[Aside] Were we to search for this play’s cipher, its coded character by which to find the logos of it, Caliban and Ariel seem the two most likely candidates. Ariel’s metaxical nature and role within the narrative grants him (or her) no small degree of agency. Yes, he serves Prospero, though the spirit appears the very medium of much of the magician’s power. One could read Prospero as impotent without Ariel (or any of the spirits he might call forth to enact his designs). And next to Prospero himself more ink has probably been spilt on Caliban than any other character in the play. How the director and actor choose to make up and costume the character, how to play and affect him, ranges widely—from the comical to the tragic and everything in between…. How one understands this play’s movements and rhythms, its events and meanings, might very well derive from how one found Caliban (or potentially Ariel). I would argue that if a reader-attender of the work both laughed and cringed at him, felt moved and uncomfortable, sensed something relatable yet monstrous in him, that the full romantic powers often attributed to The Tempest would be affirmed. And by such affirmation Caliban’s tragic-comedic lot—his romantic state and destiny—signals the reader’s possibility of deciphering the work’s less manifest lines, relations and implications. They would see a tale in which no one was actually innocent (with, again, the possible exception of Ariel), and that all the characters were in need of forgiveness and restoration.
(This is an excerpt from the second chapter of my work on Shakespeare and Philosophy)