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Summary: Power that Enables Us to Understand Human Relationships

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In the Epic of Gilgamesh by Benjamin R. Foster and “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare, we identify a common power that enables us to understand human relationships; love. Love is a power and a necessity that every person needs to feel to fulfill a healthy life, whether it’s caused between a friendship, or lovers. It involves multiple feelings and attitudes that allow us to become emotionally attached to another object or individual, and it is the stem root to human connection and the formation of building relationships. While love can be a beautiful aspect of life and can draw humans closer to each other, it can also bring out vulnerability and tear people apart. The role of love is extremely crucial in these two famous pieces of literature.

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We see love as a motivational force in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Love, in this case, serves as more as a friendship type of love, which causes change in Gilgamesh. One of the first changes we encounter is with Enkidu. Because of Gilgamesh’s influence and personality, his personality changes from wild to aristocratic. Enkidu abandons his wild lifestyle and becomes a very noble and respectable man. Gilgamesh also benefits from this love by changing as well. Originally, Gilgamesh is a very harsh and cruel ruler. He instills fear into those that he rules, and he is extremely controlling. However, becoming friends with Enkudu deflated these undesirable traits in Gilgamesh’s personality. His friendship with Enkidu changes him from a bully and a tyrant into a commendable king and hero. Because they are evenly matched, Enkidu and Gilgamesh are able to keep each other’s personalities in line. Enkidu is able to mediate Gilgamesh’s restless and strong energy, and Gilgamesh is able to stop Enkidu from being so self-centered and self absorbed. The connection between Gilgamesh and Enkidu as friends makes it possible for Gilgamesh to identify with his people’s interests. The love and respect that these two men feel for one another is able to turn Gilgamesh into the best version of himself in the first half of the epic, but Enkidu’s death makes Gilgamesh feel an immense amount of grief and fear, triggering him to start an unproductive quest for immortality.

Love is also an essential theme in “The Tempest” as well. Several kinds of love are discovered in this play by William Shakespeare. We see love connections shared between father and child, the romantic love between Miranda and Ferdinand, and Caliban’s love for the island.

Prospero and Miranda, a father daughter relationship, are introduced as characters that have been forced into a physical and emotional closeness outside of the norm. Normally, fathers did not take much involvement when it came to caring for their child, but Prospero was the only person who could have raised her; there was nobody else. Prospero describes Miranda as a “cherubin”, which means an angel or ravishing woman The way Prospero sees Miranda indicates the fact that he holds his daughter to a high standard, raising her to an exceptional status. He uses the verb “preserve” to explain the impact that his daughters presence has on the world. Prospero declares that it was Miranda’s influence that kept him from deteriorating spiritually.

There is another example of father-child love in “The Tempest” by William Shakesprare to the same level of intensity. It is seen in Alonso, who seems to not be able to live without his son, and would rather “lie mudded” with him in the sea than continue on without him. This common theme of paternal love is very prevalent and effective in The Tempest. However, Alonso has the ulterior motive of wanting his son as heir to the throne, and Prospero has no problem manipulating his daughter into being “inclined to sleep”, as he manipulates everyone on the island.

It is highly arguable that Miranda and Ferdinand do not exactly exemplify romantic love, but instead more of a romantic lust. Lust is a strong physical attraction and desire that two individuals share between each other. Ferdinand is the first man besides her father Prospero and Caliban that Miranda has ever seen, which actually lessens her attraction to him. Miranda has a strong desire Ferdinands form since he is so brave, and links Ferdinands fearlessness to her attraction to him. She specifically references his “form” as opposed to his face. A logical connection is drawn between the body and sensuality that Shakespeare uses to imply Miranda’s physical interest, or lust. On the flip side, Ferdinand’s initial take on Miranda is also not sexual, but asks her an interesting question to conclude their conversation. Ferdinand says, “My prime request, which I do last pronounce is – O you wonder! – if you be maid or no”. To translate, he is basically asking her if she is a maiden or not. In this case, maiden is another word for an unmarried or virgin woman, which has sexual implications. By Ferdinand asking this question, he is a planned desire to not only marry her, but to have sexual relations wirh her as well. We can infer that Shakespeare is trying to signal to the fact that love and lust can get very confused between two individuals. He does this effectively by using the sexual mutters between Ferdinand and Miranda’s first conversation. On the other hand, Ferdinand also describes Miranda as a “goddess”, and Miranda mistakes Ferdinand for a “spirit”. These comments draw us to the constant connection we see between spirituality and love in Shakespeare’s writing.

The third and most effective type of love that we see throughout the Tempest is Caliban’s love for the island, which has an indirect connection to love. He gives a speech about the island, and not to be feared by it even though sometimes weird sounds are heard. He claims that these sounds are innocent and makes him want to dream, and the meaning behind his speech resembles a proclamation for love. Ferdinand claims that he will treat Miranda with utmost respect by “loving and honoring” her. Caliban then exploits similar feelings about his home, aka the island. His speech almost resembles a poem, as he personifies nature, describing the “sweet airs that give delight and do not hurt”. He describes the twangling instruments and voices in such a swift and peaceful manner, providing imagery through our sense of hearing. The way Caliban loves his island remains just as intensely as always, despite what others may think about it, making it seem more genuine and authentic. This is similar to when two people love each other, because even in the hardest of times they still stick by each others sides. However, Caliban’s monologue at the beginning of act 2 scene 2 gives off a very violent tone. He talks about how he hopes Prospero gets infected by the diseases that lie in the swamps and marshes. This aggressive tone that he uses to describe the island that he so deeply loves, causes his love for it to lose some impact. It seems to tarnish the effectiveness of his love for the island because he goes from praising it in such a beautiful and peaceful manner, to describing it with such a hateful and disgusted tone, incorporating violence. This is an interesting aspect of the play because it also symbolizes genuine love/hate relationships between human beings.

Love can be depicted in more ways than one, as we discovered after reading both Gilgamesh by Benjamin R. Foster and “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare. Love was proven to us through both of these pieces of literature in different ways such as romantic love, friendship love, and paternal love. All of these types of love are extremely prevalent and visible throughout each story, and both serve a very essential theme.       

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