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  • Title: The Tempest: Critical Introduction
  • Author: Paul Yachnin
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-370-0

    Copyright Paul Yachnin. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Paul Yachnin
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    Critical Introduction

    11. Origins

    First Performances and Publication

    What do we know about the first performances and first publication of The Tempest? A note in an historical source, the Revels Account for 1611, tells us that, "By the King's players: Hallowmas night [i.e. November 1] was presented at Whitehall before the King's Majesty a play called The Tempest" (Chambers 2: 342). A second record, from the Chamber Account, includes the play among fourteen others performed at court during the wedding celebrations of King James' daughter to a German prince, Frederick, the Elector of the Palatinate:

    Item, paid to John Heminge upon the Council's warrant dated at Whitehall 20th day May 1613 for presenting before the Princess Highness the Lady Elizabeth and the Prince Pallatine Elector fourteen several plays, viz. one play called Philaster . . . one called The Knot of Fools . . . The Maid's Tragedy, The Merry Devil of Edmonton, The Tempest, A King and No King . . . (Chambers 2: 343)

    Because of these references to court performances and also because there is a court-like masque in the play, some readers have concluded that The Tempest was written expressly for the court. This idea about the play is of a piece with a still-lingering notion that Shakespeare aligned his art with the interests and the views of the King. Since the idea is historically unfounded and deeply misleading about Shakespeare's art, it is good to get it out of our way at the outset.

    There are three strong objections to the view that The Tempest was written for the court. One is simply that the records that survive tend to be official ones like the account books that note the payments made to those who entertained at court. The absence of evidence of early commercial performances of the play therefore is not at all significant. Two, it was Shakespeare's normal practice to write plays that could be performed at court, on tour in English towns outside London, as well as at the two playhouses that the King's Players owned in London--the large, open-air amphitheater the Globe and the more exclusive, indoor venue the Blackfriars. Three, we know that The Tempest was performed at a public, commercial theater because Shakespeare's contemporary, Ben Jonson, makes fun of at least one such performance in his 1614 comedy Bartholomew Fair, which was also performed at a commercial playhouse. At the start of Jonson's play, a character called the Scrivener takes the stage and speaks to the audience on behalf of the author (remember that The Tempest features a "servant monster," "a living drollery," and a good deal of dancing):

    5If there be never a servant-monster i' the Fair, who can help it, he [i.e. Ben Jonson] says, nor a nest of antics? He is loath to make nature afraid in his plays, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like drolleries, to mix his head with other men's heels, let the concupiscence of jigs and dances reign as strong as it will amongst you. ( Jonson, Bartholomew Fair, "Induction," 130-5)

    That The Tempest, like all of Shakespeare's plays, was written for one or more public playhouses in London, for rural audiences in the provinces, and also for the royal theater at Whitehall can help us understand the complex political meaning of the play, which, as we will see, is able to knit into a coherent vision a spirited argument for the value of labor and the community of laborers at one end and a defense of something like absolute loyalty to monarchical government at the other.

    The Tempest is a masterful play written for theatrical performance by someone who himself was a working actor, a shareholder in the most successful playing company in England, and a part-owner of two splendid playhouses. He was a consummate man of the theater. But Shakespeare also wrote his plays as literature, as texts to be read as well as staged. His plays were printed in quarto editions throughout his lifetime; and in 1623, seven years after he died, The Tempest was published as the first play in a handsome folio edition of his works, Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, Published according the True Original Copies. John Heminge and Henry Condell, Shakespeare's fellows in the King's Players and the sponsors of the volume, might have arranged to have The Tempest appear as the first play in the volume because they thought of it, as many have since, as Shakespeare's summing up of a career in the theater or as his farewell to his art; or they or the publisher might have thought that the play, being previously unpublished, would be more likely to persuade browsers to buy the book. In the epistle "To the Great Variety of Readers" that appears over their names, Heminge and Condell remember their friend tenderly ("he was a happy imitator of nature [and] a most gentle expresser of it"), and they offer the book to potential purchasers as a fitting remembrance of him; so perhaps they did mean their readers to regard the lead-off play and especially the character of Prospero as a memento of the playwright and a reflection on the "rough magic" of theater. But, of course, we do not know how they expected the purchasers of the volume to regard the plays, only that they expected that the book would appeal, as they said, "to a great variety of readers" who would find his plays, which had been, they claimed, "maimed and deformed" in previous editions, now "cured and perfect of their limbs as he conceived them," and who would "read him therefore, and again, and again."

    The Folio edition of The Tempest, which provides the copy-text for the present edition, does seem "cured and perfect of [its] limbs"; it is a carefully produced text, mostly error-free. While most of the stage directions are what we are used to seeing in Shakespeare's early texts--phrases like "Enter Prospero and Miranda" or "Exit Caliban"--a significant number of them read as if prepared for a literary text rather than for a theatrical script. The first stage direction in the play says, "A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard," which is more detailed than usual for a playhouse-derived text; a number of them describe the action as if they were bits of narrative instead of instructions for actors: "Enter certain reapers, properly habited," one says, "they join with the nymphs in a graceful dance, towards the end whereof PROSPERO starts suddenly and speaks, after which, to a strange, hollow, and confused noise, they heavily vanish."

    The Folio text of The Tempest itself is unusual in the volume, not only because it comes first, and not only because of the appearance of literary-seeming stage directions, but also because it was very carefully proof-read as it went through the printing process. The printing of the first page of the play (the first page of the body of the book of course) was stopped three times to make corrections (Hinman 1: 251). The text was set up from a transcription that appears to have been made by the professional scrivener Ralph Crane from a copy of the play in Shakespeare's own hand. Scholars have suggested that Crane did more than merely copy the text; in fact, he appears to have changed it in a number of ways, and he--not Shakespeare--might have been the author of the elaborate stage directions. Performances and printed plays are the work of many hands. In all, we could say that both the first performances and the first publication of The Tempest were collaborative and highly accomplished productions of which Shakespeare was the author but not the sole producer.

    10Occasion and Date

    We know about the circumstances of the play's first performances at court, and we also know that Shakespeare's company performed it for paying audiences in London. His fellow players, the scribe, and the printer took care when they transformed the written text into print. But what do we know about why Shakespeare wrote the play, and why did he write it when he did?

    One reason had to do with current events. In the summer of 1609, an English ship, the Sea Venture, bound to the colony at Jamestown, was separated from its companion vessels in a terrible storm and was wrecked on the uninhabited Bermudas. For over a year, people in England had no word from the ship that had been carrying Virginia's governor-designate Thomas Gates and Admiral George Sommers as well as some 150 others, including women and children. News of the miraculous survival of the colonists did not reach England until autumn 1610. Along with the wonderful news came a narrative report, True Reportory of the Wracke, by William Strachey, a man who had suffered the shipwreck and survived the ten months on the island. The Reportory circulated in manuscript (it was not printed until 1625).

    Shakespeare got hold of a copy, and it fired his imagination. The title of the first section is "A most dreadful tempest . . . their wracke on Bermuda, and the description of those islands" (Strachey 4:1734). Shakespeare read about how the ship was beset: "the clouds gathering thick upon us and the winds singing and whistling most unusually . . . a dreadful storm and hideous began to blow from out the northeast, which swelling and roaring . . . at length did beat all light from heaven" (1735). Shakespeare picked up the idea of the ominous singing of the wind here: in the play, Trinculo says, "another storm brewing! I hear it sing in the wind." And later, Alonso expands the metaphor:

    Methought the billows spoke and told me of it;
    The winds did sing it to me, and the thunder,
    That deep and dreadful organ pipe, pronounced
    The name of Prosper -- it did bass my trespass.
    (TLN 1633-6)

    Did Shakespeare not also begin at this point to think about the uncanny music of the island, which is one of the dominant features of the play's setting? "Where should this music be?" Ferdinand wonders, "I'th'air or th'earth? / It sounds no more, and sure it waits upon / Some god o'th'island" (TLN 530-3).

    Shakespeare read about ball lightning in the Reportory. Strachey describes it as "an apparition of a little round light, like a faint star, trembling and streaming along with a sparkling blaze, half the height upon the main-mast and shooting sometimes from shroud to shroud" (1737). Ariel imitates it when he wants to terrify the mariners. On the Sea Venture, the sailors and their passengers worked together for three and a half days as the ship took on water. Strachey says that it was "not without his [i.e. its] wonder (whether it were the fear of death in so great a storm or that it pleased God to be gracious unto us) there was not a passenger, gentleman, or other, after he began to stir and labor but was able to relieve his fellow and make good his course" (1736). In the event, the tempest did not abate, and they were saved as if by a miracle when, on the fourth day, they spotted an island and were able to run the ship aground near land. Once the shipwrecks were together on the island, their Governor, Sir Thomas Gates, had--like Prospero--to manage a recalcitrant element among the men and even put down several mutinies. One of the mutineers argued fascinatingly that "it was no breach of honesty, conscience, nor religion to decline from the obedience of the Governor, or refuse to go any further led by his authority (except it so pleased themselves) since the authority ceased when the wreck was committed, and with it they were all then freed from the government of any man" (1744).

    15And as in the play, the island that saved the lives of Strachey and his fellows was both a haven and a place of strangeness, even terror: "the dangerous and dreaded . . . islands of the Bermuda . . . because they be so terrible to all that ever touched on them; and such tempests, thunders, and other fearful objects are seen and heard about them that they be called commonly the Devil's Islands . . . Yet it pleased our merciful God to make even this hideous and hated place both the place of our safety and means of our deliverance" (1737).

    We will hear more about the play and the Americas in Section 4. For now we can say that Shakespeare's attentive reading of the Strachey letter demonstrates his keen interest in the English and European voyages of discovery, even though, as has often been pointed out, the play takes place on an island in the Mediterranean somewhere between Italy and the coast of Africa--very far indeed from the New World. We can say that the "occasion" (in the sense of "something that gives rise to discussion or consideration"--Oxford English Dictionary) of The Tempest was an English shipwreck in the New World that marooned a group of English men and women on a wonderful but frightening island and transformed a tragedy of loss and separation into a comedy of deliverance and reunion. "The events of 1609 in Bermuda," commented Frank Kermode in the first Arden edition, "must have seemed to contain the whole situation in little. . . . The Bermuda pamphlets seem to have precipitated, in this play, most of the major themes of Shakespeare's last years" (Kermode xxv). On the basis of when Shakespeare could have first read the letter that so sparked his imagination and when the play would have been first performed in one or the other of the London playhouses (in advance of the November 1 performance at court), we can determine that Shakespeare wrote the play sometime between late Fall 1610 and Fall 1611.

    2. Thinking and Feeling

    Harshness and Tenderness

    At the start all hell breaks loose. The beginning of the play is spectacular and action-packed. There are flashes of lightning, rolling thunder, and urgent shouts of distress. People are running about, either in sheer panic or in rapid, orchestrated labor. As we have heard, the opening stage direction says, "A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard. Enter a Shipmaster and a Boatswain." The actors are shouting to be heard over the noise of the storm (the first word is pronounced, "bosun"):

    Here, master. What cheer?
    Good. Speak to the mariners. Fall to it yarely or we run ourselves aground. Bestir! Bestir!
    (TLN 1-9)

    In the face of dire danger, the mariners work together with admirable skill and courage. "Yarely" (nimbly and diligently) and "cheerly" (heartily) are the key words used to characterize their cooperative action. The courtiers, who are their passengers, show far less patience or fortitude. Shakespeare differs from the Strachey letter's description of how both the sailors and passengers worked to save the ship. The change makes a political point about the possible failings even of high-ranking people just as it does about the possible abilities and virtues of commoners. The usually good-humored counselor Gonzalo turns his own fear of dying into a wish to see the Boatswain hanged: "his complexion is perfect gallows," he says. "Stand fast, good Fate, to his hanging. Make the rope of his destiny our cable, for our own doth little advantage" (TLN 37-40) Prospero's villainous brother Antonio, also terrified of the storm, puts the same wish more directly and rudely: "Hang, cur! hang, you whoreson, insolent noisemaker!" The Boatswain is abrupt enough in his turn, shouting at his social superiors to shut up and to get out of the way: "What cares these roarers for the name of king? To cabin; silence! Trouble us not!" (TLN 24-6).

    20This scene of deafening noise, exploding fireworks, whirling action and angry exchange is, however, also one that features moments of poignant fellow feeling. The mariners work together yarely and cheerly, as we have seen. Once there seems no hope of saving the ship, they leave the stage to pray and to await their deaths. At the moment the ship seems to be breaking up, we hear them taking leave of their absent families and of each other--"We split, we split! Farewell, my wife and children! / Farewell, brother! We split, We split, We split!" (TLN 72-3) Even the villains Sebastian and Antonio, finally face-to-face with death, have the sense to think about someone beside themselves. They do not mention either prayer or divine mercy, but they do show a spark of compassion as they leave the stage to say good-bye to the King, who has stayed below decks during the storm. By the way, we can note that, even at this moment of noisy cataclysm, Shakespeare is taking care to make subtle but telling distinctions between characters: Antonio seems incapable of seeing anything except that everyone is going to drown, whereas Sebastian is thinking about the actual act of exchanging words of farewell:

    Let's all sink wi'th' King.
    Let's take leave of him.
    (TLN 74-5)

    The storm scene shows us an artist at the top of his powers. In the sections that follow, we will look more closely at some of the brilliant features of structure, language, and character that make the play such a pleasure to read and perform, as well as at the history of the play as literature and as theater, but here it is important to understand Shakespeare not only as a supremely accomplished artist but also as a remarkably clear-eyed and compassionate thinker. Indeed from beginning to end, The Tempest is a philosophical drama that is intent on exploring the couplings of harshness and tenderness in human life; the play instructs its readers and spectators in complex and even contradictory ways of understanding and responding to the world and of holding these very different ways of seeing and feeling together.

    The harshness can come from nature, as it does, or seems to do, in the storm. And, as we have also seen, it can come from humankind, as when Antonio, frightened for his own life, curses the Boatswain and wishes him hanged. Prospero has a well-developed harsh side, which he keeps turned toward Caliban (who fears him more or less as the tortured fears the torturer) and a harshness that he can on occasion turn against Ariel or even his daughter. His most acerbic remark is aimed at Antonio--"most wicked sir -- whom to call brother / Would even infect my mouth -- I do forgive / Thy rankest fault" (TLN 2094-6). Antonio himself is capable of real cruelty, as we learn once Prospero begins to tell his story to his daughter Miranda in the second scene. Twelve years before the action of the play, Antonio handed his brother Prospero and Prospero's three-year-old daughter Miranda over to a "treacherous army," a small commando force directed by the Neapolitan counselor Gonzalo (more about him in Section 3). The poor man and little child were cast adrift at sea in an unseaworthy boat--"A rotten carcass of a butt: not rigged, / . . . The very rats / Instinctively have quit it (TLN 252-4)". But tellingly, the injury done to him as well as his own physical suffering engendered in Prospero a deep and enduring tenderness toward his daughter Miranda, who, he tells her, was an angel that kept him going through his hardship--

    a cherubin
    Thou wast that did preserve me. Thou didst smile,
    Infusèd with a fortitude from heaven
    (When I have decked the sea with drops full salt
    Under my burden groaned), which raised in me
    An undergoing stomach to bear up
    Against what should ensue.
    (TLN 259-65)

    25Or consider this moment near the end of the play. Prospero has reintroduced himself to those who nearly caused his death and the death of his daughter. He transforms his anger into a painful lesson for Alonso, the King of Naples and the man whose imperialist ambitions meshed with the treachery of Antonio. Alonso has been made to believe that his son has drowned, and he has suffered inconsolable grief, until, in this scene, Prospero reveals the very much alive Ferdinand playing chess with Miranda. So preoccupied are the two young lovers that it takes them several moments to notice that they are not alone. Once they do become aware of Prospero, decked out in his duke's finery, and all the other members of the court party, Miranda says,

    O wonder!
    How many goodly creatures are there here!
    How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
    That has such people in't!
    (TLN 2157-60)

    Prospero responds in a bitterly ironic remark likely not intended to be heard by his daughter, "'Tis new to thee." How can we compass both Miranda's joy in the face of the beauty of humankind and Prospero's harsh response to the perfidy and selfishness of people? How can we hold two so diametrically opposed ideas about "mankind" in our minds? Shakespeare seems to be enjoining us to feel Miranda's sense of wonder fully and to grasp the soundness of Prospero's judgment of the men that stand together on the stage, excepting perhaps Gonzalo, and not to permit the one to displace the other.

    We might say that the gathering together of thinking and feeling about others in terms both harsh and tender is the point of Prospero's story of suffering, separation, and redemption, a story that culminates with his decision to forgive those who have wronged him. The forgiveness is not merely an intellectual choice made in the teeth of his anger, but rather a reorientation of his whole personhood in the direction of forgiveness. Ariel tells him that his enemies are entirely at his mercy and, in a weirdly subjunctive voice, comments that he would feel sorry for them if he were human. Prospero does not abandon his anger, but, as if in answer to Ariel, he nevertheless forgives his enemies so as to bear witness to his own humanity; and indeed his ability to forgive depends as much on his "sharply" passionate nature as on his "nobler reason" (TLN 2173, 2176). His passion enables his reason: because he is “kindlier moved” than Ariel is, Prospero finds himself able take the part of his “nobler reason” against his “fury” (TLN 1974-7)


    The Tempest challenges its readers and spectators to respond thoughtfully and feelingly to its complex representation of the world, to judge without sentimentality and to empathize with those we judge. One of its principal ways that the play does this is by means of metatheater, which is the element of the drama that draws attention to the theatrical practices that underlie and produce the fictional world of the play and that also works to recruit the engaged participation of the audience.

    The Tempest is Shakespeare's most metatheatrical play. Prospero is a duke and a magician, but he also seems to be a dramatist. He orders Ariel into costume ("Go make thyself like a nymph o'th'sea" [TLN 433]) and praises his performance ("Bravely the figure of this harpy hast thou / Performed, my Ariel. A grace it had, devouring! / Of my instruction hast thou nothing bated / In what thou hadst to say" [TLN 1619-22]); and he orders up and presumably also writes a theatrical performance in honor of Miranda and Ferdinand's impending nuptials: "go bring the rabble / . . . here to this place. / Incite them to quick motion, for I must / Bestow upon the eyes of this young couple / Some vanity of mine art" (TLN 1691-5). The play follows the so-called "unity of time" so attentively that the time elapsed in performance is about the same as the time represented in the play world. Timing, which is one of Prospero's obsessions, is crucial for both effective magic and successful play-making:

    What is the time o'th'day?
    Past the mid season.
    At least two glasses -- the time 'twixt six and now --
    Must by us both be spent most preciously.
    (TLN 241-3)

    In the Epilogue, finally, he tells the audience that his "project . . . was to please," which certainly was not Prospero's project but which might well have been the goal of the actor playing Prospero or of the playwright Shakespeare.

    30All of this playful representation of the means and motives of the players and playwright, which underlie the fictional world and the characters, is designed to keep us mindful of the made-up quality of what we are watching. That is certainly part of the effect of the shift from the first to the second scene, where we move from watching a group of men who are about to die to watching two figures alone on stage who have just witnessed the same terrifying event, which Prospero reveals to his weeping daughter as a "direful spectacle"--a magic show in which the people on the ship and we in the playhouse thought that the ship was going to founder and all on board were going to drown but in which Ariel had a special charge to ensure that no one suffered any harm. The revelation that the shipwreck was a mere illusion might seem at first intended to make the spectators less emotionally involved in the action, but Shakespearean metatheater in fact works to deepen the meaning of the play and engage the audience more actively in the unfolding action.

    Metatheater makes us thoughtful about what we are watching since it is difficult to get entirely lost in the story when we are constantly being reminded that what we are watching is a story. But, strangely enough, metatheater tends to heighten both the intellectual and emotional responses that audiences experience when they are watching the play. For one thing, Miranda models a full-hearted reaction to the spectacle of the wreck. She thinks that the disaster she has just witnessed might be a work of "art," by which she means magic, of course, but the word is resonant with the theatricality of the scene and reminds us of the necessary artificiality of all playhouse shipwrecks:

    If by your art, my dearest father, you have
    Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
    The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch
    But that the sea, mounting to th'welkin's cheek,
    Dashes the fire out. Oh! I have suffered
    With those that I saw suffer.
    (TLN 82-7)

    We are invited to feel with Miranda at the same moment we learn that the wreck, which did indeed make people suffer grievously--was a work of her father's characteristically harsh and tender art--"No harm! / I have done nothing but in care of thee -- / Of thee my dear one, thee my daughter" (TLN 99-101).

    Important also is the fact that while the wreck might have been a magical or theatrical trick, it seemed real enough to those who endured it, and its effects go on echoing within them throughout the play. We might go even further and say that metatheater reorients the audience itself toward the play by conceding the artificiality of playing and yet insisting on its real powers of reformation. It can reform the playgoers themselves, as I have been suggesting, by inducting them into a more complex thinking and feeling about the world and also by forming them into a collectivity with each other and the actors. This is a simple but important feature of the play's design and one by which Shakespeare answers a long history of antitheatricality, which must have been one of the central ideological conditions under which he wrote and acted in his plays.

    Consider this ancient and influential complaint against theater, from the Confessions of St. Augustine:

    The theater enraptured me, for its shows were filled with pictures of my own miseries and with tinder for my fires. Why is it that a man likes to grieve over doleful and tragic events which he would not want to happen to himself? The spectator likes to experience grief at such scenes, and this very sorrow is a pleasure to him. What is this but a pitiable folly? For the more a man is moved by these things, the less free is he from such passions. However, when he himself experiences it, it is usually called misery; when he experiences it with regard to others, it is called mercy. But what sort of mercy is to be shown to these unreal things upon the stage? The auditor is not aroused to go to the aid of the others; he is only asked to grieve over them. (Augustine 78-9)

    35In The Tempest, each time the actor playing Prospero reminds us that he is an actor and tells us that the justice of his cause, his own well-being, and the happiness of his beloved daughter depend on the success of his magical and theatrical fabrications, we are being invited to take his part so that, to use Prospero's words, the character whose story he is enacting does not melt "into air – into thin air" (TLN 1821). The awareness of artifice aroused by metatheatricality prompts real investments on the part of the spectators in the characters and the play and prompts also the real action of spectatorly participation in the actorly making of character and action. Where Augustine says, "the auditor is not aroused to go to the aid of the others," I suggest that the auditors are indeed aroused to go to the aid of the actors, not of course in the sense of providing rescue, but rather in the sense of contributing their attention and specific responses to the production of artifice.

    3. The World in the Play

    The world that Shakespeare creates in The Tempest has many features that make it recognizably like the world we live in. There are bad, self-seeking people; brothers fall out with brothers; people who have power are reluctant to give it up and will go to great lengths to get more; people fall in love; fathers (like Prospero) love their children dearly, wish for their happiness, and yet are sometimes irritated by them; children (like Miranda) love their fathers but can find them overbearing in the extreme and can want to break free; people commit great crimes against others; and people forgive others who have wronged them. But there are elements in the Tempest world that are very unlike the world we live in. There is a monster on the island (or a human being that is unjustly called a monster--we'll get to that later), there is a fairy-spirit named Ariel who can produce storms, prepare a sumptuous dinner from thin air, organize a wedding masque "with a twink" (TLN 1698); there is music in the very air of the island; and there is a powerful magician who can command the elements and even, he tells us, bring the dead back to life (though we never see him do that).

    Beyond these strikingly magical features, there is something about the world of the play that is deeply out of keeping with the world that most of us know. We can call it the quality of moral intelligibility, by which we mean that events and the acts of people are meaningful in ways they are usually not in the real world. In the real world there are accidents, with which we cope as well as we can; in the world of The Tempest, accidents, even shipwrecks, are part of a larger meaningful pattern. It is not at all that the play has a simple moral. Shakespeare would have had no patience with the Duchess in Lewis Carroll who says to Alice, "'Tut, tut, child!' said the Duchess. 'Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it'" (Carroll 96). But while the world that Shakespeare creates in the play does not reduce down to a moral, it is sufficiently well structured and its parts sufficiently interrelated to be able to support a kind of wholesale moral inquiry that could not find easy purchase in the real world.


    How does Shakespeare achieve a kind of intelligibility that is at once coherent and suggestive and also irreducible? The answer has to do with how Shakespeare creates the world of the play; since, of course, he cannot create an actual world, he creates a simulacrum of one that is made up by its formal features--the play's genre, design, language, themes, and characters.

    The first consideration has to do with genre. What kind of play is The Tempest? Heminge and Condell placed it as the leading play in the Comedy section of the 1623 Folio. That makes a good sense since the play, like romantic comedies such as Twelfth Night and As You Like It, is in part a story of the love and courtship of Ferdinand and Miranda. Prospero even takes on the conventional role of the curmudgeon who stands in the way of the happiness of the young lovers. But since much more happens in the play than courtship, many readers have not been satisfied by Heminge and Condell's designation and have preferred, usually, one of two genres that are related but not identical to comedy--one being romance and the other tragicomedy. Romance is an expansive narrative genre that features adventures, long journeys, accidental happenings, the marvelous and magical, and key story elements having to do with separation and reunion and loss and recovery. Northrop Frye remarked wryly that in Greek romance, "the normal means of transportation is by shipwreck" (Frye 4). In Shakespeare's time, two of the most important longer narrative works, Philip Sidney's Arcadia and Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, are well characterized as romances. Tragicomedy is a dramatic genre, imported from Italy, that was fashionable in the early seventeenth century and that Shakespeare's younger colleague John Fletcher defined as a form that has too little violence for tragedy and too much for comedy: "A tragicomedy is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants deaths, which is enough to make it no tragedy, yet brings some near it, which is enough to make it no comedy" (Fletcher 3: 497). Clearly, then, while the Folio designates The Tempest a comedy, the play also has strong affinities with romance and tragicomedy.

    40Does this mean that we cannot identify the play's genre? The answer will depend on what we mean by "genre." Stephen Orgel's thinking about genre can help us greatly here. He has remarked that "[m]odern conceptions of genre are not those of the Renaissance, and our categories tend towards different ends: ours are exclusive and definitive, theirs tended to be inclusive and analytic. To find a new category for a play was not, for the Renaissance critic, to abandon the old ones" (Orgel 4). In light of Orgel's insight, we can say that Shakespeare's idea of genre was not of something rigidly prescriptive but rather was of the nature of a set of guidelines for experimentation with dramatic form and audience response.

    The Tempest is only the latest instance of Shakespeare's usual practice, which is always to push the boundaries of genre in ways that renovate and vitalize literary form from the inside. Like all his plays, this one is hybrid in terms of genre, in part because Renaissance genre is hybrid in its basic character. The play is able to orchestrate comic, romantic and tragicomic conventions, and able also to subject these conventions and the world picture they embody to scrutiny. Stanley Wells is surely right to point out how the play's mixing of genres goes against the grain of the open-endedness and copiousness of romance and produces "an attitude firmly though sympathetically judicious": "The Tempest is a romance containing a built-in critique of romance; not a rejection of it, but an appreciation both of its glories and of its limitation." (Wells 77, 76).The play's genre, then, is hybrid, processual, and critical. Its mix of comedy, romance, and tragicomedy, especially when married to the remarkably compressed design of plot and scenic structure, is capable of giving us the pleasures that belong to stories of loss and recovery and giving us also the pleasurable challenges provided by a critical view of such stories.


    The design of the play is twofold. It has a narrative dimension that is sequential and diachronic (unfolding over time) and a structure of parallel incidents and characters that is synchronic (not unfolding over time, but there all at once, as it were). The diachronic and synchronic sides of the play's design are interrelated. The narrative weaves together (1) a courtship plot (Ferdinand and Miranda, with Prospero as the blocking figure), (2) a revenge plot modulating into a story of restoration and forgiveness (Prospero and the members of the court party), and (3) a parallel revenge plot, in which Caliban undertakes to gain back the island by conspiring with Stephano and Trinculo. The second plot also includes a repetition of the political conspiracy that brought about the ouster of Prospero, when in 2.1 Antonio and Sebastian decide to murder Alonso and Gonzalo. The three plots are prepared for by an extended exposition in 1.2, in which Prospero tells Miranda (and us) the story of the original conspiracy that led to their exile on the island, and in which Prospero, Miranda, and Caliban recall for us, in their angry exchange, how their harmonious living and learning arrangements were violated by what Prospero characterizes as Caliban's attempted rape of Miranda.

    This account of the narrative design suggests something about the play's structure of parallel and contrasting elements. There are three conspiracies bent on the violent overthrow of rulers--two in the play and one antecedent to its beginning. All three engender pathological relations of domination among the conspirators: Antonio sought the throne of Milan but became a subject of the King of Naples. Now he seeks to seduce Sebastian into killing his brother, the very same King of Naples, so that he, Antonio, can gain the upper hand at last. Caliban seeks to repeat the ouster of Prospero in order to have his revenge for what he sees as Prospero's usurpation of his rule of the island; but in order to do that, he becomes the slave of two Italian servants (his slavishness is either in his nature or is a learned behaviour that he adapts strategically in order to manage Stephano and Trinculo or is a mix of his nature and his strategy--more about this in the section on Caliban).

    The parallel conspiracies are one instance of the vast and complex metaphorical webwork in the play, where one cannot pluck one string anywhere in the fabric of the play without awaking an answering resonance somewhere else. Consider how Caliban celebrates his abandonment of his wood-carrying, among other tasks, at the end of 2.2--

    No more dams I'll make for fish,
    Nor fetch in firing at requiring,
    Nor scrape trenchering, nor wash dish:
    'Ban 'Ban Ca-Caliban
    Has a new master. Get a new man!
    Freedom, high-day, high-day, freedom, freedom,
    high-day, freedom!
    (TLN 1226-32)

    45--and how his exit is followed by the entrance of Ferdinand, who struggles onstage "bearing a log." This juxtaposition of contrasting figures--one casting off service and embracing "freedom," which is merely a new word for slavery, and another embracing service to his beloved Miranda as a higher form of freedom--is a particularly pointed example of a strong feature in the play, a critical mirroring of one character by another by which we are invited to think about the claims that all the characters make about themselves and others. For example, Prospero shares many features with the "foul witch Sycorax" (they are both powerful magicians who were banished from their homelands but not killed when they might well have been, both arrived on the island with offspring, both made Ariel their servant) as well as a number of attributes with the drunken butler Stephano--both escaped drowning by means of a "butt," both teach Caliban language, and both control him by means a spirit that issues from a tree (Prospero uses Ariel for the purpose once Ariel is freed from the pine; Stephano pours alcohol into Caliban's mouth from a vessel made of bark). Caliban shares his capacity for wonder with Miranda and his strategizing for revenge with Antonio. Of course, Caliban is also paired with Ariel as opposing figures of the natural world--one all air and the other earth, one strangely without emotion and the other burdened with an excess of passion--although they both seem to feel a certain vexed devotion to Prospero and both also long for freedom.

    We could go on cataloguing the very many correspondences among incidents and characters in the play. As Reuben Brower has commented, "The harmony of the play lies in its metaphorical design, in the closeness and completeness with which its rich and varied elements are linked together through almost inexhaustible analogies" (95-122; quote on 95). Like the design itself, the purpose of the play's inexhaustible analogies is twofold: the beauty and intricacy of the relationships arouses pleasure and provokes wonder; and the ways in which parallels are drawn between incidents (the usurpations of power, the multiple conspiracies, the escapes from drowning), or between characters that seem to be opposites (for example, Caliban and Miranda, Prospero and Sycorax) invites us to respond alertly to what the characters or even what the play itself seems to be saying about the moral order of its world.


    From the start of his career, Shakespeare was able to write beautiful, moving poetry and to orchestrate his language so that his most passionate speeches have also a critical element. He seems almost incapable of conventional, simplifying forms of poetic expression. He uses the contrast between prose and verse brilliantly for dramatic and political effect, say, at the start of The Taming of the Shrew, where we move from the louche, colloquial prose of the drunken Christopher Sly to what by contrast sounds like the somewhat asinine verse of the Lord:

    Third, or fourth, or fifth borough, I'll answer him by law: I'll not budge an inch, boy: let him come, and kindly.
    Falls asleep
    Horns winded. Enter a Lord from hunting, with his train
    Huntsman, I charge thee, tender well my hounds:
    Brach Merriman, the poor cur is emboss'd;
    And couple Clowder with the deep-mouth'd brach.
    (Shr TLN 15-21)

    Over the course of the 1590s and in the early years of the new century, Shakespeare's iambic verse becomes more and more flexible; he learns how to use different verse forms for contrastive effect. Hamlet can manage that in a single speech, as he does here where he tries on and immediately rejects an old-fashioned "ranting" style as inadequate to his character or his situation:

    'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
    But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
    To make oppression bitter, or ere this
    I should have fatted all the region kites
    With this slave's offal: bloody, bawdy villain!
    Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
    O, vengeance!
    Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
    That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
    Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
    Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
    And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
    A scullion!
    (Ham TLN 1616-27)

    Shakespeare learns how to make various uses of prose. In King Lear, for example, he has the King formulate the most profound questions about the nature of humanity in prose rather than in what is usually thought to be the more dignified form of iambic verse:

    Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three on 's are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself: unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare, forked animal as thou art.
    (Lr TLN 1882-88)

    By about the time he is writing Antony and Cleopatra in the second half of the first decade of the new century, his language undergoes an astonishing "sea change"--it is not just the invention of new words, new variations in prose or verse, or new ways of contrasting prose and verse styles, but something like the invention of new ways of speaking altogether, as if he is possessed of unprecedented ideas and ways of seeing that cannot be contained within the lexical, syntactical, idiomatic, and prosodic conventions of the language he has already fashioned. This pressure of meaning-making within language can make it highly compressed, cause the elision of certain normal features such as prepositions and pronouns, add parenthetical elements, make the poetic line hypermetrical or metrically deficient, cause it to leap over normal steps of logical thinking, and make it utterly surprising. Take, for example, Antony's outpouring after his victory over Caesar (he seems to be inviting the queen to vault through his armour onto his hard-beating heart as if his heart were a horse):

    Enter CLEOPATRA, attended
    (To Scarus) To this great fairy I'll commend thy acts,
    Make her thanks bless thee.
    (To Cleopatra) O thou day o' the world,
    Chain mine arm'd neck; leap thou, attire and all,
    Through proof of harness to my heart, and there
    Ride on the pants triumphing!
    (Ant TLN 2660-66)

    The Tempest features all these qualities of language: it mixes prose and verse and different forms of both effortlessly, the language is capable of beauty and inventiveness but is never without a critical dimension, and it manifests fully the compression and elision--the evident pressure of meaning within utterance that is a central feature of Shakespeare's late style.

    55We hear the difference between the storm scene that opens the play and the scene that follows it by attending to the difference between the sound of Miranda's emotional but measured verse and the various prose styles of the men on the ship. Shakespeare differentiates among the men by giving the sailors an energetic language of command and response, making Antonio's lines short, explosive, and repetitive, and contrasting that with Gonzalo's more thoughtful and developed sentences. Here are all three ways of speaking in one sequence:

    Hang, cur. Hang, you whoreson, insolent noisemaker! We are less afraid to be drowned than thou art.
    I'll warrant him for drowning, though the ship were no stronger than a nutshell and as leaky as an unstanched wench.
    Lay her ahold, ahold: set her two courses off to sea again. Lay her off!
    (TLN 52-58)

    Miranda's strongly marked verse and use of the conditional in the first line and her expression of empathy in the following lines ("If by your art . . . I have suffered / With those that I saw suffer") open the next scene, as if to assure us that, while what we have seen is worth our emotional engagement, it is also an event from which we can stand apart and about which we can think analytically.

    The play also uses the contrast between prose and verse to set characters apart from each other, most remarkably when Caliban adopts a dignified verse against the drunken prose of the two servants who are supposed to be his betters:

    O King Stephano! O peer! O worthy Stephano,
    look what a wardrobe here is for thee!
    Let it alone, thou fool; it is but trash.
    Oh ho, monster! We know what belongs to a
    frippery. O King Stephano!
    . . .
    The dropsy drown this fool. What do you mean
    To dote thus on such luggage? Let's alone
    And do the murder first -- if he awake,
    From toe to crown he'll fill our skins with pinches,
    Make us strange stuff.
    (TLN 1901-09)

    Caliban is full of linguistic surprises, not only when he uses the word "scamels" ("I'll bring thee to clustering filberts, and sometimes I'll get thee young scamels from the rock"), which generations of scholars have failed to explain, but also when he is suddenly overcome with a memory of aesthetic rapture (note how the recollection engenders a confusion of tenses--present, future, pluperfect and past--and a mixing of indicative and subjunctive voices; and also note how this speech parallels Prospero's dreamy reflection on the ephemerality of art and nature in "Our revels now are ended"[TLN 1819]):

    60Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
    Sounds, and sweet ayres that give delight and hurt not.
    Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
    Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices --
    That if I then had waked after long sleep,
    Will make me sleep again -- and then, in dreaming,
    The clouds methought would open and show riches
    Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
    I cried to dream again.
    (TLN 1492-1500)

    Caliban's reverie about his dreams of riches dropping from above becomes even more complicated when we consider it in relation to the unfolding action. The play picks up the motif, literally materializing it in the scene we have just looked at, where Stephano and Trinculo are transfixed by "glistering apparel" hung on a "line." Caliban's accurate assessment of these goods as "but trash" (TLN 1899) puts in question his own fantasy of riches from the clouds, a dream of bounty that helps to keep him under Prospero's sway just as the would-be usurpers are distracted by shiny rags that they mistake for the accoutrements of wealth and honor. By the subtle orchestration of language, staging (including stage properties), and incident, Shakespeare gives us a vision of natural, musical wonder in Caliban's speech as well as a critique of that vision.

    It is with Prospero himself that the language of the play achieves its greatest inventiveness. Here he explains to his daughter--who could hardly be more attentive--how his brother gained control of the state. He is evidently flooding with painful memories as well as with a question about how responsible he might have been for provoking Antonio's wickedness:

    Being once perfected how to grant suits
    (How to deny them, who t'advance, and who
    To trash for over-topping), new created
    The creatures that were mine, I say, or changed 'em,
    Or else new formed them; having both the key
    Of officer and office, set all hearts i'th'state
    To what tune pleased his ear, that now he was
    The ivy which had hid my princely trunk
    And sucked my verdure out on't -- thou attend'st not.
    (TLN 175-83)

    To get a fuller sense of the scope and value of Shakespeare's stylistic innovation, it is worth quoting Russ McDonald's acute analysis of the passage as well as some of his general comments on Shakespeare's late style:

    Such extreme omission far surpasses [poetry theorist George] Puttenham's limited tips for tidying up the poetic line. In fact, the cluster of examples visible (but not audible) here has rather the opposite effect, disturbing the order of the pentameter and stuffing as many ideas as possible into lines that can barely contain them. The notorious compression of this passage is also apparent in the mercurial quality of its figurative language. A metaphor often lasts only as long as it takes a practiced mind to perceive it, whereupon it is immediately dropped or succeeded by yet another: the "key" in line 83 [TLN 179] appears to be a tool for opening locks, but by line 85 [TLN 181] it has become a musical image, the key signature of the "tune" dictated by the usurper. . . .Shakespeare, with some two decades of experience at composing various kinds of verse for all classes of speakers, now aims at something beyond a regular, unbroken line. . . . His strategies for condensation tend to make the aural surface of the line even rougher and more irregular, unruliness being the price of extreme reduction and semantic bounty. The omission of dispensable vowels and consonants, not to mention words and larger units, implies the desire to reduce the poetic statement to its essential terms and qualities and to make room for sounds of greater resonance and complexity. (Shakespeare's Late Style 87-8)

    65McDonald's astute account of Prospero's speech and of Shakespeare's late style in general can be joined to what we have just seen about how Shakespeare creates meaning by the multiplication of echoes, parallels, and critical juxtapositions; and together these dimensions of his language help us understand the inexhaustible capacity of Shakespeare's language to repay our interpretive work by providing us with a bounty of both pleasure and understanding.


    In what follows I look at three key areas of philosophical, political, and ethical concern in the play. "Animality and Humanity" has to do mostly with the linked philosophical questions--what is it to be human, and what therefore is the highest purpose appropriate to our nature? "Service and freedom" bears on these philosophical questions since freedom is meaningful only if it is freedom appropriate to what we are. If Caliban is incapable by his nature of true freedom, then any apparent movement from captivity to liberty will be merely a shift from one set of chains to another. Since in the play, however, there are actual physical, ideological, and social means of domination, the question of freedom is bound up with the ways people organize themselves and their actions within political structures and according to political ideas. Gonzalo, as we will see, entertains an idea about the possibility of an anarchist political community where everyone is perfectly free, but the play and Gonzalo himself recognize how unlikely such a polity is in the real world. "Memory and Forgiveness" takes up the play's reflections on the ethical dimensions of living together with others. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "ethics" as the "study concerned with the principles of human duty," so this thematic area has a strong link to "Service and Freedom" even as it takes these questions in a different direction--one that has to do with what are the best things to do in our lives as particular individuals with particular life-histories rather than as more or less interchangeable members of a political community. In order to function as an ethical actor in my own life, I must remember what I have been and done; and in order to be able to live with others ethically, I need to cultivate the capacity to forgive them for wrongs that they might have done. The whole arc of the play's action registers the difficulty of forgiving someone who is unable to recall or who simply refuses to remember his or her own past actions.

    Animality and Humanity (and Caliban)

    The Tempest is the culmination of Shakespeare's long-standing interest in the relationship between the human and the animal. Most often, he defines the human as qualitatively better than the animal. When Hamlet wants to express his distress at his mother's hasty re-marriage, he says that "a beast, that wants discourse of reason, / Would have mourn'd longer" (Ham TLN 334-5). She behaved, he suggests, worse than a creature bereft of reason and speech, motivated only by instinct and appetite. Elsewhere Shakespeare puts in question Hamlet's conventional distinction between animality and humanity. We have just heard Lear say that "man is no more but . . . a poor bare, forked animal"--we are no better and perhaps a bit worse than animals. And still elsewhere, Shakespeare raises the relative standing of animals by suggesting that the bestial can embody virtue above the human. In The Winter's Tale, King Polixenes says of his boyhood with his friend Leontes, "We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun . . . / what we changed / Was innocence for innocence" (WT TLN 131-2). Note that throughout all his representations of animality and humanity, Shakespeare maintains the idea that reason and speech belong exclusively to humanity. After all, the lambs in Polixenes' image did not think their way to virtue, and they engaged in bleating rather than in debate.

    For Shakespeare, furthermore, not all humans are the same. A unitary idea of personhood is automatic and obvious to us: all persons regardless of race, sex, class, ethnicity, or sexuality are entitled to the recognition of their human dignity and the social, legal, and political rights that flow naturally from such recognition. But the boundary between human and animal was more porous for Shakespeare and his contemporaries than it is for us. It was neither automatic nor obvious to them that women or non-Christians or people of lesser rank were human the way male members of the upper ranks were human. That means that in Shakespeare, some characters might be far closer to the nature of beasts and some others might be more fully human; and it also means that all his characters have elements of both humanity and animality and that "humanity" necessarily includes animality.

    The Tempest and Caliban represent the most radical phase in Shakespeare's thinking about humans and animals. Caliban is a "thing of darkness," a creature apparently made up of appetites and instincts. One of his first lines in the play is, "I must eat my dinner" (TLN 469). He might seem the very emblem of the animal as opposed to the human. When Prospero accuses him of attempting to rape Miranda, he responds with unbridled glee and the suggestion that, had he succeeded, he would have sired a litter of offspring:

    Oh ho! Oh ho! Would't had been done!
    Thou didst prevent me. I had peopled else
    This isle with Calibans.
    (TLN 489-91)

    70The word "peopled" troubles a simple view of Caliban as a mere animal, a reduced version of the character against which we might be able to define the humanity of the others. He is also capable, as we have heard, of articulate and dignified speech, which is very unlike an animal; he seems to have a deep appreciation for the beauty of Nature and the wonder of music; and (though Prospero seems not to see it), Caliban is capable of rational thinking and good judgment, which is evident when he realizes just how wrong he has been about Stephano and Trinculo:

    Go, sirrah, to my cell:
    Take with you your companions. As you look
    To have my pardon, trim it handsomely.
    Ay, that I will; and I'll be wise hereafter
    And seek for grace.
    What a thrice-double ass
    Was I to take this drunkard for a god
    And worship this dull fool!
    (TLN 2288-94)

    The coupling of human and animal qualities in a single character is usually a recipe for making a monster, like the ass-headed Bottom in Midsummer Night's Dream or the ghastly insect-human hybrid in the 1986 David Cronenberg film, The Fly. Caliban is repeatedly called a monster: "a very shallow monster. . . . very weak monster . . . most poor, credulous monster" (TLN 1188-91) and "servant monster" (TLN 1354). But while there must be something remarkable about Caliban's appearance, he is not, on the evidence of the text, intended to resemble a monstrous hybrid. That is the conclusion of Trinculo's delightfully roundabout examination of him, which demonstrates that Caliban has human arms in spite of Trinculo's working assumption that he is a fish with fins:

    What have we here -- a man or a fish? Dead or alive? A fish. He smells like a fish . . . A strange fish. Were I in England now, as once I was, and had but this fish painted, not a holiday-fool there but would give a piece of silver. There would this monster make a man. . . . Legged like a man, and his fins like arms. Warm o'my troth -- I do now let loose my opinion, hold it no longer: this is no fish but an islander that hath lately suffered by a thunderbolt.
    (TLN 1063-75)

    Caliban is neither a monster nor a fish. His human but in some respects bizarre physicality, strange speech, ability to reason, love of natural and musical beauty, and failure to understand or to defend himself against the charge of attempted rape--and the attack itself--suggest not that he is a monster but rather that he is a creature on the threshold between the human and the animal. It can even be argued that he is not guilty of attempted rape because his share of animality renders him pre-moral rather than immoral. Given Shakespeare's idea of humanity as a graduated rather than a uniform category, Caliban can be seen to stand at the base of the category of the human but with all the potential of the more refined characters such as Miranda and Prospero. Shakespeare is not being merely mischievous when he draws parallels between the "servant monster" and the magician-ruler, especially their hankering for revenge and their love of beauty. The connections between the two men are a necessary feature of Shakespeare's understanding of humanity and animality as adjacent and interpenetrating categories. Caliban is the "thing of darkness" (TLN 2270) that Prospero acknowledges his because Caliban is his servant and more importantly because he knows that they share an instinctual capacity for violent rage. Prospero's fury is expressed in the storm and the other frightening shows he puts on, in his harsh speech even to those he loves like Ariel and Miranda, and in his vindictive treatment of Caliban. The figure of the dark beast Caliban is necessary for Prospero to be able to safeguard his own humanity, since acknowledging the servant monster allows Prospero to recognize the dark rage in himself and yet keep it separate from his supposedly pure human nature. Since Prospero seems determined to maintain a clear division between humanity and animality, he would not wish to acknowledge the kinship of his aesthetic delight and Caliban's love of nature and music, but, as we have seen, the play makes the connection clear enough by way of their allied dream-like visions of beauty and harmony. Prospero's devotion to an unyielding boundary between the human and the animal prevents him from seeing the evident good qualities and potential for reform in his servant and also the manifest complexity of Caliban's character as the perfect figure of Shakespeare's understanding of the hybridity of humanity itself.

    75Service and Freedom (and Ariel)

    Shakespeare's society was characterized by a system of rank (a series of gradations from the lowest to the highest), by deeply engrained habits of deference to one's social superiors, and by relations of service in every quarter of social life. In his brilliant study of the ethical and affective dimensions of master-servant relations in Shakespeare, David Schalkwyk comments that service was "the predominant form of social organization and personal experience in early modern England" (Shakespeare, Love and Service 3 [his italics]). Shakespeare himself was a member of the King's Servants; no doubt he proudly wore the King's livery (distinctive clothing worn by household retainers) on several state occasions. People from the highest to the lowest were in service to some master or other--from domestics like the butler Stephano to the courtiers and counselors such as Gonzalo. Ferdinand, who is a prince and therefore not in domestic or political service, plays at being a servant to his beloved mistress after the fashion of poetic lovers going back at least to the twelfth century. Shakespeare gives the motif a twist by making Ferdinand's love-service into real work. And beyond the social, political, and amatory realms, every single person in Shakespeare's society, including people like Prince Ferdinand, his father the King of Naples, and all the others, served their divine master, God.

    Given the ubiquity of relations of service, it is no surprise to find the play is concerned with different kinds of service and with the possibility of being liberated from servitude (this is the apparent goal of both Ariel and Caliban) or of finding freedom through service, which is what Ferdinand achieves by his loving labor for Miranda. It is important to note how Ariel achieves his freedom by following a conventional pattern: in the London trade guilds, young men signed a contract to serve as apprentices, usually for seven years, before being advanced to the "freedom" of the guild, which allowed them to practice their trade on their own account. Ariel follows that pattern except that he agrees to contractual service under extreme duress and the "freedom" he earns amounts to an escape into a radically non-human state of nature. He sings as he helps Prospero dress again as the Duke of Milan:

    Where the bee sucks, there suck I;
    In a cowslip's bell I lie --
    There I couch when owls do cry.
    On the bat's back I do fly
    After summer merrily.
    Merrily, merrily shall I live now
    Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
    (TLN 2045-51)

    The play borrows from Montaigne in order to redescribe Ariel's natural freedom in social and political terms. The essay "Of the Cannibals" provides the core of Gonzalo's utopian imagining of a commonwealth without service, sovereignty, or the violence that takes root in hierarchical political communities, especially on account of their unequal distribution of wealth, status, and power:

    I'th'commonwealth I would by contraries
    Execute all things, for no kind of traffic
    Would I admit: no name of magistrate;
    Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
    And use of service, none; contract, succession,
    . . .
    No sovereignty --
    . . .
    All things in common nature should produce
    Without sweat or endeavor. Treason, felony,
    Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine
    Would I not have; but nature should bring forth
    Of its own kind all foison, all abundance,
    To feed my innocent people.
    . . .
    I would, with such perfection, govern, sir,
    T'excel the Golden Age.
    (TLN 824-46)

    80The problem, as Gonzalo understands well since he serves the King of Naples, is that men and women live not in a state of nature or a "Golden Age" but rather in relations with others that are structured by social habits of domination and deference, political hierarchies with their unequal apportioning of wealth and power, and the attendant practices of symbolic and actual violence. It is with great surprise therefore that he declares near the end of the play that each of the characters has achieved the freedom that comes from being one's own person--the self-fulfilling capacity to choose one's own course of action and form of identity:

    O rejoice
    Beyond a common joy, and set it down
    With gold on lasting pillars! In one voyage
    Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis;
    And Ferdinand, her brother, found a wife
    Where he himself was lost; Prospero, his dukedom
    In a poor isle; and all of us, ourselves,
    When no man was his own.
    (TLN 2188-95)

    Given that Claribel's marriage to the King of Tunis was forced upon the poor young woman, we should not take everything Gonzalo says at face value. Nevertheless, we can agree with his praise of Ferdinand and Prospero's good fortune; and we can begin to discern in what he says how service and freedom are linked, and even how human freedom, which is necessarily fostered by and joined to relations of service to others, might be more valuable than Ariel's radical liberty within nature. For Ariel and Prospero (before he learns better), "freedom" is an essentially passive liberation from anything that might constrain one's acting and thinking. Against this, human freedom is the freedom to undertake something meaningful and fulfilling. "Freedom to," as opposed to "freedom from," is active and productive and therefore requires the presence of others as witnesses, judges, stakeholders, and partners.

    As already discussed (in the section on Design), Ferdinand's embracing of service stands against Caliban's rejection of it. To be fair, Caliban's log-bearing and dish-washing bring him no pleasure and win only curses from his master, whereas Ferdinand's labor is translated into delight by Miranda. "The mistress which I serve quickens what's dead," he says (joining pleasure and the life-force), "And makes my labors pleasures." And she, in her turn, commits to a life of service to him ("I'll be your servant / Whether you will or no"). They achieve the freedom to determine who they are by means of a relationship of mutual service.

    The play suggests that human freedom is founded on a renunciation of private interests in favor of a commitment to be useful to others. The emotional tone of Prospero's recovery of his dukedom and the work of government it involves is more somber than his daughter's youthful discovery of love, but both are movements toward a freedom founded in service to others rather than by a flight from community into self-cultivation--"transported / And rapt in secret studies" (TLN 171-2) as Prospero describes his earlier abdication of political responsibility.

    85Harry Berger Jr. has noted a parallel between Prospero and Ariel. According to his view, both are what we might call artists of radical freedom: "Ariel . . . is a recreative and self-delighting spirit whose art and magic are forms of play; a spirit freed by a magician whose presence on the island owes not a little to his own self-delighting recreative impulse, his own playing with arts and magic . . . Ariel and Prospero thus share a common delight in art which--in Prospero's case--continually distracts him from his ethical purpose" (Berger, "Miraculous Harp" 255-6, 257). What makes Prospero's renunciation of his magic and his return to a life of service so sad is thus not exactly his anticipation of physical death but more poignantly his turning away from his desire for radical freedom and his turning toward the specifically human attainment of freedom through service. Most remarkably, however, and in a way not accounted for by Berger, the "self-delighting spirit" Ariel is deeply influenced by the human model of service. Sycorax and then Prospero drag him into a life of indentured labor quite against his nature. To induce him to perform, Sycorax uses physical coercion, at the end binding him "into a cloven pine"; and Prospero threatens worse punishment in order to ensure his compliance. Yet even in the face of violence and threat and in spite of his nature, Ariel's feelings for his master develop to the point where they issue in the question, "Do you love me, master, no?" (TLN 1703). Ariel's love for Prospero and his wish to be loved in return grow because he takes delight not only in his own art, but in the delight his service arouses in his master (note how their serviceable love is founded on the model of working relations between playwright and boy-actor and also how the passage ends with Ariel's parodic imitation of Ferdinand, a theatrical gesture designed to please Prospero and the audience too):

    Hast thou, spirit,
    Performed to point the tempest that I bade thee?
    To every article.
    I boarded the King's ship -- now on the beak,
    Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
    I flamed amazement. Sometime I'ld divide
    And burn in many places. On the topmast,
    The yards and bowsprit would I flame distinctly,
    Then meet and join.
    . . .
    My brave spirit,
    . . .
    . . .
    The King's son have I landed by himself,
    Whom I left cooling of the air with sighs
    In an odd angle of the isle, and sitting,
    His arms in this sad knot.
    (TLN 305-41)

    The culmination of the play's communitarian model of freedom through service brings matters home to the audience. The Epilogue focuses on playing and playgoing as forms of service. The actor playing Prospero has agreed as if by contract to "please" the audience, and the playgoers are expected to reciprocate by applauding, which is described as an activity able to save Prospero from isolation on the island and also able to free the actor playing Prospero from the "bands" of the role. "With the help of your good hands" (TLN 2331) is perfect since it links the audience's applause, which will rescue Prospero and the actor playing Prospero, to the manual work performed by the sailors ("we will not hand a rope more" says the Boatswain), when they try to save themselves and their passengers in the opening scene:

    . . . Now, 'tis true
    I must be here confined by you
    Or sent to Naples; let me not,
    Since I have my dukedom got
    And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
    In this bare island by your spell,
    But release me from my bands
    With the help of your good hands.
    (TLN 2324-31)

    Memory and Forgiveness

    The play's adherence to the unity of time requires an elaborate exposition in order to provide audience members with the information they need so they can follow the compressed dramatic action. Shakespeare turns this potential weakness into a strength by transforming Prospero's recounting of his history into a series of revelatory encounters that focus on the importance and also the difficulty of remembering. His internal struggle with memory and his arguments with Ariel and Caliban about their shared past introduce the play's wholesale interest in memory as a crucial feature of personhood and ethical relations among persons.

    90With the impending arrival on the island of his old enemies, Prospero is at last ready to share his story with this daughter. But he hesitates. Before he begins, he asks her if she can remember a time before they came to the island. That is a normal conversational gambit, but there seems to be much at stake for him in her ability to remember, which he indicates by his surprise and his arresting metaphors of some previously unknown thing living in his daughter's mind and of the power of her sight to pierce the deepest darkness, as if remembering itself were a wondrous act:

    Canst thou remember
    A time before we came unto this cell?
    I do not think thou canst, for then thou wast not
    Out three years old.
    Certainly, sir, I can.
    . . .
    'Tis far off --
    And rather like a dream than an assurance
    That my remembrance warrants. Had I not
    Four or five women once that tended me?
    Thou had'st, and more, Miranda. But how is it
    That this lives in thy mind? What seest thou else
    In the dark backward and abysm of time?
    (TLN 126-40)

    Prospero is encouraged by his daughter's ability to remember her nursemaids in Milan because he understands how malleable and selective memory can be. He knows that Antonio "made such a sinner of his memory" that he believed "his own lie" that "he was indeed the duke" (TLN 198-200) In the scene with his daughter, Prospero floods with memory, suffering his own emotional tempest as he recollects his ouster from power and his and his daughter's arduous journey to the island. He remembers those terrible events in a way that tends to justify his actions, but he also tests the accuracy of his memory by telling Miranda the story of his failure as a ruler, even including the possibility that he was partly responsible for this brother's treachery:

    I pray thee, mark me!
    I (thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated
    To closeness and the bettering of my mind
    With that which, but by being so retired,
    O'er-prized all popular rate) in my false brother
    Awaked an evil nature, and my trust,
    Like a good parent, did beget of him
    A falsehood in its contrary as great
    As my trust was, which had indeed no limit --
    (TLN 185-93)

    He challenges the other two creatures on the island who have lively recollections of their history with him. The justice of those relationships depends on recollection held in concert, but both encounters only exacerbate the problem of memory. When Ariel reminds Prospero about their agreement to shorten the length of his service by a full year, Prospero just changes the subject. It is remarkable that Prospero also seems keen to disagree with Ariel about the history of Sycorax, about which he can have no knowledge beyond what he has learned from Ariel. Things are little better in Prospero's second encounter. He and Caliban agree that their happy initial phase was shattered by the attack on Miranda. They each remember the event but disagree fundamentally about its ethical character. Prospero, who describes it as the worst kind of treachery, seems to be superimposing on it Antonio's betrayal of his, Prospero's, parent-like trust, while Caliban remembers it with a strange animal chortling, as if it had little to do with the human categories of honor and trust (for Miranda's view of the matter, see the section on Character). They disagree also about which of them has legitimate title to the island. Caliban argues that he inherited legal title from his mother. As in his previous argument with Ariel, Prospero simply ignores the claim, evidently because he thinks Caliban is not human enough to hold legal title to anything.

    95Memory underlies the characters' sense of who they are, what rights they can claim, and what acknowledgment of those rights is due to them from others. Prospero's failure to secure a shared recollection of what has happened on the island means that his rule can never be justified; he will always remain open to the charge that his rule of the island, like Antonio's usurpation of the dukedom, is an exercise of raw power rather than an instance of political justice. "I must obey," Caliban says, "his art is of such power / It would control my dam's god Setebos / And make a vassal of him" (TLN 515-7).

    Prospero is unable to summon the kind of compliant recollections from his servants that would serve to confirm the justice of his rule on the island. He nevertheless seeks to stir up the memories of his old enemies, prompting them to acknowledge their raw exercise of power over him and his daughter, especially since he cannot forgive them meaningfully unless he can be persuaded that justice has been done and that they are sorry for their crimes. That is what the spectacle of the broken feast and the appearance of Ariel as a harpy are designed to achieve. In the scene, the famished courtiers are offered a banquet--a gesture of welcome and community. When they move toward the food, Ariel appears as a harpy, a Virgilian figure symbolizing revenge for sin, claps his wings over the table and causes the food to disappear. He then launches into a denunciation of the "three men of sin" for their crime against Prospero and his daughter:

    you three
    From Milan did supplant good Prospero,
    Exposed unto the sea (which hath requite it)
    Him and his innocent child, for which foul deed
    The powers (delaying, not forgetting) have
    Incensed the seas and shores (yea, all the creatures!)
    Against your peace.
    (TLN 1602-08)

    Alonso takes the rebuke to heart. It organizes his past history and present tragedy into a coherent narrative of crime and punishment that is recounted to him by the deep music of sea, wind, and thunder:

    Oh, it is monstrous, monstrous!
    Methought the billows spoke and told me of it;
    The winds did sing it to me, and the thunder,
    That deep and dreadful organ pipe, pronounced
    The name of Prosper -- it did bass my trespass.
    Therefore, my son i'th'ooze is bedded
    (TLN 1632-7)

    In contrast, Antonio and Sebastian seem to grasp, not the meaning of Ariel's words, but only the threatening sound of his voice:

    But one fiend at a time,
    I'll fight their legions o'er.
    I'll be thy second.
    (TLN 1640-2)

    100The spectacle's capacity to arouse lively recollection in Alonso indicates the power of memory and forgiveness to create ethical individuals and relations; its failure to remind Antonio and Sebastian of their crimes, especially striking in Antonio's case since his sin ought to be easy for him to recall, tells us that shared memory cannot by itself create a political community. After all, as Caliban says, "thought is free" (TLN 1479) People will remember what they want to remember; what "really happened" in the past will always remain a matter of dispute; and no one can be compelled to remember a past dictated by the powers-that-be.

    The limitations of memory and forgiveness as an instrument for the creation of political states are clear in the play. Prospero might harbour a desire to re-build his rule of Milan by having everyone remember that he was a good ruler who was unlawfully removed from his dukedom and also by having the denizens of the island remember how "humane" his rule of them has been. But that desire is bound to remain frustrated since people and even spirits are individuals with their own recollections of the past. But that does not mean that the memory-work Prospero undertakes on his own account and encourages in others is pointless. Remembering the past allows Prospero to forgive his enemies rather than merely repeating their violence against him, and it binds together the two former enemies on the strength of Alonso's apology and Prospero's pardon. That might seem to promise a fresh start for the political world of Italy, especially since Naples and Milan, now joined by dynastic marriage, are respectively in the south and the north of the country; but, as we have seen, the ethical benefits of remembering accrue to individuals and relations among individuals and cannot serve as solid foundations for larger political structures. We might say that memory and forgiveness can create the small dwellings of interpersonal relationship, but that neither memory nor forgiveness is able to build the great edifices of city-states or nations.


    Character is the organizing principle of Shakespeare's plays; it is the quantum of meaning-making in his writing. Where Aristotle places plot ahead of character ("character comes in as subsidiary to the actions"), Shakespeare tends to overturn the classical ranking of plot over character by reworking traditional narrative types such as revenge tragedy, romantic courtship, struggle for mastery between husband and wife, or the story of growth-into-adulthood so that character displaces plot as the center of interest in ways that determine the kinds of elements we find in the plays and how those elements are organized. Each major character is fashioned by what William Dodd calls a "discourse biography." As a consequence of both the inversion of plot and character and the prominent unfolding of discourse biographies, we are far more interested, say, in how the action of revenge seems to Hamlet than we are in the working out of the revenge plot. The centrality of the character Hamlet is also enforced by and underlies the number and the nature of soliloquies, which do little to provide exposition or to advance the plot but which contribute to the development of Hamlet's thinking about action in relation to an increasingly complex world. The central plot-points of plays such as Hamlet, Henry IV, The Taming of the Shrew, Measure for Measure, and others depend for their meaning on how they are performed and grasped by the central characters.

    It is sometimes said that the Shakespeare of the final plays is more interested in story and theme than in how the world seems to the major characters, and accordingly that the characters of The Tempest and the other final plays are less three-dimensional than the characters of the tragedies, histories, or earlier comedies. There is some truth to this claim, but it does not follow that the characters of The Tempest are two-dimensional counters playing out an action whose meaning lies in the resolution of the plot or in the play's treatment of philosophical or political questions. Indeed, as I have already suggested, the most important conflict in the play takes place not in the realm of ideas or in the working out of the action (there is very little action in any case), but rather within Prospero himself.


    The character Prospero has been the victim equally of critical adulation and critical condemnation. The critics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the earlier part of the twentieth, tended to view him as a magus, a wise man, and even as a figure of providential justice. This idealization was of a piece with the widespread identification of Prospero with Shakespeare, who was generally held to be the transcendent genius of British literature. On this account, Prospero must be an omniscient sage because he is Shakespeare. More recently, Prospero has been the target of a concerted skeptical critique, which tends to see him as a figure of European colonialist domination of the Americas or, to a lesser degree, as a figure of unscrupulous rule in a European context--in either case as someone who holds power unjustly by dint of a mystification of white, European rule in which Shakespeare's play itself is implicated.

    105Both these views of Prospero are based on a key misconception. Both allegorize Prospero as if he were Shakespeare (Shakespeare the sage or Shakespeare the apologist for colonialism) and as if he spoke for the play itself. But while he is an insightful and intelligent character, and while the figure of the playwright can at moments shimmer weirdly through him, Prospero is nevertheless a character in the play and not the play's spokesman: he understands his world and himself less deeply than Shakespeare or the play does, and he does not speak for either the play or its author. I have already noted (in the section on Humanity and Animality) his blindness to the resemblances between Caliban and himself. The play draws similar lines of connection between Sycorax and him. We saw how he tries to justify his domination over Caliban and Ariel in arguments where his servants speak so cogently that they are able to call into question the justice of his government. Consider finally how he upbraids his daughter, first, for not listening to his story of their banishment (she is all ears) and, second, for apparently seeking to have sex with Ferdinand before they are wed (the two young people give no signs of unbridled passion). For all that he can watch others who cannot see him, and even though he has the assistance of an invisible spirit who can spy on others and report back to him, Prospero remains strikingly not all-seeing and not all-knowing.

    But the limitations that prevent Prospero from being either an omniscient magus or the evil genius of European colonialism are also the features that constitute his humanity and that help us understand and care about his story. In his past life in Milan, he seems to have been woefully unsuited for the role of ruler. He tells his daughter that he had a "confidence sans bound" in Antonio, but it is clear that he simply off-loaded the tiresome business of government onto his brother so that he could devote himself to a life of scholarship. The experience of having been betrayed has made Prospero angry, but has it improved his political skills or deepened his wisdom? On the evidence of what we see on the island, we would have to say no--except for one thing, which is his love for his daughter.

    If he starts the play with essentially the same characteristics we may presume he had in his early years in Milan--bookishness, arrogance, a certain distaste and impatience with worldly matters, a tendency toward angry outbursts--we can nevertheless also discern how his sense of responsibility for his daughter has aroused in him a willingness to return to the world--even if it means the abjuration of his magic and the loss of Ariel--for the sake of her happiness. The struggle in Prospero between revenge and forgiveness takes its direction decisively from his relationship with Miranda. He also wishes to regain his dukedom, of course, but the prospect of being a governor seems not particularly pleasing to him, and it is not likely to be is main goal. His work toward rapprochement with Alonso is thus not an end in itself but is of a piece with his primary goal--Miranda's marriage to Ferdinand, a happy outcome which is to be politically and emotionally beneficial.

    Importantly, he works toward self-understanding through Miranda. Prospero can parade his manly anger openly, but he needs time to admit to his tenderness. He projects the tender side of his character onto her and realizes it in himself by taking care of her. At the start of the play, he is able to renounce violence precisely by responding lovingly to her distress at the spectacle of the sinking ship:

    Be collected.
    No more amazement; tell your piteous heart
    There's no harm done.
    Oh, woe the day!
    No harm!
    I have done nothing but in care of thee --
    Of thee my dear one, thee my daughter -- who
    Art ignorant of what thou art, not knowing
    Of whence I am, nor that I am more better
    Than Prospero, master of a full poor cell,
    And thy no greater father.
    (TLN 95-105)

    Prospero's actions in the play unfold from his character, and they also unfold his character: they realize and make visible his identity, history, view of the world, and aspirations for the future. And in this case, what we could call Prospero's character-disclosing actions follow a classic Shakespearean pattern.

    110In Shakespeare, art is what characters make when they cannot confront those who have done them great wrong and whom they must either forgive or destroy. In each case, the art they make both reveals them and keeps them hidden, and it also helps and hurts their enemies. Edgar, in King Lear, uses performance and a make-believe miracle on his faithless father Gloucester, who had turned against his son Edgar on the strength of a forged letter. Edgar does not reveal himself even though he knows his father is penitent; instead, he disguises himself and then takes care of the blind old man. The stunt he stages--making his father Gloucester believe he is jumping off a cliff--is designed to cure the old man's despair. But, as Edgar himself tells us, the very idea of falling from such a great height could kill his father; the imaginary cliff expresses Edgar's forgiveness and his anger. Hermione (in The Winter's Tale), whose jealous husband puts her in prison and takes away her children, leading to the death of one of them, takes herself away from him for sixteen years (he thinks she is dead) and then makes herself into a statue in order to stir up his remorse and to re-introduce herself to him; and even then, once she has become human again, she speaks only to her long-lost daughter and not to him. Like these characters, Prospero cannot bear to face his enemies directly, so he creates a theater of punishment and redemption--the storm-scene that seems to kill Alonso's son, the banquet that is offered and then snatched back, Ariel's performance of a harpy, Prospero's self-presentation in his ducal robes, and, at the end, the happy revelation of Alonso's son and Prospero's daughter playing a game of chess.

    As we have seen, inasmuch as he wishes them to be able to change people for the better, Prospero's spectacles are not entirely effective. Antonio and Sebastian remain untouched by them. And even the gorgeous marriage masque is suddenly cut off by Prospero's recollection of Caliban's conspiracy. More important than their effect on others, however, is how they allow Prospero to remain hidden until he is ready to come face-to-face with his enemies and how they are also able to reveal and make real Prospero's attributes to himself and others--his harshness and tenderness, his fury and wish to forgive, and his acid skepticism about human nature as well as his desire for a "brave new world," a world that might be reborn as beautiful and just.


    Miranda, whose name means "wonder," is less experienced and less powerful than her father, yet she has achieved a practical wisdom about the world that he can only strive for. She knows people can be selfish and deceitful, and yet she is capable of loving them. As we have seen (in the Metatheater section), her natural compassion is signaled by her response to the foundering ship. "I have suffered," she says, "With those that I saw suffer." But the speech suggests also her independent-mindedness (the naturally emphasized first-person pronoun in the first line, which an actress can choose to stress, implies a comparison between her father and herself):

    Had I been any god of power, I would
    Have sunk the sea within the earth, or ere
    It should the good ship so have swallowed and
    The fraughting souls within her.
    (TLN 91-4)

    Her intervention in the confrontation between her father and Caliban makes it clear that she is her own person. They are arguing about Caliban's sexual attack on her; Prospero's emphasis on the attempted violation of her "honor" (which here is also a euphemism for the female genitals) and Caliban's highlighting of her presumed fecundity are a like verbal re-enactment of the original assault. In a speech so powerful that editors from the Restoration to the early twentieth century re-assigned it to Prospero, Miranda decisively redescribes Caliban's original transgression as a contravention of the principle of gratitude (and the gratitude a student owes a teacher at that!) rather than as an attempted violation of her body:

    115Abhorrèd slave,
    Which any print of goodness wilt not take,
    Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee,
    Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour
    One thing or other when thou didst not, savage,
    Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
    A thing most brutish. I endowed thy purposes
    With words that made them known, but thy vild race
    (Though thou didst learn) had that in't which good natures
    Could not abide to be with; therefore wast thou
    Deservedly confined into this rock,
    Who hadst deserved more than a prison.
    (TLN 492-503)

    This harsh judgment of Caliban is understandable under the circumstances, but she soon provides an indication of a more complex understanding of others. She has begun to fall in love with Ferdinand; in the face of her father's angry accusation against him, she says,

    There's nothing ill can dwell in such a temple.
    If the ill spirit have so fair a house,
    Good things will strive to dwell with't.
    (TLN 612-4)

    Her first sentence sounds like a naïve version of neo-Platonism, which connects outward beauty with inward goodness--if he is handsome, he can't be bad. But what follows takes a different tack by reasoning that a beautiful person might have a mixed nature that includes an "ill spirit" and "good things" too--if he is handsome, he can't be all bad.

    Prospero views her as simply naïve and tender-hearted because he needs her to be his redeeming angel ("a cherubin / Thou wast that did preserve me" [TLN 259-60]). The play shows, however, that she shares some of her father's harsh understanding of the world and that she has outpaced his ability to embrace the world and its people. Shakespeare gives her and Ferdinand a remarkable, brief exchange when they are revealed to the court party in the play's last scene. They are discovered sitting at a game of chess. Miranda's first line is, "Sweet Lord, you play me false!" The actress might say the line lightly, but it is nevertheless a strikingly indecorous accusation. Ferdinand says he has not been cheating: "No, my dearest love, / I would not for the world" (TLN 2144-5). Miranda answers his grandiose profession of innocence and complete love by suggesting that he might indeed play false for something less than the whole world and that, even if he did, she would still declare his rectitude ("wrangle" helps her make the complex point since it suggests a public rather than a secretive action):

    Yes, for a score of kingdoms you should wrangle,
    And I would call it fair play.
    (TLN 2146-7)


    Critics tend to assume that Gonzalo is an old fool, a familiar figure of fun (like Polonius with the intrigue taken out). But to see him as a stereotype is to forget that Shakespeare seldom creates formulaic characters, and it is to ignore Gonzalo's history and also to miss how he provides a way of understanding the political maturity of the play. Prospero praises Gonzalo when he recounts to Miranda the story of their banishment, but he also makes it clear that Gonzalo was in charge of the operation that saw them abandoned in an unseaworthy boat--"A rotten carcass of a butt: not rigged, / Nor tackle, sail, nor mast" (TLN 251-2). Why does Prospero praise the very man that oversaw his ouster? We might point to the provisions and garments that Gonzalo placed on the boat, not to mention Prospero's much-loved books; but surely a truly admirable man, we might object, would have given them a better boat, a sail, and a compass. Someone who is as noble and charitable as Prospero says Gonzalo is might even have taken them to some place of relative safety instead of setting them adrift. After all, Prospero says that they reached the safety of the island "by Providence divine" (TLN 267). Providence, not Gonzalo, saved their lives.

    120Once we grasp that Gonzalo was carrying out his King's orders to get rid of the legitimate ruler of Milan and that he has thereby taken part in the harshness of the political world, we can note a certain toughness as well as a degree of garrulousness in his character. Consider Antonio and Sebastian's mockery of him in 2. 1. Usually, when two or more characters denigrate another in asides, the person being disparaged doesn't hear the insults and so bears the full weight of irony (see Twelfth Night 2.5; Cymbeline 1.2, 2.1). Here, in contrast, Gonzalo hears the mockers' insults; instead of being the butt of their mockery, Gonzalo is openly scornful of their ineffectual, empty laughter:

    Prithee, no more: thou dost talk nothing to me.
    I do well believe your highness, and did it to minister occasion to these gentlemen, who are of such sensible and nimble lungs that they always use to laugh at nothing.
    'Twas you we laughed at.
    Who, in this kind of merry fooling, am nothing to you; so you may continue and laugh at nothing still!
    (TLN 849-56)

    Why then does Prospero call this tough and talkative old man "Holy Gonzalo, honorable man" (TLN 2018)? It might well be, as Harry Berger has argued, that both Prospero and Gonzalo "share equally in a refusal to look too closely at the actual state of affairs, and more generally, at the world they live in" (Berger, 265). Or it might be, as I would argue, that Gonzalo acted on both his loyalty to his King and on his compassion for Prospero and Miranda. That indeed is just how Prospero characterizes his virtue: "O good Gonzalo, / My true preserver, and a loyal sir / To him thou follow'st" (TLN 2024-6). Those terms of praise reflect Prospero's own experience with disloyal subjects--first Antonio and now Caliban--and they speak more generally to the question of the guilty business of government, which allows no ruler or counselor to have clean hands. To see that Gonzalo bears a burden of remorse for his own political actions is to begin to grasp a deeper layer of meaning in his speech about an imaginary commonwealth, based on Montaigne, where there are no "bound[s] of land" (TLN 829) and no weapons of war, and also a deeper meaning in his final speech, where he rejoices in the unexpected benefit of finding himself when "no man was his own" (that is, when all men were in service to others).

    4. The Play in the World

    The Tempest has had and continues to have a robust life in the theater and as a work of literature. It has also emerged in different forms as music, painting, film, live-action TV, and animation. Indeed it is a quality of great works of art that they--unlike the people who make them--grow younger, stronger, more various, and more influential as they grow older. Shakespeare died in 1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon, the provincial town to which he had returned after a successful career in the theater; his play, then about five years old, has, in the centuries since, traveled the world, been translated into many languages, been adapted (as opera, poem, novel, film), inspired many other works of art (a painting by William Hogarth in the eighteenth century, poetry by Robert Browning in the nineteenth, music by Jean Sibelius in the twentieth, and countless other works), and has called forth a vast body of interpretive literature. The Russian critic and theorist Mikhail Bakhtin captured this dimension of the lives of works of art with his idea of "great time":

    Works break through the boundaries of their own time, they live in centuries, that is in great time and frequently (with great works, always) their lives there are more intense and fuller than are their lives within their own time. (Bakhtin 4 [italics in original])

    Some critics have attributed the growth and dissemination of the play and of Shakespeare's works more generally to the expansion of British power in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. No doubt, there is some truth in such arguments, especially since the play could not have achieved an international life at all if it simply had not been available anywhere outside England; but it is more important to consider the answerability of The Tempest to a range of artistic, social, and political situations and to see how the particular completeness and complexity of "the world in the play" (discussed in the previous section) has enabled it to light up so brightly in relation to the concerns of different communities in various places and at different times. To adapt Antonio and Sebastian's mean-spirited mockery of Gonzalo, we can say that Shakespeare carried the island "home in his pocket" and gave it to us "for an apple":

    What impossible matter will he make easy next?
    I think he will carry this island home in his pocket and give it his son for an apple.
    And sowing the kernels of it in the sea, bring forth more islands.
    (TLN 761-3)

    In what follows, I tell the story of the play in the world. Given the extraordinary proliferation of performances, interpretations, adaptations, translations, and appropriations, it can hardly be a full, detailed account, but I do think of it as the whole story since it focuses on (to quote Bakhtin again) the play's "more intense and fuller" life in "great time"; I attend, that is, to the realization of the tremendous artistic possibilities founded on the imaginary island world that Shakespeare created in 1611, as those possibilities have played out in the vastness of the real world over the past 400 years.

    Early Modern England

    In the middle of the Epilogue, Prospero tells the audience that the purpose of his "project" was "to please" (TLN 2333-4) The actor who played Prospero in the first performances, as well as the other members of the company, knew well that The Tempest was first of all a work of entertainment. The play makes good-hearted fun of its pleasure-seeking audience when Trinculo tells us that English holiday-fools would give good money to see even a picture of a monster-fish. The play has its own picture of a monster--an actor playing the part of the "servant monster" Caliban. It also features a spectacular storm scene, magic shows, multiple costume changes (including Ariel as a harpy), players dressed as gracious, welcoming monsters and as "dogs and hounds," and a marriage masque with ensemble singing and dancing. It is the most musical of Shakespeare's plays. The company went to the expense of hiring Robert Johnson, lutenist to King James, to write two original songs, "Full Fathom Five" and "Where the Bee Sucks," for performance by the boy actor who played Ariel. Caliban says no more than the simple truth when he tells Stephano and Trinculo that "the isle is full of noises, / Sounds, and sweet ayres that give delight and hurt not" (TLN 1492-3).

    In addition to the pleasures of spectacle, dance, and music (not to mention the enjoyment of watching the unfolding of a complex plot performed by a magician, a beautiful maiden, a handsome prince, a eloquent monster, a musical spirit, and all the rest), the play offered its first audiences lively representations of a number of political and religious matters that would have had particular currency in early modern England. It might be difficult for us to understand the huge appeal to early modern pleasure-seekers of questions about the nature of divine Providence, the proper means of individual salvation, the legitimacy of monarchical rule, or the justice of the European colonization of the Americas, but it's hard to grasp only until we remember that ordinary people in Shakespeare's age were excluded by royal fiat from the public discussion of just such matters. A 1559 proclamation expressly forbade any plays that considered religion or politics:

    . . . her majesty doth likewise charge every of them [i.e. her officers] as they will answer: that they permit none to be played wherein either matters of religion or of the governance of the estate of the commonweal shall be handled or treated, being no meet matters to be written or treated upon but by men of authority, learning, and wisdom, nor to be handled before any audience but of grave and discreet persons. ( Hughes and Larkin 2: 115-16)

    130From the late 1580s until the closing of the theaters in the middle of the seventeenth century, the drama was able to stage plays that repeatedly took up these apparently forbidden questions about politics and religion, largely because playing and playgoing came to be seen by the authorities as harmless forms of commercial recreation for common people (see Yachnin "The Powerless Theater"). In truth, however, the drama was able to provide ordinary people in early modern England--that is, the vast majority of the population--with a place where they could participate with the actors in collective thinking and feeling about matters of social and political concern. The theater was able to give what the period called "private" people new forms of public language, identity, discussion, and judgment. Playing and playgoing were thus part of the long-term growth of the ideal of an inclusive political community, a polity where even young women like Miranda, working men like the Boatswain, and "servant monsters" like Caliban have a voice and are entitled to the public recognition of their views and their value as persons.

    For the playgoers at the Globe in 1611, the story of shipwreck and salvation in The Tempest would likely have recalled the miraculous survival of the Virginia colonists, mapping that instance of the providential care of English colonists onto Prospero and Miranda's original escape from death at sea and also onto the happy outcome of the whole history of the characters in the play. At the start of the play, Prospero tells his daughter that it was "Providence divine" (TLN 267) that saved them from the sea. Near the end, Gonzalo praises the "gods . . . that have chalked forth the way / Which brought us hither" (TLN 2182-5) The "gods," like the phrase "Providence divine," stand for the Christian God, the figure that oversaw human affairs and gave meaning to history and legitimacy to political figures like kings and dukes. The belief in Providence was both a religious and political issue for the people of Shakespeare's time. For one thing, King James claimed that his power derived from the divine rather than from the earthly realm, and as such was essentially beyond question by mere mortals. From the first moments of the first scene, however, when the Boatswain points out the limitations of royal power in the face of the storm, Shakespeare raised the "religio-providentialist view of the state" precisely as a question. The Epilogue suggests a communitarian idea of salvation that challenges Gonzalo's overstated claim for the top-down operations of divine power and authority. Prospero tells the audience that only they can save him, as if all of them, rather than a single royal figure, were the vessel of divine will. Prayer becomes a collaborative salvation-seeking activity as the actor playing Prospero--amazingly--imagines the players and playgoers freeing each other from despair by praying together:

    Now I want
    Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
    And my ending is despair,
    Unless I be relieved by prayer,
    Which pierces so that it assaults
    Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
    As you from crimes would pardoned be,
    Let your indulgence set me free.
    (TLN 2334-41)

    With their emphasis on the benefits of an active kind of prayer that is able to "pierce . . . mercy itself," the final words of the play challenge the idea of passive submission to Providence that is at the heart of Gonzalo's speech. The words are anti-authoritarian, but they are nonetheless profoundly and traditionally Christian, based on the ideal of Christian moral community, as in Matthew (6.14): "For if ye do forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (quoted from The Geneva Bible). The lines have also a Protestant character, at least in the way the use of the word "indulgence" transforms the institutionalized Catholic practice of selling "indulgences" to those seeking remission of sins into the virtue of mutual forgiveness and charity among believers.

    For Shakespeare's playgoers, living in the wake of the tremendous upheavals of the age of Reformation, religion and politics were tightly interwoven areas of concern. The play's interest in Providence and power extends into the two major areas of conflict and controversy in the period--the conquest of the Americas and the political struggles at home in Europe. The island serves this double focus well by being located in the Mediterranean and by also having characteristics of the more distant islands of the West Indies. It is indeed a descendent of a no-place island such as Thomas More's Utopia, a place uncannily apart from and yet of a piece with the world, in terms of which the artist is free to think experimentally about the events, ideas, and people of the real world.

    135The play is thus a utopian thought experiment about divinity and power in the Old and the New World. Throughout the sixteenth century, the central justification for the take-over of the Amerindians had been that Europe had a religious duty to convert the "savages." Proponents emphasized the savagery, cannibalism, and godlessness of the natives. Critics of the European "mission" pointed to the barbarity of the European treatment of the Amerindians and to the already developed culture and religion of the so-called savages. Shakespeare came to the question after almost 100 years of debate, the high points of which for English readers would have been the 1583 English translation of Bartolomé de las Casas' A briefe Narration of the destruction of the Indes and John Florio's translation of the Essayes of Montaigne (1603), which Shakespeare read with penetrating attention, perhaps especially "Of the Cannibals," from which he took Gonzalo's description of a utopian society. He would also have read Montaigne's high praise of the cannibals: "They spend the whole day in dancing. The young men go a hunting after wild beasts with bows and arrows. . . . They believe their souls to be eternal, and those that have deserved well of their gods, to be placed in that part of heaven where the sun riseth, and the cursed toward the west in opposition" (Montaigne 165). Elsewhere he lauds their lyric poetry: "this invention hath no barbarism at all in it, but is altogether anachreontic [i.e. like ancient Greek poetry]" (Montaigne 170).

    The play invites spectators into the debate about conquest and colonization. What does the native (Caliban in this case) get from the colonizers? What does he have to give up? It is noteworthy that while he apparently had no language before Prospero and Miranda taught him theirs, he nevertheless remembers non-European words like "scamels" or the name of his mother's god, "Setebos," which Shakespeare picked up from one of the New World travel narratives (Frey, "Tempest and the New World," 29). Caliban claims ownership of the island on the strength of inheritance from his mother. Native religion, a mother tongue (though not his mother's tongue, since she was not American), a sense of ancestry, and a right to a homeland based on ancestry are stripped from Caliban by the Europeans. He also suffers corporal punishment at the hands of Prospero, especially being hunted by dogs, which is reminiscent of the reports of Spanish mistreatment of the Indians. In recompense, he receives European language, to which he adds an American dimension, and it is this language that gives him his expressive individuality and personal dignity, even as he is playing the slave to Ferdinand; the Europeans become his community, one that even seems potentially redemptive for him; and at the end he seems to learn a valuable lesson about not enslaving himself to "drunkards" and "dull fools." As for religion, Shakespeare treats the question of Caliban's conversion gingerly. There is no indication that he has become a Christian; the only suggestion that he has joined a Christian community is his statement at the end that he will "seek for grace," by which he means clemency from Prospero and which might also refer to grace of a higher order.

    Caliban's slavishness to Ferdinand puts into play important Aristotelian ideas about "natural slavery," the idea that some humans were simply unfit for self-rule and so needed the firm hand of "natural" masters who would do them--so the argument went--a kindness by governing their lives and making use of their labor. In a formal debate against de las Casas, the Spanish theologian Juan Gines de Sepulveda defended his country's conquest of the Amerindians in these classical terms: "Those who exceed others in prudence and intelligence, if not in physical strength, are by nature masters; those, on the other hand, who are mentally slow and lazy, though they may have the physical strength to fulfill all their necessary obligations, are by nature slaves, and it is just and useful that they be" (Sepulveda 59). Caliban is at some moments answerable to this description, and in so far as he is naturally slavish, he can stand as an argument for the natural justice of European domination of the Amerindians. In many respects, he is indeed very unlike Montaigne's naturally noble cannibals, whose austere, ethical warrior culture shines out against what Montaigne portrays as the corruption and cruelty of so-called civilized people. On the other hand, Caliban keeps up a fairly courageous verbal campaign against Prospero, he uses slavishness to manipulate Stephano into joining a real war against Prospero, and he seems to have a capacity for intellectual and moral advancement as well as an aptitude for poetry, all of which make him perhaps more like than unlike Montaigne's cannibals.

    The Tempest spoke to Old World issues as well as to questions about the relationship between Europe and the Americas. It opened a public discussion about one of the most pressing political questions of the period: are subjects justified in following the dictates of their consciences rather than the commands of their monarch? This question was of great importance throughout the Reformation, beginning famously with the execution of Thomas More by Henry VIII. From 1530 to 1560, the national religion changed several times, shifting back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism under the rule of Henry and the reigns of his offspring. Across Europe, the Reformation unsettled religious and political unity and sparked people's thinking about the claims of individual conscience against the demands of political obedience. In England, the issue was particularly urgent because the English were outgunned by the great Catholic powers of Europe, Spain especially, and subjects who felt entitled to follow their conscience might undertake active forms of resistance, up to the killing of the monarch, a internal attack on the English state which was indeed encouraged by the Catholic Church.

    We have already seen how Gonzalo finds his way between his duty to his King and his act of charity to Prospero and Miranda. He does not directly save their lives, since that would mean betraying the command of his King; instead he mitigates their suffering and merely improves their chances of survival. His conduct reflects the politics of the play, which are so tough-minded that his victim Prospero, since he has good reason to value those who do not betray their rulers, praises him as "holy" for his mix of loyalty to his King and kindness to his King's enemies. Seen this way, The Tempest looks like it is taking Henry VIII's side against Thomas More, aligning itself with the claims of political obedience against those of personal conscience; but of course the whole bent of Shakespeare's drama is to open questions to debate and judgment rather than to close them down. At the Globe, ordinary Londoners were invited by the action of the play to decide for themselves whether Gonzalo had done the right thing and whether Prospero himself, whose judgment is questionable in so many other matters, was right to praise the very man who was at least immediately responsible for his and his daughter's terrible ordeal of exile.

    140David Scott Kastan has also argued that for early modern playgoers and readers The Tempest would have been first and foremost about English and Continental dynastic politics. The 1613 performance at Court, he says, was "more likely to resonate with political issues in Europe rather than in the Americas." He points to the near parallel situation between Alonso, who believes his son is dead and who has married his daughter to an African prince, and King James, whose son Henry had died in fact and whose daughter Elizabeth was marrying a German prince. Even more striking is the fascinating parallel he finds between Prospero and Rudolf, the Emperor of Bohemia, whose widely discussed abandonment of politics for a life of arcane magical learning, led to his deposition from power in the first decade of the seventeenth century (Kastan 96).

    Early modern playgoers, and not just those at Court, might have enjoyed how the play staged allegorical versions of goings-on among the social and political elites of England and Europe, precisely the kinds of issue they were not supposed to be attending to. Here we can see how the music, spectacle, and pageantry of the play were of a piece with its wide-ranging engagement with religious and political questions. The play provided commoner playgoers with courtly kinds of music, dance, spectacle, and costuming, and it staged representations of politics that were the usual preserve of the monarchy and the social elite. All of that must have been thrilling to ordinary people, those who were normally excluded from elite entertainment and politics. Shakespeare, however, added something extra: his drama cultivated among lower-rank playgoers a lively emulation of the recreation and interests the social elite, but it also reflected critically on the elite cultural and political goods it was purveying to its paying customers.

    Consider Ariel's song, "Where the bee sucks," which is sung to the setting composed by the King's lutenist, in which the airy spirit anticipates his liberation from service, and for which he is praised, even loved, by his master, Duke Prospero. It is the kind of ersatz courtly entertainment playgoers were thirsty for, but the freedom-loving sentiment that the spirit Ariel expresses is essentially no different from Caliban's populist, non-courtly song, "'Ban 'ban, Ca-caliban," which ends with the refrain, "Freedom, high-day, high-day, freedom, freedom, high-day, freedom!" (TLN 1231) The same desire for freedom and fulfillment inhabits both a spirit praised by a duke for his ability as a master of revels and a "thing of earth" reviled by the same duke. One hardly needs the services of a royal musician, the play seems to tell the very audience it seeks to please with courtly song, in order to give voice to fundamental, shared human desires.

    Restoration and Eighteenth Century

    Both the entertainment and the public, playful discussion intrinsic to the Shakespearean commercial theater were severely curtailed by the English Civil War through the 1640s, the execution of King Charles in 1649, and the period of the Cromwellian Interregnum (the ten years when the English lived without a monarch). When playing resumed in the wake of "the Restoration," that is, the return to England and accession of Charles' son to the throne in 1660, The Tempest was, like so much else in English civil and cultural life, transformed into something almost unrecognizable, but not, as we will see, into something completely unlike itself. Perhaps the most important change was that the play came to occupy an important place in a large field of texts, performances, and practices that greatly expanded both the entertainment and the public, playful discussion that had been one of hallmarks of the drama in Shakespeare's time.

    A new version of the play, by John Dryden and William Davenant, appeared in 1667. The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island, changed the story, added characters, simplified the play's themes, and greatly expanded the music and spectacle. This version was further altered by Thomas Shadwell in 1677, who kept the Dryden-Davenant text but added more music, dance, and spectacle, making it into something resembling a modern Broadway musical. The Dryden-Davenant-Shadwell Tempest, which displaced Shakespeare's version of the play from the stage for the next 150 years, gave its audiences, in addition to a great deal more music and dance than the original, an expanded romantic subplot, a busier Caliban subplot, and a reduced main plot. Modern critics sometimes say that the Restoration adaptors trivialized Shakespeare by adding music and spectacle; but The Enchanted Island in fact elaborated a feature of the play that Ben Jonson had criticized (and also emulated) in Shakespeare's time when he mocked the play's "drolleries" and decried its "concupiscence of jigs and dances" (Jonson, Bartholomew Fair 130-5). And in any case, the Dryden-Davenant play is hardly without serious concerns. With all its showiness, it develops a political theme that, while different in a number of ways from Shakespeare's, is similar in content and even in the way it might have worked upon the audience. The combination of entertainment and politics worked well for the Restoration audience; so popular was the adaptation that it stirred up a rival company to produce a parody, The Mock Tempest (1675), that rewrote the opening storm as a riot in a whorehouse and included, at the conclusion, a dancing chorus of pimps and bawds (Vaughan and Vaughan, "Introduction," Tempest, 81-2 ).

    145As was often the case with Restoration and eighteenth-century adaptations of Shakespeare, which were re-written for playgoers who were generally of higher social rank than their Shakespearean predecessors, The Enchanted Island added more women characters and expanded the romantic dimension of the play. Miranda now has a sister named Dorinda. There is also on the island the handsome son of the late, deposed Duke of Mantua. His name is Hippolito. Prospero keeps him and the young women apart since Hippolito's horoscope predicted that he would die if he ever saw a woman. It remains unexplained how the young people failed to notice each other on the little boat that brought all of them and Prospero to the island years before. The shipwreck brings Ferdinand to the island and, as in the original, he and Miranda fall in love at first sight. However, the presence of the other young people, Dorinda and Hippolito, occasions a series of misunderstandings, a duel between Ferdinand and Hippolito, and the unintended death of the latter. That brings matters to what surely would have been an unhappy ending; indeed the ever-angry Prospero reveals to his old enemy Alonso that his son Ferdinand is alive, but only to make Alonso's grief sharper when he is told that his son is to die for the murder of Hippolito. The happy ending is saved only by the initiative of Ariel, who magically restores the life of the apparently dead man. The romantic subplot ends by looking ahead to the weddings of the two couples, and it links to the main plot since Hippolito is to be restored to the throne of Mantua (his late father was deposed by Alonso) just as Prospero is to regain his rule of Milan.

    The main plot thus ends as in the original play, but the moral character of the participants is markedly different. From the very start of the play, Antonio and Alonso express deep remorse for their usurpation of Prospero. On his side, Prospero is ineffectual as a ruler of the island, tyrannical with his daughters and adopted son, and incapable of preventing the outbreak of violence that is caused largely by his long-standing oppression of the young people. He also does not undertake the inward struggle between violence and forgiveness that is so central in Shakespeare; instead he is simply full of bad temper from the beginning to very near the end (he takes real relish in drawing out Alonso's fatherly grief). This flattening out of Prospero and the cancelation of his inward struggle tends to strip out the philosophical element that in Shakespeare's play yokes together the ethical and the political dimensions of life in the world.

    The adapted play is for the most part concerned with sexual desire and politics as well as with how the two aspects bear on one other. The Caliban subplot exemplifies how desire connects with politics. Caliban is given a sister, Sycorax, whom he seeks to wed to Trinculo (who is transformed into the Boatswain). Trinculo, Caliban, and Sycorax are joined in the comic subplot by Stephano (here the Master of the Ship) and two other sailors. The four mariners, the monster servant, and his sister take part in a risible contest for rule of the island, where "Duke Stephano" and his two sailor Viceroys are challenged by Trinculo, who claims the throne on the basis of his espousement to Sycorax and alliance with Caliban. It is Sycorax's desire for Trinculo and his consequent claim to sovereignty over the island that enables the comic civil war among the lower-rank characters. Sycorax's desire, however, is a political problem as well as a political solution, especially because her desire is remarkably promiscuous, including even her own brother, and it must be reined in if there is to be any possibility of political order. The same is roughly true for the romantic subplot, where the re-establishment of the political and dynastic stability of the Italian city-states depends on the regulation of desire and the sorting out of the couples. In particular, Hippolito parallels Sycorax since he would have all women and she all men. Only once Hippolito is securely married to Dorinda and Ferdinand to Miranda can relations among the three city-states be normalized.

    For all the changes Dryden and Davenant wrought, then, there are nevertheless strong elements of continuity from the Jacobean to the Restoration Tempest. The song, dance, and spectacle, which pleased Restoration playgoers like Samuel Pepys so well, were, as we have heard, an elaboration of elements of staging already prominent in Shakespeare's play. The original play's interest in race, with Caliban (whose name is an anagram of "cannibal") serving as a way for Shakespeare to think through Montaigne's thinking about the so-called "savages," is developed in the figure of his sister, who is mocked by Trinculo for her "Blobber lips" (3.3.12), and transposed also to the new play's obsession with images of cannibalism, as when Dorinda recounts how Hippolito (described by Prospero as of "a Salvage race--3.1.89) first took her hand--"He put it to his mouth so eagerly, I was afraid he / Would have swallowed it" (3.1.110-11).

    In an important essay, Katharine Eisaman Maus has well characterized the main thematic changes from Shakespeare to Dryden and Davenant as a shift to a more exclusively political play with a more conservative representation of the political world than we find in the original. While Maus is certainly right about what she calls "Dryden's pessimistic conservatism" (204), the Dryden-Davenant adaptation nevertheless retains something of the critical capacity--the ability to open debate--that was such a distinctive feature of Shakespeare's play. Dryden and Davenant's merciless mockery of the lower-rank characters, most of them sailors, does undo the original play's valuing of the well-ordered association among ordinary working men on board the floundering ship. But the Restoration version nevertheless sets up parallels between the ridiculous mariners and their drunken attempts to govern themselves and the aristocrats, whose jockeying for power has driven them apart from each other, alienated their offspring, and led them all to being cast away on the island. Only the "savagery" of desire--not the "civility" of contractualism as in the subplot or patriarchal monarchy in the main plot--can save the characters from destroying themselves; and only desire, along with the creative intervention of Ariel, can bring about the restoration of a political community. On this account, the parallels between the sailors and the aristocrats can do what the parallels in Shakespeare play did before them; they can invite and foster a critical view of the claims of the political elite to superiority over their social inferiors. And in this case, the possibility of critique is not inhibited, as it might have been in Shakespeare's play, by the audience's engagement with a sympathetic, suffering Prospero.

    * * *

    150In addition to being a time that saw Shakespeare become again the most popular playwright on the English stage by a kind of "sea change" into a rich cultural resource for the writers, players, designers, and musicians of the period, the eighteenth century was also the first and most formative age of Shakespeare scholarship. Between Nicholas Rowe in 1709 and Edmond Malone in 1790, the century produced ten major editions of Shakespeare's works. The intensive, creative, hotly contested work by a group of amateur scholars over the course of almost 100 years was of a piece with the development of critical, historical, and philological research on the meaning of Shakespeare's stories, characters, and words. One charming example of this interpretive project concerns the strange word "scamels," which names one of the delicacies Caliban offers to Stephano: "sometimes I'll get thee young scamels from the rock" (TLN 1216-7). The word was variously emended and explained; in their 1793 edition of the Plays, which changed the original reading to "sea-mells," Johnson and Steevens conscientiously reprinted proposals by a host of others. Johnson commented, "This word has puzzled the commentators: Dr. Warburton reads shamois; Mr. Theobald would read anything rather than sea-mells. Mr. Holt, who wrote notes upon the play, observes that limpets are some places called scams, and therefore I had once suffered scamels to stand." (Plays)

    The play was also a focus for critical debate. Rowe, the second great Shakespeare editor (the first being those who prepared the 1623 Folio), offered a judicious account of the play as well as a critique of Dryden and Davenant's adaptation:

    The Tempest . . . seems to me as perfect in its kind as almost anything we have of him. . . . I am very sensible that he does, in this play, depart too much from that likeness to truth which ought to be observed in these sort of writings; yet he does it so very finely that one is easily drawn in to have more faith for his sake than reason does well allow of. His magic has something in it very solemn and very poetical; and that extravagant character of Caliban is mighty well sustained, shows a wonderful invention in the author, who could strike out such a particular wild image . . . This play has been altered by Sir William Davenant and Mr. Dryden, and although I won't arraign the judgment of those two great men, yet I think I may be allowed to say that there are some things left out by them that might, and even ought, to have been kept in. (Works xxiii-xxv)

    On the strength of this disagreement about what parts of the text are essential to The Tempest, the differences of opinion about the word "scamels," and the back-and-forth between adaptations and parodies among the London playing companies, as well as innumerable other instances where Shakespeare was the centre of contention among people, we could say that in eighteenth-century England, The Tempest, Shakespeare's works, and Shakespeare himself became, certainly, a principal resource for the entertainment industry, both in the theater and in the book trade; and we could also say that plays like The Tempest became opportunities for playful, public discussion and debate (the "scamels" controversy is clearly full of fun), thereby realizing on a grand scale one of the most important purposes of Shakespeare's art in his own time, which was to marry dramatic recreation to popular discussion and indirect social action.

    Romantic Tempest

    The eighteenth-century Tempest was a lavish musical entertainment, a complex comedy, and a play about politics. The focus of the play shifted in the tide of the Romantic movement of the early nineteenth century, the massive artistic and cultural re-orientation that was begun on the Continent in the late eighteenth century by artists such as Goethe or Beethoven, whose work challenged the Enlightenment idealization of reason and sought to elevate strong emotion, the power of the imagination, the sublimity of nature, and the individual person (as opposed to the polity or the species) as particularly valuable aspects of human life. The start of literary English Romanticism was marked by the publication of Lyrical Ballads by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth in 1798, where the Preface declared the obsolescence of the highly wrought verse of the preceding century and recommended a new poetry founded in ordinary language and "the essential passions of the heart" but colored by imagination so as to reveal the extraordinary within the everyday. (Coleridge and Wordsworth, "Preface" 358)

    155The writers of the early nineteenth century found much in The Tempest that resonated evocatively with their new regard for nature, emotion, imagination, and the individual. They also found themselves able to hear anew the philosophical, elegiac language of Shakespeare's late plays. When Coleridge wrote his poem, "This Lime-Tree Bower my Prison," which is a meditation on solitude, friendship, and the restorative power of nature as well as a melancholy blessing of a beloved friend, he likely had in mind Prospero's "line grove" (emended, in contemporary editions of the play, to "lime grove"). While Coleridge's "Nature [that] ne'er deserts the wise and pure" is some distance from the "bogs, fens, and flats" that dot Prospero's island, his imagining of how shared wonder in the face of natural beauty can salve the individual heart and bring people together owes much to Ariel's songs, Caliban's vision of natural riches and sweet airs, the power of the billows, winds, and thunder to judge human action, and the pastoral marriage masque, by whose enactment of the fecundity of nature a sombre Prospero blesses his daughter's impending marriage.

    Romanticism's reception of the play greatly extended and refocused the previous century's interest in Shakespearean character. The writers and actors of the nineteenth century shifted the focus of characterization from what Samuel Johnson had described as "just representations of general nature" to something far more unique and individualized, and they extended the range of their attention to characters, like Caliban, that had been more or less beyond the understanding of the earlier century. Coleridge argued that the servant monster was "a noble being . . . a man in the sense of the imagination: all the images he uses are drawn from nature, and are highly poetical" (Coleridge, Shakespearean Criticism 2: 138). The Tempest on stage had been restored to more or less its original form by David Garrick in 1757, and after shifting back into the Dryden-Davenant style a number of times, it was brought firmly back to Shakespeare's text by William Charles Macready in 1838. Caliban's part, which had been played by comic actors in the previous century, was performed more seriously and movingly. Leigh Hunt described the "terrific tragedy" of John Emery's portrayal of Caliban's account of the tortures he suffers at the behest of Prospero (Vaughan and Vaughan, Caliban 179). Robert Browning's poem, "Caliban upon Setebos" (1889), which presents Caliban meditating at length on himself, the world, and the divine, is of a piece with this theatrical rethinking of character, especially characters that had been made marginal or merely comic in the previous century.

    This ability to attend to Caliban's suffering and his thinking and thereby to recognize his humanity was in some respects a triumph of nineteenth-century Christian liberalism, an ideology at the root of the abolition of slavery in England in 1833; but the recognition of Caliban's claim to personhood was also a continuation of the eighteenth-century ideal of sympathy, extending it to the point where readers' and playgoers' compassion could embrace even the figure that Prospero calls "this thing of darkness." After all, the Abolitionist movement itself was a product of the European Enlightenment. And lest we think that the enhanced prominence of Caliban in the nineteenth century led to either a new, revolutionary reading of the play or a strong shift of sympathy away from Prospero, we can also note that Prospero became for the Romantics a central figure of artistic genius--indeed an embodiment of their highest aspirations. Jonathan Bate points out how the character and language of Prospero shape the figure of the poet in Wordsworth'sThe Prelude, and how Prospero turns up repeatedly as an idealization of the artist in the poets of the period, including Blake, Keats, and Shelley (Bate, Romantic Imagination, 89, 109, 155, 158, 204).

    It should not be surprising that this deepening of the humanity of Shakespeare's characters came finally to coalesce into an almost mythic understanding of the figure of Shakespeare himself. In his book, Shakspere: A Critical Study of his Mind and Art (1875), Edward Dowden elaborated a biographical reading of the plays, which culminated in an account of The Tempest as something like the playwright's spiritual autobiography in dramatic form. So heartfelt is Dowden's reading that it retains a certain force in spite of the outrageous circularity of the argument. "We identify Prospero in some measure with Shakespeare himself," Dowden says ". . . because the temper of Prospero, the grave harmony of his character, his self-mastery, his calm validity of will . . . and with these, a certain abandonment, a remoteness from the common joys and sorrows of the world, are characteristic of Shakespeare as discovered to us in all his latest plays." Having cast aside the constraints of critical thinking, Dowden then offers a biographical allegorization of the play that identifies Miranda as Shakespeare's art and Ferdinand as Shakespeare's young collaborator John Fletcher. The way Dowden sees it, the play tells the story of how the wise magician Shakespeare bestows his art on his young protégé Fletcher (Dowden, 426-7).

    The up-close identification with Prospero on the part of the Romantic poets and, it seems clear, on the part of scholars such as Dowden, as well as the allied identification of Prospero with Shakespeare himself might seem a rejection of the political dimension of the play that was so prominent a part of its life in its own time and in the eighteenth century, as if the questions and relationships that count were all personal matters of empathy rather than political ones having to do with power. To a large degree that is true, although it should be borne in mind that empathy for Duke Prospero is of a piece with empathy with the servant monster Caliban, and that to be able to grasp the humanity of a Caliban is an affective response not without a political element nor even without the possibility of real political consequences.

    160Modern Tempest

    The life of the play in the modern age is hugely diverse in terms of geography, language, focus, form, and media. The most salient features of its fortunes in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries include the Americanization and globalization of the play, the growth of a view of the play as a form of social and political critique, and its entry into intermediality--its reproduction, adaptation, translation, and sampling through live theater, print in various forms, radio, TV, film, and the internet, which has augmented the speed of its dissemination and the scope of its public life, and which has both enhanced and fragmented the formative dialogue the play has conducted with different epochs over the past 400 years. Globalization and mediatization have complex effects on the political dimensions of works of literature, effects that weaken the public life of art as it is traditionally conceived (where art is imagined as able to address the public) and effects that also strengthen art's public life by enhancing its ability to address and help create multiple publics. As a play that has come to reach from England to the Americas, Europe, Africa, and China and in forms from live theater to print, film, pop music, and manga comics, The Tempest offers something of a textbook case of the public life of art in a globalized, mediatized age.

    As we have seen, the play had an American dimension from the beginning since it was occasioned by the remarkable story on an English ship that had run aground on an American island and also since it was responding to 100 years of writing about the European exploration and conquest of the Americas. But as Alden and Virginia Vaughan have pointed out, the American dimension was not prominent between the early modern period and the end of the nineteenth century, when a number of scholars began to take stock of the play's indebtedness to Renaissance travel literature and to re-assess its value for an understanding of the history of the Americas (Vaughan and Vaughan, Caliban, 118-43). In 1898, Sidney Lee reasoned that Shakespeare and his contemporaries would naturally have identified Prospero's island with the Bermudas since the miraculous recovery of the English sailors and colonists and the haunted but kindly Bermudas were the talk of the town in 1610. Lee also adduced several references in The Tempest to Renaissance travel literature in support of his argument; and he finished by suggesting that Caliban was "an imaginary portrait . . . of the aboriginal savage of the New World, descriptions of whom abounded in contemporary travellers' speech and writings" (Lee 257). His work brought forward a dimension intrinsic to the play--its provocative interest in the Americas--and heralded the growth through the twentieth century of an understanding of the play as a work primarily about and also implicated in the growth of colonialism.

    The colonialist understanding of the play founded in historical research about the European encounter with the Americas was of a piece with the growth of the play into a powerful expressive register for late nineteenth and twentieth-century thinking about relations of domination--between different classes and different races. Its power depended mostly on the characters of the master Prospero, the servant monster Caliban, and the complex relationship between them--a relationship that the play itself makes available for radical rethinking.

    The emergence of the play as a key text of postcoloniality was complemented by the development of a socio-psychological theory of race and domination, much of it based on a reading of The Tempest. Here the work of Octave Mannoni, a French civil servant and psychoanalyst who spent twenty years in Madagascar, was particularly prominent. His model of a dependency complex between the colonizer and the colonized has been sharply criticized by Franz Fanon (among others) in the 1960s and, more recently, by Chantal Zabus; and while Mannoni's racial politics have warranted the critique, his socio-psychological approach has had considerable influence over readings of the play, largely because it roots the play's political force in the feelings, thoughts, and relationships of the characters.

    AimĂ© CĂ©saire was one of Mannoni's most outspoken critics. But CĂ©saire's important rewriting of the play as Une Tempête (1969), certainly the high point of the play as a text about race and colonialism, follows Mannoni by focusing on Caliban and Prospero. The ending of the play is all about the master and the servant and very much concerned with their emotionally charged and mutually constituting relationship: Caliban's rebellion is a process of inward self-discovery rather than an armed uprising; and, at the very end, his off-stage achievement of freedom is bound up with the imminent death of his erstwhile master.

    165Caliban's defiance is powerfully stated--

    Understand what I say, Prospero:
    For years I bowed my head
    for years I took it, all of it--
    . . .
    Prospero, you're a great magician:
    you're an old hand at deception.
    And you lied to me so much,
    about the world, about myself,
    that you ended up imposing on me
    an image of myself:
    underdeveloped, in your words, undercompetent
    that's how you made me see myself!
    And I hate that image . . . and it's false!
    But now I know I know you, you old cancer,
    And I also know myself!
    (CĂ©saire 64)

    --yet since, according to CĂ©saire's conception, the two men are bound together, Caliban's liberation requires the passage of the time it takes Prospero to grow from angry adulthood to enfeebled old age. This is symbolized on stage by "the curtain's lowered halfway and reraised"; at the end of this hiatus, Prospero is near the end of his life, the island is overrun by "unclean nature," and the old man's helpless shouts for "Caliban" are answered only by a stage direction that reprises Caliban's populist anthem of liberation along with the sounds of a pure and enduring natural world:

    In the distance, above the sound of the surf and the chirping of birds, we hear snatches of Caliban's song:
    (CĂ©saire 68)

    The strong focus on Prospero and Caliban has receded in many recent versions of the play. Often, as in two of the most prominent Canadian productions of the past twenty years, Caliban has become a far less important figure, and his relationship with Prospero has been displaced by the magician's relationship with his daughter and/or a feminized Ariel. In Robert Lepage's 1993 production of the play at the Festival De ThĂ©âtre Des AmĂ©riques in Montreal, Caliban was a punk rocker whose colloquial "joual" French, set off against Prospero's formal diction, captured the persistence of class differences in modern Quebec and retained also something of the critical dimension of the postcolonialist Tempest. But, in general, this Prospero was a kind, loving, and somewhat stereotypical father to his daughter before he was anything else. In the Canadian Stratford Festival production of 2010, starring Christopher Plummer, the figure of Caliban was an empty vestige of the previous century's engagement with the political meanings of the servant monster. The focus shifted to the girlish, blue Ariel, a witty and tender figure that held Prospero's heart just as she held his.

    The Stratford production is of special note also for its intermediality and aspiration toward an expansive audience. It was filmed and presented at special showings at cinemas across Canada, an attempt to expand the public for "live" theater while preserving something of the immediacy of performance. Britain's National Theater and the New York Metropolitan Opera have developed similar marketing strategies for an international audience. This kind of intermediality is in some respects a development of the early modern performance-print nexus that fostered the public life of Shakespeare's works, as plays like The Tempest were able to move from commercial playhouse to Court to print and back to performance in ways that augmented their visibility, longevity, and influence.

    But the Stratford Tempest also suggests something about the fate of art in modernity. As a commercial artwork such as The Tempest becomes more visible, more available to a mass market, and more able to move from one media form to another, it becomes correspondingly less capable of speaking creatively about matters of shared concern and less able to foster public debate, judgment, or action. Consider the most renowned version of the play of the last thirty years, Prospero's Books (1991). Peter Greenaway's ravishingly beautiful cinematic reimagining of the play, at first an art-house film, has morphed and multiplied into a DVD, a book, an audio album, and a series of excerpts on YouTube. Like the original (also intermedial) play, the film is highly allusive: Shakespeare draws on Virgil and Ovid, among others, and Greenaway creates a pastiche of Renaissance and Baroque artists. Both put a premium on high-end entertainment--the playing company commissioned original songs by the King's lutenist while Greenaway engaged composer Michael Nyman to write the score for the film; and both play and film used the latest special effects technology of their respective ages. But whereas Shakespeare was able to incorporate allusiveness and entertainment into a work that could address social and political matters in formative ways, Greenaway's film brings to completion the makeover of the play into an almost pure spectacle of music, dance, and image that was begun with the Restoration adaptation, The Enchanted Island. In Greenaway, tellingly, Caliban is transformed from a monstrously defiant orator into a grotesque naked dancer, a figure seemingly possessed by the "songs and sweet ayres" of the island but without a song or a word of his own.

    170The depoliticization of The Tempestthat is carried out by Prospero's Books does not mean that the film fails as art, but it certainly suggests that it fails as theatrical art, which is a kind of art that has traditionally been able to deploy a high degree of social as well as aesthetic creativity. The social creativity of Shakespeare's play has moved elsewhere--to local theatrical performances such as the collaborative Robert Lepage-Ex Machina / Huron-Wendat Nation performance of La Tempête (2011) with a mixed White and First Nations cast; niche films like Derek Jarman's Gothic gay version (1979), in which Caliban, a "grimy-toothed lecher" has more than his fair share of screen time and a surprising degree of autonomy and authority; and musical adaptations such as the song "A New Kind of Freedom" (2001) by the German metal band Caliban. All of these are commercial artworks (the disparagement of commercial art is a mere ploy of cultural conservatives), each takes on matters of social concern in original ways, each is made at least partially available by way of the internet, each is addressed to a particular, limited constituency (as opposed to being marketed to a mass audience), and each is also able to attract a larger and more various audience. The social agency and aesthetic inventiveness of artists and artworks such as these, each addressed to apublic rather than to thepublic, guarantees that Shakespeare's play will continue to enjoy, to quote Bakhtin again, a life in "great time" that is "more intense and fuller" than was its life in its own time (Bakhtin, 4).

    5. Conclusion: The Enchanted Islands of The Tempest

    Let us, finally, consider three of the play's principal sources--Virgil's Aeneid, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and Montaigne's "Of the Cannibals"--but not in the usual terms of source study. Source study is a critical approach that seeks to explain the specific uses that writers make of other works and/or how preceding works influence writers. The approach does not work well for The Tempest since, aside from a few clear-cut references to earlier works, Shakespeare's engagement with his three great predecessors is both deep and elusive--easy to feel but difficult to describe or explain. In order to understand what Shakespeare did with Ovid, Virgil, and Montaigne, then, I will follow a clue offered by the play itself, unraveling that clue by way of the 1956 sci-fi film adaptation, Forbidden Planet. These two works tell us that Shakespeare did not "use" his sources in any usual sense of the word; rather, the play and film suggest that he lived in the earlier works as Prospero lives on the island. What we might call The Tempest's archipelago of islands has become the source of the play's enduring literary power. It is the main island in an archipelagic sea, and Shakespeare is the chief island-hopper, someone who invites us to join him on his peregrinations and even to create islands of our own.

    The island in The Tempest is a supposed actual island in the Mediterranean, a stand-in for the Bermudas, and an island of the imagination (like Thomas More's Utopia). It is also a symbol of the playhouse in which the play was performed. Both the stage and the island are "desert" or "bare"; Prospero playfully draws out the likeness in the Epilogue when, shimmering between the character and the actor (likely Richard Burbage), he asks the audience to applaud and so "release" him (Burbage) from the role he is performing and also to fill his sails with "gentle breath," which will blow his (Prospero's) ship safely home to Italy. The island is the source of Prospero's power just as the theater is the source of Shakespeare's; they are places that stand apart from the normal world, places that offer ideal conditions for the conjuring of morally intelligible actions by highly talented performers able to give tangible form to the visions of magician-artists.

    The playhouse is magic because of the talent of the performers, the beauty of the costumes, properties, and music, the frisson of the fireworks and claps of artificial thunder; and magic because of how the space is able to organize the attention and heighten the pleasure of the playgoers. It is also peopled by the great writers of the past. Someone like Shakespeare is able to achieve superhuman strength by harnessing their visions and voices. When Prospero says that "Graves at my command / Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let 'em forth" (TLN 1999-2000), he is as likely pointing to the literary practices of his creator as he is confessing to the practice of black magic.

    The island is a literal "emplacement" of the cumulative power of the minds of the past. Another spatial version of the intellectual power of antiquity is the planet Altair IV in the film Forbidden Planet. The Prospero-figure here is Dr. Morbius, curiously enough a philologist, who came with an exploratory party from Earth twenty years before the action of the film begins. All the other colonists are dead, torn to pieces by a fearsome monster, all except for Morbius' daughter, the Miranda-figure Altaira. Midway through the film, Morbius tells the commander of the rescue ship (Leslie Neilson as the Ferdinand-like Captain Adams) a fascinating story about the original inhabitants of the planet. (Morbius learned their history while he was mastering a tiny fraction of their technology.) The Krell were a brilliant race ("a million years ahead of humankind") that conquered disease, traveled the galaxy, and created a subterranean generating system so huge and powerful that it allowed them to create matter, machines, and creatures simply by thinking them. (Forbidden Planet reel 4, page 3). The generator was so durable that it survived the 200,000 years since the sudden destruction of the Krell civilization. As we learn, the almost infinite power they created undid the Krell in a single night because it gave instant form to the darkness that lay within even this highly evolved race; we learn also, and Morbius discovers to his horror, that the monster stalking the planet now is the creation of his jealous rage (his "Id monster") against anyone that would threaten to remove him or his daughter from Altair IV (Forbidden Planet, reel 6, page 10). In the end, as the Id monster is about to kill his daughter (she has fallen in love with Captain Adams), he sacrifices his own life and so dissolves the monster. His dying instructions are to set the process in motion for planetary self-destruction and to flee the doomed Altair IV. In the last sequence, on board the home-bound spaceship, we witness the planet explode; then the Captain says,

    175Alta, about a million years from now, the human race will have crawled up to where the Krell stood in their great moment of triumph and tragedy. And your father's name will shine again like a beacon in the galaxy--it's true, it will remind us that we are, after all, not God. (Forbidden Planet reel 6, page 15)

    The Tempest's island is like Altair IV because both are gathering-places of huge stores of ancient knowledge-power. Magic alienates Prospero from others just as technology separates Morbius from humanity, but the two settings differ importantly because the planet enables only murder whereas the island is capable of procreation. As we have heard, it has the capacity to "bring forth more islands," issuing in a plethora of offspring, including Forbidden Planet. In keeping with the natural, genetic character of literary creation, moreover, the fertility of The Tempest is not wholly original to Shakespeare but is rather an outcome of his brilliant orchestration of already existing literary works.

    * * *

    For the Renaissance, theAeneid was the most impressive work of Latin antiquity--the epic story of the destruction of Troy, the travels and suffering of the hero Aeneas, his tragic love affair with Dido, Queen of Carthage, and the victorious but heartrending founding of Rome. It is a poem about the loss of one world and the creation of another, the relationship between the individual and the nation, the bonds between human action and destiny, and the severe costs of empire and of civilization itself, which is revealed to be inseparable from the violence that it is supposed to be able to prevent. There are a number of clear recollections of the poem in the play, including Ferdinand's reaction to his first sight of Miranda, "Most sure, the goddess" ("O dea certe"--Aeneid, 1. 328), and the harpy scene in 3.3 (Aeneid, 3.209-77). For most Shakespeareans, however, Virgil's poem has been strangely there and not there in The Tempest. In 1954, Frank Kermode said that it was his "feeling that Shakespeare has Virgil in mind," but he took that intuition no further (Kermode, xxxiv, n. 2 ). Robert Wiltenburg followed the intuition by arguing that Shakespeare developed a critical imitation of the poem's structure and theme. "Both works," he commented, "address the most fundamental questions raised by the enterprise of civilization: what is required to establish and to renew our life in common?" (Wiltenburg 168). But his very fine reading often claims strong parallels where there are merely broad resemblances, and it has to ignore much of the play, including Prospero's magic and the character Caliban.

    I suggest that Shakespeare's approach to Virgil is threefold. One, he provides enough that is like the Aeneid (both works begin with a tempest and an interrupted sea voyage) to create a strong resonance and to arouse curiosity about how the play and the poem might speak to each other. The indefinition of the relationship itself is a prompt to readerly engagement. Two, such engagement pays off because Shakespeare has indeed thought deeply about questions asked by the Aeneid--what are the human costs of political power and of civilized life itself, what are the links between what we choose and what destiny chooses for us, how are we to deal with wrongs done against us, how are we to deal with loss? The play answers these questions generally by rejecting Virgilian ideals of law and justice (standards of judgment outside actual lived experience) and by embracing "kindness," the principle that couples benevolence toward others with the recognition of our shared life-experience as members of the same kind (i.e. species) (Wiltenburg 168 ). Three, the conversation between the play and the most famous poem of Latin antiquity, a conversation in which readers and critics have played a formative role, is of a piece with the elevation of The Tempest into the Western canon--that human-made constellation of texts that I am calling the archipelagic sea.

    The Tempest's relationship with the Aeneid helped give the play its entry into long-term thinking about exploration, conquest, and empire, making it the obvious choice for someone like CĂ©saire when he undertook to write about the depredations of colonialism. In his book, Shakespeare and Ovid, Jonathan Bate has tried to displace Virgil from his proximity to the play and replace him with Ovid (Bate, Shakespeare and Ovid 239-63). Bate has greatly enhanced our understanding of the play's Ovidian dimension, but his "one or the other" argument belongs to the practices of literary argument rather than to the practices of literature. Since works of literature are dynamic structures capable of ever-increasing intertextual complexity and semantic density, a play like The Tempest can readily sponsor very full connections with Virgil as well as with Ovid.

    180The most prominent instance of the play's Ovidianism is Prospero's renunciation speech, which Shakespeare took from Arthur Golding's 1567 translation of the Metamorphoses. There it is spoken by the witch Medea, with an emphasis on the unnaturalness of her magic, which can cause streams to run backward, the noonday sun to grow dark, and the dead to rise from their graves (see appendix 000). Shakespeare imports all these elements into the speech he gives Prospero. Bate rightly corrects the view that refuses to connect Medea's bad fame and black magic with Prospero (Bate, 251-5 ). The magician is indeed acknowledging the dark potentialities of his magic by way of explaining why he is going to renounce it; after all, it is clear that he loves magic books, supernatural power, and the company of the spirit Ariel.

    The speech deepens the characterization of Prospero, showing that he grasps the limitations of his occult learning. It is no accident that the renunciation speech comes immediately after the exchange with Ariel in which he declares his intention not to take vengeance on those whose "high wrongs" injured him and his daughter, a decision against violence, discussed earlier (pp. 000), that he takes in light of his recognition of natural fellowship with his enemies--that he is "one of their kind." The speech also refers to the supernatural practices of Shakespeare himself, a greater and less harmful magician that either Prospero or Medea, a conjurer who can cause the dead poet Ovid to come forward at this moment and speak again. Finally, the renunciation speech advertises the Ovidianism of the play as a whole, drawing attention to its keen interest in the changeful character of persons and the world.

    Changefulness is everywhere in the play, as it is generally in Shakespeare's works. Ariel sings about it to Ferdinand, telling him that his drowned father (of course, he is not drowned) has "suffer[ed] a sea-change / Into something rich and strange." A lack of historical or personal continuity simply comes to be expected; that's why Prospero is bowled over by the simple fact that his daughter remembers her early years before their exile ("how is it / That this lives in thy mind?"--000), and it's why he works so hard to enforce on others and himself a coherent history of betrayal, banishment, and the coming of his just rule to the island (see "Memory and Forgiveness," 000).

    Against Ovidian metamorphosis, however, Shakespeare articulates a Virgilian aspiration toward stability over time, the finding out of one's life-story in relation to the purposes of destiny. Neither classical predecessor is supplanted by the other; rather, the two great Roman poets serve the dialectical supremacy of a play that is able to include both Ariel's song of metamorphosis and Gonzalo's awestruck speech about the gracious will of the gods and the happy fulfillment of destiny (note how the truth of each speech is put in question by the situation that each purports to describe--Alonso is not dead, no matter what Ariel sings; contrary to Gonzalo's claims, Alonso's issue will become kings of Milan rather than the other way round, Claribel didn't find her husband at Tunis but was forced into an unwelcome marriage, and not all of them, certainly neither Sebastian nor Antonio, have found themselves in any meaningful way):

    . . . look down, you gods,
    And on this couple drop a blessèd crown,
    For it is you that have chalked forth the way
    Which brought us hither.
    . . .
    Was Milan thrust from Milan that his issue
    Should become kings of Naples? O rejoice
    Beyond a common joy, and set it down
    With gold on lasting pillars! In one voyage
    Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis;
    And Ferdinand, her brother, found a wife
    Where he himself was lost; Prospero, his dukedom
    In a poor isle; and all of us, ourselves,
    When no man was his own.
    (TLN 2182-95)

    185The Tempest is peopled by ancient poets, who enjoy a second life in dialogue with each other and with Shakespeare. All their works are richer for the conversation. The islands of the archipelago include Shakespeare's contemporaries too, chief among whom is Montaigne. The play signals its relationship with Montaigne's essay, "Of the Cannibals," by way of Gonzalo's reflections on a utopian island commonwealth that are based on a passage in the essay (see "Service and Freedom," 000). Shakespeare shares with Montaigne an Ovidian awareness of the changefulness of the world, and he also shares a critical attitude toward civilization. In the essay, Montaigne upbraids Europeans for their prejudice against the cannibals: "They are even savage, as we call those fruits wild, which nature of her self . . . hath produced, whereas indeed they are those which ourselves have altered by our artificial devices . . . we should term savage" (Montaigne 163), Shakespeare, however, demurs from holding up "natural man" as an ideal to which we might aspire, and he challenges Montaigne, both by suggesting that human community, of whatever kind, must suffer the inborn flaws of the humans that constitute it, and by developing a more balanced account of civilization, which is shown to be capable of good outcomes as well as bad.

    The Tempest's relationship with "Of the Cannibals" is strong evidence for the claim that Shakespeare neither merely used other writers as sources nor was simply subject to their influence upon him. That he lived and held conversations with Montaigne, as it were, seems evident given the depth of his response to the French writer, especially since "Of the Cannibals" could not have been particularly useful in the process of writing a play for the theater: the essay supplies little by way of plot or character or applicable background material; and the issues that are central in the essay were also the subject of a large body of sixteenth-century New World writing, most of it more detailed than Montaigne.

    To conclude this discussion of how Shakespearean intertextuality creates literary power, and what the character of that power is, let us briefly re-consider the connection between "Of Cruelty" and The Tempest. Shakespeare takes over Montaigne's idea of virtue as a capacity different from goodness and makes it key to Prospero's hard-won forgiveness of the men who betrayed him. This is Montaigne:

    Methinks virtue is another manner of thing and much more noble than the inclinations unto goodness, which in us are engendered. Minds well-born and directed by themselves follow one same path, and in their actions represent the same visage that the virtuous do. But virtue importeth and soundeth somewhat, I wot not, greater and more active than by a happy complexion, gently and peaceably, to suffer itself to be led or drawn to follow reason. He that through a natural facility and genuine mildness should neglect or condemn injuries received, should no doubt perform a rare action and worthy commendation; but he who being stung to the quick with any wrong or offence received, should arm himself with reason against this furiously blind desire of revenge, and in the end after a great conflict yield himself master over it, should doubtless do much more. (Montaigne 371-2 )

    In The Tempest, Montaigne's passage about virtue is subsumed in a conversation between Prospero and Ariel, which concludes with Prospero's declaration of his humanity in common with others:

    Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
    Of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
    One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
    Passion as they, be kindlier mov'd than thou art?
    Though with their high wrongs I am strook to th' quick,
    Yet, with my nobler reason, 'gainst my fury
    Do I take part. The rarer action is
    In virtue than in vengeance.
    (TLN 1971-8)

    190Have we caught Shakespeare reading here? And not reading instrumentally, as if on the hunt for material he might use, but reading for pleasure and interest. There was evidently something appealing to Shakespeare in Montaigne's idea of virtue as something more noble than natural goodness, in virtue as a quality that the person makes actively and by struggle, and in the alignment of virtue and forgiveness. Yet aside from a few phrases, there is nothing here of Montaigne's book. Indeed, Shakespeare has rewritten his own reading as a scene pointedly without any book, where Prospero comes to feel his own humanity in the face of the fellow-feeling of the spirit Ariel.

    On the strength of this admittedly questionable scene of reading (since there is no book present and since we can't even be sure about the connection with "Of Cruelty"), we might venture nevertheless to say that literary power is not instrumental but always deeply dialectical. We cannot make robots or monsters with it, or raise the dead from their graves, or create real islands. Literary power is the capacity of written language to arouse and sustain meaningful conversations; it makes not actual tempests but a play called The Tempest that can bring forth many more art works of all kinds. As we have seen, literary power can have real effects on the world, but these will always be indirect, mediated by the creativity and agency of readers, playgoers, writers, actors, filmmakers, and others. The social effects of works of literature like The Tempest will always therefore retain the character of a conversation that is able to build human community, both in the here and now and also over long periods of time and across great distances.

    Works Cited

    1. Aristotle. Aristotle's Poetics, trans. S. H. Butcher, intro. Francis Fergusson (New York: Hill and Wang, 1961).
    2. Augustine. The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. John K. Ryan (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1960).
    3. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Speech Genres and Other Essays, trans. Vern W. McGee (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986).
    4. 195Barish, Jonas. The Antitheatrical Prejudice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).
    5. Bate, Jonathan. Shakespeare and Ovid (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).
    6. Bate, Jonathan. Shakespeare and the English Romantic Imagination (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986).
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