests of your love, and you have passed with flying colours. Here before Heaven I ratify my priceless gift. Oh, Ferdinand, don’t smile when I praise her. You will find that she exceeds all compliments, praise can’t keep up with her.”

“I’d believe that even if it was contradicted by an oracle!” Ferdinand said.

“Then, as my gift and your acquisition, worthily won, take my daughter. But if you partake of marital pleasure prior to the sacrament of matrimony you will be denied the favour of Heaven. Childless hate, aggrieved looks and discord will be all that flourishes in your union, so that both of you shall hate it. Therefore, take heed, between now and the ceremony.”

“As I hope for harmony, heirs and long life, with love as vibrant as it is now, neither the murkiest and most opportune place, nor the strongest impulse could ever melt my honour into lust or in any way detract from the glory of our nuptial celebrations.”

“Well said, Ferdinand. Sit and chat- she is your bride-to-be.”

Prospero smiled at the young lovers and now turned his attention to the final stages of his plan.

“Ariel! My industrious servant, Ariel!” he called loudly.

Ariel glided and swirled through the air and arrived at Prospero’s cave.

“Here I am! What does my omnipotent master wish me to do next?”

“You and the junior spirits performed your last task very well. I must use you again in a similar trick. Go and bring to me the spirits I have placed in your command. I must let the lovebirds see a trick of mine. This I promised them and they expect it.”

“Presently?” Ariel asked.

“Yes, in the twinkling of an eye.”

“Before you can say come and go, and breathe twice, and cry so, so, they will be here on tiptoe, full of funny faces. Do you love me master? Yes?”

“Dearly, my delicate Ariel. Do not return until you hear me call.”

“I understand.”

Ariel soared ecstatically into the air.

“Now, Ferdinand, be sure to keep your promise. Keep your passion on a tight leash. The strongest oaths are just straw to the fire in the blood. Curtail your thoughts or your vow will be in peril!”

“I warrant you, sir, that the cold white virgin snow upon my heart cools my reason,” Ferdinand replied.

“Good.”

Prospero gestured for Ferdinand and Miranda to be seated, to enjoy the spectacle Ariel had organised.

“Now come, my Ariel! Bring a troupe rather than a mere nest of spirits! Be prompt! Everyone look! Silence!”

Seductive percussive music began again to emanate from the forest. A traditional mask play was unfolding, interpreted by Prospero’s spirits. Iris, the goddess of the rainbow swirled in a blaze of colour and then spoke to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture:
“Ceres, bounteous lady, whose meadows
Are full of the of the crops we sow;
Whose turfy mountains feed the nibbling sheep,
Whose fields are filled with the fodder for them to eat,
Your rivers are lined by peonies and lilies,
Which April showers, on your side,
Bloom into crowns for the chaste bride;
And in your darkened groves
The rejected man seeks solace.
Your vineyards, tended with care,
And your coastal cliffs, rocky and bare,
Where you are known to wander.
Juno, Queen of the Sky,
Whose rainbow messenger am I,
Says leave all of this, and with her sovereign grace,
Come and join us here in our endeavours.
Juno’s peacocks carry her through the sky.
To entertain her, Ceres, participate!”

When Prospero’s spirit servant had finished playing Iris, Ariel spoke the role of Ceres:
“Hail, Iris, obedient rainbow messenger
Of Juno, wife of Jupiter:
Whose saffron wings caress my flowers
Diffusing refreshing honey-drop showers.
Each end of your blue bow crowns
My lush acres and my bare downs.
Bright scarf of earth, why has your queen
Summoned me here to this lawn of green?”

Iris danced in a trail of colour and replied:

“A contract of true love to celebrate,
And some donation from your estate
On the blessed lovers.”

When Iris completed her recital Ceres replied:
“Tell me, heavenly bow,
Is Venus or her son,
Cupid, do you know,
Still waiting on Juno?
Since they plotted
With Pluto to spirit my daughter away,
I’ve sworn to avoid their company.”

Iris replied to Ceres’ concerns.
“Don’t be afraid of her society;
I met her in the sky,
Speeding to Paphos with her son,
Drawn by doves.
This is what they thought they had done:
A spell on a man and a maid,
Who had vowed until their wedding night
No love would be made.
But it was in vain.
Venus fled; Petulant Cupid broke his arrows,
Swore he will shoot no more.
Play with sparrows,
And be a boy.”

Ceres listened attentively and then replied:
“Highest queen of state,
Great Juno comes;
I know her by her gait.”

Juno entered.
“How is my bounteous sister? Come with me
To bless this couple, that they may be prosperous
And honoured in their children.”

Juno then began to sing:
“Honour, riches, marriage blessing,
Long continuance, and increasing,
Hourly joys be always with you!
Juno sings her blessings on you.”

Ceres too began to sing in praise of Ferdinand and Miranda.
“Earth’s bounty and harvests plenty,
Barns and granaries never empty;
Vines with juicy bunches growing;
Plants with lavish burdens bowing;
Spring comes to you at the farthest
At the very end of the harvest!
Scarcity and want shall shun you;
Ceres’ blessing so is on you.”

“This is an amazing display of natural harmony!” Ferdinand said. “Would I be right in saying these are spirits?”

“Yes,” said Prospero. “Spirits which my magic skills allow me to summon from their domain to perform my tasks.”

“Let me live here forever!” Ferdinand said. “Such a unique father-in-law makes this place a paradise.”

They turned back to the performance. Juno and Ceres whispered and sent Iris away on a chore.

“Keep quiet now, Ferdinand, watch! Juno and Ceres are whispering seriously- something’s afoot. Hush and be rapt otherwise the spell will be broken,” Prospero said.

Iris swirled and began a speech summoning more spirits:
“You nymphs, called Naiads, of wandering brooks,
With your reed crowns and ever-harmless looks,
Leave your cold streams and on this green land
Answer your summons: Juno does command.
Come, benevolent nymphs, and help to celebrate
A contract of true love, do not be late.”

At this a school of water nymphs materialised, and Iris continued her speech:
“You sunburnt fieldworkers, of August weary,
Come in from your fields and be merry:
Celebrate; your rye-straw hats put on,
And these fresh nymphs do you encounter,
In a dance of nature’s bounty.”

A group of harvesters appeared immaculately dressed in their land workers attire. They each take a nymph as a partner and begin to dance in a rural style.

Without warning Prospero suddenly leapt to his feet and spoke:

“Well done! No more! Go back to your domain!”

Ferdinand and Miranda were disconcerted by Prospero’s unexpected interruption and he himself was mournful and morose. The spirits, fearing they had displeased their master, dispersed into the air accompanied by sad, strange tones.

“I had forgotten that foul conspiracy of Caliban and his cronies. They will be here shortly,” Prospero said to himself.

“This is strange,” Ferdinand said to Miranda. “Your father’s upset about something.”

“Never before have I seen him so angry, so out of character.”

“You look perplexed, Ferdinand, and uncomfortable,” Prospero said. “Be cheerful, young man, the revelry is over. Our actors, as you perceived, were all spirits and have melted into air, thin air. And, like the baseless fabric of that vision, the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the sanctified temples, the earth itself, and indeed all her inhabitants, will dissolve. Just as this insubstantial pageant faded without trace, so will we. We are of such stuff that dreams are made. And our short life is concluded with a sleep. Sir, I am vexed. Tolerate my weakness. My old brain is troubled. Don’t be disturbed by my infirmity! If you will retire to my cave and rest awhile, I will take a stroll to calm my mind.”

“We wish you peace,” Ferdinand and Miranda said together.

The young couple left Prospero to his own devices. He waited until they were out of sight before attempting to tackle the imminent threat of Caliban.

“Appear with a thought! Thank you, Ariel. Appear!

On cue, Ariel materialised.

“I cling to your thoughts. What is your order?”

“Spirit, we must prepare to tackle Caliban.”

“Yes, commander. When I was playing Ceres I thought I should have reminded you but I was afraid an interruption would have angered you.”

“Say again, where did you leave those scoundrels?”

“As I said, they were drunk and so full of Dutch courage that they were taking the air to task for breathing in their faces and they stamped on the ground for kissing their feet- but never losing sight of their goal. When I beat my drum, at which, like unbroken colts, they pricked up their ears, raised their eyelids and snorted as they tried to work out where the music was coming from. So I put a spell on their ears and then they, like calves, followed my sounds through spiky briars, bracken, gorse bush and thorns, all of which pierced and stuck in their frail legs. And lastly I dumped them in that scum covered pool beyond your cave. They’re up to their chins in it, making the pool stink as much as their feet.”

“You’ve done well, my bird! Retain your invisible form for a while yet. Bring some trinkets from my cave as bait to entrap these thieves.”

“I go! I go!” Ariel said, excited by the impending climax.

“Caliban is a devil, a born devil,” Prospero thought, “in whose nature nurturing and love can never triumph. All my humane efforts have been wasted, totally wasted. As his body gets uglier with age so too does his mind. I’ll punish them all until they howl.”

Ariel returned from the cave with exquisite apparel and glistening objects.

“Come,” Prospero said, “hang them on this line.”

Once they had hung the attractions the way they thought they would tempt Caliban and his cohorts, Prospero and Ariel became invisible to wait for the crooks. It didn’t take long. Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo appeared soaking and smelly.

“Please now,” Caliban whispered, “walk so quietly that even a blind mole can’t hear you. We are near Prospero’s cave.”

“Monster,” Stephano said, “your fairy, which you said was harmless, has done little better than play the smart Alec.”

“Monster,” Trinculo added, “I smell horse piddle, and my nose doesn’t like it!”

“Neither does mine!” Stephano nodded. “Do you hear, monster? If I should take a dislike to you, you will be-”

“You’d be a former monster!” Trinculo said, complementing Stephano’s sentiments.

“My lord, maintain me in your favour. Be patient, for the prize I’ll bring to you will make you forget this mischance. So speak softly- be as silent as the night.”

“That’s fine to say, but to lose our wine in that pool!” Trinculo added, aggrieved.

“There is not only disgrace and dishonour in that, but the wine is irreplaceable!” Stephano said as Trinculo nodded in agreement.

“That’s more important than the soaking. All this from, monster, a harmless fairy!” Trinculo said.

“I’ll get my bottle back even if I’m drowned doing it!” Stephano said.

“Please, my King, be quiet. See, here is the mouth of the cave. Keep quiet and go in. Do the piece of mischief that will make this island your own and make Caliban your eternal boot-licker,” Caliban boldly said.

“Give me your hand. I begin to have bloody thoughts,” Stephano said.

“Oh, King Stephano!” Trinculo squealed when he noticed Prospero’s decoy of clothes. “Oh, peer! Oh, worthy Stephano! Look what a wardrobe is waiting for you!”

“Leave it alone, you fool!” Caliban snapped at Trinculo. “It’s only rubbish.”

But Trinculo was not to be deterred. Trinculo seized a garment and was examining the cloth and trying it on for fit.

“Oh ho, monster! We know what belongs on the market stall! Oh, King Stephano!”

“Take off that garment, Trinculo!” Stephano bawled. “I’ll have that, by god!”

“Your Grace shall have it,” Trinculo said.

“Oh strike this fool down!” Caliban said in exasperation. “What’s the point of doting on a few fancy rags? Leave them and do the killing first. If he wakes up he’ll pierce us from head to toe and makes us sorry cases.”

“Be quiet, man-monster!” Stephano said sharply. “Madam Clothesline, isn’t this jacket becoming? I hope it’s quality, otherwise it will look cheap!”

“Yes, yes. If we’re going to steal let’s go for quality, Your Grace!” Trinculo said.

“Thank you for that, Trinculo. Have a jacket as a reward. Wit will not go unrewarded in my kingdom!”

“Monster, come on get your hands on the booty and steal the rest,” Trinculo said.

“I’m having none of it! We will lose our opportunity and Prospero will turn us into chickens or apes!”

“Monster, put your hands to good use,” Stephano ordered. “Help to carry all this away or I’ll expel you from my kingdom. Go on, carry these garments.”

“And this…” Trinculo said, throwing another cloak at Caliban.

“Yes, and this too…” Stephano said.

They stopped. A pack of barking hounds was running through the forest. The noise seemed to indicate the dogs were coming for them. Prospero had disguised his spirits as vicious dogs. Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban fled as fast as their feet could carry them.

“Hey, Mountain, hey!” Prospero yelled, as if calling a dog.

“Silver, go! Silver!” Ariel added in similar fashion.

The crooks ran through the foliage in mad tizzy, once again ripping themselves on branches and thorns.

“Fury, Fury! There, Tyrant, there! Listen, listen!” Prospero shouted, seemingly behind them. “Ariel, order my spirits to grind their joints with pains, give their muscles cramps and pinch their flesh until they have more spots than the leopard!”

“Listen to them scream!” Ariel said.

“Let them be truly hunted. Now, all my enemies are at my mercy. Shortly all my labours will reach their conclusion, and you shall be as free as air. For a little longer, follow my instruction and be at my service.”