For me, the shockingly brilliant insight and innovation of The Sea and the Mirror is how Auden asks us to think about Antonio. He tends to be an afterthought for many readings of The Tempest — an Old World Machiavel who’s easily forgiven & forgotten — but Auden (perhaps writing with 1930s Europe in mind) gives him the choral role in Chapter II, with each lyric ending up as part of Antonio’s “alone.” Auden’s Antionio ‘s a deeply skeptical, deeply individual poetic creation. He mocks Prospero’s magic: “What a lot a little music can do.” He doubts that mercy and book-drowning will have lasting consequences: “they will soon reappear, / Not even damaged.”
Against P’s show-and-tell, Antonio places individual will. “Your all is partial,” he argues against his brother, “I am I, Antonio / By choice myself alone.”
He gets the last word each time: “choice for himself, burning in the dark for Ferdinand, toasting with Stephano, talking with Gonzalo, playing in his head with Adrian and Francisco, wearing a diadem with Alonso, sailing with the Master and Boatswain, fighting the white bull with Sebastian, laughing with Trinculo, dancing with Miranda.
As “Creation’s O” he is beyond his brother. Outside of his control.
Matt P. says
Though I’ve only read through Prospero’s and Antonio’s monologues so far, I was struck by the sense of defeat apparent in Prospero, particularly as it relates to your representation of Antonio. Prospero’s assertion that “Where I go, words carry no weight” is at once a reminder that books were the cause of his downfall in Milan (and may be again), that bloodlines are more important than achievement, and that words mean nothing where he’s ultimately going (death). I was also fascinated by Prospero’s notion that both master and enslaved are ensnared by their relationship, as he intimates with the lines “I am glad I have freed you/So at last I can really believe I shall die.” In his conception, he is just as bound to Ariel as Ariel is bound to him while also proposing death as his ultimate release.
Tara Bradway says
Just a quick note that I was struck by Antonio’s similarity to Iago. Steve, in your book you picked up on Iago’s “I am not that I am” and “What you know, you know” which resonates with this passage of Antonio’s “I am I, Antonio”. Iago ends up *Othello* very alone, and by his own declaration, as Antonio does here.
Interesting how in *Tempest*, Antonio is alone — not necessarily by his own voluntary exclusion. He’s not given a voice, not given an opportunity as Iago is to tell us he’s not going to say anything else.
No other thoughts on this at present, but I thought it was interesting!
Steve Mentz says
Auden’s pretty clearly (I think) linking Antonio to Iago in those passages. Though at the end of the play, Iago also refuses language itself — “I never more will speak word” — which is what Auden gives to Antonio more than anyone else in the middle section of this poem. Caliban gets still more space in the prose Chapter III.