Context

  • The Tempest was probably written in 1610–1611, and was first performed by the King’s Men in the fall of 1611.
  • The Tempest is most likely the last play written entirely by Shakespeare, and it is remarkable for being one of only two plays by Shakespeare whose plot is entirely original.
  • Because of its theme of a great magician giving up his art, some scholars believe that The Tempest is Shakespeare’s farewell to the stage.

Major Characters

  • Prospero – The play’s protagonist, and father of Miranda. Prospero was the Duke of Milan twelve years before the events of the play.
  • Miranda – The 15-year old daughter of Prospero, Miranda is naïve and passive, and absolutely loyal to her father.
  • Ariel – Prospero’s airy and mischievous spirit helper of ambiguous gender and identity.
  • Caliban – Another one of Prospero’s servants, Caliban is a dark monster-like slave borne of a witch-hag. He is the only authentic native of the island.

Minor Characters

  • Alonso – King of Naples and father of Ferdinand.
  • Ferdinand – Only son and heir of Alonso, a brave and handsome prince.
  • Sebastian – Alonso’s treacherous brother.
  • Antonio – Prospero’s younger brother, the play’s main villain.
  • Minor Characters
  • Gonzalo – An old lord loyal to Prospero and Miranda.
  • Trinculo & Stefano – A jester and butler duo that serve as comic foils.
  • Boatswain – An gruff sailor in charge of the ship’s crew.
  • Iris, Ceres, Juno – Prospero’s spirit helpers.

Minor Character Contrasts

  • Categorizing The Tempest
  • While The Tempest was originally listed as a Comedy by Shakespeare, recent scholars have chosen to give it the more adequate label of Tragicomedy.
  • Tragicomedy refers to works that blend aspects of the both tragedy and comedy into one hybrid genre.
  • In a typical tragicomedy, the action moves towards catastrophe like a tragedy, but fortunate events or actions intervene to bring about a happy ending.

Form & Structure

  • The ancient Greek Laws of Drama, the three unities, were the Law of Time, Place, and Action.
  • Law of Time: the four hours on stage should correspond to the length of time in actual action.
  • Law of Place: all events must occur in one place.
  • Law of Action: nothing must be presented to take attention away from the subject presented, such as secondary plots.
  • Unlike many of Shakespeare’s other works, The Tempest is unique in the fact that it does follow these rules: the entire play occurs in one day, in one location, with focus on one major plot line.

The Tempests Setting

  • Almost all of The Tempest takes place on a remote magical island where Prospero and Miranda have lived for the past twelve years.
  • Prospero, once Duke of Milan, was overthrown by his younger brother Antonio. Antonio then cast Prospero and Miranda out to sea, which brought them to this island by “providence divine”.

A Tempest in Bermuda

  • It is believed that The Tempest was inspired by a series of pamphlets concerning the survival of some mariners in the Bermuda Islands after a tempest in 1609.
  • The Bermudas were popularly thought to be inhabited by demons and fairies, and this sparked Shakespeare’s imagination for the creation of the play.

Message in a Bottle

  • Literature written since The Tempest that also use the deserted island setting include Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and Lord of the Flies.
  • Also, the theme of being stranded on a deserted island has inspired films, such as Cast Away, and TV series’, like Lost and the comedy Gilligans Island. It is also the driving force behind reality show originator Survivor.
  • Real Castaways
  • Within a span of a few years, real-life castaways were reduced to an extremely primitive condition of living, and sometime lost the knowledge of speech.
  • After two years of solitude on Mauritius (an island nation off the coast of Africa), one Frenchman survived on a diet of nothing but raw turtles.
  • Left alone on the island of Saint Helena (an island of volcanic origin and a in the South Atlantic Ocean) as punishment, a Dutch seaman fell into such despair that he dug up the body of a buried comrade and set out to sea in the coffin.
  • Another castaway, the Spaniard Pedro Serrano, was rescued after seven years of solitude.

“If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 items would you bring with you?”

Topics/ Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work

  • Nature and Civilization
  • Forgiveness and Repentance
  • Chastity and Desire
  • Knowledge and Order
  • Motifs
    Motifs are recurring structures and contrasts that help develop the text’s major themes.
  • Masters and Servants
  • Water and Drowning
  • Mysterious Noises
  • Symbols
    Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas.
  • The Tempest (storm)
  • The Game of Chess
  • Prospero’s Books

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