Discuss the Aristotelian unity of time with reference to Shakespeare's The Tempest.


The Tempest

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The Aristotelian concept of unity of time means, quite simply, that the events portrayed in a tragedy should not take place in a period of more than a single day. In other words, the plot should have a very limited setting in time. Aristotle did not specifically address the concept of unity of time in his writings, including Poetics, but the fact that most classical Greek tragedies only portrayed events from a single day resulted in the acceptance of this unity (along with that of action and of place) by Renaissance critics. In the early modern period, the unities were observed scrupulously by playwrights in continental Europe, but were widely ignored by English playwrights, especially Shakespeare. The Tempest, however, is one exception. The events in the play take place within a few hours, and in a single place. For a playwright so apparently unconcerned with convention, The Tempest (along with A Comedy of Errors) is a striking departure. 


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