Gonzalo’s utopian world proclaimed in Act 2, Scene 1, lines 123 – 143, struck me as something an idealistic dreamer would propose and I guess it is then fitting for his character. Gonzalo is a man of honour, age, honesty and good-heartedness, yes, a man who helped Prospero and Miranda escape and survive after Antonio usurped Prospero’s title, who does his best to cheer up the despondent Alonso with his optimistic outlook, who remains unfazed by the insulting taunts of Antonio and Sebastian, but a man I found to be preaching nature’s goodness of a perfect world whilst contradicting his own pleas. He states that in his kingdom he would do everything differently – wouldn’t allow any commerce, no officials or administrators, no schooling or literature, no riches nor poverty, no servants nor contracts or inheritance laws, no division of land, no metal-working, agriculture nor vineyards, nay, no work in general. Men and women would have nothing to do and they would be innocent and pure without a ruling kingship. Everything would be shared sans treason, crimes and weapons and nature would miraculously produce its harvests in abundance to feed innocent people. Yes, this sounds to me like the most perfect realm of living that has been thought up, in fact Michel De Montaigne says something very similar in his essay “The Cannibals of Brazil” in which he informs the reader of the society the cannibals reside: “a nation…that has no kind of traffic, no knowledge of letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of political superiority…no apparel but natural…” so it does work somewhere in the world, however it is what Gonzalo goes on to acclaim that bothers me but is why I believe Shakespeare to be realist and genius in the field of the human condition and nature.
Gonzalo: “I would with such perfection govern, sir / T’excel the Golden Age”. With his will to outshine the Golden Age, Gonzalo, the paradigm of virtue, admits here that even though he would have no structured sovereignty, he would rule perfectly. Is that not a contradiction in itself? Gonzalo is in fact a statesman of hierarchy. But is this Shakespeare’s intention, to show that humans are innately flawed and that the human condition that is characterized by greed and vanity will always infest a perfect natural world? I think YES. I also see Shakespeare’s comment that a utopian world may not exist because even in a perfect realm of living, we need structure, we need a benevolent leader, a humble and wise ruler but not a tyrannical king and this I believe is manifested in the character of Prospero who has used his magic and unnatural intelligence to put things right, not to hurt anyone in the meantime, but to force them to see their flaws and repent. He could’ve easily just killed off all his enemies; instead he gave them a second chance and allowed them to understand the immoral lives they had been living. Furthermore, when Prospero was excommunicated, his followers were said to have never forgotten him – this says something! So whilst I don’t think the play fulfills Gonzalo’s dream, I do believe the great reconciliation challenges the ideals we hold up as right.