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Ariel’s Levels of Consciousness

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Catherine K.
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documents in English
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school essay
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  1. Introduction
  2. Ariel's superhuman abilities
  3. His weak core self
  4. Prospero's relationship with Ariel
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works cited

William Shakespeare's extensive investigation into social life in his earlier plays allowed him to instead focus on the more complex topic of human consciousness, which he pursues through magical inhuman characters, in his final play The Tempest. In his book The Feeling of What Happens, Antonio Damasio expresses the different states of consciousness and selves from the autonomic proto-self, to the constantly changing core self, to the memory-based autobiographical self, and finally to the far-reaching extended consciousness. Shakespeare investigates consciousness through his magical character Ariel, who exhibits all the levels of consciousness to varying degrees. Ariel's hyper active proto and extended consciousnesses allow him to control his shape and visibility and think of many creative ways to manipulate the other characters, but his core and autobiographical selves remain underdeveloped as they hinge on Prospero's motivations for his actions.

[...] Ariel's awareness extends beyond the physical past, present, or future into the minds of the people he manipulates, indicating that his extended consciousness surpasses that of a human because he experiences things far past those any human could access. These experiences then allow Ariel to concoct more effective illusions to captivate the minds of the other characters in the play. Despite Ariel's strong sense of his physical self and his well-developed extended consciousness, his core self remains weak. Damasio states that the core self ?provides the organism with a sense of self about one moment? (16). [...]


[...] Through his character Ariel, Shakespeare shows that, even though Damasio's levels of consciousness build on one another, one can exhibit varying quantities of each level of consciousness. Ariel's strong proto self gives him magical control over his body, while his extended consciousness lets him use his powers to create extravagant illusions and perform complex tricks. But Ariel has little use for a core or autobiographical self since his magic serves Prospero's purpose rather than his own, so these two states of consciousness only exist at the very basic levels and usually use prospero, [...]

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