Today we’re going to take a look at one of Ferdinands monologues from Act 3, Scene 1 of The Tempest. An often misunderstood play, The Tempest is thought to be one of Shakespeares last. Within it we find a love story, I believe, to rival that of Romeo and Juliets in Ferdinand and Miranda. Their love, unlike Romeo and Juliets is completely without distraction or tragedy and we see that love first hand here. But first let’s understand the play so far…
We begin the play, aboard a ship carrying King Alonso and his court in the middle of a violent storm, or tempest (wink wink). As courtiers and sailors scream and carry on alike, little do they know what’s really going on, but we’ll get to that. The ship goes down in the briney sea along with the souls aboard.
Meanwhile, on the island known as Prospero’s Cell, we meet Prospero, a great sorcerer and his daughter Miranda, who watches out to sea, concerned about what her father has conjured up. She pleads with him to stop, but, as we’ll come to learn, Prospero solves that problem with magic, and by putting people to sleep. He tells her of how they came to the island. That when she was just a small baby, they were driven out of Naples where they once lived happily by his brother Antonio, and escaped in a tiny boat with aid from his friend Gonzalo, and was given his books on magic. And then he puts her to sleep. Rude.
Enter Ariel, his magical spirit servant who has returned from wreaking havoc on the ship and separating everyone on the ship into different groups keeping them alive, comes back to the island now to ask for their freedom that Prospero has promised. But Prospero denies the request, saying that if Ariel can do one last job for him, only then will they be set free. Ariel begrudgingly agrees and gets to work. Next we meet Caliban, and Caliban, is not referred to as a servant, but as a slave. Prospero hates Caliban, often calling him a monster, and Caliban hates Prospero, claiming to be the rightful heir to control of the island. Prospero, as usual not listening, sends Caliban to get some wood, and Caliban, being a slave, does so.
And so Prospero’s plan to enact revenge on his brother and the court is in motion and he gets to work. The first part of which being getting Miranda, and the King’s son Ferdinand together.
And so he sets Ferdinand to work, conducting manual labour, shifting some logs. While he toils away Miranda enters and having never laid eyes on a man that she may be attracted to or affectionate for or even her own age or species, is entirely enthralled by Ferdinand, and begs him not to work too hard. She even offers to move the logs for him to let him rest a while. As they fall further and further in love with every word they speak, Prospero slinks in. Ferdinand asks for her name and she tells him without hesitation but immediately curses herself for breaking her Fathers command. Ferdinand says…
Indeed the top of admiration, worth
What’s dearest to the world. Full many a lady
I have eyed with best regard; and many a time
The harmony of their tongues hath into bondage
Brought my too diligent ear. For several virtues
Have I liked several women; never any
With so full soul but some defect in her
Did quarrel with the noblest grace she owed
And put it to the foil. But you, O you,
So perfect and so peerless, are created
Of every creature’s best. Hear my soul speak:
The very instant that I saw you did
My heart fly to your service; there resides
To make me slave to it. And for your sake
Am I this patient log-man.
O heaven, O Earth bear witness to this sound
And crown what I profess with kind event,
If I speak true! If hollowly, invert
What best is boded me to mischief! I,
Beyond all limit of what else i’ the world
Do love, prize, honour you.
Boded: To set out a particular outcome
You’re deserving of as much admiration as the greatest treasure in the world.
I have laid eyes on many incredible women.
And many times have been enrapt in the sounds of their voices.
For many differents good qualities have I admired many different women.
But all of them would have some flaw or another that would cancel out their good qualities.
But you, oh you, so perfect and unmatched are better than any creature.
Listen to me speak my heart: from the moment I saw you my heart was bound to serve you, and there it will remain as your servant, and so I will be your patient log carrier man.
Oh heaven and Earth hear me speak! Bare witness to my words and if I speak truthfully bless them.
And if I don’t then take any good fortune from my life.
Beyond anything else in this world I do love, prize and honour you.
Notes on Performance
So Ferdinand is absolutely enraptured in this speech and expresses that not only through his words but through his actions. So make sure to physicalise the speech, move around and see how the words of love can translate to action.
On that same note, don’t hold back! This is a great opportunity to go high stakes for a good reason. Heightened emotion isn’t reserved for doom and gloom. Let the love flow!
Lastly, remember the given circumstances. Ferdinand so far has been thrown from a ship, found himself on a strange island with no way home and put to work by a strange old wizard. Keep this in mind and think about how that might affect your performance.
For more Male Shakespeare Monologues