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This play, considered Shakespeare’s last romance and perhaps containing autobiographical symbols, begins with a sailing scene, a ship at sea, in a huge storm (a tempest). The sound effects called for, and the frantic speech of the ship-master and boatswain, reflect the ever-present conflict between man and nature, with the boatswain and Gonzalo making grim jokes about their pale complexions, etc., and wrestle with sails and lines for their very survival. The human chaos generated, and echoed in this violent storm, is Miranda’s questionable lineage and the uncle Antonio, who mismanaged Prospero’s estate, and Prospero’s own admission that he spent too much time on his “studies” (magic) (scene ii). So the frightening chaos of the storm scene sets the audience up for the “tempest” of their situation. As in much classical literature, man and Nature must find an “island” where a compromise of wills can be worked out. Shakespeare has found a rhetorical device to dramatize these abstractions. Many scholars see Shakespeare’s life and writing career as undergoing just such a battle, with his “genius” the “magic” he brought to the problem. The pace of the dialogue as it unravels in Act I scene I requires a cast of skilled actors, just as sailing in a storm requires a good crew.
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