Treating the “Other” as Divine
The tables have turned. In this case, the travelers are not entirely the “godly” ones, (completely) as we have seen in our previous reads, but those on the journey in the Tempest encounter the spirit Ariel. I am interested in this aspect of “otherness” that is projected onto Ariel. Is this androgynous spirit a metaphor for those who we find so foreign?
Miranda: What is’t? A spirit?
Lord, ho wit looks about! Believe me, sir,
It carries a brave form. But ‘tis a spirit.
Prospero: No, wench; it eats, and sleeps, and hath such senses
As we have such. This gallant which thou seest
Was in the wrack; and, but he’s something stained
With grief (that’s beautys canker), thou mightst
A goodly person. He hath lost his fellows
And strays about to find ‘em.
Miranda: I might call him
A thing divine; for nothing natural
I ever saw so noble.
When we travel, I feel as if we treat most “others” we encounter with awe and respect; it is this sense of wonder we do not bestow on those in the norm and banality of our everyday life. I know when I traveled to Iceland this past April, I felt almost as if I stumbled onto an island teeming with wondrous sea-nymphs and other worldly creatures.
There is something so divinely exotic about those that inhabit islands, especially those remote extrusions of land that are so very isolated that the only way to experience their other-worldly culture is by long plane ride, boat, and general toil. Before globalization and the digital revolution arrived, these islands were even more culturally isolated than they are today, but I still felt a complete sense of wonder upon visiting Iceland.
The music, the language, and the kindness of the people I would definitely ascribe that “nothing natural I ever saw so noble”. Even though as Prospero does explain that Ariel “eats, and sleeps, and hath such senses As we have such”, I cannot help but relate to Miranda’s perception of otherness to cultures that seem to transcend my own with their ephemeral nature. Just as the people of Iceland all perform human functions but something about their culture remains a transcendent, distant, dream to me, floating somewhere between my reality -somewhat hard with it’s rough edges of expectations and deadlines, rush and hustle- and literally some majestic foggy underwater universe, ephemeral in every sense of the word.
I will have to end on acknowledging, sadly, that Ariel was, indeed enslaved for the duration of the play. Even though
I do take into account that this spirit, because of its enslavement, was a key figure in the plot for the entire play, thus we were dependent on her enslavement.
So this leaves us with the question- when we travel, do we desire some kind of otherworldly interactions to guide us? Are we looking for a break in our reality in exchange for some good, old fashioned, “Shakespearian mysticism”? I believe the way we treat the “other” when traveling, in all of our awe, will lead you to your own conclusion rather quickly.
(This is a two part post, it continues with my review of Sigur Rós – Ethereal Icelandic Native and Obscenely Talented Musician)