18. In Act 5, Scene 1, when Prospero reveals Ferdinand and Miranda to the assembled company, they are playing chess. What is the significance of that choice on Shakespeare's part, with respect to the couple's island courtship and their prospects for a happy future?
In the game of chess, a player must execute strategies and use tactics against their opponent in order to capture the king. The game of chess that Ferdinand and Miranda play directly symbolizes all of Prospero's plans and efforts, which are set in motion at the beginning of the play, starting with the tempest that he conjures up. In this comparison, one could consider the tempests to represent Prospero's first pawn. Everything that happens in the play is controlled by Prospero, including having the Prince marry his daughter without approval from the King. As one of Prospero's strategies, he separated everyone from the ship after the storm. Ferdinand, believing that his father is dead, agrees to marry Miranda without permission from the King. In Act 5, Scene 1, when Prospero reveals Ferdinand and Miranda playing chess, he has won his own game of chess and "captured the king." At this point, King Alonso has no choice, politically, but to make sure that Prospero remains the Duke of Milan because their children are married. This is Prospero's revenge for the wrong doings that the King committed against him.
Along with the actual act of playing chess, an interaction is observed between Ferdinand and Miranda when they do not notice King Alonso and Prospero. Miranda accuses Ferdinand of cheating and he seems to take it literally, explaining to her that he would never cheat her. Miranda has a much deeper meaning of her statement and responds with, "Yes, for a score of kingdoms you should wrangle, And I would call it fair play." Her meaning is that she knows he would cheat on her if twenty kingdoms were to gain. She is sarcastically speaking of love and faith. Throughout the entire play Miranda has been a pawn in Prospero's chess game and she has been a very weak character. The only time that she has shown attitude or spoken openly to someone is when she talks back to Caliban for nonchalantly speaking of his attempted rape, as well as when she speaks of marriage to Ferdinand. Miranda seems to be a weak character because she is essentially a child. She has never known any other man, besides the couple of men on the island. Her seclusion on the island has kept her as an untainted virgin. When Miranda makes the comment that Ferdinand would cheat on her for twenty kingdoms, it shows that she is a fast learner in the ways of men, and a more complex character than she originally seems.
She understands how quickly men turn for power, what they are capable of, and she expects men to cheat on her for power and call it "fair play." Based on the stories of her uncle's betrayal against her father, Miranda has no trouble believing that a man could act that way and therefore she is not upset by the behavior.