How is Miranda and Ferdinand's relationship important to The Tempest?

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The relationship between Miranda and Ferdinand in The Tempest is important because it provides a still point at the center of an (appropriately) tempestuous world. There's something less than human about the other characters in the play, of which Caliban is only the most extreme example. Miranda and Ferdinand, however, seem incredibly normal by comparison. Perhaps this is the main reason why so many critics have tended to see them as rather dull, uninspiring characters. But this is a tad unfair.

The main purpose of Miranda's relationship with Ferdinand is to allow her to discover herself as a human being, who and what she really is. Prior to Ferdinand's arrival she has never seen a single human being other than Prospero and the somewhat less-than-human Caliban. But in due course she develops a take on humanity that is at once both touchingly naive and strangely perceptive:

O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,

That has such people...

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