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Miranda is the only female character in The Tempest, and in the play's second scene, we learn that she came to the Island with her father, Prospero (the former Duke of Milan) when she was three years old. Directed to recall her life in Milan, Miranda dimly recalls "Had I not/Four, or five, women once that tended me" (I, ii, ll.46-47). But while Miranda can recall her nurses, she has no recollection of her mother. In that same scene, Prospero makes the only explicit reference to Miranda's mother in the play, first noting that "Thy mother was a piece of virtue" and then adding that "She said thou was't my daughter," thereby adding a comic note to his praise for his erstwhile wife (I, ii, ll.56,57). We do not know what happened to Miranda's mother, but her absence from the cast of characters can be partially explained. First, Shakespearean acting companies were comprised exclusively of males, with young boys playing the roles of young women. There are, in fact, very few older women among the Bard's major characters. Second, possibly based on his own experience as the father of two daughters, Shakespeare explores the relationship between father and daughter to a much greater extent than any other parent-child bond, as for example, in King Lear and The Merchant of Venice. Third, the inclusion of a consort with him on the island might diminish Prospero's status as the solo director of the action on stage. And last, at the play's conclusion, Miranda is the paragon of chaste womanhood who will one day become Queen to Ferdinand's king. Under these circumstances, the addition of another female into the proceedings would be superfluous.
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