Scene 1

This scene opens on Ferdinand's labour of log bearing that he conducts nobly:

"Some kinds of baseness
Are nobly undergone; and most poor matters
Point to rich ends ...
The mistress which I serve quickens what's dead,
And makes my labours pleasures" (III.i.4-9)

He is a willing worker, in contrast to the grumbling Caliban. In Ferdinand's acceptance of work's moral of restraint and channelling of energy and in his submission to power relations committed to social harmony, Terence Hawkes sees a suitable reward with the hand of Miranda (That Shakespearian Rag p.1-26). Whereas Caliban, in plotting against his master appears ungoverned, unrestrained, challenging ancient hierarchies and power structures from the periphery, destabilising social order; his savagery encroaches on civilisation, his nature overwhelms Prospero's attempts of nurture.

Prospero watches the affair between Ferdinand and Miranda play itself out (note how all the action is constantly surveyed by the voyeurs Ariel and Prospero) and the lovers decide to marry as soon as possible. Miranda displays sympathy for those suffering, just as she did at the beginning pleading with her father to calm the storm, here she wishes to help Ferdinand with his burden. Her closeted and insulated life on the island means she has little experience of other humans, "I do not know/ One of my sex" is her return to Ferdinand's praise of her beauty. Her isolation makes her uncorrupted and simple and she declares her love honestly. Her expression of fidelity plays on the dual meaning of maid as domestic servant and virgin:

"I am your wife, if you will marry me;
If not, I'll die your maid: to be your fellow
You may deny me; but I'll be your servant,
Whether you will or no" (III.i.83-6)

Scene 2

The comedy and low farce of this scene is highlighted by the contrast with the former scene between the lovers which is frank, noble and generous in sentiment and expression. Here, however, we are faced with Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban again, whose status and behaviour dramatically contrasts with the manners and pretty verse of the lovers.

Ariel causes mischief amongst them as he imitates Trinculo's voice calling Caliban a liar and creates divisions and incites the beating of the court jester. Caliban reveals to Stephano that Prospero is helpless without his books,

First to possess his books; for without them
He's but a sot, as I am"

Thus despite his barbaric nature and untamed passions and excess sexuality (seen in his suggestion of taking Miranda to Stephano: "She will become thy bed") he shows an acute awareness of the relationship between knowledge and power. Their insurrection begins then with an attack against literacy pinpointing the master-slave dialectic as ensuing from command of literacy, language and knowledge. Authority on the isle is tied up with knowledge. Books are pivotal; Prospero is constantly returning to them, consulting them, learning his magic from them, his initial survival was dependent on them, and he works to keep the uncivilised unenlightened and thus subservient. "Burn his books" is Caliban's anarchical advise, symbolising a will to return to the uncivilised, to destroy rather than cultivate; he appears as the antithesis of Renaissance humanism. Stephano in equally factious mood sings, equating liberty and intellectual freedom (Shakespeare and the Popular Voice by Annabel Patterson - see p.154-62).

"Flout 'em and cout 'em,
And scout 'em and flout 'em;
Thought is free" (III.ii.119-21)

Scene 3

The next scene forms a further contrast as it opens with Alonso and the royal party and the asides reveal that Sebastian and Antonio are still planning to kill their king and the old man. Here then we are faced with a glaring comparison and instance of mirroring as the nobles plan treachery just as the drunken butler and 'monster' do. Antonio and Sebastian perhaps appear more monstrous than the lower characters because their high social standing is supposed to entail equally high morality and responsibility; however,

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