The Masque in The Tempest : Detail description : ISC EnglishmLiterature

   The Masque:  Act 4 Scene 1 The Tempest

Question: Give a detail description of the Masque in the Tempest? What does Prospero want to tell Ferdinand and Miranda by means of Masque ?

Answer:  In ‘The Tempest’, Act 4 scene 1 is referred to as – The Masque scene, where Prospero acknowledges the true love of Ferdinand for Miranda and offers his daughter Miranda’s hand to him.

   To celebrate this happy occasion of the engagement of Ferdinand and Miranda, Prospero arranged a masque with his magical powers, which is termed as – betrothal masque.
   The purpose of the masque of ‘The Tempest’ is a celebration and for the entertainment of the young couple. The theme of the masque reflect issues that relate to the newly engaged couple – fertility, chastity and unity.

   It represents Prospero’s idea of perfect world – one in which nature and civilisation are balanced and evil does not exist. 

   Prospero wants to emphasise for his future son – in – law the serious side of marriage as a social contract and part of  the divine order.

   The play ‘The Tempest’ was written to be performed to honour the marriage of the daughter of King James to a German ruler. The masque means bestowing blessings on the young couple. Shakespeare choose Juno, Ceres and Iris, while Venus and her son Cupid are permanently absent, since they symbolises passionate love, whereas the dramatist wanted to portray innocence. But he does make goddesses appear who and promise both prosperity and fertility, appropriate for a royal couple. 

    The masque begins with Iris, the messenger of the gods reputed to travel on a rainbow, praising the bountiful earth over which Ceres, the goddess of the fertile earth, reigns.
   Iris asks Ceres to appear at Juno’s wish, to celebrate  “a contract of true love”. Then Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and fertility enters.

     Juno, the queen of the heavens and wife of Jupiter who represents love inside the boundaries of marriage joins them. She and Ceres discuss the absence of Venus and her son Cupid (patrons of lawless love and lust) and then together sing a blessing on lovers – Miranda and Ferdinand.

      Ceres is glad to know that Venus and her son Cupid will not be there,for she has avoided their company since  her daughter’s abduction.

   Then Juno showers her blessings on the couple and wishes them a long life, riches, honour, many children, happiness in married life and long continuance and increase of these blessings.

    Ceres bless the couple with the plentiful produce oft he earth, barns and granaries always full, vines laden with grapes, spring immediately following autumn etc.

  ” Earth’s increase, foison plenty,
   Barns and graners never empty.”

 And also – 
   “Spring comes to you at the farthest 
  In the very end of harvest
   Scarcity and want shall shun you,
  Ceres’ blessing so is on you.”

   Here, Ceres says – 
      May your store houses ever remain full of corn, may thick bunches of grapes grow on your vines and all the trees be full of their ripe fruits. Then she added that spring come to you at the latest when autumn is gone, blowing no winter in your life and you will never be troubled by any kind of shortage in your life.

   The spectacle awes Ferdinand and he says that he would like to live on the island forever, with Prospero  as his father and Miranda as his wife.

   Juno and Ceres then send Iris to fetch some nymphs and reapers to perform a country dance.

   The goddesses and reapers are conjured up by Prospero to shower eternal spring on the engaged couple. In the masque we travel season to season, with the exception of winter. We hear of  “spongy April” and  “lasslorn” spring. 
       Next we hear Ceres sing of summer 
   “Vines with clustering
    bunches growing,
  Plants with goodly
   burden bowing….. “

   Iris then conjures  up three 
  “sunburned sickle men of August weary” .

       The goddesses have carried us through three stages of life : growth, maturation and harvest.

   Winter has no role in this merry celebration because it was in winter that Ceres’ daughter was abducted, according to mythology. 

   The goddesses are selected for their symbolism connection to nature and represent the promise of fertility and heavenly harmony and an eternal spring time of love.

    As the goddess of rainbow, Iris is the promise of spring rains leading to a bountiful harvest. As a messenger from Juno, she also represents the gods’ blessings on betrothal. 

    Since, Juno is goddess of marriage and childbirth, her presence is the promise of a happy union for the couple and a blessing of many children.

    While Ceres’ , appearance promises nature’s blessing on this marriage. Together the goddesses are the promise of celestial harmony, fruitful harvest and eternal seasons without winter.
     During the masque, the two lovers – Ferdinand and Miranda hear from the goddesses Iris, Ceres and Juno – they demonstrate Prospero’s magic because he calls forth their images to bless the couple.

   The masque promotes the element of magic and mystery in a less dreadful way than we have seen it. 

   We learn that magic can be used to entertain and bless as well as for violence. 

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