Most of Shakespeare’s comedies, histories, and tragedies were written during England’s “golden age” under the celebrated 45-year reign (1558-1603) of Queen Elizabeth I. Historically, the Elizabethan era took place in the wake of the Protestant Reformation when the English Renaissance was ushered in and the arts flourished. When King James I succeeded Elizabeth to the throne after her death in 1603, he continued, at least to some extent, the rich cultural legacy left by the late queen. The new king, a patron of the arts, agreed to sponsor the King’s Men, Shakespeare’s theatrical group.
By 1608, after an illustrious career as a playwright, Shakespeare turned away from the great tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear) and directed his creative energies toward the romances or tragi-comedies (The Tempest, Pericles, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale).
The romances involve improbable and fanciful events that border on imagination rather than fact. Prospero’s magic is typical of the genre. Characters are often drawn in opposing categories of black and white and include the idealized heroine. In The Tempest, for example, Miranda is portrayed as the pure image of chastity. Love in the romances is characteristically subjected to great difficulty. Miranda stands by anxiously as she watches Ferdinand bear the “trials of love” imposed upon him by Prospero....
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In this section:
- Shakespeare’s Language
- Shakespeare’s Sentences
- Shakespeare’s Words
- Shakespeare’s Wordplay
- Shakespeare’s Dramatic Verse
- Implied Stage Action
Shakespeare’s language can create a strong pang of intimidation, even fear, in a large number of modern-day readers. Fortunately, however, this need not be the case. All that is needed to master the art of reading Shakespeare is to practice the techniques of unraveling uncommonly-structured sentences and to become familiar with the poetic use of uncommon words. We must realize that during the 400-year span between Shakespeare’s time and our own, both the way we live and speak has changed. Although most of his vocabulary is in use today, some of it is obsolete, and what may be most confusing is that some of his words are used today, but with slightly different or totally different meanings. On the stage, actors readily dissolve these language stumbling blocks. They study Shakespeare’s dialogue and express it dramatically in word and in action so that its meaning is graphically enacted. If the reader studies Shakespeare’s lines as an actor does, looking up and...
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Enchanted island. Remote home of the rightful duke of Milan, Prospero, as well as his daughter Miranda and his slave Caliban. Presumably the almost deserted island is in the Mediterranean Sea, but it resembles the tropical islands of even more remote seas around the world that European navigators were beginning to discover during William Shakespeare’s time. Europeans were coming to expect far-off islands to be home to strange creatures and peoples, such as Prospero’s islander slave, Caliban. To the Europeans, remote tropical islands also seemed like earthly paradises, recalling myths of an original Golden Age or a new Utopia.
Such earthly paradises—or any new lands, for that matter—were starting to be occupied by Europeans without much regard for their original inhabitants. A microcosm of this developing colonial mentality exists in The Tempest, whose island originally belonged to Caliban, who is described as a “savage” and “monster.” After becoming stranded on the island with his young daughter, Prospero at first coexists peacefully with Caliban. However, when Caliban tries to mate with Miranda, Prospero takes over the island and enslaves Caliban.
What enables Prospero to enslave Caliban so easily is his knowledge gained from books (much superior to the black magic of Caliban’s mother, a witch). Through this knowledge, Prospero is able to torture Caliban’s joints and give him...
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Act I, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. Who was in charge of the ship during the storm at sea?
2. Why did Alonso, the king, interfere with the Boatswain’s work in securing the ship during the storm?
3. Where did the Boatswain tell the king and his courtiers to go?
4. Who were the first to go to their cabins below the top deck?
5. What joke does Gonzalo tell concerning the Boatswain?
6. How does this joke affect the rest of the passengers and crew?
7. How do Sebastian and Antonio react to the Boatswain?
8. How does the Boatswain respond to Sebastian’s and Antonio’s insulting remarks?
9. How does Antonio decide to die in the storm at sea?
10. How loyal is Sebastian to his brother, the king?
1. The Ship–master was in charge of the Boatswain and the mariners.
2. The king was accustomed to being the supreme authority.
3. The Boatswain told the king and his courtiers to go to their cabins below.
4. Alonso, the king, and Ferdinand, the prince, were the first to go below and pray.
5. Gonzalo’s joke implies that the Boatswain was born to be hanged and need not fear drowning.
6. If the Boatswain does not drown, the rest of the passengers and crew will also be spared.
7. Sebastian and Antonio curse the Boatswain and call him names.
8. The Boatswain...
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Act I, Scene 2, lines 1-188 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Miranda ask her father to calm the storm at sea?
2. How does Prospero comfort Miranda’s fears about the suffering people on the ship?
3. Does Miranda remember anything about her life before she came to the island?
4. How old was Miranda when they arrived on the island?
5. In what way did Antonio dispose of Prospero and Miranda after he had usurped his dukedom?
6. Why did Antonio spare the lives of Prospero and Miranda?
7. Why did Antonio put Prospero and Miranda on an old boat without a sail?
8. Where did Prospero and Miranda get their supplies for the island?
9. Why did Prospero raise the storm at sea with his magic?
10. How long had Prospero and Miranda lived on the island?
1. Miranda knows that he has raised the tempest with his magic and he also has the power to calm the storm.
2. Prospero tells Miranda that there has been “no harm done.”
3. Miranda remembers that several women waited on her in Milan.
4. Miranda was not yet three when they arrived on the island.
5. Prospero and Miranda were put on a “rotten carcass of a butt” without a sail and left on the sea to drown.
6. Prospero was well loved by his people and Antonio wanted to stay in their good graces as the new Duke of Milan.
7. Antonio wanted...
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Act I, Scene 2, lines 189-320 Questions and Answers
1. What three elements of nature does Ariel represent in this scene?
2. How does Ariel “burn in many places” during the tempest?
3. What did the passengers of the ship do when they were afraid of dying?
4. What did Ariel do with the passengers?
5. What did Ariel do with the mariners?
6. Where did he leave the ship? Was it damaged from the storm?
7. What does Ariel expect to get for all of his labors?
8. Why is Prospero angry at Ariel for requesting his freedom?
9. Where did the “foul witch Sycorax” imprison Ariel?
10. Why was Ariel left imprisoned for 12 years?
1. Ariel represents the elements of air, water, and fire.
2. Ariel divides himself and becomes several fires on the ship during the tempest.
3. All except the mariners plunged into the foaming sea.
4. Ariel brought the passengers to the shore, safe and unblemished, and dispersed them in groups around the island.
5. Ariel put them to sleep and left them in the ship.
6. Ariel left the ship in a deep inlet of the island. The ship was undamaged from the storm.
7. Ariel expects Prospero to give him his liberty in exchange for his services.
8. Prospero reminds Ariel of the time he saved him from the curse of Sycorax, and now he feels that Ariel owes him his...
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Act I, Scene 2, lines 321-374 Questions and Answers
1. Who were the parents of Caliban?
2. What did Prospero do for Caliban when he first came to the island?
3. How did Caliban respond to Prospero’s treatment of him?
4. Why does Caliban feel that he owns the island?
5. What happened when Prospero took Caliban into his own lodging?
6. What does Prospero do to punish Caliban for his behavior?
7. How has Caliban benefited from learning a language?
8. How is Caliban described in the “Names of the Actors”?
9. What does Prospero threaten to do to Caliban if he does not obey him?
10. Why does Caliban finally decide to obey Prospero?
1. Caliban’s parents were the witch, Sycorax, and, according to Prospero, the devil himself.
2. Prospero treated Caliban with kindness, teaching him language and lodging him in his own cell.
3. Caliban learned to love Prospero and showed him where to find fresh water and fertile soil.
4. Caliban feels that he has inherited the island from his mother Sycorax.
5. Caliban attempted to rape Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, after they took him into their lodging.
6. Prospero imprisons Caliban in a rock, subjects him to hard labor, and prevents him from seeing the rest of the island.
7. Caliban says that now, “I know how to curse.”
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Act I, Scene 2, lines 375-504 Questions and Answers
1. Who sings the two songs in this part of the play?
2. Who helps Ariel with the dance in “Come Unto These Yellow Sands”?
3. From where does Ferdinand think the music is coming from?
4. According to the song, what has happened to Ferdinand’s father?
5. What is Miranda’s first impression of Ferdinand?
6. What is Ferdinand’s first impression of Miranda?
7. What is Prospero’s false accusation of Ferdinand?
8. Why does Prospero accuse Ferdinand falsely?
9. What is Alonso’s sea-change?
10. Name one way in which music assists the dramatic action of the play?
1. Ariel sings the songs in this part of the play.
2. Ariel’s invisible attendant spirits help him with the dance.
3. Ferdinand thinks the music comes from some god of the island.
4. Ferdinand’s father has supposedly drowned and now “suffers a sea-change.”
5. Miranda thinks Ferdinand is a spirit when she first sees him.
6. Ferdinand thinks Miranda is the goddess who has led him onto the shore with her music.
7. Prospero accuses Ferdinand of coming to the island as a spy so that he could become lord of the island.
8. Prospero falsely accuses Ferdinand because he wants to slow the fast progress of the romantic love between the young couple....
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Act II, Scene 1, lines 1-184 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Alonso feeling depressed and sad?
2. How do Antonio and Sebastian react to Alonso’s depressed mood?
3. How does Adrian feel about the atmosphere of the island?
4. What is Adrian’s main dramatic purpose in this scene?
5. What happened to the garments of the royal party during the storm at sea?
6. Who was “Widow Dido”?
7. Why does Alonso feel that he suffers a double loss?
8. Why does Sebastian tell Alonso he has himself to blame for his son’s death?
9. Who would manage Gonzalo’s ideal commonwealth?
10. How does Alonso feel about Gonzalo’s proposed commonwealth?
1. Alonso is grieving the supposed loss of his son Ferdinand.
2. Sebastian and Antonio are rude and insensitive to Alonso.
3. Adrian feels that the island is uninhabitable, yet the air is sweet and the climate is temperate.
4. Adrian acts as a foil to Antonio and Sebastian who are cynical and abusive.
5. Their garments were drenched but now they are as fresh as they were the day they put them on in Africa.
6. “Widow Dido” alludes to Aeneas’ lover in Virgil’s The Aeneid.
7. Alonso feels he has lost his daughter in marriage to a man in a distant country and has lost his son in the tempest at sea.
8. Sebastian is implying that Alonso...
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Act II, Scene 1, lines 185-328 Questions and Answers
1. How does Alonso feel about sleep?
2. What does Antonio do as soon as the king falls asleep?
3. In what way is Sebastian an heir to the throne?
4. How does Sebastian feel when Antonio suggests that Sebastian should be the future king?
5. How does Antonio feel about his conscience?
6. How does Antonio view the king’s position in the natural hierarchy or society’s law of degree.
7. Who has sent Ariel to stop the conspiracy? Why?
8. What is Prospero’s project?
9. Why are Antonio and Sebastian caught with their swords drawn?
10. What was Antonio and Sebastian’s excuse for drawing their swords?
1. Alonso feels that sleep will shut up his thoughts of grief for his son.
2. Antonio tries to persuade Sebastian that Sebastian should replace his brother as the king.
3. With Ferdinand supposedly dead and Claribel, his sister, in Tunis, Sebastian is next in line to the throne.
4. Sebastian thinks that Antonio must be asleep.
5. Antonio’s conscience has been hardened beyond the point of no return.
6. Antonio feels that the king is “no better than the earth he lies upon.”
7. Prospero has sent Ariel to stop the conspirators so his project will not fail.
8. Prospero’s project is the restoration of his dukedom of...
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Act II, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. What does Trinculo think he has discovered when he first meets Caliban?
2. Where does Trinculo hide from the impending thunderstorm?
3. How did Stephano arrive at the shore of the island?
4. How did Trinculo get to the shore?
5. What does Stephano think he has found when he runs across Caliban’s cloak with four legs protruding?
6. How does Stephano’s wine affect Caliban?
7. What does Caliban ask Stephano to be?
8. What promises does Caliban make to Trinculo and Stephano?
9. What is the central idea in Caliban’s song?
10. What does Trinculo think about Caliban’s worship of Stephano as his god?
1. Trinculo thinks he has run across some fish-like monster of the island.
2. Trinculo hides under Caliban’s cloak with him.
3. Stephano floated to the shore on a barrel of wine.
4. Trinculo swam to the shore like a duck.
5. Stephano thinks he has found a four-legged, two-voiced monster.
6. Caliban believes Stephano is a “brave god” who “bears celestial liquor.”
7. Caliban asks Stephano to be his god.
8. Caliban promises to show Trinculo and Stephano all the natural wonders of the island.
9. Caliban’s song expresses a joyous freedom from his master, Prospero.
10. Trinculo thinks...
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Act III, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Ferdinand have a positive attitude about carrying logs?
2. How does Miranda feel about Ferdinand’s hard labor of carrying logs?
3. What does Miranda offer to do for Ferdinand?
4. How does Ferdinand respond to Miranda’s offer?
5. How does Miranda compare to other women Ferdinand has known?
6. Why does Miranda begin to cry?
7. Why does Ferdinand call himself the king?
8. Who proposes marriage in this scene?
9. What will Miranda do if Ferdinand does not want her for his wife?
10. How does Prospero feel about his daughter’s marriage to Ferdinand?
1. Although it is an “odious” task, Ferdinand feels he is carrying logs for Miranda which makes the job a pleasure.
2. Miranda is anxious about Ferdinand’s condition and pleads with him to sit down and rest for a while.
3. Miranda offers to carry Ferdinand’s logs for a time.
4. Ferdinand says he would rather break his back than subject Miranda to such dishonor.
5. Miranda represents all the best virtues of all the women rolled into one.
6. Miranda cries because she is so happy.
7. Ferdinand calls himself the king because he thinks his father is dead, and he is next in line as heir to the throne.
8. Miranda asks Ferdinand to marry her, and she will be his...
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Act III, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Caliban unable to walk in the beginning of this scene?
2. What is Caliban’s proposal to Stephano and Trinculo?
3. Who does Caliban suggest as king of the island? What position will Caliban hold?
4. What is Ariel’s purpose for mimicking Trinculo’s voice?
5. Why does Stephano beat Trinculo?
6. What is the first thing the conspirators intend to do when they reach Prospero’s cell?
7. Why are Prospero’s books important to the conspiracy?
8. Who notices that Stephano and Trinculo cannot get the tune of the catch?
9. Who is afraid of the mysterious music of Ariel’s tabor and pipe?
10. How does the music affect the three characters by the end of the scene?
1. Caliban is too drunk to walk.
2. Caliban suggests that they murder Prospero and take over the island.
3. Caliban suggests that Stephano be the king of the island and Caliban will be his servant.
4. Ariel’s purpose for mimicking Trinculo is to set the characters against each other.
5. Stephano thinks Trinculo is mocking Caliban by calling him a liar.
6. The first thing the conspirators will do at Prospero’s cell is seize his books.
7. Without his books Prospero has no magical powers.
8. Caliban notices that they are singing the wrong tune....
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Act III, Scene 3 Questions and Answers
1. Why does the royal party stop to rest during their search for Ferdinand?
2. What do Sebastian and Antonio plan to do that night?
3. What do Ariel’s spirits bring onto the stage?
4. What does Ariel do when he arrives on the stage?
5. Who does Ariel address in his speech?
6. What does Ariel warn them about in his speech?
7. What does Ariel mean by “heart’s sorrow”?
8. What is meant when Ariel refers to “a clear life ensuing”?
9. In what condition are the three men when Prospero leaves them?
10. What does Alonso intend to do by the end of this scene?
1. Gonzalo, the oldest, suffers from exhaustion, and Alonso feels tired and discouraged in his hopeless search for his son.
2. Sebastian and Antonio are conspiring to kill the king and Gonzalo that same night.
3. Ariel’s spirits present the royal party with a banquet.
4. Ariel, in the guise of a harpy, covers the table with his wings and the banquet vanishes.
5. Ariel addresses the “three men of sin,” Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio.
6. Ariel warns them that if they do not repent their sins against Prospero, their doom is certain.
7. There “is nothing but heart’s sorrow” means there is no other way except repentance.
8. A “clear life” is a...
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Act IV, Scene 1, lines 1-163 Questions and Answers
1. Why did Prospero punish Ferdinand by forcing him to carry logs?
2. What was Ferdinand’s reward for standing up under the test of log-bearing?
3. What is Prospero’s warning to Ferdinand?
4. What does Prospero instruct Ariel to do in this scene?
5. Which characters are given dialogue in the masque?
6. List the characters who sing the masque song?
7. Explain the reason why Ceres does not want Venus to attend the masque?
8. In whose honor is the masque given?
9. Why does the masque suddenly vanish?
10. In what way does Prospero compare life to the masque or the stage?
1. Prospero’s punishment was a trial of Ferdinand’s love for Miranda.
2. Prospero rewards Ferdinand with a “rich gift,” his daughter Miranda.
3. Prospero warns Ferdinand that he should not break the “virgin-knot” before he and Miranda have recited their marriage vows.
4. Prospero instructs Ariel to summon his spirits and bring on the masque.
5. Iris, Ceres, and Juno speak during the masque.
6. Juno and Ceres sing the masque song.
7. Venus and her son, Cupid, helped Pluto abduct Ceres’ daughter Proserpine.
8. The masque is given in honor of Ferdinand and Miranda, the betrothed couple.
9. The masque vanishes when Prospero...
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Act IV, Scene 1, lines 164-266 Questions and Answers
1. Where has Ariel led Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo with his tabor and pipe?
2. What does Prospero instruct Ariel to do in this scene?
3. What does Prospero call Caliban in this scene?
4. Why does Prospero feel he has treated Caliban humanely?
5. How do Stephano and Trinculo react to Prospero’s expensive wardrobe?
6. How does Caliban react to Prospero’s finery?
7. What have Stephano and Trinculo lost in the “filthy-mantled pool”?
8. What do Stephano and Trinculo do with Prospero’s kingly robes?
9. Who carries the stolen clothing? Why?
10. What finally happens to the thieving trio?
1. Ariel has led the three conspirators into the “filthy-mantled pool.”
2. Prospero tells Ariel to hang his royal wardrobe on the lime tree outside his cell.
3. Prospero calls Caliban a “born devil.”
4. Prospero has taken Caliban into his own cell and taught him language.
5. Stephano and Trinculo are distracted, forgetting about their conspiracy to murder Prospero.
6. Caliban thinks Prospero’s robes are nothing but “trash.”
7. Stephano and Trinculo have lost their bottle of wine in the “filthy-mantled pool.”
8. Stephano and Trinculo steal Prospero’s robes.
9. Caliban is told that he must carry the...
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Act V, Scene 1, lines 1-87 Questions and Answers
1. In what way is Shakespeare observing the Aristotelian unity of time?
2. Where has Ariel left the members of the royal party?
3. What is the emotional condition of the king and his followers?
4. What does Prospero decide to do about the royal party?
5. Why does Prospero call on his elves and fairies?
6. What does Prospero intend to do with his magic staff and book?
7. Why does Prospero give up his magic?
8. Why do the king and his royal party stand in a circle?
9. What does Prospero tell Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio after the magic spell wears off?
10. What does Prospero do with his magic robe after he forgives his enemies?
1. The action of the play takes place within the timespan of one day.
2. Ariel has left the royal party imprisoned in a grove of trees next to Prospero’s cell.
3. Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio are distraught and the others are mourning for them.
4. Prospero intends to forgive the “three men of sin” if they are penitent.
5. Prospero calls on his elves and fairies to bring on some music for his next magical project.
6. Prospero will break his staff and throw his book into the sea.
7. Prospero’s magic has accomplished its purpose of bringing his enemies to repentance and regaining his dukedom in...
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Act V, Scene 1, 88-171 Questions and Answers
1. What is Ariel doing while he is singing?
2. Where will Ariel go when Prospero sets him free?
3. How does Ariel feel while he is singing his song?
4. How does Ariel’s freedom song compare to Caliban’s freedom song?
5. What does Alonso say when he sees Prospero?
6. How does Prospero assure Alonso and Gonzalo that he is still alive?
7. What does Prospero say to his brother Antonio?
8. What is Alonso’s irreparable loss?
9. What does Alonso say that would reconcile him to Prospero and bring their families together?
10. What is Prospero ready to do in response to Alonso’s wish for their children?
1. Ariel is helping to attire Prospero in his duke’s clothing.
2. Ariel will stay on the island and live among the flowers.
3. Ariel feels happy because he will soon be free.
4. Ariel’s freedom song is one of restrained joy and Caliban’s song exhibits unrestrained raucousness.
5. Alonso asks Prospero’s forgiveness for plotting the usurpation of Prospero’s dukedom.
6. Prospero hugs Alonso and Gonzalo to prove he is still alive.
7. Prospero rebukes his brother Antonio and forgives him in the same breath.
8. The death of Alonso’s son Ferdinand is an irreparable loss.
9. Alonso wishes that his son and...
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Act V, Scene 1, 172-255 Questions and Answers
1. What are Ferdinand and Miranda pretending to do as Prospero discovers them? What are they really doing?
2. What does Ferdinand do when he sees his father, the king?
3. Why does Ferdinand feel that the seas are merciful?
4. What does Miranda think when she first sees the members of the royal court?
5. How does Alonso feel about asking Miranda’s forgiveness?
6. How will Ferdinand and Miranda’s marriage change the future “brave new world” of Milan?
7. How does Gonzalo react when he sees the boatswain?
8. What has happened to the ship in the tempest?
9. What does Prospero promise Ariel as a reward for his services?
10. Why is the boatswain unsure when Alonso asks him how he came to Prospero’s cell?
1. Ferdinand and Miranda are pretending to play chess but are really engaging in loving conversation.
2. Ferdinand kneels before his father when he first sees him.
3. Symbolically, Ferdinand feels the seas are merciful because they have not drowned his father.
4. Miranda is impressed because there are so many noble men in the world.
5. Alonso is concerned about asking his own child’s forgiveness since he is, by Elizabethan standards, superior to her.
6. The young couple’s marriage will bring their fathers together and reconcile their...
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Act V, Scene 1, Lines 256-330 Questions and Answers
1. Interpret Stephano’s confused speech when he says, “Every man shift for all the rest, and let no man take care for himself.”
2. How does Antonio react when he sees Caliban?
3. Do Antonio and Sebastian become repentant for their past deeds?
4. Does Caliban change in the course of the play?
5. Where will Ferdinand and Miranda celebrate their marriage?
6. Where will the king and his royal court spend the night?
7. How will Prospero entertain his overnight guests?
8. Who will make sure the royal party has calm seas for their trip to Naples?
9. Where does Ariel go when Prospero gives him his freedom?
10. What is the purpose of the “Epilogue”?
1. Stephano’s speech refers to the proverbial “Let every man shift for himself.”
2. Antonio sees him as a fish-like monster who can be sold for the purpose of exhibition to the public.
3. Antonio and Sebastian are not repentant, though they are no longer conspiring against Alonso.
4. Caliban realizes he has been under the illusion that he was mistaking a “drunkard for a god” and vows to “seek for grace” from now on.
5. Ferdinand and Miranda will celebrate their marriage in Naples.
6. The king and his royal court will spend the night in Prospero’s cell.
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Magic has a strong presence throughout The Tempest and pervades nearly every action in the play. While this quality Informs the work with a fairy tale atmosphere, it Is important to recognize that in Shakespeare's time the topic of magic was treated with more seriousness than in our own. Some Renaissance scholars, such as Henry Cornelius Agrippa (of whose writings Shakespeare may have been cognizant), possessed much expertise in the subject of magic and wrote books describing the different sources of magical power. In simple terms, Shakespeare's audience would have been aware of two types of magic, the white (good) and the black (evil). In this scheme Prospero likely would have been deemed a theurgist, or practicer of white magic—a force derived from divine sources and dealing in the control of natural elements. This form of magic is said to have affinities with the natural sciences, as in the study of alchemy (the forerunner of modern chemistry). The other form of magic, black magic, is only tangentially related to the action of The Tempest. It was supposed to come from demonic sources, such as those that might have been wielded by Caliban's mother, the witch Sycorax.
Prospero and his servant, Ariel, are the two principal workers of magic in The Tempest. Both possess powers of illusion and deception. Under Prospero's orders, Ariel creates a powerful tempest at the beginning of the play that appears to destroy...
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The Tempest is filled with music, magic, and supernatural spirits, much of which appears during the betrothal masque conjured up by Prospero for Ferdinand and Miranda in IV.i. A masque is an elaborate theatrical production with little or no plot, usually featuring characters from mythology and consisting of music, dance, and splendid costumes. Masques were a popular form of courtly entertainment in Shakespeare's time, particularly during the reign of King James I. At their height, they were showcases for special effects: trapdoors and ropes on pulleys were used to raise and lower actors and props; scenery was painted on panels that would shift to reveal different locations or convey a sense of animation. Mountains were constructed onstage that would open up to reveal caves. Smoke was used to conceal stage machinery, and multicolored lighting was devised for illumination and dramatic effect. Renaissance audiences watching the betrothal masque in The Tempest would have been treated to goddesses dressed in gorgeous costumes and Juno "magically" descending in a "car," or chariot. Today, audiences continue to be fascinated with the magic of special effects. It can be argued, for example, that films such as Total Recall (1990), Jurassic Park (1993), Twister (1996), and Independence Day (1996) have been more popular for their spectacular illusions and computer imaging than for their storylines.
Shakespeare wrote The...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
French, Marilyn. Shakespeare’s Division of Experience. New York: Summit Books, 1981. French sees the play as Shakespeare’s attempt to synthesize themes from his earlier works and finally propound a theory of justice that satisfies the hierarchical imperatives he had previously set out. An examination of gender roles plays a significant part in her attempts to explicate Shakespeare’s universe. Caliban is presented as representative of colonized peoples.
Kermode, Frank. William Shakespeare: The Final Plays. London: Longmans, Green, 1963. Kermode sees this play as the most classically unified of Shakespeare’s late works, and finds a repetition of earlier themes including “guilt and repentance, the finding of the lost, forgiveness, the renewal of the world, [and] the benevolence of unseen powers.”
Lindley, David. “Music, Masque and Meaining in The Tempest.” The Court Masque. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1984. Lindley examines the masque as a unique Renaissance art form and uncovers the role music plays in The Tempest to assert and deny power.
Peterson, Douglas L. Time, Tide, and Tempest: A Study of Shakespeare’s Romances. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1973. Places the play in the context of Shakespeare’s romance plays. Explores the themes...
(The entire section is 253 words.)
Bibliography and Further Reading
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974.
The First Folio of Shakespeare, The Norton Facsimile, ed. Charlton Hinman. New York: W. W. Norton, 1968.
Berger, Karol. “Prospero’s Art,” Shakespeare Studies, Vol. X. New York: Burt Franklin, 1977.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Shakespearean Criticism. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1961.
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