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Introduction To The Tempest Essay

Tempest Resources

Please see the main Tempest page for the complete play with explanatory notes and study questions.

 Examination Questions and Answers on The Tempest
 Themes in The Tempest: Reality, Thought, Imagination
 Forgiveness and Reconciliation in The Tempest
 The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream

 Magic, Books, and the Supernatural in The Tempest
 The Tempest: A Marriage Play?
 Introduction to Prospero
 Introduction to Miranda

 Introduction to Caliban
 Introduction to Ariel
 Introduction to Sycorax
 Staging The Tempest

 The Contrast Between Ariel and Caliban in Shakespeare's Tempest
 The Relationship Between Miranda and Ferdinand
 The Tempest: Stages of Plot Development
 Exploring the Nature of Shakespearean Comedy

 Blank Verse, Prose, and Diction in Shakespeare's Tempest
 How to Pronounce the Names in The Tempest
 The Tempest: Plot Summary

 Famous Quotations from The Tempest
 Shakespeare's Sources for The Tempest
 Shakespeare's Blank Verse
 Top 10 Shakespeare Plays

 Elements of Comedy
 How many plays did Shakespeare write?
 Shakespeare's Attention to Details

 Shakespeare's Portrayals of Sleep
 Quotations About William Shakespeare
 Why Shakespeare is so Important

 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels
 A Midsummer Night's Dream: Exam Questions and Answers

Points to Ponder

"The Tempest was written as a farewell to art and the artist's life, just before the completion of his forty-ninth year, and everything in the play bespeaks the touch of autumn. The scenery is autumnal throughout, and the time is that of the autumn equinox with its storms and shipwrecks. With noticeable care all the plants named even those occurring merely in similes, are such flowers and fruit, etc., as appear in the fall of the year in a northern landscape. The climate is harsh and northerly in spite of the southern situation of the island and the southern names. Even the utterances of the goddesses, the blessing of Ceres, for example, show that the season is late September — thus answering to Shakespeare's time of life and frame of mind." George Brandes. Read on...


The Tempest by William Shakespeare: Introduction

William Shakespeare's last play, The Tempest, was first performed in 1611, although it was the opening play of his collected works of 1623. The play has long dazzled readers and audiences with its intricate blend of magic, music, humor, intrigue and tenderness.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

It charmed Jacobean audiences, played (in substantially altered form) to packed houses from the Restoration through the eighteenth century, emerged (in its original form) as a focal point in nineteenth- century European debates about the nature of humanity, and served disparate symbolic roles in twentieth-century writings on western imperialism and its demise.

The Tempest has been a play for all eras, all continents and many ideologies. Several centuries of readers, watchers and critics have found Shakespeare's last play as perhaps less the story of the shipwreck, island refuge, murderous cannibals and happy ending but more of ambiguous central characters: the detestable Prospero (who, some critics oppose, reflects the playwright himself), the bestial of noble Caliban, the loyal or resentful Ariel, and the demure or resilient Miranda. Even the play's narrative context is disputable. Controversy has marked The Tempest almost from the outset through centuries of changing interpretations by legions of scholars-whether from a Romantic, Christian, Darwinian, Freudian, allegorical, autobiographical, cultural materialist or post-colonial perspective. The Tempest has resonated with unusual power and variety.

The Tempest is neither a comedy nor a disintegrating tragedy, but a matured play of Shakespeare. As he grows matured, he moves beyond the tragedy and wrote some comedy plays along with romance. Since, it is the last play of Shakespeare, it depicts his long career in the field of theatres. Prospero’s supreme control over the island and over the spirits of the island symbolizes Shakespeare’s supreme mystery of the English theatre of his time. Here, the position of Prospero has been regarded as the position of Shakespeare himself. Prospero, who parallels Shakespeare, manages all the problems and shows resolution. He creates a tempest through the use of magic, which makes people forget and brings resolution. The creation of magic is not just ego gratification, but a genuine use. Giving up the power of magic by Prospero parallels the ending of the Shakespeare dramatic career.

The Tempest is full of supernatural elements and it seems clear that the playwright is not interested in producing lifelike events. The beautiful presentation of the characters, the moral theme of forgiveness and the issue of freedom bestowed to Ariel, and the delightful poetry are the charm of this play.