I) At the beginning there was a land
a) The laying out of a canvas
=> Gonzalo starts with a conditional form “had I” l 141 which lays out a blank canvas before the spectator of the island.
=> He considers objects to do with nature “corn” l 151 “nature” 160 but also of culture, describing through society “men” “women”, law “ contract” “magistrate”, military “pike, knife, gun”
=>Hetries haltingly to consider all the elements that should make up a society, labor and agriculture, monetary considerations, hierarchical structure, ownership to defense and military. Interestingly he does this in the form of lists. As if he is filling this canvas with small touches rather like a sparse pointillist not generous broad brush strokes.
_ This can be seen in the absence of soaring poetry(ex: l. 145-146). gives irregular prosody.
b) A description that is more an experimentation
=> Gonzalo doesn't seem to have a firm idea of what he is saying. He is experimenting moving on haltingly with many hesitations. This is seen in the run on lines, that show that his ideas aren't firm or organized enough to fit in one line, his imagination has overtaken his reason, which createshaphazard thoughts.
=> this is also illustrated by the fact that he can say one thing and the opposite as pointed out by Antonio l. 156 “The latter part of his commonwealth forgets the / beginning.” He is not yet sure of what his land should be it's an ongoing thought process.
=> this uncertainty is also transmitted through modals. Indeed he uses “should”, the preterit form of “shall”,severaltimes shows his hesitations
c) An uncertain sovereign
=> Gonzalo starts by setting himself firmly as the ruler of this imagined land with his use of the first person “I” that he repeats throughout the scene, which strikes the spectator as a kind of parody of Prospero.
=> However this “I” slowly shifts throughout the text and in the end doesn't seem to hold as much affirmation of power asin the beginning. Indeed at first the “I” is on the stressed beat “Had I plantation” whereas at the end of his description it is more often than not unstressed “Would I not have” “I would with”.
=>Gonzalo seems ,in fact, to hesitate between being an affirmative and nearly tyrannical king with the mention of warlike weapons, and a more benevolent king who would remind the spectator of thebiblical god. He uses passive forms “Letters should not be known” which would remind the audience of the way god creates the world in Genesis.
Moreover the mention of the Golden Age would no doubt remind the Shakespearean spectator of Elizabeth the first's reign, a period of peace and power.
II) A utopian vision
a) Nature versus culture
=> The text opens a comparison betweennature and culture. This is illustrated from the very first line through the double meaning of the word “plantation” which here means the right to colonize but can also take the sense of “planting” as shown by the pun made by Antonio an Sebastian “nettle-seed”, “docks, or mallows”. And this is true throughout the text with the many different compositions of the lists that Gonzalo makes.
=>Natureis without a doubt superior to culture, indeed, culture is only presented in the negative form, with the anaphoric repetition of “no”.
=>Nature is given great credit and seems powerful, for instance when Shakespeare mentions “docks” and “mallows” after “nettle-seeds”, the former being antidotes to the latter which shows that nature is capable of both destruction and reconstruction, it createsa circle, symbol of eternity and stability. This is clearly a utopian vision of society going back to it's roots.
b) The myth of the “good savage”
=> As such in this ideal “commonwealth”, man is a part of nature and Shakespeare clearly develops in this extract the myth of the good savage born from the discovery of the new world. That is that man is born innocent and pure, it's society...
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