The Tempest  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where the sorcerer Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place using illusion and skilful manipulation. He conjures up a storm, the eponymous tempest, to lure his usurping brother Antonio and the complicit King Alonso of Naples to the island. There, his machinations bring about the revelation of Antonio's lowly nature, the redemption of the King, and the marriage of Miranda to Alonso's son, Ferdinand.

There is no obvious single source for the plot of The Tempest, but researchers have seen parallels in Erasmus's Naufragium, Peter Martyr's De orbe novo, and eyewitness reports by William Strachey and Sylvester Jordain of the real-life shipwreck of the Sea Venture on the islands of Bermuda, and the subsequent conflict between Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers. In addition, one of Gonzalo's speeches is derived from Montaigne's essay Of Cannibals, and much of Prospero's renunciative speech is taken word for word from a speech by Medea in Ovid's poem Metamorphoses. The masque in Act 4 may have been a later addition, possibly in honour of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick V in 1613. The play was first published in the First Folio of 1623.

The story draws heavily on the tradition of the romance, and it was influenced by tragicomedy, the courtly masque and perhaps the commedia dell'arte. It differs from Shakespeare's other plays in its observation of a stricter, more organised neoclassical style. Critics see The Tempest as explicitly concerned with its own nature as a play, frequently drawing links between Prospero's "art" and theatrical illusion, and early critics saw Prospero as a representation of Shakespeare, and his renunciation of magic as signalling Shakespeare's farewell to the stage. The play portrays Prospero as a rational, and not an occultist, magician by providing a contrast to him in Sycorax: her magic is frequently described as destructive and terrible, where Prospero's is said to be wondrous and beautiful. Beginning in about 1950, with the publication of Psychology of Colonization by Octave Mannoni, The Tempest was viewed more and more through the lens of postcolonial theory—exemplified in adaptations like Aimé Césaire's Une Tempête set in Haiti—and there is even a scholarly journal on post-colonial criticism named after Caliban.

The Tempest did not attract a significant amount of attention before the ban on the performance of plays in 1642, and only attained popularity after the Restoration, and then only in adapted versions. In the mid-19th century, theatre productions began to reinstate the original Shakespearean text, and in the 20th century, critics and scholars undertook a significant re-appraisal of the play's value, to the extent that it is now considered to be one of Shakespeare's greatest works. It has been adapted numerous times in a variety of styles and formats: in music, at least 46 operas by composers such as Fromental Halévy, Zdeněk Fibich and Thomas Adès; orchestral works by Tchaikovsky, Arthur Sullivan and Arthur Honegger; and songs by such diverse artists as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Michael Nyman and Pete Seeger; in literature, Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem With a Guitar, To Jane and W. H. Auden's The Sea and the Mirror; novels by Aimé Césaire and The Diviners by Margaret Laurence; in paintings by William Hogarth, Henry Fuseli, and John Everett Millais; and on screen, ranging through a hand-tinted version of Herbert Beerbohm Tree's 1905 stage performance, the science fiction film Forbidden Planet in 1956, Peter Greenaway's 1991 Prospero's Books featuring John Gielgud as Prospero, to Julie Taymor's 2010 film version which changed Prospero to Prospera (as played by Helen Mirren), and Des McAnuff's 2010 Stratford Shakespeare Festival production which starred Christopher Plummer.

Synopsis

The sorcerer Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda, have been stranded for twelve years on an island, after Prospero's jealous brother Antonio—helped by Alonso, the King of Naples—deposed him and set him adrift with the three-year-old Miranda. Prospero secretly sought the help of Gonzalo and their small and shoddy boat had secretly been upgraded to be more than sea worthy, it had been supplied with plenty of food and water, it had an excellent library and contained surviving material in case the boat capsized. Possessed of magic powers due to his great learning and prodigious library, Prospero is reluctantly served by a spirit, Ariel whom he had rescued from imprisonment in a tree. Ariel was trapped therein by the Algerian witch Sycorax, who had been exiled to the island years before and died prior to Prospero's arrival; Prospero maintains Ariel's loyalty by repeatedly promising to release the "airy spirit" from servitude, but continually defers that promise to a future date, namely at the end of the play. The witch's son Caliban, a deformed monster and the only non-spiritual inhabitant before the arrival of Prospero, was initially adopted and raised by the Milanese sorcerer. He taught Prospero how to survive on the island, while Prospero and Miranda taught Caliban religion and their own language. Following Caliban's attempted rape of Miranda, he had been compelled by Prospero to serve as the sorcerer's slave, carrying wood and gathering pig nuts. In slavery Caliban has come to view Prospero as a usurper, and grown to resent the magician and his daughter, feeling that they have betrayed his trust. Prospero and Miranda in turn view Caliban with contempt and disgust.

The play opens as Prospero, having divined that his brother, Antonio, is on a ship passing close by the island (having returned from the nuptials of Alonso's daughter Claribel with the King of Tunis), has raised a storm (the tempest of the title) which causes the ship to run aground. Also on the ship are Antonio's friend and fellow conspirator, King Alonso, Alonso's brother Sebastian, Alonso's royal advisor Gonzalo, and Alonso's son, Ferdinand. Prospero, by his spells, contrives to separate the survivors of the wreck into several groups and Alonso and Ferdinand are separated, and believe one another dead.

Three plots then alternate through the play. In one, Caliban falls in with Stephano and Trinculo, two drunken crew members, whom he believes to have come from the moon, and drunkenly attempts to raise a rebellion against Prospero (which ultimately fails). In another, Prospero works to establish a romantic relationship between Ferdinand and Miranda; the two fall immediately in love, but Prospero worries that "too light winning [may] make the prize light", and so compels Ferdinand to become his servant so that his affection for Miranda will be confirmed. He also decides that after his plan to exact vengeance on his betrayers has come to fruition, he will break and bury his staff, and "drown" his book of magic. In the third subplot, Antonio and Sebastian conspire to kill Alonso and his advisor Gonzalo, so that Sebastian can become King. They are thwarted by Ariel, at Prospero's command. Ariel appears to the three "men of sin" as a harpy, reprimanding them for their betrayal of Prospero. Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio are deeply affected while Gonzalo is unruffled. Prospero manipulates the course of his enemies' path through the island, drawing them closer and closer to him. In the conclusion, all the main characters are brought together before Prospero, who forgives Alonso (as well as his own brother's betrayal, and warns Antonio and Sebastian about further attempts at betrayal) and finally uses his magic to ensure that everyone returns to Italy.

Ariel (as his final task for Prospero) is charged to prepare the proper sailing weather to guide Alonso and his entourage back to the Royal fleet and then to Naples. Ariel is set free to the elements. Prospero pardons Caliban who is sent to prepare Prospero’s cell, to which Alonso and his party are invited for a final night before their departure. Prospero indicates he intends to entertain them with the story of his life on the island. In his epilogue, Prospero invites the audience to set him free from the island by their applause.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Tempest" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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