Jacqueline Carey Gives us a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Miranda and Caliban
Tue, 01/03/2022 - 11:46am — Emily Walton
Shakespearean buffs raise your hands! This February, Jacqueline Carey is bringing you a real treat in her retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Her story, Miranda and Caliban (Tor, Feb.), goes beyond the original and reimagines the story of dutiful Miranda and bewitched Caliban. With rich prose and a stunning plot, we asked Jacqueline for more information on her inspiration for this tale. Enjoy!
On the surface, Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a delightful, frothy confection of a play, filled with enchantment and whimsy, in which the noble magician Prospero is avenged and restored to his title as Duke of Milan, those who plotted against him repent of their ways, and his innocent daughter Miranda finds love with a handsome prince. The brutish Caliban receives his comeuppance, the loyal sprite Ariel receives his freedom, and all is made right with the world.
But is it really?
When you look below the surface, there are a lot of dark themes at work. First and foremost, Prospero is one controlling son-of-a-bitch. His daughter Miranda has spent twelve years on a remote isle in a state of total ignorance, knowing nothing of her own origins or her father’s plans. Prospero coerces Ariel’s aid by dangling the promise of freedom before him, threatening to imprison him if he fails to obey.
And Caliban… ah, to me, Caliban is the most interesting character. He’s described as freckled and malformed, and having lacked the gift of speech until Prospero and Miranda taught it to him. He exists in a state of enforced servitude, threatened with painful physical torment when recalcitrant. As justification for Prospero’s harsh treatment, we’re told that Caliban attempted to rape Miranda; but we’re also told that once upon a time, Caliban loved Prospero and served him willingly.
So what happened?
I thought the answer must lie in the years leading up to the action of the play, and that’s what I decided to explore.
What if Miranda wasn’t wholly the biddable daughter the play depicts? Wouldn’t she wonder about her dimly remembered past? Wouldn’t she be frustrated with her father’s refusal to confide in her? Growing up in isolation with a distant, controlling father, wouldn’t she be incredibly lonely?
What was Caliban’s life like before Prospero and Miranda were banished to the isle? Shakespeare tells us only that his mother fled to the isle in exile, pregnant with Caliban, and died before the arrival of our protagonists. And it came to me that Caliban, orphaned and abandoned at a young enough age that he lost the gift of language, must have been an incredibly lonely and damaged figure, too.
In this light, Caliban became a far more sympathetic character. In the course of my research, everything I learned about feral children left to fend for themselves made sense for his journey. I began working from the notion that Caliban and Miranda first met not as grown man and innocent maiden, but two desperately lonely children longing for companionship, forging a friendship that changes to something far more fraught and dangerous with the onset of adolescence.
This is the relationship I chose to develop, all the while working within the confines of the plot structure of Shakespeare’s text. Despite the liberties I took with the interpersonal dynamics and the nature of the relationships, I do adore the Bard and have nothing but admiration for the enduring genius of his work. He is a writer enamored of language and its power, and the play speaks to that fact in so many ways.
I wanted this book to be at once a deconstruction and an homage, and so as the story builds to its inevitable denouement, it becomes a poignant tale of doomed romance. This is not at all the story that William Shakespeare set out to tell, but I like to imagine that the author of one of the most famous doomed romances of all time would have appreciated my take on this one.
If The Tempest were one of those adult coloring books that have been so popular in recent years, I would say that Miranda and Caliban colors within the lines. It’s just that I filled in the white space surrounding the primary image instead.
And in case anyone is wondering, as a reader, no, you don’t need to be familiar with the play to enjoy the story.
But I’ll be honest, it doesn’t hurt!
— Jacqueline Carey
Sounds like we may need tissues to go along with our reading … Pre-order YOUR copy of this enticing novel from one of these retailers: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | IndieBound