Caliban’s long speech in Chapter III of The Sea and the Mirror (channeling Henry James, as Ashbery’s blurb has it) is a bizarrely counter-intuitive performance of the “natural” in Tempest-ville. It’s also deeply, subtly, a meditation on the dramatic Muse, explicitly so in the italicized part at the start. There’s also some hard-to-follow movement of the pronoun “He,” which seems to stand for Ariel, Caliban, and Prospero at different time. Perhaps our friends at Cutting Ball, currently rehearsing a Tempest w/o either Ariel or Caliban, want to weight in on that slippage?
My favorite passage isn’t the “restored relation” at the end, but the passing hymn to radical difference & change that comes on p47: “the wish for freedom to transcend any condition,” which may be a kind of “nightmare” or also “a state of perpetual emergency and everlasting improvisation where all is need and change.”
Recent times, and political theorists from Schmitt to Agamben, have suggested a political reading of that state of emergency as well.
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