Did Shakespeare intend The Tempest to be his last play?
Some scholars have identified Shakespeare with Prospero and have interpreted the epilogue that Prospero speaks at the end of The Tempest as the playwright's farewell speech to the theater. Whether Shakespeare intended this play to be his last contribution to the London stage is highly problematical. We know that he wrote the bulk of the play in 1610 or 1611, and that it was probably first performed in early November, 1611. It is widely believed that by the timing of the play's first staging, Shakespeare had left London for "retirement" in Stratford. In comparison with his other works, The Tempest contains a large number of stage directions. This could be interpreted as an indication that Shakespeare composed The Tempest in Stratford, knowing that he would not be physically present for its actual production. On the other hand, the unusual number of stage directions may simply reflect the unique features of The Tempest itself, a play with few changes of scene and no changes in setting that features a number of pageants in which movement and music are crucial to the overall effect. While in "retirement," Shakespeare probably wrote Henry VIII and collaborated with John Fletcher on The Two Noble Kinsman. Plainly, while Shakespeare realized that his career was winding down, it is not possible to affirm that he meant The Tempest to be his final, crowning achievement.