In this scene when Miranda says “What is’t? A spirit?” she is referring to Ferdinand, they both have a similar response to each other; he also responds to her in wonder, ‘Most sure the goddess on whom these airs attend.’ Miranda and Ferdinand have fallen in love at first sight. This scene is very near the beginning of the play; it is in the second act. This shows the audience that the scene is going to be very significant to the rest of the play and that the love between Miranda and Ferdinand is a major theme.
Ferdinand is lured to Prospero’s cave by Ariel’s singing, ‘this is no mortal business, nor no sound that the earth owes. I hear it now above me.’ This straight away brings the question into the minds of the audience whether this manipulation over Miranda is right; Prospero has obviously brought these two together in the inevitability that they will fall in love, ‘The fringed curtains of thine eye advance, and say what thou seest yond.’ As Prospero planned they do fall in love, ‘At the first sight they have changed eyes.’ Ferdinand loses no time in proposing to Miranda, ‘I’ll make you the Queen of Naples.’
This is significant because Ferdinand is giving Miranda her rightful position as royalty back to her without realising who she is. Prospero loves his daughter dearly as he proves throughout the play ‘I have done nothing but in care of thee- of thee my dear one, thee my daughter.’ Because of Prospero’s strong love for his daughter and his desire to make everything perfect for her he decides to make Ferdinand work hard for her love so that he learns what real love is, and treats Miranda properly, ‘but this swift business I must uneasy make, lest too light winning make the prize light.’
Ferdinand then shows himself to be worthy of Miranda by working as a slave for Prospero saying that nothing is a burden to him as long as he can see Miranda, ‘Might I but through my prison once a day behold this maid.’ Miranda also proves to Prospero that she deeply loves Ferdinand by arguing even with her for father for him, ‘There’s nothing ill can dwell in such a temple. If the ill spirit have so fair a house, good things will strive to dwell with’t.’ In this episode between Miranda and Ferdinand, the audience sees both their characters’ and personalities’ develop as they go through changes when they have new experiences.
Miranda’s wonder at Ferdinand is shown in all her language when addressing him and talking about him, ‘What is’t? A spirit?’ she does not even know what he is as she never seen men before, only knowing her father and Caliban on the island. From the first moment she sees him Miranda’s language shows herself in awe of Ferdinand as she exclaims, ‘Lord, how it looks about! Believe me, sir, it carries a brave form.’ Miranda has the simplicity and forthrightness to openly declare her love for Ferdinand, ‘I might call him a thing divine, for nothing natural I ever saw so noble.’ This simplicity is because of Miranda’s seclusion; she does not know many people and has no knowledge of the real world, she is impressed by what she sees and expects the inside to match the outside not able to see past peoples’ good looks into their deeper character.
This directness is shown again later when she openly admires the attractive men of the court party, ‘How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in’t!’ Even when Ferdinand showers Miranda with praise of her beauty she remains modest, ‘No wonder, sir, but certainly a maid.’ Miranda shows her compassion in every scene that she appears in from her first words of sympathy for those in the shipwreck, ‘O, I have suffered with those that I saw suffer!’
She shows sympathy for everyone in pain except Caliban, ‘Tis a villain, sir I do not love to look on.’ When she sees Ferdinand carrying logs she is eager to share his labour; she would rather suffer than see him suffer, ‘If you’ll sit down, I’ll bear your logs the while: pray give me that; I’ll carry it to the pile.’ Miranda stands up for herself and Ferdinand against Prospero showing strength of character, ‘O dear father, make not too rash a trial of him, for he’s gentle, and not fearful.’
Though she does want her father to like Ferdinand so that she can marry him, ‘Is the third man that e’er I saw; the first that e’er I sighed for. Pity move my father to be inclined my way.’ Ferdinand when he first sees Miranda responds to her in the same way as she responded to him, he uses the same wonderous language as she used, ‘My prime request, which I do last pronounce, is – O you wonder – If you be maid, or no?’ in Ferdinand’s next speech he is letting her know he is a man of position; at this point in the play he thinks he is King which is significant because he is not King, which he will realise later in the play when he realises overjoyed that his father is still alive, ‘Though the seas threaten, they are merciful; I’ve cursed them without cause.’
Ferdinand quickly proposes to Miranda, this is significant because it is exactly what Prospero wants; it is all part of his plan to create harmony at the end of the play; their marriage would unite Prospero and Alonso therefore uniting Naples and Milan returning both Prospero and Miranda to their rightful positions in the kingdom, ‘I’ll make you the Queen of Naples.’ Though this is what Prospero wants he makes it hard for the sake of his daughter as a test of Ferdinand’s love, ‘I must uneasy make, lest too light winning make the prize light.’ Though at the end Prospero succeeds in his plan and the play ends in harmony with both Miranda and Ferdinand happy after being made to suffer for their love, ‘I must be here confined by you, or sent to Naples, let me not. Since I have my dukedom got.’
This episode has great impact on the audience as it is the beginning of Prospero’s plan to put past wrongs right and the audience can see that in the near future calm and harmony will be created out of a tempest which has obviously been going on for many years. The uniting of Miranda and Ferdinand has great significance in bringing about the final harmony that their marriage will help to keep, and stop another tempest arising.