“Oh, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in ‘t!”
This line is one of the most famous quotes from the play The Tempest by William Shakespeare. In the play, the character Miranda has spent a majority of her life isolated from society. The only humans she has seen are her father, Prospero, and their monster slave, Caliban. After being introduced to an abundance of people for the first time, she says this line to emphasis her genuine excitement for meeting more of humanity.
However, what is it the makes this quote so memorable? Is it Miranda’s optimistic beliefs in society? Is it because it accurately represents the climatic scene? The reason Miranda’s words resonates so well with Shakespearean audiences is because it emphasizes an immense amount of naivety to her character. Her innocent outlook towards humanity and her ability to still see people as beautiful shows how her isolation has protected her from the mistakes of mankind. It may also help that in 1932 author Aldous Huxley wrote a iconic book titled Brave New World as an allusion to these famous Shakespearean words.
The novel Brave New World is about a “savage” named John who is taken from a reservation and brought to the modern day civilization. However, the twist is that this society is a genetically modify humanity that avoids sexual urges by taking a drug (Soma) and is categorized into classes at birth. When John is introduced to this strange world for the first time, Huxley has John naively quote the line from Miranda in order to establish the purity of the character.
The connections between Brave New World and The Tempest become debatable after the underlining fact that John makes a reference to Miranda. Some argue that the story of John the Savage and his experiences with the genetically modified world is a sub plot to what Miranda may have experienced when she returned home to marry her new husband. Shakespeare left The Tempest as a cliffhanger in that he did not give the audience any clues to what may have happened to Miranda and her father once they returned back to civilization. Many wondered if Miranda specifically successfully was able to adapt Western culture after being isolated for such a long portion of her life. Therefore, many believe Brave New World is an allusion to the possible experiences Miranda would’ve faced but in a different environment.
Nevertheless, some believe that Brave New World is a direct parody to the plot line of The Tempest but in a dystopian society. In the novel, John the Savage is the naive Miranda. The role of Prospero is played by Mustapha Mond who is the dictator and controller of the world. Bernard, the person who brings John to civilization, is lonely, insecure, and different which makes him very similar to Caliban. Lastly, the character Helmholtz and his loyal ability to serve makes him resemble the spirit of Ariel. Though I personally do not agree with this interpretation (Grushow 44) , the connections between the two stories are very similar.
Shmoop image to show the symbolic representation of John the Savage in the book Brave New World
What can we learn from this:
The reason Huxley’s futuristic plot line makes a direct quotation to Shakespeare’s play is because the themes of Shakespeare are timeless. For me, Shakespeare is a frustrating and difficult read because his works are long, in early modern English, and are somewhat dated to the time period. It is the messages that we take away from his pieces that make him so legendary. In The Tempest, we learned that civilized people strive to be at the top of hierarchy and we are also left questioning what makes a person humane. In Romeo and Juliet, we learned that love is passionate motivator no matter the limitations it is constrained by. In Twelfth Night, we learn that love is also a cause of suffering and that people are not always what they appear. All the lessons I just listed were written 400 years ago and yet they still apply to our society. Shakespeare is a drag that makes English class much harder then it needs to be. However, he is still very relevant to our philosophy.
“The Tempest.” Pinterest. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.
Grushow, Ira. “Brave New World and The Tempest.” College English 24.1 (1962): 42. Web.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “Brave New World What’s Up With the Title?” Shmoop. Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “John the Savage in Brave New World.” Shmoop. Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.
“Why Do We Still Care About Shakespeare?” Why Do We Still Care About Shakespeare? | Ovations | UTSA’s College of Liberal and Fine Arts Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.