In the Merriam- Webster dictionary the term “Grace” is defined as unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification. I have a couple of friends with that name as well. One of them told me her Mom named her Grace because her parents were trying to conceive for over a year and finally God had granted them their wish. My other friend named Grace told me that she was born 7 weeks early and her parents also saw her as a gift from God. In both of these instances, Grace is used religiously. However, in the Shakespearean play it is used in different meanings. So, why does the term Grace have multiple connotations in this play?
5.1.60-70 A solemn air and the best comforter
To an unsettled fancy, cure thy brains
(Now useless) boiled within thy skull. There stand,
For you are spell-stopped.
Holy Gonzalo, honourable man,
Mine eyes, ev’n sociable to the show of thine,
Fall fellowly drops. The charm dissolves apace,
And as the morning steals upon the night,
Melting the darkness, so their rising senses
Begin to chase the ignorant fumes that mantle
Their clearer reason. – O good Gonzalo,
My true preserver and a loyal sir
To him thou follow’st, I will pay thy graces
Home, both in word and deed.
5.1.143 I rather think
You have not sought her help, of whose soft grace
For the loss I have her sovereign aid and rest myself content.
O look, sir, look, sir; here is more of us!
I prophesied, if gallows were on land
This fellow could not drown. Now, blasphemy,
That swear’st grace o’erboard, not an oath on shore?
Has though no mouth by land? What is the news?
Ay, that I will; and I’ll be wise hereafter
And seek for grace. What a thrice- double ass
Was I to take this drunkard for a god,
And worship this dull full!
In 5.1.70 Prospero is promising Gonzalo to repay his debts, in this sense Grace is being used in a transactional way or commercial exchange. In 5.1.143, Prospero is telling Alonso that he has lost his daughter to Ferdinand by way of marriage. In this form the connotation is faith. Additionally, 5.1. 216-220 The master says to the boatswain that he has defiled their ship with bad language. Grace is used here to signify the lack of social class.
Lastly, 5.1.295- 298 Caliban says to Prospero that he is sorry for involving himself with Stefano and Trinculo. Grace is used to show that Caliban is seeking redemption and mercy.
The notion of grace is changing rapidly because of reformation and capitalism. Thus, it is replacing social order. The society at that time was based in socialism or feudalism that was rampant in many mediaeval Europe. Feudalism was the type of social system where the upper class such as the nobility owned the lands and all other people lived under them providing the higher class with their labor. In exchange, they would receive homage and military protection. The name Grace in this play signifies the change of this societal system to capitalism where everything is transactional in nature. The main religion is also changing from catholic into protestant where people who are able to accumulate wealth can state they have been blessed by God who have bestowed in them the wealth they have. This is the group that is considered to have been chosen by God. The people who are poor on the other hand are described as the majority that has not been chosen by God. These people as well as their offspring are bound to remain poor for generations while the rich and their offspring spanning many generations are bound to become even richer. This later group of people in the society is the ones that are known as the nobility. This system of society as signified by the name Grace goes on to show that the societal systems influence a person’s social and economic status. While in the feudal system guaranteed wealth and success for people who work hard, the capitalism system shows that one gets it from God and no matter what one does, they cannot be successful or change their destiny which has been predetermined by God. These are the things that can never be bought no matter how hard one works to improve their lives.
In conclusion, one can see the different meaning of the name Grace as shown in the play The Tempest. The main objective was to portray the ever-changing societal system that makes it harder for the common person in the society to prosper and improve their lives no matter what they do. This is very unfortunate.
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