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Blooms Shakespeare Through the Ages

Antony and Cleopatra

As You Like It
Henry IV (Part I)
Julius Caesar
King Lear
The Merchant of Venice
A Midsummer Nights Dream
Romeo and Juliet
The Sonnets
The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Twelfth Night

Blooms Shakespeare Through the Ages


Edited and with an introduction by

Harold Bloom
Sterling Professor of the Humanities
Yale University

Volume Editor
Neil Heims

Blooms Shakespeare Through the Ages: The Tempest

Copyright 2008 by Infobase Publishing
Introduction 2008 by Harold Bloom
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Shakespeare, William, 15641616.
The tempest / [William Shakespeare] ; edited and with an introduction by Harold
Bloom ; volume editor, Neil Heims .
p. cm. (Blooms Shakespeare through the ages)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7910-9577-5 (alk. paper) 1. Shakespeare, William, 15641616.
Tempest. 2. Fathers and daughterDrama. 3. Political refugeesDrama. 4. Shipwreck
victimsDrama. 5. MagiciansDrama. 6. IslandsDrama. 7. SpiritsDrama.
8. Tragicomedy. I. Heims, Neil. II. Bloom, Harold. III. Shakespeare, William, 1564
1616. Tempest. IV. Title.
PR2833.A2B55 2008
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Series Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
Introduction by Harold Bloom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
Biography of William Shakespeare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Summary of The Tempest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Key Passages in The Tempest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
List of Characters in The Tempest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
t The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
1580Michel de Montaigne. Of Cannibals, from The Essays of
Michel de Montainge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
16671668Samuel Pepys. From The Diary
of Samuel Pepys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
1669John Dryden. From the Preface
to The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
1669John Dryden. From the Prologue
to The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
1669John Dryden and William Davenant.
From The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
1679John Dryden. From the Preface to Troilus and Cressida . . . . . . 53

t The Tempest in the Eighteenth Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

1709Nicolas Rowe. From Some Account of the Life
of Mr. William Shakespear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
1710Charles Gildon. From Remarks on the
Plays of Shakespear, in The Works of Mr. William Shakespear. . . . . . . . . 58



1733Lewis Theobald. From The Works of Shakespeare,

Collated with the Oldest Copies, and Corrected, with Notes,
Exemplary and Critical . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
17531754Joseph Warton. Observations on
The Tempest of Shakespeare and Observations on The Tempest
Concluded, from The Adventurer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
1765Samuel Johnson. From The Works
of Mr. William Shakespear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
1780Edward Capell. From Notes and
Various Readings to Shakespeare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69

t The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71

1809August Wilhelm Schlegel. From Lectures
on Dramatic Art and Literature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
18111812Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Lecture IX, from The Lectures of 18111812 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
1817William Hazlitt. The Tempest,
from Characters of Shakespears Plays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
1822Charles Lamb. From On the Tragedies
of Shakespeare; with Reference to Their Fitness
for Stage-Representation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
1832Anna Brownell Jameson. On Miranda,
from Shakespeares Heroines: Characteristics of Women,
Moral, Poetical, and Historical. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
1857[unsigned]. Review of The Tempest,
from The Athenaeum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
1864Robert Browning. From Caliban
upon Setebos; or, Natural Theology in the Island. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
1872John Ruskin. From Munera Pulveris:
Six Essays on the Elements of Political Economy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
1875Edward Dowden. From Shakspere:
A Critical Study of His Mind and Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
1880A. C. Swinburne. From A Study of Shakespeare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
1897George Bernard Shaw. Shakespear and
Mr. Barrie, from The Saturday Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115



t The Tempest in the Twentieth Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119

1907Henry James. Introduction to The Tempest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
1938E. M. W. Tillyard. The Tragic Pattern: The Tempest,
from Shakespeares Last Plays. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
1939Mark Van Doren. The Tempest, from Shakespeare . . . . . . . . . 138
1944W. H. Auden. From The Sea and the Mirror:
A Commentary on Shakespeares The Tempest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146
1947G. Wilson Knight. The Shakespearian Superman:
A Study of The Tempest, from The Crown of Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146
1949Derek Traversi. From The Tempest, in Scrutiny. . . . . . . . . . . . . 162
1951Harold C. Goddard. The Tempest,
from The Meaning of Shakespeare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
1959Northrop Frye. Introduction to The Tempest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
1964William Empson. From Hunt the Symbol,
in Essays on Shakespeare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194
1972Leslie A. Fiedler. The New World Savage
as Stranger, from The Stranger in Shakespeare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196
1987Harold Bloom. Introduction,
from The Tempest (Blooms Modern Critical Interpretations) . . . . . . . 203
1989Meredith Anne Skura. The Case of Colonialism
in The Tempest, from Shakespeare Quarterly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209
1992Harold Bloom. Introduction, from Caliban
(Blooms Major Literary Characters) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242

t The Tempest in the Twenty-rst Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247

2001Tom McAlindon. The Discourse of Prayer
in The Tempest, from Studies in English Literature,
15001900 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247

Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263
Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 267


Shakespeare Through the Ages presents not the most current of Shakespeare
criticism, but the best of Shakespeare criticism, from the seventeenth century
to today. In the process, each volume also charts the flow over time of critical
discussion of a particular play. Other useful and fascinating collections of historical Shakespearean criticism exist, but no collection that we know of contains
such a range of commentary on each of Shakespeares greatest plays and at the
same time emphasizes the greatest critics in our literary tradition: from John
Dryden in the seventeenth century, to Samuel Johnson in the eighteenth century, to William Hazlitt and Samuel Coleridge in the nineteenth century, to
A. C. Bradley and William Empson in the twentieth century, to the most perceptive critics of our own day. This canon of Shakespearean criticism emphasizes aesthetic rather than political or social analysis.
Some of the pieces included here are full-length essays; others are excerpts
designed to present a key point. Much (but not all) of the earliest criticism
consists only of brief mentions of specic plays. In addition to the classics of
criticism, some pieces of mainly historical importance have been included, often
to provide background for important reactions from future critics.
These volumes are intended for students, particularly those just beginning
their explorations of Shakespeare. We have therefore also included basic
materials designed to provide a solid grounding in each play: a biography of
Shakespeare, a synopsis of the play, a list of characters, and an explication of
key passages. In addition, each selection of the criticism of a particular century
begins with an introductory essay discussing the general nature of that centurys
commentary and the particular issues and controversies addressed by critics
presented in the volume.
Shakespeare was not of an age, but for all time, but much Shakespeare
criticism is decidedly for its own age, of lasting importance only to the scholar
who wrote it. Students today read the criticism most readily available to them,
which means essays printed in recent books and journals, especially those journals
made available on the Internet. Older criticism is too often buried in out-of-print
books on forgotten shelves of libraries or in defunct periodicals. Therefore, many

The Tempest

students, particularly younger students, have no way of knowing that some of the
most profound criticism of Shakespeares plays was written decades or centuries
ago. We hope this series remedies that problem, and more importantly, we hope
it infuses students with the enthusiasm of the critics in these volumes for the
beauty and power of Shakespeares plays.


The Tempest is Prosperos play, and not Ariels (as the Romantics believed) nor
Calibans (the Postcolonialists), and Prospero is not Shakespeare the dramatic
poet, though he may be Shakespeare the man of the theater. More important is
his meaning for poets, brilliantly summarized in a late sonnet by Hart Crane:
Through torrid entrances, past icy poles
A hand moves on the page! Who shall again
Engrave such hazards as thy might controls
Conicting, purposeful yet outcry vain
Of all our days, being pilot,tempest, too!
Sheets that mock lust and thorns that scribble hate
Are lifted from torn esh with human rue,
And laughter, burnished brighter than our fate
Thou wieldest with such tears that every faction
Swears high in Hamlets throat, and devils throng
Where angels beg for doom in ghast distraction
And fail, both! Yet thine Ariel holds his song:
And that serenity that Prospero gains
Is justice that has cancelled earthly chains.
To Shakespeare
Th is is not Hart Crane upon his Emersonian-Whitmanian heights of
the American Sublime, as in the visionary epic, The Bridge. Yet it shows his
characteristic critical acuity in probing The Tempest for the hidden sources of
Prosperos uncanny serenity. Shakespeares Magus, as severe but just father of
Miranda (and failed adoptive father of Caliban) is subtly taken as a replacement
for Cranes actual father, Clarence Crane, the unyielding Cleveland candy
manufacturer and inventor of the Life Saver. Movingly, Crane is wistful that
Ariel holds his song, as the alcoholic bard of The Bridge could not.
Identication with Ariels mastery of song has been attempted by many
poets, most fervently by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Wallace Stevens, both of


The Tempest

whom Hart Crane admired and emulated. Add in Robert Brownings powerful
dramatic monologue, Caliban upon Setebos, and you can begin to believe
that The Tempest has inspired more superb poetry than any other Shakespearean
drama, with the probable exception of Hamlet. Since The Tempest was the
nal play that Shakespeare composed by himself, it is dicult not to identify
Prospero with his author.
Despite some Christian overtones, The Tempest is anything but a Christian
drama. Nor is it a Post-Christian text, which a fashionable but fast-fading
academic set proclaims. The Tempest is far more ba ing a work than the critical
tradition has confronted.
In teaching this strongest of all Shakespearean comedies (it is not a
Romance) I tend to begin with Prosperos name, which only a few scholars
comment upon. It is the Italian word for the favored one, and so a translation
of Faustus, the Latin cognomen that the Gnostic charlatan Simon Magus
took when he arrived in Rome as a miracle-worker. Christianity from the New
Testament on, has handled Simon roughly, and has insisted that this Samarian
magician was the founder of the Gnostic heresy, a rather unlikely contention
concerning a vision always endemic in world religious history, from at least
ancient Alexandra through the writings of Kafka and Borges.
I surmise that Prospero is the anti-Faustus, Shakespeares farewell to
Marlowe and to Marlowes own Dr. Faustus, even as Hamlet is the antiMachiavel, in regard to Marlows Machiavel, Barabas, The Jew of Malta.
Mephistopholes is replaced by Ariel, a sprite or minor angel, and there is no
Lucifer in The Tempest.
If The Tempest is a visionary comedy, one wonders why its overtly happy
resolution is so haunted by Prosperos melancholy. Why will he go back to
Milan anyway, taking with him for further education his re-adopted thing of
darkness, Caliban? Caliban-in-Milan is sublimely wrong, but so is Prosperoin-Milan. The return may represent Prosperos failure as an educator and his
repudiation of more than magic. To accept old age is dicult for all of us, since
the shipwreck of aging enhances our sense of guilt, our inability to give or
accept love.
The greatness of The Tempest is inseparable from its nal self-presentation of
an inward waning, the audiences as well as Prosperos. We do not know why
Ben Jonson chose to lead o the First Folio of Shakespeares works (1616) with
this nal comedy. Evidently Jonson highly valued the play, which probably he
had just read for the rst time. Shakespeare and Jonson had a much larger
sense of comedy than is now available to us. Few of my students are willing
to see the play as comic, as much of it palpably is. Calibans cowardice is very
funny, but political correctness pompously demands that we see him as a heroic
West Indian freedom-ghter! And poor Prospero, badgered stage-manager (as



Northrop Frye saw), is now a rapacious colonialist. So badly do we read that

few apprehend the rich ironies of Prospero, as time-haunted a Shakespearean
protagonist as Prince Hal/Henry V or Macbeth.
None of us can triumph over time. As mere humans, we lose every time. In
the winter of the body, one recognizes that daily. Each time I reread The Tempest,
it seems more beautiful. A nineteenth-century Romantic by temperament,
increasingly I nd in The Tempest one of the forms of farewell.


WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born in Stratford-on-Avon in April 1564

into a family of some prominence. His father, John Shakespeare, was a glover
and merchant of leather goods who earned enough to marry Mary Arden, the
daughter of his fathers landlord, in 1557. John Shakespeare was a prominent
citizen in Stratford, and at one point, he served as an alderman and bailiff.
Shakespeare presumably attended the Stratford grammar school, where he
would have received an education in Latin, but he did not go on to either Oxford
or Cambridge universities. Little is recorded about Shakespeares early life;
indeed, the rst record of his life after his christening is of his marriage to Anne
Hathaway in 1582 in the church at Temple Grafton, near Stratford. He would
have been required to obtain a special license from the bishop as security that
there was no impediment to the marriage. Peter Alexander states in his book
Shakespeares Life and Art that marriage at this time in England required neither
a church nor a priest or, for that matter, even a documentonly a declaration
of the contracting parties in the presence of witnesses. Thus, it was customary,
though not mandatory, to follow the marriage with a church ceremony.
Little is known about William and Anne Shakespeares marriage. Their rst
child, Susanna, was born in May 1583 and twins, Hamnet and Judith, in 1585.
Later on, Susanna married Dr. John Hall, but the younger daughter, Judith,
remained unmarried. When Hamnet died in Stratford in 1596, the boy was
only 11 years old.
We have no record of Shakespeares activities for the seven years after the
birth of his twins, but by 1592 he was in London working as an actor. He was
also apparently well known as a playwright, for reference is made of him by his
contemporary Robert Greene in A Groatsworth of Wit, as an upstart crow.
Several companies of actors were in London at this time. Shakespeare may
have had connection with one or more of them before 1592, but we have no
record that tells us denitely. However, we do know of his long association with
the most famous and successful troupe, the Lord Chamberlains Men. (When
James I came to the throne in 1603, after Elizabeths death, the troupes name

The Tempest

changed to the Kings Men.) In 1599 the Lord Chamberlains Men provided the
nancial backing for the construction of their own theater, the Globe.
The Globe was begun by a carpenter named James Burbage and nished by
his two sons, Cuthbert and Robert. To escape the jurisdiction of the Corporation
of London, which was composed of conservative Puritans who opposed the
theaters licentiousness, James Burbage built the Globe just outside London, in
the Liberty of Holywell, beside Finsbury Fields. This also meant that the Globe
was safer from the threats that lurked in Londons crowded streets, like plague
and other diseases, as well as rioting mobs. When James Burbage died in 1597,
his sons completed the Globes construction. Shakespeare played a vital role,
nancially and otherwise, in the construction of the theater, which was nally
occupied sometime before May 16, 1599.
Shakespeare not only acted with the Globes company of actors; he was also
a shareholder and eventually became the troupes most important playwright.
The company included Londons most famous actors, who inspired the creation
of some of Shakespeares best-known characters, such as Hamlet and Lear, as
well as his clowns and fools.
In his early years, however, Shakespeare did not conne himself to the
theater. He also composed some mythological-erotic poetry, such as Venus
and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, both of which were dedicated to the earl of
Southampton. Shakespeare was successful enough that in 1597 he was able to
purchase his own home in Stratford, which he called New Place. He could even
call himself a gentleman, for his father had been granted a coat of arms.
By 1598 Shakespeare had written some of his most famous works, Romeo
and Juliet, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Nights Dream, The Merchant of
Venice, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Loves Labors Lost, as well as his historical
plays Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, and King John. Somewhere around the
turn of the century, Shakespeare wrote his romantic comedies As You Like It,
Twelfth Night, and Much Ado About Nothing, as well as Henry V, the last of his
history plays in the Prince Hal series. During the next 10 years he wrote his
great tragedies, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, and Antony and Cleopatra.
At this time, the theater was burgeoning in London; the public took an avid
interest in drama, the audiences were large, the plays demonstrated an enormous
range of subjects, and playwrights competed for approval. By 1613, however, the
rising tide of Puritanism had changed the theater. With the desertion of the
theaters by the middle classes, the acting companies were compelled to depend
more on the aristocracy, which also meant that they now had to cater to a more
sophisticated audience.
Perhaps this change in Londons artistic atmosphere contributed to
Shakespeares reasons for leaving London after 1612. His retirement from the
theater is sometimes thought to be evidence that his artistic skills were waning.
During this time, however, he wrote The Tempest and Henry VIII. He also

Biography of William Shakespeare

wrote the tragicomedies, Pericles, Cymbeline, and The Winters Tale. These were
thought to be inspired by Shakespeares personal problems and have sometimes
been considered proof of his greatly diminished abilities.
However, so far as biographical facts indicate, the circumstances of his life
at this time do not imply any personal problems. He was in good health and
nancially secure, and he enjoyed an excellent reputation. Indeed, although he
was settled in Stratford at this time, he made frequent visits to London, enjoying
and participating in events at the royal court, directing rehearsals, and attending
to other business matters.
In addition to his brilliant and enormous contributions to the theater,
Shakespeare remained a poetic genius throughout the years, publishing a
renowned and critically acclaimed sonnet cycle in 1609 (most of the sonnets
were written many years earlier). Shakespeares contribution to this popular
poetic genre are all the more amazing in his break with contemporary notions
of subject matter. Shakespeare idealized the beauty of man as an object of praise
and devotion (rather than the Petrarchan tradition of the idealized, unattainable
woman). In the same spirit of breaking with tradition, Shakespeare also treated
themes previously considered o limitsthe dark, sexual side of a woman as
opposed to the Petrarchan ideal of a chaste and remote love object. He also
expanded the sonnets emotional range, including such emotions as delight,
pride, shame, disgust, sadness, and fear.
When Shakespeare died in 1616, no collected edition of his works had
ever been published, although some of his plays had been printed in separate
unauthorized editions. (Some of these were taken from his manuscripts, some
from the actors prompt books, and others were reconstructed from memory by
actors or spectators.) In 1623 two members of the Kings Men, John Hemings
and Henry Condell, published a collection of all the plays they considered to be
authentic, the First Folio.
Included in the First Folio is a poem by Shakespeares contemporary Ben
Jonson, an outstanding playwright and critic in his own right. Jonson paid
tribute to Shakespeares genius, proclaiming his superiority to what previously
had been held as the models for literary excellencethe Greek and Latin writers.
Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show / To whom all scenes of Europe
homage owe. / He was not of an age, but for all time!
Jonson was the rst to state what has been said so many times since. Having
captured what is permanent and universal to all human beings at all times,
Shakespeares genius continues to inspire usand the critical debate about his
works never ceases.


Act I
In scene 1 of The Tempest, mariners battle a sea storm, and the passengers hamper them in their work, demanding that they work harder. No matter; all is lost.
The ship cracks in the storm and goes down. The audience sees the action from
the same perspective as the characters on stage. Thus, the audience assumes
that a real sea storm is being represented. In fact, what is being shown is only
the illusion of a sea storm.
Scene 2 shifts the perspective of the audience and of the play itself. Miranda
and Prospero have been watching the same scene as the audience, and the
audience now sees the shipwreck through Mirandas description of it. With her
rst words (If by your art, my dearest father . . .), she suggests the possibility
that viewers have been watching not a real shipwreck but a spectacular example
of Prosperos power.
Prosperos response conrms his daughters suspicion: He assures Miranda
that no harm has been done, and everything has been done for her good.
The conversation between Miranda and Prospero informs the audience how
to understand what they have just seen. As Prospero takes over the task of
explanation, the audience must listen to him in the same way Miranda does; her
enlightenment is the viewers enlightenment. The rest of the play will help the
audience judge the reliability of Prosperos narrative. Certainly, Mirandas ease
in speaking to him and trying to inuence him to pity shows her condence in
his goodness.
Rather than explain how everything has been done for her good, Prospero asks
Miranda if she remembers anything of her infancy. Miranda says she remembers
that several serving women cared for her. Prospero conrms the accuracy of her
memory and tells her that he had been the duke of Milan until 12 years earlier.
He confesses that he had been more devoted to study than to governing his
realm; he had given over that responsibility to his brother, Antonio. Rather than
serving as an honorable deputy, however, Antonio had desired power for himself
and conspired with Alonso, the king of Naples. Antonio promised Alonso tribute
where none had been paid before and with his help banished Prospero and took

The Tempest

his place. Prospero and Miranda were cast o in a poor boat and left to drift, and
perhaps perish, on the open sea. His honest minister Gonzalo, although powerless
to stop Antonio, supplied them with clothing, food, andsignicantlysome
of Prosperos books. They did not perish, but were carried by the currents to
an uninhabited island. Prospero tells Miranda that now fortune has sent all his
enemies to him on the ship she saw wrecked; if he acts carefully, Prospero says,
he can bring them both good fortune. Then, like a hypnotist, he tells her she is
feeling sleepy, and she sleeps.
As Miranda sleeps, Prospero summons Ariel, an air spirit he commands.
Prospero asks Ariel if he has staged the illusion of the shipwreck exactly as
he has been instructed and if everyone is safe. Ariel reports that all has gone
well: Everyone is safe upon the island, although separated into several groups.
Consequently, the king of Naples thinks his son, Ferdinand, is drowned, while
Ferdinand believes his father has perished.
When Prospero says that there is more work to be done, Ariel reminds
him of his promise to free Ariel. Prospero retorts that he will, but not before
the time be out. Angrily and at length, he reminds Ariel of the punishments
the spirit had suered before Prosperos arrival. An evil witch named Sycorax
had conned Ariel in the hollow of a tree after Ariel, then her servant, had
righteously refused to obey her evil commands. Then she had died, and Ariel
remained imprisoned for 12 years until Prospero arrived and freed him. By this
act Prospero reveals his own goodness: He harnesses benevolent spiritual forces
and also releases from bondage to evil. If Ariel complains, Prospero threatens,
he will rend an oak and peg him in it for another 12 years. This threat is
not a sign of any malignity on Prosperos part, but an indication of the care
he takes to subdue the passion of self-centered desire. Ariel begs Prosperos
pardon and promises obedience. Prospero again promises Ariel that he will
have his freedom once this last work is nished. He commands Ariel to go and
transform himself into a sea nymph and return in that shape. Ariel leaves, and
Prospero wakes Miranda. Then he summons the ugly and deformed Caliban,
son of the witch Sycorax.
Caliban is not an airy spirit but a brute creature of the earth, part human,
part beast. Prospero employs Caliban for such tasks as carrying rewood. When
Prospero and Miranda rst arrived upon the island, they treated Caliban well and
taught him to speak. He, in turn, showed them secret places on the island where
they could get food. But Calibans nature is brutish. He tried to rape Miranda
and populate the island with his ospring. Prospero prevented him; he then
made Caliban his slave rather than his pupil. From then on, Prospero exercised
his control over Caliban by using his magic power to cause Caliban intense pain.
The enslavement of Caliban is not an indication of Prosperos malevolence,
however. Again, it is an indication of his rm commitment to the suppression of
passionate appetites that place self-interest above social concern. Brutish as he is,

Summary of The Tempest

Caliban delivers much of the loveliest and most evocative poetry in The Tempest.
This situation implies that sensory appreciation is not a sucient guide for the
exercise of humanity. (Calibans later drunkenness, an extreme form of sensual
pleasure, similarly subverts rather than brings out any humanity he might have
[Act II, scene 2].)
After Prospero dismisses Caliban, Ariel returns, magically leading Ferdinand,
the shipwrecked son of Alonso, king of Naples, to Prospero and Miranda. Ariel is
invisible to Ferdinand, but he hears the songs Ariel sings and follows the music.
One song, Full fathom ve thy father lies, reminds Ferdinand of his father,
whom he believes is drowned.
When Ferdinand and Miranda see each other, they fall in love immediately.
This is what Prospero has planned. But he immediately assumes a forbidding
attitude, seems to oppose their love, and accuses Ferdinand of sneaking onto
the island in order to steal his daughter and take his place. Prospero does
this intentionally, in order to test the strength and virtue of the lovers and
to strengthen their love by making its course dicultthereby making sure
that love is not only a matter of individual, sensory desire but a deliberate,
intellectual choice.
Miranda is distressed and surprised to see her father thus enraged and so
unlike himself. She tells him that she loves Ferdinand, but Prospero rebus
her. When Ferdinand attempts to resist him, Prospero casts a spell that makes
Ferdinands muscles powerless. Ferdinand confesses that he is not pained to be
a prisoner as long as he can see Miranda once a day from his prison window.
Miranda tells him not to worry, that her father is of a better nature than what he
seems to be. In an aside to Ariel, Prospero rejoices at their love and promises him
freedom after his work is completed. The young lovers attraction to each other
is an assurance that his plans are in harmonious accord with their natures rather
than coercive.

Act II
Scene 1 opens on another part of the island, where several survivors of the
wreck wander about surveying the strange island: Alonso, the shipwrecked
king of Naples; his brother Sebastian; Prosperos brother, Antonio, the usurping
Duke of Milan; Gonzalo, the counselor who had been kind to Prospero when
he was cast off to sea; and several other courtiers. Gonzalo counsels Alonso not
to give way to despair and to be grateful that they have survived the shipwreck.
Alonso is overcome with fear that his son, Ferdinand, is drowned, but Francisco,
another survivor of the wreck, tells him he saw Ferdinand swimming strongly,
and therefore to have hope. Antonio and Sebastian mock Gonzalo as he offers
Alonso comfort. The conversation reveals that the castaways were returning
from Tunisia, where Alonso has given his daughter, Claribel, in marriage to the
king. Claribel had resisted the marriage but finally obeyed her father, betraying

The Tempest

herself. Unlike Prospero, Alonsos treatment of his daughter has been coercive
rather than in accord with her nature.
As they speak, invisible Ariel enters and casts a sleep spell on everyone except
for Antonio and Sebastian. While the others slumber, Antonio goads Sebastian
to murder Alonso and take his place as king of Naples, just as Antonio had
supplanted Prospero. They draw their swords and are about to murder the king
when Ariel sets up a buzzing in Gonzalos ears. He wakes, sees them with swords
drawn, and rouses the king. Sebastian and Antonio say they armed themselves
because they heard a noise like a herd of cattle and were ready to defend the king.
The others accept their explanation and the party, weapons drawn, move to nd
a safer spot on the island. Ariel closes the scene, saying he will report to Prospero
what has happened so far.
In scene 2 Caliban is alone, carrying wood for Prospero. He curses Prospero
and describes how the magicians spirits torment him with cramps and aches for
every small act of deance. When he sees Trinculo, one of the servants of the
shipwrecked royal party, approaching, Caliban assumes it is one of Prosperos
agents come to punish him. He lies down, hoping to escape notice. Trinculo,
seeing a storm approaching, looks for a place to take shelter. He sees Calibans
form, mostly hidden under the garment he is wearing, and pokes about. Trinculo
believes he has discovered a monster, and he reects that such a creature put
on display in England might make his fortune. Then he hears thunder in the
distance and slips under Calibans garment for protection.
Stephano, Alonsos butler, enters carrying a bottle of wine. He is drunk and
singing a bawdy song. Caliban fears that he too is one Prosperos spirits about to
hurt him, and he cries out for mercy. This startles Stephano, who wonders what
it is he has come upon. Investigating, Stephano nds Trinculo and Caliban lying
together under Calibans garment. But he thinks he has found a four-legged
monster partly in the shape of a man, partly in a more brutish, perhaps shlike
form. Caliban continues to cry out in fear and Stephano, to calm the strange
monster, pours some of his liquor into his mouth. Trinculo recognizes Stephanos
voice and calls out his name, to the amazement of the drunken butler. Stephano
drags Trinculo out from under Calibans garment.
Caliban, now drunk, studies the two men. He judges them ne things and
concludes that Stephano, bearing the bottle, must be a god. Caliban immediately
swears he will serve this god. They all drink more, and the two shipwreck
survivors tease Caliban: Stephano says he is the man in the moon. When Caliban
believes him, they are delighted by his gullibility. Caliban promises to show them
all the glories of the island and proclaims his freedom from Prospero.

In front of Prosperos cell, in scene 1, Ferdinand is doing Calibans work
carrying logs. Miranda enters. Prospero follows her unseen and, like the audience,

Summary of The Tempest

watches the lovers. Miranda pities Ferdinands labor and oers to carry the logs.
He asks her name. She tells him and realizes she has violated one of her fathers
commands. They proclaim love for each other. Ferdinand says she is ner than
any woman for whom he may ever have cared. Miranda says that although she
has not seen other men except her father and Caliban to compare him to, she
would want no other but him. She calls him husband. He calls her dearest
mistress. They take hands and bind their hearts together. They depart in dierent
directions leaving a delighted Prospero who declares that he cannot be so glad of
their love as they are, but that he could not have a greater gladness at anything
than he has at their union.
When Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo reappear in scene 2, they have
gotten even drunker. Caliban proclaims himself Stephanos slave and
footlicker. They begin to quarrel, Caliban saying that Trinculo mocks
him. Ariel enters invisible and, by throwing his voice, makes it seem that
Trinculo is insulting Caliban, adding to their confusion and making them
more quarrelsome. Caliban explains to Stephano that the island is ruled by a
tyrant and sorcerer who has cheated him out of it. He urges Stephano to seize
Prosperos magic books, burn them, and kill Prospero; then he could become
king of the island, marry Miranda, and propagate. Trinculo and Stephano
agree to the conspiracy, but Ariel, invisible, makes music sound around them,
amazing and frightening them. Caliban explains to them the enchantments
of the island; the beauty of his language in this speech seems to temper the
brutishness of his character. Unwittingly following Ariel and his attractive
music, they leave the stage.
Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, and their party are on another part of
the island in scene 3. They are also being led around blindly by invisible forces
until Gonzalo proclaims he is too weary to go any farther. Alonso agrees. He
adds that it does not matter to him what they do since he has no hope that his son
Ferdinand is alive. Encouraged by his despair, Antonio and Sebastian conspire to
make a second attempt on Alonsos life that evening.
Prospero and Ariel enter unseen by the kings party. As mysterious music
plays, Ariel directs a group of spirits to bring in a table with a banquet set
for the amazed travelers. Before they can begin to eat, however, the banquet
vanishes and Ariel appears in the form of a harpy. Calling Alonso, Sebastian,
and Antonio three men of sin, he tells them that they have been spat up on
the island for the wrong they did to Prospero. The men draw their swords, but
their weapons are useless against Ariels magic. They will suer, Ariel warns
the men, unless they repent their evil from the depths of their hearts. Prospero
praises Ariel for his work and announces that he is going to visit Ferdinand
and Miranda. Coming out of his trance, Alonso tells Gonzalo that he heard all
natural phenomenon pronouncing Prosperos name and his own guilt.


The Tempest

Act IV
In scene 1, in front of his cell with Ferdinand and Miranda, Prospero reveals
himself to them and blesses their union. He adds, however, that his blessing
is conditional. Ferdinand must refrain from breaking Mirandas virgin knot
before their wedding. It seems to be less a moral injunction than instruction in
how to balance the forces of nature harmoniously:
If thou dost break her virgin-knot before
All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite be ministerd,
No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall
To make this contract grow: but barren hate,
Sour-eyed disdain and discord shall bestrew
The union of your bed with weeds so loathly
That you shall hate it both. . . .
This is not a curse but an explanation of how things are and the grand
interconnectedness of everything in creation.
Ferdinand promises that he willingly obeys. Satised, Prospero summons
Ariel and commands him to present a masque, a wedding pageant for the lovers.
Then follows a little play within the play. Iris, the goddess of the rainbow; Ceres,
the goddess of agricultural plenty; Juno, the goddess of heaven; and several
nymphs sing, dance, and oer their best wishes of joy and plenty to the couple.
The goddesses pointedly note that Venus and Cupid, representatives of erotic
and self-referential desire, will be absent from the masque.
In the midst of the pageantry, Prospero remembers the plot against him by
Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo. In a sudden t, he breaks o the masque.
Ferdinand is surprised by the change in Prospero, but Prospero tells him not to
be disturbed. In a famous speech, Our revels now are ended, Prospero explains:
What they saw were merely shadows, which have vanished as everything will
vanish, including themselves, for we are such stu / As dreams are made on, and
our little life / Is rounded with a sleep. Prospero says he will walk by himself a
bit to still his beating mind. Ferdinand and Miranda wish him peace and go
o by themselves.
Alone, Prospero summons Ariel to deal with Caliban and his cohorts.
He commands Ariel to hang fancy garments on a clothes line. The drunken
conspirators enter, soaking wet and contentious, having been led by Ariels music
through bogs. Stephano and Trinculo are diverted from their purpose by the
allure of the garments. Caliban warns them to ignore the clothes, saying they are
only a trap. The drunken shipmen are greedy for the glitter, however. When they
reach for the garments, Prospero and Ariel set a pack of erce dogs upon them.

Summary of The Tempest


Their self-centered desire is a violent passion which turns brutishly against them
in the form of vicious dogs.

Act V
As scene 1 of the plays final act begins, Prospero appears wearing his magic
robes. He bears his book and magicians staff, ready to conclude the work he
undertook when first he planned the tempest. Ariel reports that Alonso and his
party are all prisoners, confined to the lime grove in front of his cell. Alonso,
Sebastian, and Antonio are distracted, that is, apparently insane. The others
watch them in grief. Ariel observes that the spectacle would be enough to soften
his heart were he human. Prospero agrees with him and explains that he has
set reason above fury and not brought his enemies to him for vengeance but for
reconciliation. At his command, Ariel goes to bring the kings party to him.
Now alone, Prospero calls upon the elves that haunt hills, brooks, and lakes
and whose powers he has commanded. He reviews the supernatural feats he has
accomplished, like bedim[ming] the noontide sun, causing tempests, and even
opening graves to let the sleepers outperhaps metaphorically alluding to the
past, his own and that of his foes, that he has revived and reordered in The Tempest.
Saying this rough magic I here abjure, Prospero vows to surrender his powers,
break his sta, and drown his book when his nal task is accomplished.
Ariel returns leading the kings party. They stand, captive, within a charmed
circle. The king, Antonio, and Sebastian are twitching like madmen while the
others watch. Prospero orders solemn music. As their troubled spirits are
calmed, he addresses each captive, reintroducing himself. He calls Gonzalo
honorable and good. He rebukes Alonso for his role in his overthrow and
similarly reprimands Sebastian. Turning to his own brother, he condemns
Antonios unnatural ambition in usurping his place and denounces his plot to
murder Alonso. Then Prospero forgives him. As the kings party wake from his
spell, Prospero changes from his magicians robe back into court clothing and
sends Ariel to the cove where the ship lies safely anchored, instructing him to
bring the crew to him.
Gonzalo is the rst to speak, not realizing what has happened. He oers a
prayer that some heavenly power guide us out of this fearful country! Prospero
interrupts him and introduces himself to the king as the wronged Duke of
Milan. He embraces Alonso and welcomes him to the island. Dazed, Alonso is
not sure if what is happening is illusion and the result of enchantment or if the
actual Prospero really stands before him. No matter which, Alonso says, since
he has seen Prospero, Th aiction of my mind mends. He imagines Prospero
has a most strange story to tell, and without even being asked returns the
dukedom of Milan to Prospero and begs his pardon for the wrongs he has done
him. Prospero embraces Gonzalo and secretly scolds Sebastian and Antonio for
their plot against Alonso, but he promises not to tell him of it, at least not now.


The Tempest

He reviles Antonio again, whom he cannot call his brother, but forgives him and
demands his dukedom back.
Throughout the scene Antonio says nothing. It is the job of the director and
actor (or the reader) to imagine his response, whether he is gracious and penitent;
or resentful, capitulating only because he has no other choice; or whether he
shows some complex amalgam of responses. However Antonio responds, the
focus is on the fact that Prospero is not beholden to that response but to his own
vision of the higher action.
Alonso laments that despite this good fortune, his grief is still great since he
has lost his son, Ferdinand, in the tempest. Prospero commiserates, saying that
he has suered a similar loss: He has lost his daughter because of the storm.
Alonso speaks what must be Prosperos very thoughts. O heavens, he says,
that they were living both in Naples, / The King and Queen there! After
Prospero reassures the company that he is Prospero and shows them the cell
in which he lives, he reveals Ferdinand and Miranda inside, playing a game of
chess. Ferdinand kneels to his astonished father. Miranda, dazzled by the sight
of humanity, cries out: O, wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here!
/ How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world / That has such people int.
Prospero checks her delicately, having had experience of mankind, and says, Tis
new to thee.
The parents all agree upon the marriage. Gonzalo gives voice to the optimism
that governs the play and is the result of the triumph of reconciliation over revenge.
He tells everyone to rejoice beyond a common joy, and asks rhetorically, Was
Milan thrust from Milan that his issue / Should become kings of Naples. He
ends by celebrating how all of us [found] ourselves / When no man was his
own. Ariel enters with the amazed crew of the ship and leaves again to bring in
Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo. Prospero acknowledges his responsibility for
Caliban. Caliban vows that he was a thrice-double ass to take Stephano for a
god, and he promises to be wise and to seek for grace. Prospero invites the
court party into his small cell to rest. He says that in the morning they can all set
out for Naples, where the wedding of Ferdinand and Miranda will be celebrated.
Then he will go back to Milan, to govern, but where / Every third thought will
be my grave.

The stage is clear except for Prospero. He addresses the audience now as a man
like other men, with no magic powers. He is now simply the actor who played
Prospero. He has, he says, no strength but the strength of prayer and begs the
audience to be motivated by charity as was his character and to set him free
from the spell of the island with their applause.

Act I, ii, 113
Miranda: 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 the welkins cheek,
Dashes the re out. O, I have suered
With those that I saw suer: a brave vessel,
Who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her,
Dashd all to pieces. O, the cry did knock
Against my very heart. Poor souls, they perishd.
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 swallowd and
The fraughting souls within her.
Images crowd these lines, creating a verbal representation of the storm dramatized in scene 1. In Mirandas speech Shakespeare reframes the previous scene
and reinterprets it. Miranda questions whether the storm the audience has just
beheld was real or one of Prosperos feats of magical illusion.
Scene 1 seemed to be a representation of an actual shipwreck. But it actually
is the representation of a representation of a shipwreck. Here is a signal that it
is dicult to determine without context the dierence between what seems to
be and what isa theme that has dominated the thought of Shakespeares plays
from the days of his earliest comedies.
In these lines Shakespeare also presents an immediate characterization
of Miranda. She is capable of deep feeling; she is generous; and she feels
loving concern for creatures whom she does not know. Moreover, Miranda is
independent of her father in her thinking and aware of his character.



The Tempest

Act I, ii, 1321

Be collected:
No more amazement: tell your piteous heart
Theres no harm done.
O, 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, nought knowing
Of whence I am, nor that I am more better
Than Prospero, master of a full poor cell,
And thy no greater father.
Prospero calms Mirandas anxiety about the tempest she has just witnessed
before explaining to her their history: He was the Duke of Milan, but his power
was usurped by his brother and they came to the island.
Prosperos softness of tone in this speech establishes his underlying
tendernessdespite an abrasive manner that surfaces from time to time over the
course of the play. The warmth of the repeated vowel sound in the word heart
echoes throughout, even in the word harm, now negated by heartfulness,
and in the word art, used here as a form of the verb to be but recalling the
art of magic. Note how the placement of the word heart at the end of a line
emphasizes the hearts role as a tender organ.
Although Prospero tells Miranda he has done nothing but in care of her and
goes on to describe their past (revealing part of the back story of The Tempest), he
does not tell her what he has done in care of her. It remains for the action of the
play to reveal that. His silence on this matter is important: It assures the freedom
of Mirandas aections when she meets Ferdinand. Uninformed of her fathers
plan, she cannot be his puppet.

Act I, ii, 294296
Prospero: If thou murmurst, I will rend an oak
And peg thee in his knotty entrails till
Thou has howled away twelve winters.
Prosperos pique is directed at Arielwho, having conjured the apparent storm,
has balked at the prospect of more work. Prospero fumes in a second long passage of exposition, in which he describes his life on the island as a magician.
Prosperos display of irritability reveals the powerful duality of his personality:
His benign and forgiving intellect is a strong force that he exerts over an equally

Key Passages in The Tempest


strong passionate nature, which he must struggle to subdue. Prosperos intellect

guides his heart. This stands in contrast to the behavior of the villains of The
Tempest, who allow the lusts of their hearts to commandeer their intellects.

Act I, ii, 345364
Thou most lying slave,
Whom stripes may move, not kindness! I have used thee,
Filth as thou art, with human care, and lodged thee
In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate
The honour of my child.
Caliban: O ho, O ho! wouldt had been done!
Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else
This isle with Calibans.
Abhorred 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 would gabble like
A thing most brutish, I endowed thy purposes
With word that made them known. But thy vile race,
Though thou didst learn, had that int which good natures
Could not abide to be with.
Caliban: You taught me language; and my prot ont
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!
This speech to Caliban (Abhorred slave . . .) is Mirandas in the First Folio
(1623). But in his version of the play in the late seventeenth century, John
Dryden gave it to Prospero, arguing that Prospero had been previously reprimanding Caliban and that the language is too strong and too intellectual for
Miranda. Lewis Theobald followed suit in the eighteenth century. The two
editors thereby gave Miranda the frail passivity that later feminist critics would
accept and deplore.
The slight to Miranda is not from Shakespeare, however, and text elsewhere in
the play conrms that Miranda had a hand in Calibans education. In this scene,
the particular words Caliban uses to describe how he learned to speak indicate
her involvement in the process. When he addresses Prospero, Caliban uses the
singular thou. After Mirandas speech, he uses the plural you: You taught
me language. Another instance is in Act II (scene 2, line 143). When Stephano


The Tempest

claims he is the man in the moon, Caliban replies, My mistress showed me

thee. He is referring to Miranda.
Mirandas remark to Caliban about his ignorance, thou didst not, savage,
/ Know thine own meaning, is true at face value: When he had no language,
Caliban could not ask for the things he wanted. But her observation can be
understood in a deeper way as well. Miranda is also saying that, unlike a civilized
person, the savage Caliban did not know what his true meaning was as a human.
In The Tempest, being human is dened as being aware of the humanity of
everyone else. Once again the plays theme of the clash of animal passion and
human reasonthe elements that mix together to form humanityis evident.

Act I, ii, 439441
Prospero: [Aside] At the rst sight
They have changed eyes. Delicate Ariel,
Ill set thee free for this.
Besides expressing his delight, Prosperos exclamation serves to assure the audience that the lovers enchantment is a result of their effect on each other; it is not
the effect of any enchantment Prospero has wrought upon them. These circumstances define Miranda as autonomous, not a subject of her fathers will.

Act I, ii, 451463
I charge thee
That thou attend me: thou dost here usurp
The name thou owest not; and hast put thyself
Upon this island as a spy, to win it
From me, the lord ont.
Ferdinand: No, as I am a man.
Miranda: Theres nothing ill can dwell in such a temple:
If the ill spirit have so fair a house,
Good things will strive to dwell witht.
Follow me.
Speak not you for him; hes a traitor. Come;
Ill manacle thy neck and feet together:
Sea-water shalt thou drink; thy food shall be
The fresh-brook muscles, witherd roots and husks
Wherein the acorn cradled. Follow.

Key Passages in The Tempest


Prospero is threatening to turn Ferdinand into Caliban by treating him like

Caliban. Prosperos stratagem is to allow Ferdinand to show that he is not
Caliban. Miranda will then see the difference between a man and a brute, a
distinction that is especially plain in adversity.

Act II, i, 118130
Sebastian: Sir, you may thank yourself for this great loss,
That would not bless our Europe with your daughter,
But rather lose her to an African;
Where she at least is banishd from your eye,
Who hath cause to wet the grief ont.
Prithee, peace.
Sebastian: You were kneeld to and importuned otherwise
By all of us, and the fair soul herself
Weighd between loathness and obedience, at
Which end o the beam should bow. We have lost your son,
I fear, for ever: Milan and Naples have
More widows in them of this business making
Than we bring men to comfort them:
The faults your own.
So is the dearst o the loss.
Sebastian is reproaching Alonso, whom he blames for the shipwreck. The shipwreck took place on the trip back from Tunisia, and Sebastian attributes the
disastrous event to Alonsos stubborn decision to marry his daughter, Claribel,
to the king of Tunisia. The salient point is that everyone but Alonso opposed
the marriage, especially Claribel, who implored her father against it but surrendered her will to his.
The relationship between Alonso and Claribel regarding her choice in marriage
stands in contrast to that between Prospero and Miranda. Alonso imposed his
will upon his daughter and used her to serve his ends. Prospero, by contrast, is not
violating Mirandas will in his eorts to encourage a marriage with Ferdinand.
Through his powers of penetration, Prospero foresaw what his daughters will
would be, and he provided for her in pursuit of their mutual interests.

Act II, i, 144161
Gonzalo: I th Commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things: For no kind of trac


The Tempest

Would I admit; no name of magistrate;

Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Born, bound of land, tilth, vineyard none:
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
No occupation, all men idle, all;
And women too, but innocent and pure:
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 it own kind, all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.
Looking at the island they have been cast upon, Gonzalo daydreams of utopia in
this speech. When Sebastian and Antonio mock his vision, he excuses himself
by saying he spoke merely to divert Alonso from the pain over his grief for his
lost son, Ferdinand.
Given the dispositions of men like Antonio and Sebastian, the multiplicity of
nature, and the mutability of fortune, Gonzalos speech is obviously wishful and
not realistic. Nevertheless, it suggests another way of wishing, one contrary to the
wishes that motivate Antonio and Sebastians attempts against Alonso.
Gonzalos last words are quite similar to Prosperos wishes sung by Ceres
at the wedding masque in Act V, scene 1. Although wishes themselves are
insubstantial, the act of wishing for the good of others is not without value. The
expression of such wishes cultivates a generosity of mind and spirit that manifests
itself in generous actionsactions quite unlike those of the self-centered Antonio
and Sebastian.

Act II, ii, 137149
Caliban: Ill show thee the best springs; Ill pluck thee berries;
Ill sh for thee and get thee wood enough. . . .
I prithee, let me bring thee where crabs grow;
And I with my long nails will dig thee pignuts;
Show thee a jays nest and instruct thee how
To snare the nimble marmoset; Ill bring thee
To clustering lberts and sometimes Ill get thee
Young scamels from the rock.

Key Passages in The Tempest


Most of the actual description of the island, like this catalog of promises to
Stephano, comes from Caliban. The current speech entails a survey of the
island. So does Calibans speech in Act I, scene 2, when Caliban resentfully
reminds Prospero that he showed him all the qualities of the isle, / The fresh
springs, brine pits, barren places and fertile (lines 338339). And again, in
Act III, scene 2, Caliban gives the audience a sense of the island in his speech
beginning Be not afeared, when he explains (lines 126135) that
the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not:
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime 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 wakd
I cried to dream again.
It is striking that Caliban, who is condemned for his brutish dispositionand
demonstrates italso is given these gorgeous and introspective speeches. It
seems to indicate that even sensibility and introspection, without a governing
virtuous reason, are insufficient.

Act III, i, 115
Ferdinand: There be some sports are painful, and their labour
Delight in them sets o: some kinds of baseness
Are nobly undergone and most poor matters
Point to rich ends. This my mean task
Would be as heavy to me as odious, but
The mistress which I serve quickens whats dead
And makes my labours pleasures: O, she is
Ten times more gentle than her fathers crabbed,
And hes composed of harshness. I must remove
Some thousands of these logs and pile them up,
Upon a sore injunction: my sweet mistress
Weeps when she sees me work, and says, such baseness
Had never like executor. I forget:
But these sweet thoughts do even refresh my labours,
Most busy lest, when I do it.


The Tempest

Ferdinand is serving as Prosperos drudge, in Calibans place. But through his

ability to see beyond immediate things, Ferdinand shows that he is, nevertheless, not Caliban. His body is engaged in a grueling and demeaning task, but
his mind is focused on a transcendental ideal.
A few lines later, when Miranda encourages him to rest, Ferdinand declines:
The sun will set before I shall discharge / What I may strive to do (lines 2223).
This is not a complaint, but an acknowledgment and acceptance of his duty.
Ferdinand is a man who is committed to living up to his ideals.

Act III, iii, 6882
Ariel: But remember
For thats my business to youthat you three
From Milan did supplant good Prospero;
Exposed unto the sea, which hath requit 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. Thee of thy son, Alonso,
They have bereft; and do pronounce by me:
Lingering perdition, worse than any death
Can be at once, shall step by step attend
You and your ways; whose wraths to guard you from
Which here, in this most desolate isle, else falls
Upon your headsis nothing but heart-sorrow
And a clear life ensuing.
The invisible Ariel is addressing Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian, who are paralyzed by Prosperos magic. His eerie voice warns that only repentance stands
between them and the just punishment that is their due for having wronged
Prospero. Prosperos magic eschews coercion; like a spiritual judo it turns his
foes own aggression against themselves.
The focus of The Tempest is on Prosperos ability to command his passions.
He is able to overcome his fury at wrong done to him and to forgive those who
have wronged him, rather than to avenge his wrong and punish them. At the
conclusion of this speech, Ariel presents the problem from the point of view of
those who have wronged Prospero: As Prospero properly must forgive, so they
must repent. As his heart must let go of resentment and rage, so their hearts must
learn to feel sorrow so strongly that they are purged of the inclination toward
doing wrong: Their expiation depends on it.


Key Passages in The Tempest


Act IV, i, 1522

Prospero: If thou dost break her virgin-knot before
All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite, be ministerd,
No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall
To make this contract grow: but barren hate,
Sour-eyed disdain, and discord shall bestrew
The union of your bed with weeds so loathly
That you shall hate it both. Therefore take heed. . . .
Prospero issues this warning to Ferdinand regarding Miranda. The impact of
this speech on readers or audiences tends to be a function of their attitudes
about virginity before marriage. For believers in sexual abstinence until marriage, Prosperos words need no defense; they represent a common belief. For
those who find premarital chastity antithetical to their beliefs, Prosperos statement may be just another illustration of his tyrannical, cranky, and patriarchal
nature. Similarly, the words may be read as Prosperos curse for disobedience.
But Prosperos speech may also be understood as a timely statement of a fact
of life, independent of his will. As William Butler Yeats wrote in his poem A
Prayer for My Daughter, if custom and ceremony are not honored all endeavors
will come to grief. To avoid such sorrow, the lovers must abide by custom.

Act IV, i, 146158
Prospero: You do look, my son, in a movd sort,
As if you were dismayed; be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-cappd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stu
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Prospero addresses this thoughtful valediction for fleeting things to Ferdinand.
By saying we are such stuff as dreams are made on, Prospero defines humans
as vehicles for giving substance to the insubstantial. He characterizes humans


The Tempest

not as the playthings of superior forces (as Gloucester does, for example, in King
Lear) but as the creators of circumstances borne of human imaginationbeings
who can transform ideas into actualities.
Since our little life is rounded with a sleep, the only way to preserve the
wonders that humans create is by assuring the continuation of the species.
Through the generation of progeny, what was impermanent gains substance
and becomes enduring. (Shakespeare repeats this idea in several of his rst
sonnets.) It is signicant, therefore, that as he begins this speech, Prospero calls
Ferdinand my son. By nding a husband for his daughter, he has found a son
for himself.

Act V, i, 1727
Your charm so strongly works em
That if you now beheld them, your aections
Would become tender.
Dost thou think so, spirit?
Ariel: Mine would, sir, were I human.
And mine shall.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their aictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
Yet with my nobler reason gaitist my fury
Do I take part.
Ariel remarks that Prosperos charm works so strongly upon Alonso, Antonio,
and Sebastian that if Prospero saw their suffering, he would become tender, as
Ariel imagines he would if he were human. Prospero agrees: He will be moved
to compassion. Prosperos words do not indicate a sudden softening in response
to Ariels remarks. Rather, his speech reveals that forgiveness was his intention
from the start.
Prospero sees himself and his foes as kindred, similar in appetite and passion.
That identication itself is reason enough for compassion, despite the fury that his
resemblance to them also provokes. To assure the workings of tender compassion,
Prospero explains, he serves nobler reason (which is what seems to govern Ariels
spirit), and not baser passion. Once again, in Prosperos remarks here, Shakespeare
analyzes the interplay of passion and reason in the context of what is human.


Key Passages in The Tempest


Act V, i, 3357
Prospero: Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do y him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimmd
The noontide sun, calld forth the mutinous winds,
And twixt the green sea and the azured vault
Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given re and rifted Joves stout oak
With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory
Have I made shake and by the spurs pluckd up
The pine and cedar: graves at my command
Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let em forth
By my so potent art. But this rough magic
I here abjure, and, when I have required
Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, Ill break my sta,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
Ill drown my book.
This speech can be understood literally as a recapitulation of the events that
Prospero has accomplished in The Tempest. Metaphorically, for example, he has
opened the grave of an apparently dead past to bring back to life all those who
had, as Gonzalo later says (at line 212), lost themselves.
Alternatively, it can be read outside the context of The Tempest. Prosperos
magic can thus be understood to represent Shakespeares art. The feats of
magic Prospero enumerates can be read symbolically as reviewing the things
Shakespeare did in his playsdictated the actions of actors, caused storms,
and brought the dead to life (such as English kings and Roman generals).
Commentators have long, fancifully, identied Prospero with Shakespeare
because of these words.



The Tempest

Act V, i, 172175
Miranda: Sweet Lord, you play me false.
Ferdinand: No my dearest love,
I would not for the world.
Miranda: Yes, for a score of kingdoms, you should wrangle,
And I would call it fair play.
This exchange between Miranda and Ferdinand is odd. At this climactic
moment, when they and their love are being revealed for the first time to all the
Italian travelers, the lovers are engaged in an argument over a game of chess. It
is, no doubt, not what audiences and readers who have followed the course of
their love would expect to see.
Mirandas accusation, however, could be taken as an allusion to the story of
Dido and Aeneas (which was referred to in Act II) because it resonates with it.
The story of Dido and Aeneas is essentially the tale of a conict between love and
empire. Fleeing a Troy that has been conquered by the Greeks, Aeneas lands in
Carthage, where he and Dido, queen of Carthage, fall in love. But his destiny
is to travel on to Italy and become the founder of the Roman Empire. In this
context, Miranda could be indicating that she is aware of the nature of men and
that imperial desires for power are in conict with the honesty and loyalty implicit
in loving. Unlike Dido, who killed herself out of grief after Aeneas abandoned
her, Miranda is not governed solely by passion. That Miranda would call his
wrangling over a score of kingdoms fair play indicates she understands and
accepts the nature of men. Though passionate in her love, she is not guided by
passion in her understanding or her behavior or theirs.

Act V, i, 181184
O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people int!
There are at least two possible interpretations of Mirandas well-known words.
The cynical or experienced reading is ironic. Her remarks are contrary to
what actually is. The men she sees are not all of them goodly creatures; the
would-be murderers Antonio and Sebastian are among them. This reading is
reinforced by Prosperos retort, Tis new to thee.
There is also a nave, innocent reading: What Miranda says is true despite
everything. She sees beyond what they did to who they might be. The second

Key Passages in The Tempest


is a less sophisticated, less experienced reading than the rst. It has the same
visionary possibility, however, as Gonzalos utopian fantasy or her fathers
wedding blessing.

Act V, i, 205213
Gonzalo: 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 nd 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.
Gonzalo suggests that when people do evil, they lose themselves and do not
belong to themselvesthat they are not their own. This implies a corollary:
that people are their own, that they belong to themselves or are truly only
themselves, when they have been reconciled with one another and live generously and harmoniously.
Gonzalo is not always entirely trustworthy in his observations. Despite what
he says in this passage, Claribel apparently did not wish to have the husband her
father chose for her, if Sebastians speech on the topic is to be believed. In Act
II, scene 1, Sebastian described how Claribel let her obedience to her father stie
her loathing for her intended husband. Gonzalos admonition to Sebastian at the
time, The truth you speak doth lack some gentleness / And time to speak it in,
appears to conrm that Sebastian was speaking accurately.
Although Gonzalo clearly has a penchant for sweetening things, his
observation reinforces the approach that has governed Prospero: disavowal of
revenge and pursuit of reconciliation.

Act V, Epilogue
Now my charms are all oerthrown,
And what strength I haves mine own,
Which is most faint: now, tis true,
I must be here conned by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got


The Tempest

And pardond the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must ll, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. 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 pardond be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
As Ariel was confined in a hollow tree when Prospero first arrived on the
island, so at the end of The Tempest, Prospero sees himself confined, imprisoned, on the island. Just as Ariel needed Prosperos charms to release him
from his confinement, now Prospero needs the viewers spell to free him from
his confinement.
Thus, as the actor who has played Prospero performs the conventional
task of asking for the audiences applause, Prospero transfers his power to the
audience. As he could release Ariel, the audience can release him. And in that
act of releasing others from the bonds of ones imagination, he implies, the
viewers release themselves from a bondage to resentment. This is the feat he has
accomplished by generating the action of The Tempest.


Prospero had been the duke of Milan until 12 years before the opening of The
Tempest. More devoted to the study of the liberal arts and the practice of magic
than to governing, Prospero had delegated most of his authority to his brother,
Antonio. But Antonio overthrew Prospero and set him adrift at sea with his
infant daughter, Miranda. Their small boat landed on an island inhabited only
by spirits and the evil witch who ruled them, along with her son. Through the
power of his magic, Prospero overcame the power of the witch, Sycorax, and
assumed command of the spirits and of her son, Caliban.
Miranda is Prosperos daughter. Until those who were shipwrecked appeared
on the island, she had never seen another human being but her father. When
she sees Ferdinand, she falls in love with him. She persists in loving him despite
her fathers first, apparent objections. She is sweet-natured, smart, and dutiful,
yet not submissive.
Ariel is a spirit who performs magic on Prosperos behalf. When Prospero
arrived on the island, Ariel was confined in a tree because he had refused to
perform the wicked commands of the witch Sycorax. Prospero freed Ariel from
that prison but did not grant him liberty. Prospero promises to free Ariel after
his present enterprise is completed successfully. That Ariel agreed to this servitude attests to the benevolence of Prosperos magic.
Alonso is king of Naples. He is returning from Tunisia, where he has given his
daughter, Claribel, in marriage to the king of Tunisia, against her will. Twelve
years before the events of the play, he conspired with Prosperos brother,
Antonio, to overthrow Prospero and make Antonio duke of Milan.
Sebastian is the brother of Alonso, the king of Naples. Antonio convinces
Sebastian to kill Alonso and become king.
Ferdinand is the son of Alonso, the king of Naples. He has been cast upon
Prosperos island alone, cut off from his fathers party, and he thinks that his


The Tempest

father has been drowned. When Ferdinand sees Miranda, he falls in love with
her. He is virtuous and hardworking.
Adrian is a courtier stranded with Alonsos group.
Antonio overthrew his brother, Prospero, and became duke of Milan 12 years
before the events of The Tempest. By his orders Prospero and Miranda were set
adrift at sea. Now Antonio is among those cast up on Prosperos island.
Gonzalo is a wise and tired old counselor to Antonio. He had helped Prospero
at the time of his expulsion from Milan, supplying him with provisions and the
most important volumes from his library. On the island he works to keep up
Antonios cheer.
The boatswain is one of the crewmen who battles the storm and must contend
with the angry and panicked passengers in the first scene.
Caliban is a monster, partially human, partially beast. He is the son of the
witch Sycorax and is Prosperos slave, employed to do his drudgery. Prospero
had once tried to tame and teach him, but Caliban remained a brute and
attempted to rape Miranda. Prospero controls and punishes Caliban, through
his magic, with physical pain. When the shipwrecked crew arrive on the island,
Caliban gets drunk with Alonsos jester and butler, takes the butler for a god,
and makes him his new master. Caliban convinces them to murder Prospero
and take control of the island.
Stephano is Alonsos butler. On the island, he finds a cask of wine from the
ship, and he is drunk throughout the play. When Caliban likewise gets drunk,
he thinks Stephano is a god and convinces him to overthrow Prospero, take
Miranda for his wife, and rule the island.
Trinculo is Alonsos jester and Stephanos friend. He participates in Calibans
drunken plot to kill Prospero.
Ceres is the goddess of grain. She appears in the wedding masque Prospero
presents to Ferdinand and Miranda to offer fecundity.
Iris is the goddess of the rainbow. She appears in Prosperos wedding masque
for Ferdinand and Miranda, representing a bridge between heaven and earth.
The goddess Juno appears in Prosperos wedding masque, bringing heavens
blessing to the lovers.



The royal Revels Account records that The Tempest was presented before
James I and his court at Whitehall on November 1, 1611, by the Kings Men,
the acting company to which Shakespeare belonged. Along with a dozen other
plays, The Tempest was performed before the court again in February 1613, as
part of the celebration of the wedding of the kings daughter, Elizabeth. In
that performance, Prosperos wedding masque for Ferdinand and Miranda
became part of a larger wedding gift to the princessan entire play.
The Tempest was rst printed in 1623, when it was given rst place in the
commemorative Folio edition of Shakespeares plays (commonly called the
First Folio). This edition was issued and introduced by two of his fellow players
in the Kings Men, John Hemings and Henry Condell. Among Shakespeares
plays, whose bad initial editions and poor printing can cause modern editors
textual problems, the 1623 Folio edition of The Tempest is a particularly
good text. Its source was probably a clean copy made for publication directly
from Shakespeares own papers by Ralph Crane, the Kings Mens scrivener,
or copyist.
Shakespeare did not draw the plot of The Tempest from any previous story,
but he did employ conventional literary elements from fairy tales and romances,
as well as themes and situations from his own past work. Shakespeare also drew
upon current events. In June 1609, a eet of nine ships with some 500 colonists
set out from Plymouth, England, for Jamestown, Virginia. Around Bermuda,
the lead ship, Sea Venture, was separated from the rest of the eet by a storm.
The other ships safely reached the port of Jamestown in the summer of 1609,
but not the Sea Venture. Its crew and passengers, including the admiral and the
governor-to-be of the colony, were presumed dead. Then on May 23, 1610,
nearly a year later, the passengers from the wrecked ship arrived in Jamestown.
They had managed to survive on the island they had been cast upon and had
even built two seaworthy ships.
Accounts of their shipwreck, of the island upon which they landed in the
Caribbean, and of their subsequent experiences were published in several pamphlets



The Tempest

printed in London later that year. A Discovery of the Barmudas, otherwise called Ile
of Divels, written by Sylvester Jourdain, and The True Declaration of the estate of the
Colonie in Virginia, issued by the Virginia Company, appeared within a month of
each other. (The Virginia Company was the entity that was nancing the colonial
venture.) Shakespeare knew two of the leaders of the Virginia Company, the
earl of Southampton and the earl of Pembroke. Quite likely they had not only
shown him the Bermuda pamphlets but also discussed the events with him. It
is also commonly accepted that Shakespeare had read the essay Of Cannibals
by Michel de Montaigne (15331592). In it, the great French essayist speculated
that the savages of the New World, despite their primitive ways, might have
signicant human virtues that the Europeans lacked. Of Cannibals was rst
published in French in 1580 and then published in an English translation by
John Florio in 1603. Scholars have noted a few similarities in language between
The Tempest and Florios text.
A court entertainment called a masque was quite popular at the
time Shakespeare wrote The Tempest, in 1611. Masques were performance
extravaganzas with music, dancing, and elaborate stage machinery performed
around the central gure of the king, glorifying him and his estate as he
watched. Although the English theaters were closed (1642ca. 1658) under
the inuence and, later, the rule of the Puritans, masques were again popular
when theaters were reopened by Charles II. Sir William Davenant, who had
produced lavish masques for the king, brought the same delight in theatricality
to the plays he produced in the acting company that he founded in 1660, The
Duke of Yorks Players.
As a youth Davenant had known Shakespeare (he even allowed the rumor
that he was Shakespeares out-of-wedlock son to go undisputed), and his troupe
produced revivals of Shakespeares plays. The Tempest was revived in 1667 in an
adaptation by Sir William Davenant and John Dryden that was performed as a
great spectacle and celebration. Its plot, after all, tells of usurpation thwarted,
so it was particularly suited to performance after the restoration of the
monarchy. In his famous Diary, Samuel Pepys recorded seeing and enjoying
this production.
Davenant and Drydens version of The Tempest, called The Enchanted Island,
added extra characters such as Mirandas sister, Dorinda; Calibans lecherous
twin sister, Sycorax (the name of Calibans mother in Shakespeares play); and a
male counterpart to Miranda who has never seen a woman before the events of
the play. Davenant also introduced scenery and stage eects, such as thunder and
ery lightning and even aerial wires for Ariel and Milcha, another new character.
In fact, until Davenant created it for The Enchanted Island, the proscenium
stagewith its arch, missing fourth wall, and moveable scenery painted on
sliding screens called atsdid not exist. (The Elizabethan and Jacobean stages
for which Shakespeare wrote were open-air theaters descended from the stages

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century


set up in inn yards where secular plays had rst been performed.) This version of
The Tempest held the stage much more rmly than Shakespeares original did until
the nineteenth centuryalthough not exclusively, because The Enchanted Island
also served a source for other works. In 1674, Thomas Shadwell transformed
it into a successful opera, adding a masque of Neptune and a great deal more
spectacle. Also in 1674, Thomas Duets farcical adaptation of The Enchanted
Isle, called The Mock Tempest, or The Enchanted Castle, was performed at Drury
Lane. This farce portrayed Prospero as the keeper of Bridgewell Prison and his
daughters as prostitutes.
Drydens comments from his preface to The Enchanted Island, as well as the
text of his adaptation itself, represent the most important criticism of The Tempest
in the seventeenth century. Dryden suggests that, as much as he esteemed the
original, there was not enough wonder in it for him; his adaptation itself makes
this clear. His comments on the character of Caliban, published elsewhere, are
also illuminating.

1580Michel de Montaigne. Of Cannibals,

from The Essays of Michel de Montainge
(translated by Charles Cotton, 1871)
Montaigne was one of the great writers of the European Renaissance
and is widely credited with having invented the personal essay. His Essais
was translated in 1603 by the English writer John Florio, and became
an important influence on English literature, including The Tempest. The
following translation is much later than Florios and therefore easier for
modern readers to understand.


When King Pyrrhus invaded Italy, having viewed and considered the order of
the army the Romans sent out to meet him; I know not, said he, what kind
of barbarians (for so the Greeks called all other nations) these may be; but the
disposition of this army that I see has nothing of barbarism in it.[Plutarch,
Life of Pyrrhus, c. 8.]As much said the Greeks of that which Flaminius brought
into their country; and Philip, beholding from an eminence the order and
distribution of the Roman camp formed in his kingdom by Publius Sulpicius
Galba, spake to the same eect. By which it appears how cautious men ought to
be of taking things upon trust from vulgar opinion, and that we are to judge by
the eye of reason, and not from common report.
I long had a man in my house that lived ten or twelve years in the New
World, discovered in these latter days, and in that part of it where Villegaignon


The Tempest

landed,[At Brazil, in 1557]which he called Antarctic France. This discovery

of so vast a country seems to be of very great consideration. I cannot be sure,
that hereafter there may not be another, so many wiser men than we having
been deceived in this. I am afraid our eyes are bigger than our bellies, and that
we have more curiosity than capacity; for we grasp at all, but catch nothing but
Plato brings in Solon,[In Timaeus]telling a story that he had heard from
the priests of Sais in Egypt, that of old, and before the Deluge, there was a great
island called Atlantis, situate directly at the mouth of the Straits of Gibraltar,
which contained more countries than both Africa and Asia put together; and
that the kings of that country, who not only possessed that Isle, but extended
their dominion so far into the continent that they had a country of Africa as far
as Egypt, and extending in Europe to Tuscany, attempted to encroach even upon
Asia, and to subjugate all the nations that border upon the Mediterranean Sea,
as far as the Black Sea; and to that eect overran all Spain, the Gauls, and Italy,
so far as to penetrate into Greece, where the Athenians stopped them: but that
some time after, both the Athenians, and they and their island, were swallowed
by the Flood.
It is very likely that this extreme irruption and inundation of water made
wonderful changes and alterations in the habitations of the earth, as tis said that
the sea then divided Sicily from Italy:
Haec loca, vi quondam et vasta convulsa ruina,
Dissiluisse ferunt, quum protenus utraque tellus
Una foret
[These lands, they say, formerly with violence and vast desolation
convulsed, burst asunder, where erewhile were.neid, iii. 414.]
Cyprus from Syria, the isle of Negropont from the continent of Boeotia,
and elsewhere united lands that were separate before, by lling up the channel
betwixt them with sand and mud:
Sterilisque diu palus, aptaque remis,
Vicinas urbes alit, et grave sentit aratrum.
[That which was once a sterile marsh, and bore vessels on its
bosom, now feeds neighbouring cities, and admits the plough.
Horace, De Arte Poetica, v. 65.]
But there is no great appearance that this isle was this New World so lately
discovered: for that almost touched upon Spain, and it were an incredible eect

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century


of an inundation, to have tumbled back so prodigious a mass, above twelve

hundred leagues: besides that our modern navigators have already almost
discovered it to be no island, but terra rma, and continent with the East Indies
on the one side, and with the lands under the two poles on the other side; or, if
it be separate from them, it is by so narrow a strait and channel, that it none the
more deserves the name of an island for that.
It should seem, that in this great body, there are two sorts of motions, the
one natural and the other febric, as there are in ours. When I consider the
impression that our river of Dordogne has made in my time on the right bank
of its descent, and that in twenty years it has gained so much, and undermined
the foundations of so many houses, I perceive it to be an extraordinary
agitation: for had it always followed this course, or were hereafter to do it,
the aspect of the world would be totally changed. But rivers alter their course,
sometimes beating against the one side, and sometimes the other, and some
times quietly keeping the channel. I do not speak of sudden inundations, the
causes of which everybody understands. In Medoc, by the seashore, the Sieur
dArsac, my brother, sees an estate he had there, buried under the sands which
the sea vomits before it: where the tops of some houses are yet to be seen,
and where his rents and domains are converted into pitiful barren pasturage.
The inhabitants of this place arm, that of late years the sea has driven so
vehemently upon them, that they have lost above four leagues of land. These
sands are her harbingers: and we now see great heaps of moving sand, that
march half a league before her, and occupy the land.
The other testimony from antiquity, to which some would apply this
discovery of the New World, is in Aristotle; at least, if that little book of Unheard
of Miracles be his. He there tells us, that certain Carthaginians, having crossed
the Atlantic Sea without the Straits of Gibraltar, and sailed a very long time,
discovered at last a great and fruitful island, all covered over with wood, and
watered with several broad and deep rivers, far remote from all terra rma; and
that they, and others after them, allured by the goodness and fertility of the soil,
went thither with their wives and children, and began to plant a colony. But the
senate of Carthage perceiving their people by little and little to diminish, issued
out an express prohibition, that none, upon pain of death, should transport
themselves thither; and also drove out these new inhabitants; fearing, tis said,
lest in process of time they should so multiply as to supplant themselves and
ruin their state. But this relation of Aristotle no more agrees with our new-found
lands than the other.
This man that I had was a plain ignorant fellow, and therefore the more
likely to tell truth: for your better-bred sort of men are much more curious
in their observation, tis true, and discover a great deal more; but then they
gloss upon it, and to give the greater weight to what they deliver, and allure
your belief, they cannot forbear a little to alter the story; they never represent


The Tempest

things to you simply as they are, but rather as they appeared to them, or as
they would have them appear to you, and to gain the reputation of men of
judgment, and the better to induce your faith, are willing to help out the
business with something more than is really true, of their own invention.
Now in this case, we should either have a man of irreproachable veracity,
or so simple that he has not wherewithal to contrive, and to give a colour of
truth to false relations, and who can have no ends in forging an untruth. Such
a one was mine; and besides, he has at divers times brought to me several
seamen and merchants who at the same time went the same voyage. I shall
therefore content myself with his information, without inquiring what the
cosmographers say to the business. We should have topographers to trace
out to us the particular places where they have been; but for having had this
advantage over us, to have seen the Holy Land, they would have the privilege,
forsooth, to tell us stories of all the other parts of the world beside. I would
have every one write what he knows, and as much as he knows, but no more;
and that not in this only but in all other subjects; for such a person may have
some particular knowledge and experience of the nature of such a river, or
such a fountain, who, as to other things, knows no more than what everybody
does, and yet to give a currency to his little pittance of learning, will undertake
to write the whole body of physics: a vice from which great inconveniences
derive their original.
Now, to return to my subject, I nd that there is nothing barbarous and
savage in this nation, by anything that I can gather, excepting, that every
one gives the title of barbarism to everything that is not in use in his own
country. As, indeed, we have no other level of truth and reason than the
example and idea of the opinions and customs of the place wherein we live:
there is always the perfect religion, there the perfect government, there the
most exact and accomplished usage of all things. They are savages at the same
rate that we say fruits are wild, which nature produces of herself and by her
own ordinary progress; whereas, in truth, we ought rather to call those wild
whose natures we have changed by our artice and diverted from the common
order. In those, the genuine, most useful, and natural virtues and properties
are vigorous and sprightly, which we have helped to degenerate in these,
by accommodating them to the pleasure of our own corrupted palate. And
yet for all this, our taste confesses a avour and delicacy excellent even to
emulation of the best of ours, in several fruits wherein those countries abound
without art or culture. Neither is it reasonable that art should gain the preeminence of our great and powerful mother nature. We have so surcharged her
with the additional ornaments and graces we have added to the beauty
and riches of her own works by our inventions, that we have almost smothered
her; yet in other places, where she shines in her own purity and proper

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century


lustre, she marvellously baes and disgraces all our vain and frivolous
Et veniunt hederae sponte sua melius;
Surgit et in solis formosior arbutus antris;
Et volucres nulla dulcius arte canunt.
[The ivy grows best spontaneously, the arbutus best in shady caves;
and the wild notes of birds are sweeter than art can teach.
Propertius, i. 2, 10.]
Our utmost endeavours cannot arrive at so much as to imitate the nest of the
least of birds, its contexture, beauty, and convenience: not so much as the web
of a poor spider.
All things, says Plato,[Laws, 10.]are produced either by nature, by
fortune, or by art; the greatest and most beautiful by the one or the other of the
former, the least and the most imperfect by the last.
These nations then seem to me to be so far barbarous, as having received but
very little form and fashion from art and human invention, and consequently to
be not much remote from their original simplicity. The laws of nature, however,
govern them still, not as yet much vitiated with any mixture of ours: but tis in
such purity, that I am sometimes troubled we were not sooner acquainted with
these people, and that they were not discovered in those better times, when
there were men much more able to judge of them than we are. I am sorry that
Lycurgus and Plato had no knowledge of them; for to my apprehension, what
we now see in those nations, does not only surpass all the pictures with which
the poets have adorned the golden age, and all their inventions in feigning a
happy state of man, but, moreover, the fancy and even the wish and desire of
philosophy itself; so native and so pure a simplicity, as we by experience see to
be in them, could never enter into their imagination, nor could they ever believe
that human society could have been maintained with so little artice and human
patchwork. I should tell Plato that it is a nation wherein there is no manner of
trac, no knowledge of letters, no science of numbers, no name of magistrate
or political superiority; no use of service, riches or poverty, no contracts, no
successions, no dividends, no properties, no employments, but those of leisure,
no respect of kindred, but common, no clothing, no agriculture, no metal, no
use of corn or wine; the very words that signify lying, treachery, dissimulation,
avarice, envy, detraction, pardon, never heard of. [The above is the famous
passage which Shakespeare, through Florios version, 1603, or ed. 1613, p. 102,
employed in the Tempest, ii. 1.] How much would he nd his imaginary
Republic short of his perfection?


The Tempest

Viri a diis recentes.

[Men fresh from the gods.Seneca, Ep., 90.]
Hos natura modos primum dedit.
[These were the manners rst taught by nature.
Virgil, Georgics, ii. 20.]
As to the rest, they live in a country very pleasant and temperate, so that, as
my witnesses inform me, tis rare to hear of a sick person, and they moreover
assure me, that they never saw any of the natives, either paralytic, bleareyed,
toothless, or crooked with age. The situation of their country is along the
sea-shore, enclosed on the other side towards the land, with great and high
mountains, having about a hundred leagues in breadth between. They have great
store of sh and esh, that have no resemblance to those of ours: which they eat
without any other cookery, than plain boiling, roasting, and broiling. The rst
that rode a horse thither, though in several other voyages he had contracted an
acquaintance and familiarity with them, put them into so terrible a fright, with
his centaur appearance, that they killed him with their arrows before they could
come to discover who he was. Their buildings are very long, and of capacity to
hold two or three hundred people, made of the barks of tall trees, reared with
one end upon the ground, and leaning to and supporting one another at the top,
like some of our barns, of which the covering hangs down to the very ground,
and serves for the side walls. They have wood so hard, that they cut with it, and
make their swords of it, and their grills of it to broil their meat. Their beds are
of cotton, hung swinging from the roof, like our seamens hammocks, every
man his own, for the wives lie apart from their husbands. They rise with the
sun, and so soon as they are up, eat for all day, for they have no more meals but
that; they do not then drink, as Suidas reports of some other people of the East
that never drank at their meals; but drink very often all day after, and sometimes
to a rousing pitch. Their drink is made of a certain root, and is of the colour
of our claret, and they never drink it but lukewarm. It will not keep above two
or three days; it has a somewhat sharp, brisk taste, is nothing heady, but very
comfortable to the stomach; laxative to strangers, but a very pleasant beverage
to such as are accustomed to it. They make use, instead of bread, of a certain
white compound, like coriander seeds; I have tasted of it; the taste is sweet and
a little at. The whole day is spent in dancing. Their young men go a-hunting
after wild beasts with bows and arrows; one part of their women are employed
in preparing their drink the while, which is their chief employment. One of
their old men, in the morning before they fall to eating, preaches to the whole
family, walking from the one end of the house to the other, and several times
repeating the same sentence, till he has nished the round, for their houses are

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century


at least a hundred yards long. Valour towards their enemies and love towards
their wives, are the two heads of his discourse, never failing in the close, to put
them in mind, that tis their wives who provide them their drink warm and well
seasoned. The fashion of their beds, ropes, swords, and of the wooden bracelets
they tie about their wrists, when they go to ght, and of the great canes, bored
hollow at one end, by the sound of which they keep the cadence of their dances,
are to be seen in several places, and amongst others, at my house. They shave
all over, and much more neatly than we, without other razor than one of wood
or stone. They believe in the immortality of the soul, and that those who have
merited well of the gods are lodged in that part of heaven where the sun rises,
and the accursed in the west.
They have I know not what kind of priests and prophets, who very rarely
present themselves to the people, having their abode in the mountains. At their
arrival, there is a great feast, and solemn assembly of many villages: each house,
as I have described, makes a village, and they are about a French league distant
from one another. This prophet declaims to them in public, exhorting them to
virtue and their duty: but all their ethics are comprised in these two articles,
resolution in war, and aection to their wives. He also prophesies to them events
to come, and the issues they are to expect from their enterprises, and prompts
them to or diverts them from war: but let him look tot; for if he fail in his
divination, and anything happen otherwise than he has foretold, he is cut into
a thousand pieces, if he be caught, and condemned for a false prophet: for that
reason, if any of them has been mistaken, he is no more heard of.
Divination is a gift of God, and therefore to abuse it, ought to be a punishable
imposture. Amongst the Scythians, where their diviners failed in the promised
eect, they were laid, bound hand and foot, upon carts loaded with rs and
bavins, and drawn by oxen, on which they were burned to death.[Herodotus,
iv. 69.]Such as only meddle with things subject to the conduct of human
capacity, are excusable in doing the best they can: but those other fellows that
come to delude us with assurances of an extraordinary faculty, beyond our
understanding, ought they not to be punished, when they do not make good the
eect of their promise, and for the temerity of their imposture?
They have continual war with the nations that live further within the
mainland, beyond their mountains, to which they go naked, and without
other arms than their bows and wooden swords, fashioned at one end like
the head of our javelins. The obstinacy of their battles is wonderful, and they
never end without great eusion of blood: for as to running away, they know
not what it is. Every one for a trophy brings home the head of an enemy he
has killed, which he xes over the door of his house. After having a long time
treated their prisoners very well, and given them all the regales they can think
of, he to whom the prisoner belongs, invites a great assembly of his friends.
They being come, he ties a rope to one of the arms of the prisoner, of which,
at a distance, out of his reach, he holds the one end himself, and gives to


The Tempest

the friend he loves best the other arm to hold after the same manner; which
being done, they two, in the presence of all the assembly, despatch him with
their swords. After that, they roast him, eat him amongst them, and send
some chops to their absent friends. They do not do this, as some think, for
nourishment, as the Scythians anciently did, but as a representation of an
extreme revenge; as will appear by this: that having observed the Portuguese,
who were in league with their enemies, to inict another sort of death upon
any of them they took prisoners, which was to set them up to the girdle in the
earth, to shoot at the remaining part till it was stuck full of arrows, and then
to hang them, they thought those people of the other world (as being men
who had sown the knowledge of a great many vices amongst their neighbours,
and who were much greater masters in all sorts of mischief than they) did
not exercise this sort of revenge without a meaning, and that it must needs
be more painful than theirs, they began to leave their old way, and to follow
this. I am not sorry that we should here take notice of the barbarous horror
of so cruel an action, but that, seeing so clearly into their faults, we should
be so blind to our own. I conceive there is more barbarity in eating a man
alive, than when he is dead; in tearing a body limb from limb by racks and
torments, that is yet in perfect sense; in roasting it by degrees; in causing it to
be bitten and worried by dogs and swine (as we have not only read, but lately
seen, not amongst inveterate and mortal enemies, but among neighbours and
fellow-citizens, and, which is worse, under colour of piety and religion), than
to roast and eat him after he is dead.
Chrysippus and Zeno, the two heads of the Stoic sect, were of opinion that
there was no hurt in making use of our dead carcasses, in what way soever for
our necessity, and in feeding upon them too;[Diogenes Laertius, vii. 188.]as
our own ancestors, who being besieged by Caesar in the city Alexia, resolved to
sustain the famine of the siege with the bodies of their old men, women, and
other persons who were incapable of bearing arms.
Vascones, ut fama est, alimentis talibus usi
Produxere animas.
[Tis said the Gascons with such meats appeased their hunger.
Juvenal, Sat., xv. 93.]
And the physicians make no bones of employing it to all sorts of use, either
to apply it outwardly; or to give it inwardly for the health of the patient. But
there never was any opinion so irregular, as to excuse treachery, disloyalty,
tyranny, and cruelty, which are our familiar vices. We may then call these people
barbarous, in respect to the rules of reason: but not in respect to ourselves, who
in all sorts of barbarity exceed them. Their wars are throughout noble and

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century


generous, and carry as much excuse and fair pretence, as that human malady
is capable of; having with them no other foundation than the sole jealousy
of valour. Their disputes are not for the conquest of new lands, for these they
already possess are so fruitful by nature, as to supply them without labour or
concern, with all things necessary, in such abundance that they have no need
to enlarge their borders. And they are, moreover, happy in this, that they only
covet so much as their natural necessities require: all beyond that is superuous
to them: men of the same age call one another generally brothers, those who
are younger, children; and the old men are fathers to all. These leave to their
heirs in common the full possession of goods, without any manner of division,
or other title than what nature bestows upon her creatures, in bringing them
into the world. If their neighbours pass over the mountains to assault them,
and obtain a victory, all the victors gain by it is glory only, and the advantage
of having proved themselves the better in valour and virtue: for they never
meddle with the goods of the conquered, but presently return into their own
country, where they have no want of anything necessary, nor of this greatest of
all goods, to know happily how to enjoy their condition and to be content. And
those in turn do the same; they demand of their prisoners no other ransom,
than acknowledgment that they are overcome: but there is not one found in an
age, who will not rather choose to die than make such a confession, or either by
word or look recede from the entire grandeur of an invincible courage. There is
not a man amongst them who had not rather be killed and eaten, than so much
as to open his mouth to entreat he may not. They use them with all liberality
and freedom, to the end their lives may be so much the dearer to them; but
frequently entertain them with menaces of their approaching death, of the
torments they are to suer, of the preparations making in order to it, of the
mangling their limbs, and of the feast that is to be made, where their carcass
is to be the only dish. All which they do, to no other end, but only to extort
some gentle or submissive word from them, or to frighten them so as to make
them run away, to obtain this advantage that they were terried, and that their
constancy was shaken; and indeed, if rightly taken, it is in this point only that
a true victory consists:
Victoria nulla est,
Quam quae confessor animo quoque subjugat hostes.
[No victory is complete, which the conquered do not admit to be
so.Claudius, De Sexto Consulatu Honorii, v. 248.]
The Hungarians, a very warlike people, never pretend further than to reduce
the enemy to their discretion; for having forced this confession from them, they
let them go without injury or ransom, excepting, at the most, to make them


The Tempest

engage their word never to bear arms against them again. We have sucient
advantages over our enemies that are borrowed and not truly our own; it is the
quality of a porter, and no eect of virtue, to have stronger arms and legs; it is a
dead and corporeal quality to set in array; tis a turn of fortune to make our enemy
stumble, or to dazzle him with the light of the sun; tis a trick of science and art,
and that may happen in a mean base fellow, to be a good fencer. The estimate
and value of a man consist in the heart and in the will: there his true honour lies.
Valour is stability, not of legs and arms, but of the courage and the soul; it does
not lie in the goodness of our horse or our arms but in our own. He that falls
obstinate in his courage
Si succiderit, de genu pugnat
[If his legs fail him, he ghts on his knees.
Seneca, De Providentia, c. 2.]
he who, for any danger of imminent death, abates nothing of his assurance;
who, dying, yet darts at his enemy a erce and disdainful look, is overcome not by
us, but by fortune; he is killed, not conquered; the most valiant are sometimes the
most unfortunate. There are defeats more triumphant than victories. Never could
those four sister victories, the fairest the sun ever be held, of Salamis, Plataea,
Mycale, and Sicily, venture to oppose all their united glories, to the single glory
of the discomture of King Leonidas and his men, at the pass of Thermopylae.
Who ever ran with a more glorious desire and greater ambition, to the winning,
than Captain Iscolas to the certain loss of a battle?[Diodorus Siculus, xv.
64.]Who could have found out a more subtle invention to secure his safety,
than he did to assure his destruction? He was set to defend a certain pass of
Peloponnesus against the Arcadians, which, considering the nature of the place
and the inequality of forces, nding it utterly impossible for him to do, and seeing
that all who were presented to the enemy, must certainly be left upon the place;
and on the other side, reputing it unworthy of his own virtue and magnanimity
and of the Lacedaemonian name to fail in any part of his duty, he chose a mean
betwixt these two extremes after this manner; the youngest and most active of
his men, he preserved for the service and defence of their country, and sent them
back; and with the rest, whose loss would be of less consideration, he resolved to
make good the pass, and with the death of them, to make the enemy buy their
entry as dear as possibly he could; as it fell out, for being presently environed on
all sides by the Arcadians, after having made a great slaughter of the enemy, he
and his were all cut in pieces. Is there any trophy dedicated to the conquerors
which was not much more due to these who were overcome? The part that true
conquering is to play, lies in the encounter, not in the coming o; and the honour
of valour consists in ghting, not in subduing.

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century


But to return to my story: these prisoners are so far from discovering the
least weakness, for all the terrors that can be represented to them, that, on the
contrary, during the two or three months they are kept, they always appear with
a cheerful countenance; importune their masters to make haste to bring them to
the test, defy, rail at them, and reproach them with cowardice, and the number
of battles they have lost against those of their country. I have a song made by
one of these prisoners, wherein he bids them come all, and dine upon him, and
welcome, for they shall withal eat their own fathers and grandfathers, whose
esh has served to feed and nourish him. These muscles, says he, this esh
and these veins, are your own: poor silly souls as you are, you little think that
the substance of your ancestors limbs is here yet; notice what you eat, and you
will nd in it the taste of your own esh: in which song there is to be observed
an invention that nothing relishes of the barbarian. Those that paint these
people dying after this manner, represent the prisoner spitting in the faces of his
executioners and making wry mouths at them. And tis most certain, that to the
very last gasp, they never cease to brave and defy them both in word and gesture.
In plain truth, these men are very savage in comparison of us; of necessity, they
must either be absolutely so or else we are savages; for there is a vast dierence
betwixt their manners and ours.
The men there have several wives, and so much the greater number, by how
much they have the greater reputation for valour. And it is one very remarkable
feature in their marriages, that the same jealousy our wives have to hinder and
divert us from the friendship and familiarity of other women, those employ to
promote their husbands desires, and to procure them many spouses; for being
above all things solicitous of their husbands honour, tis their chiefest care to
seek out, and to bring in the most companions they can, forasmuch as it is
a testimony of the husbands virtue. Most of our ladies will cry out, that tis
monstrous; whereas in truth it is not so, but a truly matrimonial virtue, and of the
highest form. In the Bible, Sarah, with Leah and Rachel, the two wives of Jacob,
gave the most beautiful of their handmaids to their husbands; Livia preferred
the passions of Augustus to her own interest; [Suetonius, Life of Augustus,
c. 71.]and the wife of King Deiotarus, Stratonice, did not only give up a fair
young maid that served her to her husbands embraces, but moreover carefully
brought up the children he had by her, and assisted them in the succession to
their fathers crown.
And that it may not be supposed, that all this is done by a simple and servile
obligation to their common practice, or by any authoritative impression of their
ancient custom, without judgment or reasoning, and from having a soul so
stupid that it cannot contrive what else to do, I must here give you some touches
of their suciency in point of understanding. Besides what I repeated to you
before, which was one of their songs of war, I have another, a love-song, that
begins thus:


The Tempest

Stay, adder, stay, that by thy pattern my sister may draw the
fashion and work of a rich ribbon, that I may present to my beloved,
by which means thy beauty and the excellent order of thy scales
shall for ever be preferred before all other serpents.
Wherein the rst couplet, Stay, adder, &c., makes the burden of the song.
Now I have conversed enough with poetry to judge thus much that not only
there is nothing barbarous in this invention, but, moreover, that it is perfectly
Anacreontic. To which it may be added, that their language is soft, of a pleasing
accent, and something bordering upon the Greek termination.
Three of these people, not foreseeing how dear their knowledge of the
corruptions of this part of the world will one day cost their happiness and repose,
and that the eect of this commerce will be their ruin, as I presuppose it is in a
very fair way (miserable men to suer themselves to be deluded with desire of
novelty and to have left the serenity of their own heaven to come so far to gaze
at ours!), were at Rouen at the time that the late King Charles IX. was there.
The king himself talked to them a good while, and they were made to see our
fashions, our pomp, and the form of a great city. After which, some one asked
their opinion, and would know of them, what of all the things they had seen,
they found most to be admired? To which they made answer, three things, of
which I have forgotten the third, and am troubled at it, but two I yet remember.
They said, that in the rst place they thought it very strange that so many tall
men, wearing beards, strong, and well armed, who were about the king (tis like
they meant the Swiss of the guard), should submit to obey a child, and that they
did not rather choose out one amongst themselves to command. Secondly (they
have a way of speaking in their language to call men the half of one another),
that they had observed that there were amongst us men full and crammed with
all manner of commodities, whilst, in the meantime, their halves were begging
at their doors, lean and half-starved with hunger and poverty; and they thought
it strange that these necessitous halves were able to suer so great an inequality
and injustice, and that they did not take the others by the throats, or set re to
their houses.
I talked to one of them a great while together, but I had so ill an interpreter,
and one who was so perplexed by his own ignorance to apprehend my meaning,
that I could get nothing out of him of any moment: Asking him what advantage
he reaped from the superiority he had amongst his own people (for he was a
captain, and our mariners called him king), he told me, to march at the head
of them to war. Demanding of him further how many men he had to follow
him, he showed me a space of ground, to signify as many as could march in
such a compass, which might be four or ve thousand men; and putting the
question to him whether or no his authority expired with the war, he told me this
remained: that when he went to visit the villages of his dependence, they planed

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century


him paths through the thick of their woods, by which he might pass at his ease.
All this does not sound very ill, and the last was not at all amiss, for they wear
no breeches.

16671668Samuel Pepys.
From The Diary of Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys, a naval administrator, is most famous for his detailed
and fascinating Diary, one of the most important primary sources we
have for life in England in the seventeenth century.

[November 7, 1667] . . . resolved with Sir W. Pen to go see The Tempest, an old
play of Shakespeares, acted, I hear, the rst day . . . the most innocent play that
ever I saw; and a curious piece of musique in an echo of half sentences, the echo
repeating the former half, while the man goes on to the latter; which is mighty
pretty. The play has no great wit, but yet good, above ordinary plays.
[February 3, 1668] . . . and thence after dinner to the Duke of Yorks house, to the
play, The Tempest, which we have often seen, but yet I was pleased again, and shall
be again to see it, it is so full of variety, and particularly this day I took pleasure
to learn the tune of the seamans dance, which I have much desired to be perfect
in, and have made myself so.

1669John Dryden. From the
Preface to The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island
John Dryden (16311700), an important poet, dramatist, and critic, was
poet laureate and royal historiographer of England under Charles II.

The writing of prefaces to plays was probably invented by some very ambitious
poet who never thought he had done enough: perhaps by some ape of the
French eloquence, which uses to make a business of a letter of gallantry, an
examen of a farce; and, in short, a great pomp and ostentation of words on
every trie. This is certainly the talent of that nation, and ought not to be
invaded by any other. They do that out of gaiety which would be an imposition
upon us.


The Tempest

We may satisfy ourselves with surmounting them in the scene, and safely leave
them those trappings of writing and ourishes of the pen with which they adorn
the borders of their plays, and which are indeed no more than good landskips to
a very indierent picture. I must proceed no farther in this argument, lest I run
myself beyond my excuse for writing this. Give me leave therefore to tell you,
Reader, that I do it not to set a value on any thing I have written in this play, but
out of gratitude to the memory of Sir William Davenant, who did me the honour
to join me with him in the alteration of it.
It was originally Shakespeares: a poet for whom he had particularly a high
veneration, and whom he rst taught me to admire. The play itself had formerly
been acted with success in the Blackfriars; and our excellent Fletcher had so
great a value for it that he thought t to make use of the same design, not much
varied, a second time. Those who have seen his Sea-Voyage may easily discern
that it was a copy of Shakespeares Tempest: the storm, the desert island, and
the woman who had never seen a man, are all sucient testimonies of it. But
Fletcher was not the only poet who made use of Shakespeares plot: Sir John
Suckling, a professed admirer of our author, has followed his footsteps in his
Goblins, his Reginella being an open imitation of Shakespeares Miranda; and his
spirits, though counterfeit, yet are copied from Ariel. But Sir William Davenant,
as he was a man of quick and piercing imagination, soon found that somewhat
might be added to the design of Shakespeare of which neither Fletcher nor
Suckling had ever thought: and therefore to put the last hand to it, he designed
the counterpart to Shakespeares plot, namely that of a man who had never seen
a woman, that by this means those two characters of innocence and love might
the more illustrate and commend each other. This excellent contrivance he was
pleased to communicate to me, and to desire my assistance in it. I confess that
from the very rst moment it so pleased me that I never writ anything with
more delight. I must likewise do him that justice to acknowledge that my writing
received daily his amendments, and that is the reason why it is not so faulty
as the rest, which I have done without the help or correction of so judicious a
friend. The comical parts of the sailors were also his invention and for the most
part his writing, as you will easily discover by the style. In the time I writ with
him, I had the opportunity to observe somewhat more nearly of him than I had
formerly done when I had only a bare acquaintance with him: I found him then
of so quick a fancy that nothing was proposed to him on which he could not
suddenly produce a thought extremely pleasant and surprising; and those rst
thoughts of his, contrary to the old Latin proverb, were not always the least
happy. And as his fancy was quick, so likewise were the products of it remote and
new. He borrowed not of any other; and his imaginations were such as could not
easily enter into any other man. His corrections were sober and judicious: and
he corrected his own writings much more severely than those of another man,
bestowing twice the time and labour in polishing which he used in invention. It

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century


had perhaps been easy enough for me to have arrogated more to myself than was
my due in the writing of this play, and to have passed by his name with silence in
the publication of it, with the same ingratitude which others have used to him,
whose writings he hath not only corrected, as he has done this, but has had a
greater inspection over them, and sometimes added whole scenes together, which
may as easily be distinguished from the rest as true gold from counterfeit by the
weight. But besides the unworthiness of the action which deterred me from it
(there being nothing so base as to rob the dead of his reputation) I am satised
I could never have received so much honour in being thought the author of any
poem, how excellent soever, as I shall be from the joining my imperfections with
the merit and name of Shakespeare and Sir William Davenant.

1669John Dryden. From the
Prologue to The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island
As when a Trees cut down the secret root
Lives under ground, and thence new Branches shoot;
So, from old Shakespears honourd dust, this day
Springs up and buds a new reviving Play.
Shakespear, who (taught by none) did rst impart
To Fletcher Wit, to labouring Johnson Art.
He Monarch-like gave those his subjects law,
And is that Nature which they paint and draw.
Fletcher reachd that which on his heights did grow,
Whilst Johnson crept and gatherd all below.
This did his Love, and this his Mirth digest:
One imitates him most, the other best.
If they have since out-writ all other men,
Tis with the drops which fell from Shakespears Pen.
The Storm which vanishd on the Neighbring shore,
Was taught by Shakespears Tempest rst to roar.
That innocence and beauty which did smile
In Fletcher, grew on this Enchanted Isle.
But Shakespears Magick could not copyd be,
Within that Circle none durst walk but he.
I must confess twas bold, nor would you now,
That liberty to vulgar Wits allow,
Which works by Magick supernatural things:
But Shakespears powr is sacred as a Kings.


The Tempest

Those Legends from old Priest-hood were receivd,

And he then writ, as people then believd.
But, if for Shakespear we your grace implore,
We for our Theatre shall want it more:
Who by our dearth of Youths are forcd t employ
One of our Women to present a Boy.
And thats a transformation you will say
Exceeding all the Magick in the Play.
Let none expect in the last Act to nd,
Her Sex transformd from man to Woman-kind.
What ere she was before the Play began,
All you shall see of her is perfect man.
Or if your fancy will be farther led,
To nd her Woman, it must be abed.

1669John Dryden and William Davenant.
From The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island
The career of Sir William Davenant (16061668), a poet, playwright,
and theater manager, spanned the seventeenth century. He was active
in the theater before and after the English Civil War and was appointed
Englands poet laureate in 1638. William Shakespeare sometimes
stopped in his fathers inn, and Davenant seemed to encourage rumors
that he was Shakespeares illegitimate son.

[From Act I. Enter Prospero and Miranda.]

Prospero: Miranda! wheres your Sister?
Miranda: I left her looking from the pointed Rock, at the walk end, on
the huge beat of Waters.
Prospero: It is a dreadful object.
Miranda: If by your Art, my dearest Father, you have put them in this
roar, allay em quickly. Had I been any God of power, I would have sunk
the Sea into the Earth, before it should the Vessel so have swallowed.
Prospero: Collect your self, and tell your piteous heart, Theres no harm
Miranda: O woe the day!
Prospero: There is no harm:
I have done nothing but in care of thee,

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century

My Daughter, and thy pretty Sister:

You both are ignorant of what you are,
Not knowing whence I am, nor that Im more
Than Prospero, Master of a narrow Cell,
And thy unhappy Father.
Miranda: I nere indeavourd to know more than you were pleasd to
tell me.
Prospero: I should inform thee farther: wipe thou thine Eyes, have
comfort; the direful spectacle of the wrack, which touchd the very virtue
of compassion in thee, I have with such a pity safely orderd, that not
one creature in the Ship is lost.
Miranda: You often, Sir, began to tell me what I am,
But then you stopt.
Prospero: The hours now come; Obey, and be attentive, Canst thou
remember a time before we came into this Cell? I do not think thou
canst, for then thou wert not full three years old.
Miranda: Certainly I can, Sir.
Prospero: Tell me the image then of any thing which thou dost keep in
thy remembrance still.
Miranda: Sir, had I not four or ve Women once that tended me?
Prospero: Thou hadst, and more, Miranda: what seest thou else in the
dark back-ward, and abyss of Time? If thou remembrest ought ere thou
camst here, then, how thou camst thou mayst remember too.
Miranda: Sir, that I do not.
Prospero: Fifteen Years since, Miranda, thy Father was the Duke of
Millan, and a Prince of power.
Miranda: Sir, are not you my Father?
Prospero: Thy Mother was all virtue, and she said, thou wast my
Daughter, and thy Sister too.
Miranda: O Heavens! what foul play had we, that we hither came, or
wast a blessing that we did?
Prospero: Both, both, my Girl.
Miranda: How my heart bleeds to think what you have suerd. But, Sir,
I pray proceed.
Prospero: My Brother, and thy Uncle, calld Antonio, to whom I trusted
then the manage of my State, while I was wrapd with secret Studies:
That false Uncle (dost thou attend me Child?)
Miranda: Sir, most heedfully.
Prospero: Having attaind the craft of granting suits, and of denying
them; whom to advance, or lop, for over-toping, soon was grown the
Ivy which did hide my Princely Trunck, and suckt my verdure out: thou
attendst not.



The Tempest

Miranda: O good Sir, I do.

Prospero: I thus neglecting worldly ends, and bent to closeness, and the
bettering of my mind, wakd in my false Brother an evil Nature: He
did believe He was indeed the Duke, because he then did execute the
outward face of Soveraignty. Dost thou still mark me?
Miranda: Your story would cure deafness.
Prospero: To have no screen between the part he plaid, and whom he
plaid it for; he needs would be Absolute Millan, and Confederates (so
dry he was for Sway) with Savoys Duke, to give him Tribute, and to do
him homage.
Miranda: False man!
Prospero: This Duke of Savoy being an Enemy,
To me inveterate, strait grants my Brothers suit,
And on a night
Mated to his design, Antonio opened the Gates of Millan, and ith
dead of darkness, hurrid me thence with thy young Sister, and thy
crying self.
Miranda: But wherefore did they not that hour destroy us?
Prospero: They durst not, Girl, in Millan, For the love my people bore
me; in short, they hurrid us away to Savoy, and thence aboard a Bark at
Nissas Port: bore us some Leagues to Sea, where they prepard a rotten
Carkass of a Boat, not riggd, no Tackle, Sail, nor Mast; the very Rats
instinctively had quit it: they hoisted us, to cry to Seas which roard to
us; to sigh to Winds, whose pity sighing back again, did seem to do us
loving wrong.
Miranda: Alack! what trouble was I then to you?
Prospero: Thou and thy Sister were two Cherubins, which did preserve
me: you both did smile, infusd with fortitude from Heaven.
Miranda: How came we ashore?
Prospero: By Providence Divine, Some food we had, and some fresh
Water, which a Noble man of Savoy, called Gonzalo, appointed Master
of that black design, gave us; with rich Garments, and all necessaries,
which since have steaded much: and of his gentleness (knowing I lovd
my Books) he furnisht me from mine own Library, with Volumes which
I prize above my Dukedom.
Miranda: Would I might see that man.
Prospero: Here in this Island we arrivd, and here have I your Tutor
been. But by my skill I nd that my mid-Heaven doth depend on a
most happy Star, whose inuence if I now court not, but omit, my
Fortunes will ever after droop: here cease more question, thou art
inclind to sleep: tis a good dulness, and give it way; I know thou canst
not chuse.

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century

[She falls asleep.]

Come away my Spirit: I am ready now, approach My Ariel, Come.
[Enter Ariel.]
Ariel: All hail great Master, grave Sir, hail, I come to answer thy best
pleasure, be it to y, to swim, to shoot into the re, to ride on the curld
Clouds; to thy strong bidding, task Ariel and all his qualities.
Prospero: Hast thou, Spirit, performd to point the Tempest that I bad
Ariel: To every Article. I boarded the Dukes Ship, now on the Beak,
now in the Waste, the Deck, in every Cabin; I amd amazement, and
sometimes I seemd to burn in many places on the Top-Mast, the Yards
and Bore-sprit; I did ame distinctly.
Prospero: May brave Spirit! Who was so rm, so constant, that this coil
did not infect his Reason?
Ariel: Not a soul But felt a Feaver of the mind, and playd some tricks
of desperation; all, but Mariners, plungd in the foaming brine, and quit
the Vessel: the Dukes Son, Ferdinand, with hair upstairing (more like
Reeds than Hair) was the rst man that leapd; cryd, Hell is empty, and
all the Devils are here.
Prospero: Why thats my Spirit;
But was not this nigh Shore?
Ariel: Close by my Master.
Prospero: But, Ariel, are they safe?
Ariel: Not a hair perisht.
In Troops I have dispersd them round this Isle.
The Dukes Son I have landed by himself, whom I have left warming
the air with sighs, in an odde angle of the Isle, and sitting, his arms he
folded in this sad knot.
Prospero: Say how thou hast disposd the Mariners of the Dukes Ship,
and all the rest of the Fleet.
Ariel: Safely in Harbour
Is the Dukes Ship, in the deep Nook, where once thou calldst
Me up at midnight to fetch Dew from the
Still vext Bermoothes, there shes hid,
The Mariners all under hatches stowd,
Whom, with a charm, joind to their suerd labour,
I have left asleep, and for the rest oth Fleet
(Which I disperst) they all have met again,
And are upon the Mediterranean Float,
Bound sadly home for Italy;



The Tempest

Supposing that they saw the Dukes Ship wrackt,

And his great person perish.
Prospero: Ariel, thy charge
Exactly is performd, but theres more work:
What is the time oth day?
Ariel: Past the mid-season.
Prospero: At least two Glasses: the time tween six and now must by us
both be spent most preciously.
Ariel: Is there more toyl? since thou dost give me pains, let me
remember thee what thou hast promisd, which is not yet performd me.
Prospero: How now, Moodie?
What ist thou canst demand?
Ariel: My liberty.
Prospero: Before the time be out? no more.
Ariel: I prethee!
Remember I have done thee faithful service,
Told thee no lyes, made thee no mistakings,
Servd without or grudge, or grumblings:
Thou didst promise to bate me a full year.
Prospero: Dost thou forget
From what a torment I did free thee?
Ariel: No.
Prospero: Thou dost, and thinkst it much to tread the Ooze
Of the salt deep:
To run against the sharp wind of the North,
To do my business in the Veins of the Earth,
When it is bakd with Frost.
Ariel: I do not, Sir.
Prospero: Thou lyst, malignant thing! hast thou forgot the foul Witch
Sycorax, who with age and envy was grown into a Hoop? hast thou
forgot her?
Ariel: No Sir!
Prospero: Thou hast; where was she born? speak, tell me.
Ariel: Sir, in Argier.
Prospero: Oh, was she so! I must
Once every Month recount what thou hast been, which thou forgettest.
This damnd Witch Sycorax for mischiefs manifold, and sorceries too
terrible to enter humane hearing, from Argier thou knowst was banisht:
but for one thing she did, they would not take her life: is not this true?
Ariel: I Sir.
Prospero: This blew-eyd Hag was hither brought with child,
And here was left by th Saylors, thou, my slave,

The Tempest in the Seventeenth Century


As thou reportst thy self, wast then her servant,

And cause thou wast a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and ahborrd commands;
Refusing her grand Hests, she did conne thee,
By help of her more potent Ministers,
(In her unmitigable rage) into a cloven Pine,
Within whose rist imprisond, thou didst painfully
Remain a dozen years; within which space she dyd,
And left thee there; where thou didst vent thy
Groans, as fast as Mill-wheels strike.
Then was this Isle (save for two Brats, which she did
Litter here, the brutish Caliban, and his twin Sister,
Two freckeld-hag-born Whelps) not honourd with
A humane shape.
Ariel: Yes! Caliban her Son, and Sycorax his Sister.
Prospero: Dull thing, I say so; he, that Caliban, and she that Sycorax,
whom I now keep in service. Thou best knowst what torment I did nd
thee in, thy groans did make Wolves howl, and penetrate the breasts
of ever angry Bears, it was a torment to lay upon the damnd, which
Sycorax could nere again undo: It was my Art, when I arrivd, and heard
thee, that made the Pine to gape and let thee out.
Ariel: I thank thee, Master.
Prospero: If thou more murmurest, I will rend an Oak,
And peg thee in his knotty Entrails, till thou
Hast howld away twelve Winters more.
Ariel: Pardon, Master,
I will be correspondent to command, and be
A gentle spirit.
Prospero: Do so, and after two days Ile discharge thee.
Ariel: Thats my noble Master.
What shall I do? say? what? what shall I do?
Prospero: Be subject to no sight but mine; invisible to
Every eye-ball else: hence with diligence.
My daughter wakes. Anon thou shalt know more.

1679John Dryden.
From the Preface to Troilus and Cressida
To return once more to Shakespear, no man ever drew so many characters,
or generally distinguished em better one another, excepting only Johnson: I


The Tempest

will instance but in one, to show the copiousness of his invention; tis that
of Calyban, or the monster in the Tempest. He seems there to have created a
person which was not in Nature, a boldness which at rst sight would appear
intolerable; for he makes him a species of himself, begotten by an Incubus on
Witch; but this, as I have elsewhere provd, is not wholly beyond the bounds of
credibility, at least the vulgar still believe it. We have the separated notions of
a spirit and of a witch; (and spirits, according to Plato, are vested with a subtil
body; according to some of his followers, have dierent sexes) therefore as from
the distinct apprehensions of a horse, and of a man, Imagination has formd a
Centaur, so from those of an Incubus and a Sorceress, Shakespear has producd his
Monster. Whether or no his generation can be defended, I leave to Philosophy;
but of this I am certain, the Poet has most judiciously furnishd him with a
person, a language, and a character which will suit him both by Fathers and
Mothers side: he has all the discontents and malice of a Witch, and of a Devil;
besides a convenient proportion of the deadly sins; Gluttony, Sloth, and Lust,
are manifest; the dejectedness of a slave is likewise given him, and the ignorance
of one bred up in a Desart Island. His person is monstrous, as he is the product
of unnatural lust; and his language is as hobgoblin as his person; in all things he
is distinguished from other mortals.


Whatever Spirit, careless of his Charge,
His Post neglects, or leaves the Fair at large,
Shall feel sharp Vengeance soon oertake his Sins,
Be stopd in Vials, or transxt with Pins;
Or plungd in Lakes of bitter Washes lie,
Or wedgd whole Ages in a Bodkins Eye.
The Rape of the Lock, Canto II, 123.

These few lines of Alexander Popes mock-heroic epic reflect the fate of The
Tempest in the eighteenth century. The reference is clearly to Ariels punishment
at the hand of Sycorax, of which Prospero reminds him and threatens to repeat
should he become rebellious. While in Shakespeares play, Ariel was confined
by Sycorax in an oak for refusing to perform acts of black magic, in Popes lines,
the numerous spirits of the dressing table are threatened with confinement in
perfume bottles and the eyes of needles should they fail to guard the lady who
fashions herself at her vanity table.
In the eighteenth century, The Tempest was often reduced to a similarly opulent
spectacle on the stage. Late in the century, the former theater inspector Edward
Capell acknowledged the dierence between his century and Shakespeares age
in his annotations of The Tempest. The advances in stage mechanics and special
eects, he believed, had limited the imaginative freedom of the playwrights of
his day.
While The Tempest as Shakespeare wrote it was rarely performed during the
eighteenth century, the play continued to enjoy the success it had achieved in
the seventeenth century in its several adaptations. These were usually derived
more from The Enchanted Isle, Davenant and Drydens adaptation, than from
Shakespeares original. The play was most often performed as a grand extravaganza
with music, scenery, and spectacular eects. Perhaps the most astonishing version
was presented by John Kemble in 1789 at the Drury Lane Theater. Kembles
Tempest joined together parts of all the preceding versions.



The Tempest

As successful as the adaptations were with eighteenth-century audiences,

they did not always please critics. For instance, Charles Gildon, writing in 1710,
admired Shakespeares original for its poetry and for the way it conformed to
Aristotles dramatic criteria, known as the unities. Gildon demonstrated that
The Tempest observes the unities of time (everything happens in a single day), of
place (everything happens on Prosperos island), and of action (Prospero brings
his foes under his power and forgives them for the wrongs they have done him).
But Gildon found much to criticize or ridicule in The Enchanted Island in what
he mockingly referred to as Davenant and Drydens corrections, especially their
additions of characters and scenes and their alterations of Shakespeares language
when they did retain it.
Criticism of The Tempest throughout the century came most often from
textual editors such as Nicolas Rowe (writing in 1709), Alexander Pope,
(17231725), Lewis Theobald (1733), Samuel Johnson (1765), George
Steevens (1773), Edward Capell (1780), and Edmond Malone (1790). All of
these editors attempted to give eighteenth-century readers the most accurate
text of The Tempest, as well as all of Shakespeares other plays, by collating
earlier texts, correcting them when they seemed wrong, and annotating them.
Because the original, printed in the 1623 Folio, was well prepared, The Tempest
needed less textual correction than many of the other plays did. There were a few
minor controversies, however. For example, Lewis Theobald assigned a certain
speech of Mirandas to Prospero, following one of John Drydens alterations;
both men considered it too rough for Miranda. Later editors have reversed
his correction in the interest of allowing Miranda the fullness of her own
Many of the editors who prepared editions of The Tempest also oered their
own assessments of the plays. Rowe, like Gildon, was skeptical of seventeenthcentury alterations of the original play and admired both Shakespeares
imaginative air and his faithfulness to the classical unities. Joseph Warton
(17531754) similarly approved of The Tempests adherence to the unities and
celebrated its pleasing extravagance. He also praised the portrayal of the
plays characters, who, in his view, demonstrated internal consistency despite
their fantastical setting.
The most famous of the eighteenth-century editors to turn his attention to
Shakespeares plays was Samuel Johnson, who was the most important critic
of his century. In examining The Tempest, Johnson focused his attention on
the nature of Ariels songs and on particular detailsfor example, analyzing
the roots of Calibans language. Johnson praised the play in general for its
authenticity, despite the outlandish nature of its plot and characters.


The Tempest in the Eighteenth Century


1709Nicolas Rowe. From

Some Account of the Life of Mr. William Shakespear
Nicholas Rowe (16741718) was an actor, dramatist, and, in 1715, poet
laureate of England. His edition of Shakespeares works is said to mark
the beginning of the modern Shakespeare text. Rowe also wrote a short
account of Shakespeares life, as well as The Tragedy of Jane Shore; Written
in Imitation of Shakespears Style.

But certainly the greatness of this Authors Genius dos no where so much
appear, as where he gives his Imagination an entire Loose, and raises his Fancy
to a ight above Mankind and the Limits of the visible World. Such are his
Attempts in The Tempest, Midsummer-Nights Dream, Macbeth and Hamlet.
Of these, The Tempest, however it comes to be placd the rst by the former
Publishers of his Works, can never have been the rst written by him: It seems
to me as perfect in its Kind, as almost any thing we have of his. One may
observe, that the Unities are kept here with an Exactness uncommon to the
Liberties of his Writing: Tho that was what, I suppose, he valud himself least
upon, since his Excellencies were all of another Kind. I am very sensible that
he dos, in this Play, depart too much from that likeness to Truth which ought
to be observd in these sort of Writings; yet he dos it so very nely, that one is
easily drawn in to have more Faith for his sake, than Reason does well allow
of. His Magick has something in it very Solemn and very Poetical: And that
extravagant Character of Caliban is mighty well sustaind, shews a wonderful
Invention in the Author, who could strike out such a particular wild Image,
and is certainly one of the nest and most uncommon Grotesques that was
ever seen. The Observation, which I have been informd three very great Men
concurrd in making upon this Part, was extremely just. That Shakespear had not
only found out a new Character in his Caliban, but had also devisd and adapted a
new manner of Language for that Character. Among the particular Beauties of
this Piece, I think one may be allowd to point out the Tale of Prospero in the
First Act; his Speech to Ferdinand in the Fourth, upon the breaking up the
Masque of Juno and Ceres; and that in the Fifth, where he dissolves his Charms,
and resolves to break his Magick Rod. This Play has been alterd by Sir William
DAvenant and Mr. Dryden; and tho I wont Arraign the Judgment of those two
great Men, yet I think I may be allowd to say, that there are some things left
out by them, that might, and even ought to have been kept in. Mr. Dryden was
an Admirer of our Author, and, indeed, he owed him a great deal, as those who
have read them both may very easily observe.



The Tempest

1710Charles Gildon. From Remarks

on the Plays of Shakespear, in The Works
of Mr. William Shakespear
Charles Gildon (16651724) was a translator, biographer, essayist,
playwright, and poet. He wrote a series of notes and essays to accompany Rowes edition of Shakespeare, providing the first extensive commentaries of the plays. Gildon counted among his literary enemies
Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift.

I cant nd that this Plot [of The Tempest] was taken from any Novel. . . . But it
does not at all follow that there was no such Story in any of the Books of his
Time which might never reach our Age, nor is it of much Importance.
Tho the Fable of this Play must come short of Perfection in some particulars
yet I must say this, that we have few on the English Stage that can compare with
it for Excellence. For rst it is the Imitation of the Action, i.e. The Restoration
of Prospero to his Dutchy of Milan. The Action is of a just Extent, for it has a
Beginning, Middle and End. The casting away of the K. of Naples, Antonio, &c.
on the Enchanted Island is plainly the Beginning, since to this there is nothing
necessary to be before; it is the Sequel, indeed, of something else, but not the
Eect. Thus their being cast on the Coast produces all that happens to them
till the Discovery, which is the Middle; and when Prospero is reconciled by
their Suerings, and his Passions abated, the Middle which is their Sueringsproduces the End in the Reconciliation of the Parties. Here is likewise in this
Fable a Peripetie and Discovery. For the State, Condition, and Fortune of the
King is changd from the extremist Misery to Happiness by the Discovery of
Prospero and Ferdinand. Tis true the Discovery of Prospero is not so ne as that of
Ulysses by the Nurse, but it is ery whit as good as the Discovery that Ulysses makes
of himself to the Shepherds. There is a perfect Unity in the Action and in the
Time, which tho a little confusedly expressd (which I attribute to the repeated
Errors of the Editors, not to Shakespeare) yet it is concluded by Alonso and the
Sailors to be but three Hours. . . . The whole Time from the raising the Storm to
the End of the Play is but six Hours. The Play plainly opens at the very End of
the Storm, so that we cannot suppose it more than three Hours and a half; which
is far more Regular in that Particular than any that I know of on the Stage. The
Unity of Place is not quite so regular, and yet we have few Plays that excell it
even in this Particular. But if the Scene of the Storm were out, and which has
very little to do there, the Place woud be brought into much a less Compass,
and the several Scenes may very well be allowd to be reasonably supposd pretty
contiguous. At least when two Gentlemen set themselves to alter a Poet of
Shakespeares Genius, one woud expect that they shoud endeavour to correct
his Errors, not to add more. It had been extremely easy for Sir William and Mr.

The Tempest in the Eighteenth Century


Dryden to have remedyd this Particular, which they have not at all attempted,
nay they have added nothing but what makes their Composition not only much
less perfect but innitely more Extravagant than this Poem which they pretend
to alter; as I shall show when I come to the Characters. Shakespeare had met
with this Fortune in many of his Plays, while Mr. D----y, [DUrfey] and Mr.
C--b-r [Cibber] have only given us their wise Whimseys for what they blotted
out of the Poet. The Pretenders to alter this Poet shoud never meddle with him
unless they coud mend his Fable and Conduct, since they can never give us the
Manners, Sentiments, Passions, and Diction ner and more perfect than they nd
them in the Original.
As the Fable has all these Advantages so is the Conduct of the Play very
regular. Aristotle divides the Parts of Quantity of a Play into four Parts, which he
call the Prologue, the Episode, the Exode, and the Chorus. By the Prologue he does
not mean what is nowadays spoke before the Play and has seldom any Relation
to the Play, and will therefore serve any other Play as well as that to which it is
spoken; but by the Prologue here is understood all our rst Act, and is to explain to
the Audience not only what concerns the Subject of the Poem but what is proper
and necessary, and makes a true Part of it. Thus Prospero, to satisfy his Daughter
of the Cause of his raising the Storm, very artfully lets the Audience know the
material part of his History which past before that Hour, and that necessarily:
for it was not only natural for Miranda to enquire into the Cause of so terrible
a Storm, the Eects of which had extremely movd her Compassion, and the
Work that was going to be done by Prospero seems to mark out that as the only
proper time that he coud ever have related his Fortunes to her and inform her
of her Condition, that he had now got all his Enemies into his Hands. tis true
this Narration may seem a little too calm and that it had been more Dramatic
had it been told in a Passion, but if we consider it the Story as Prospero tells it
is not without a Pathos. And if this rst Narration coud be brought under this
Censure yet the second is as far from it, being very artfully thrown into a sort
of Passion or Anger against Ariel, and is therefore truly Dramatic, for in the
Drama indeed there shoud be very little that is not Action and Passion. It was
very necessary likewise that when the Poet was giving the Audience a Creature of
his own Formation he shoud let them know whence he sprung, his very Origin
preparing us for a Character so much out of the Way and makes us expect that
Language from him which he utters. But there being still some things done
which fell not into the Knowledge of Prospero and yet were necessary to be
known to the Audience, the Poet, in the rst Scene of the second Act, makes
the shipwreckd Princes discover it very judiciously.
The next to the Prologue is the Episode, which was all that usd formerly to
go betwixt the four Choruses, which with us is the second, third, and fourth
Act; that is, it contains all the Subject of the Play, or rather the Intrigues and
Plot till the Unravelling. And the Exode, which was all that came after the last


The Tempest

singing of the Chorus, containd the Perepetie and Discovery or the unravelling
of the Plot, which answered our fth Act and is the Unravelling or Catastrophe
of the Piece. This division of Aristotle is perfectly observd by Shakespeare in
the Conduct of this Play of the Tempest. For, as we have seen, the rst Act
Discovers all that was necessary for the Audience to know of the Story that
happend before the Commencement of the Action of the Play, and that in
an admirable and judicious Manner. Next, all the Intrigue of the Play, as
the several Adventures and Torments of the King, the uniting the Hearts of
Miranda and Ferdinand, and the Attempts of the Mob Characters, make up
the second, third, and fourth Acts. The fth is wholly employd in the Discovery
and Perepetie, or in the Unravelling of the Plot, restoring Tranquility to all the
Dramatic Persons. The Scene likewise is generally unbroken; especially in the
rst, fourth, and fth, they are perfectly entire. The Manners are every way just;
they are well-Markd, and Convenient, and equal (there is no room here for the
Likeness, the Story being a Fiction). Thus we nd every one perfectly distinct
from the other. Caliban, as born of a Witch, shews his Original Malice, ill
Nature, Sordidness, and Villany. Antonio is always Ambitious and Treacherous,
and even there promoting and persuading Sebastian to the committing the
same unnatural Act against his Brother that he had against Prospero, with his
Aggravation of adding Fratricide to Usurpation.
The Sentiments are every where the just Eect of the Manners, and the Diction
generally just and elegant, as we shall see in those beautiful Thoughts I shall add
to my Remarks on this Play. But I cant leave my general Consideration of this
Play till I have added a Word about the most questionable Part of it, and that is
the Magic or Sorcery.
Those who make this a Fault in our Poet know little of the Matter, for it is
sucient for him to go upon received Notions, no Matter whether Philosophically
or absolutely true or not. Shakespeare livd in an Age not so remote from a Time
in which the Notion of Spirits and Conjurers and the strange and wonderful
Power of Magic, but that it was almost an article of faith among the many. . . .

1733Lewis Theobald. From The Works
of Shakespeare, Collated with the Oldest Copies,
and Corrected, with Notes, Exemplary and Critical
Lewis Theobald (16881744), an author and editor, contributed to
the development of serious editing of Shakespeare. His contemporary
and rival Alexander Pope, who was the principal object of Theobalds

The Tempest in the Eighteenth Century


criticism, lampooned Theobald in the mock epic The Dunciad.

Nonetheless, Pope incorporated many of Theobalds emendations to
his own edition of Shakespeares works.

In all the printed Edition [the speech in Act 1, scene 2, beginning Abhorrd
slave, at line 351] is given to Miranda; but I am persuaded, the Author never
designd it for her. In the rst place, tis probable Prospero taught Caliban to
speak, rather than left that Oce to his Daughter; in the next Place, as Prospero
was here rating Caliban it would be a great Impropriety for her to take the
Discipline out of his hands, and indeed in some sort an Indecency in her to reply
to what Caliban last was speaking of. Mr. Dryden, I observe, in his Alteration of
this Play, has judiciously placed this Speech to Prospero. I can easily guess that
the change was rst derivd from the Players, who not loving that any Character
should stand too long silent on the stage, to obviate that inconvenience with
Regard to Miranda clapd this Speech to her Part.

17531754Joseph Warton. Observations
on The Tempest of Shakespeare and Observations
on The Tempest Concluded, from The Adventurer
Joseph Warton (17221800) was a poet and critic. A champion of the
imagination, he is often seen as a precursor to the Romantic movement. Like his contemporary Samuel Johnson, Warton wrote in the
literary publications of his day, including The Adventurer; the following
extracts are from issues 93 and 97.

Of all the plays of Shakespeare, The Tempest is the most striking instance of
his creative power. He has there given the reins to his boundless imagination,
and has carried the romantic, the wonderful, and the wild, to the most pleasing
extravagance. The scene is a desolate island; and the characters the most new and
singular that can well be conceived: a prince who practises magic, an attendant
spirit, a monster the son of a witch, and a young lady who had been brought to
this solitude in her infancy, and had never beheld a man except her father.
As I have armed that Shakespeares chief excellence is the consistency of
his characters, I will exemplify the truth of this remark, by pointing out some
master-strokes of this nature in the drama before us.
The poet artfully acquaints us that Prospero is a magician, by the very rst
words which his daughter Miranda speaks to him:


The Tempest

If by your art, my dearest father, you have

Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
[I. ii. 12]
which intimate that the tempest described in the preceding scene, was the eect
of Prosperos power. The manner in which he was driven from his dukedom of
Milan, and landed afterward on this solitary island, accompanied only by his
daughter, is immediately introduced in a short and natural narration.
The ocers of his attendant Spirit, Ariel, are enumerated with amazing
wildness of fancy, and yet with equal propriety: his employment is said to be,
To tread the ooze
Of the salt deep;
To run upon the sharp wind of the north;
To dobusiness in the veins o th earth,
When it is bakd with frost;
to dive into the re; to ride
On the curld clouds.
[I. ii. 25256, 19192]
Ariel, being one of those elves or spirits, whose pastime is to make midnight
mushrooms, and who rejoice to listen to the solemn curfew [V. i. 3840]; by
whose assistance Prospero has bedimmd the sun at noon-tide,
And twixt the green sea and the azurd vault,
Set roaring war;
[V. i. 434]
has a set of ideas and images peculiar to his station and oce; a beauty of the
same kind with that which is so justly admired in the Adam [in Paradise Lost] of
Milton, whose manners and sentiments are all Paradisaical. How delightfully and
how suitably to his character, are the habitations and pastimes of this invisible
being pointed out in the following exquisite song!
Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslips bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bats back I do y,
After sun-set merrily.
[V. i. 8892]

The Tempest in the Eighteenth Century


. . . But the poet rises still higher in his managment of the character of Ariel,
by making a moral use of it, that is, I think, incomparable, and the greatest
eort of his art. Ariel informs Prospero, that he has fullled his orders, and
punished his brother and companions so severely, that if he himself was now
to behold their suerings, he would greatly compassionate them. To which
Prospero answers,
Dost thou think so, Spirit?
Ariel. Mine would, Sir, were I human.
Prospero. And mine shall.
[V. ii. 1920]
He then takes occasion, with wonderful dexterity and humanity, to draw an
argument from the incorporeality of Ariel, for the justice and necessity of pity
and forgiveness:
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their aictions; and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
Passiond as they, be kindlier movd than thou art?
[V. i. 214]
The poet is a more powerful magician than his own Prospero: we are
transported into fairy land; we are wrapt in a delicious dream, from which it is
misery to be disturbed; all around is enchantment!
The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
[III. ii. 135.]
. . . Whoever ventures, says Horace, to form a character totally original, let
him endeavour to preserve it with uniformity and consistency; but the formation
of an original character is a work of great diculty and hazard. In this arduous
and uncommon task, however, Shakespeare has wonderfully succeeded in
his Tempest: the monster Calyban is the creature of his own imagination, in
the formation of which he could derive no assistance from observation or
Calyban is the son of a witch, begotten by a demon: the sorceries of his mother
were so terrible, that her countrymen banished her into this desert island, as unt
for human society: in conformity, therefore, to this diabolical propagation, he is
represented as a prodigy of cruelty, malice, pride, ignorance, idleness, gluttony,
and lust. He is introduced with great propriety, cursing Prospero and Miranda,


The Tempest

whom he had endeavoured to dele; and his execrations are artfully contrived to
have reference to the occupation of his mother:
As wicked dew as eer my mother brushed,
With ravens feather, from unwholesome fen,
Drop on you both!
All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
[I. ii. 32123, 33940]
His kindness is, afterward, expressed as much in character, as his hatred, by an
enumeration of oces, that could be of value only in a desolate island, and in the
estimation of a savage:
I prythee, let me bring thee where crabs grow;
And I with my long nails will dig thee pig-nuts,. . . .
Ill shew thee the best springs; Ill pluck thee berries;
Ill sh for thee, and get thee wood enough.
[II. ii. 167., 16061]
Which last is, indeed, a circumstance of great use, in a place, where to be
defended from the cold was neither easy nor usual; and it has a farther peculiar
beauty, because the gathering wood was the occupation to which Caliban was
subjected by Prospero, who, therefore, deemed it a service of high importance.
The gross ignorance of this monster is represented with delicate judgment: he
knew not the names of the sun and moon, which he calls the bigger light and the
less; and he believes that Stephano was the man in the moon, whom his mistress
had often shewn him: and when Prospero reminds him that he rst taught him
to pronounce articulately, his answer is full of malevolence and rage:
You taught me language; and my prot ont
Is, I know how to curse:
[I. ii. 36364]
the properest return for such a end to make for such a favour. The spirits whom
he supposes to be employed by Prospero perpetually to torment him, and the
many forms and dierent methods they take for this purpose, are described with
the utmost liveliness and force of fancy:
Sometimes like apes, that moe and chatter at me,
And after bite me; then like hedge-hogs, which
Lie tumbling in my bare-foot way, and mount

The Tempest in the Eighteenth Century


Their pricks at my foot-fall: sometimes am I

All wound with adders, who, with cloven tongues,
Do hiss me into madness.
[II. ii. 914]
It is scarcely possible for any speech to be more expressive of the manners
and sentiments, than that in which our poet has painted the brutal barbarity
and unfeeling savageness of this son of Sycorax, by making him enumerate,
with a kind of horrible delight, the various ways in which it was possible for the
drunken sailors to surprise and kill his master:
There thou mayst brain him,
Having rst seizd his books; or with a log
Batter his skull; or paunch him with a stake;
Or cut his wezand with thy knife.
[III. ii. 8891]
He adds, in allusion to his own abominable attempt, Above all, be sure to secure
the daughter; whose beauty, he tells them, is incomparable. The charms of
Miranda could not be more exalted, than by extorting this testimony from so
insensible a monster.
Shakespeare seems to be the only poet who possesses the power of uniting
poetry with propriety of character; of which I know not an instance more
striking, than the image Caliban makes use of to express silence, which is at once
highly poetical, and exactly suited to the wildness of the speaker:
Pray you tread softly, that the blind mole may not
Hear a foot-fall.
[IV. i. 19495]
I always lament that our author has not preserved this erce and implacable
spirit in Caliban to the end of the play; instead of which, he has, I think, injudiciously put into his mouth, words that imply repentance and understanding.
Ill 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!
[V. i. 29598]
It must not be forgotten, that Shakespeare has artfully taken occasion,
from this extraordinary character, which is nely contrasted to the mildness


The Tempest

and obedience of Ariel, obliquely to satirize the prevailing passion for new and
wonderful sights, which has rendered the English so ridiculous. Were I in
England now, says Trinculo, on rst discovering Caliban, and had but this sh
painted, not an holiday-fool there but would give a piece of silver.When they
will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead
Indian [II. ii. 2733].
. . . The resentment of Prospero for the matchless cruelty and wicked
usurpation of his brother; his parental aection and solicitude for the welfare
of his daughter, the heiress of his dukedom; and the awful solemnity of his
character, as a skilful magician; are all along preserved with equal consistency,
dignity, and decorum. One part of his behaviour deserves to be particularly
pointed out: during the exhibition of a mask with which he had ordered Ariel
to entertain Ferdinand and Miranda, he starts suddenly, from the recollection
of the conspiracy of Caliban, and his confederates, against his life, and dismisses
his attendant spirits, who instantly vanish to a hollow and confused noise. He
appears to be greatly moved; and suitably to this agitation of mind, which his
danger has excited, he takes occasion, from the sudden disappearance of the
visionary scene, to moralize on the dissolution of all things:
These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits; and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this unsubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a wreck behind.
[IV. i. 14856]
To these noble images he adds a short but comprehensive observation on human
life, not excelled by any passage of the moral and sententious Euripides:
We are such stu
As dreams are made of; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep!
[IV. i. 15658]
Thus admirably is a uniformity of character, that leading beauty in dramatic
poetry, preserved throughout the Tempest. And it may be farther remarked,
that the unities of action, of place, and of time, are in this play, though almost
constantly violated by Shakespeare, exactly observed. The action is one, great, and

The Tempest in the Eighteenth Century


entire, the restoration of Prospero to his dukedom: this business is transacted in

the compass of a small island, and in or near the cave of Prospero; though, indeed,
it had been more artful and regular, to have conned it to this single spot: and
the time which the action takes up, is only equal to that of the representation; an
excellence, which ought always to be aimed at in every well-conducted fable; and
for the want of which, a variety of the most entertaining incidents can scarcely

1765Samuel Johnson.
From The Works of Mr. William Shakespear
Samuel Johnson (17091784) is thought by many to be the greatest
commentator on Shakespeare. He was a poet, critic, prose writer, lexicographer, editor, and a celebrated raconteur. Johnsons edition of the
works of Shakespeare contained some of his famous thoughts on the
plays. The following comments are taken from annotations he supplied
to his text of The Tempest.

[On the system of enchantment in the play]

. . . That the character and conduct of Prospero may be understood, something
must be known of the system of enchantment, which supplied all the marvellous
found in the romances of the middle ages. This system seems to be founded on
the opinion that the fallen spirits, having dierent degrees of guilt, had dierent
habitations allotted them at their expulsion, some being conned in hell, some
(as Hooker, who delivers the opinion of our poets age, expresses it) dispersed
in air, some on earth, some in water, others in caves, dens, or minerals under the
earth. Of these, some were more malignant and mischievous than others. The
earthy spirits seem to have been thought the most depraved, and the aerial the
least vitiated. Thus Prospero observes of Ariel:
Thou wast a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and abhorrd commands.
Over these spirits a power might be obtained by certain rites performed
or charms learned. This power was called The Black Art, or Knowledge
of Enchantment. The enchanter being (as king James observes in his
Demonology) one who commands the devil, whereas the witch serves him.
Those who thought best of this art, the existence of which was, I am afraid,
believed very seriously, held, that certain sounds and characters had a physical


The Tempest

power over spirits, and compelled their agency; others who condemned the
practice, which in reality was surely never practised, were of opinion, with more
reason, that the power of charms arose only from compact, and was no more
than the spirits voluntar[il]y allowed them for the seduction of man. The art was
held by all, though not equally criminal, yet unlawful, and therefore Causabon,
speaking of one who had commerce with spirits, blames him, though he imagines
him one of the best kind who dealt with them by way of command. Thus
Prospero repents of his art in the last scene. The spirits were always considered as
in some measure enslaved to the enchanter, at least for a time, and as serving with
unwillingness, therefore Ariel so often begs for liberty; and Caliban observes,
that the spirits serve Prospero with no good will, but hate him rootedly. Of
these tries enough.
[On Calibans new language]
Whence these critics derived the notion of a new language appropriated
to Caliban, I cannot nd: they certainly mistook brutality of sentiment for
uncouthness of words. Caliban had learned to speak of Prospero and his
daughter, he had no names for the sun and moon before their arrival, and could
not have invented a language of his own without more understanding than
Shakespeare has thought it proper to bestow upon him. His diction is indeed
somewhat clouded by the gloominess of his temper, and the malignity of his
purposes; but let any other being entertain the same thoughts, and he will nd
them easily issue in the same expressions.
[On the song Full fathom ve thy father lies]
I know not whether Dr. Warburton has very successfully defended these songs
from Gildons accusation. Ariels lays, however seasonable and ecacious, must
be allowed to be of no supernatural dignity or elegance, they express nothing
great, nor reveal any thing above mortal discovery.
The reason for which Ariel is introduced thus triing is, that he and his
companions are evidently of the fairy kind, an order of beings to which tradition
has always ascribed a sort of diminutive agency, powerful but ludicrous, a
humorous and frolick controlment of nature, well expressed by the songs of
[Johnsons general observation]
It is observed of The Tempest, that its plan is regular. . . . I think [that is]
an accidental eect of the story, not intended or regarded by our author. But
whatever might be Shakespeares intention in forming or adopting the plot,
he has made it instrumental to the production of many characters, diversied
with boundless invention, and preserved with profound skill in nature, extensive
knowledge of opinions, and accurate observation of life. In a single drama are

The Tempest in the Eighteenth Century


here exhibited princes, courtiers, and sailors, all speaking in their real characters.
There is the agency of airy spirits, and of an earthly goblin. The operation of
magick, the tumults of a storm, the adventures of a desert island, the native
eusion of untaught aection, the punishment of guilt, and the nal happiness
of the pair for whom our passions and reason are equally interested.

1780Edward Capell.
From Notes and Various Readings to Shakespeare
Edward Capell (17131781) was Deputy Inspector of Plays beginning in 1737. Capell spent 15 years preparing his master edition of
Shakespeares plays, focusing on historic details of staging and production.

. . . No well-advisd poet will think, at this time of day, of bringing into his piece an
action like to that of this [rst] scene [of The Tempest]; as, under every advantage
that stages now derive from their scenery, or can ever derive were mechanism
even pushd to the utmost, such action will want the power of imposing in that
degree that we ourselves have made necessary. But this touchd not Shakespeare,
his imposing was not by eyes but by ears; the former his stage denyd him . . .
and therefore left him at liberty to x upon any action that likd him, and that
suited his plot. The other mode of imposing he has been at pains to provide for,
by drawing his sea-characters justly, and by putting into their mouths the proper
terms of their calling.


Eighteenth-century producers, adapters, and critics of The Tempest and its successors had concentrated on the storys exterior aspects and seen the play as a
vehicle for extravagant spectacle. By contrast, nineteenth-century writers on
The Tempest focused more on its interior depths.
The great critic William Hazlitt, for instance, thought of the play as a poem
to be staged in the mind rather than as a theatrical work to be performed on
stage. Writing in 1822, Hazlitts contemporary Charles Lamb deplored the
exaggerated staging of The Enchanted Island, Davenant and Drydens seventeenthcentury adaptation of The Tempest. To Lamb, such a literal representation was not
credible, and he asserted the superiority of the readers imagination in evoking
the storys fanciful world. Commenting on a London performance of The Tempest
in July 1857, an anonymous reviewer in The Athenaeum (a weekly magazine)
lamented another problem caused by complicated staging: the long, dull pauses
that audiences had to endure as sets were changed.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge expressed his own revulsion at stagings of The
Tempest, arguing that Shakespeares works may be said to have been recited
rather than actedthat is to say, description and narration supplied the place of
visual exhibition. According to Coleridge, excessive trappings prevented the play
from touching the viewers spirit. In this opinion, Coleridge was in agreement
with A. W. Schlegel, the German philologist and translator of Shakespeare.
In 1809, Schlegel oered a close reading of The Tempest in his larger, historical
study of world literature, concentrating on mood, structure, and characters. He
saw little action or progressive movement in the play but much poetry and
Other nineteenth-century writers also made close studies of the characters
qualities. One such was the critic Anna Brownell Jameson, a pioneer in the study of
Shakespeares female characters, who wrote in 1832; she found Miranda particularly
compelling. Some critics extended the approach to argue that Shakespeare himself
emerged as a character in the play, behind the mask of Prospero.
The idea of identifying Prospero with Shakespeare was rst presented by a
Scottish poet and critic named Thomas Campbell in 1838, when he said,


The Tempest

Shakespeare, as if conscious that [The Tempest] would be his last [play],

and as if inspired to typify himself, has made its hero a natural, dignied,
and benevolent magician, who could conjure up spirits. . . . Shakespeare
himself is Prospero, or rather a superior genius who commands both
Prospero and Ariel. But the time was approaching when the potent
sorcerer was to break his sta.
Writing in 1875, Edward Dowden identied the qualities in Prospero that
supported the characters identication with Shakespeare. In 1880, the poet
A. C. Swinburne agreed that the plays place in Shakespeares canonit was
the last play he wrotecontributed to the notion that Prospero represented
Shakespeare. Swinburne himself regarded the idea as graceful, but unlikely.
Others creative writers who examined the play in the nineteenth century
included the playwright George Bernard Shaw. Shaw, who considered himself in
may ways Shakespeares better, nonetheless praised Shakespeares language in an
article published in 1897. He also extolled the virtues of spare rather than spectacular
productions: The reason is, not that a man can always imagine things more vividly
than art can present them to him, but that it takes an altogether extraordinary
degree of art to compete with the pictures which the imagination makes when it is
stimulated by such potent forces as the maternal instinct, superstitious awe, or the
poetry of Shakespeare. The great critic and thinker John Ruskin also examined The
Tempest, which inspired in him thoughts on the nature of slavery.
In the nineteenth century, The Tempest served not only as a source of
adaptations but also as an inspiration for truly creative works. In his dramatic
monologue Caliban upon Setebos, the poet Robert Browning explored the
concept of deity. (Setebos is the name of Calibans god.) Written in 1864, the
monologue reveals how Caliban projects his own earth-based nature upon his
idea of god. Indirectly, Brownings monologue raises the question of whether
people do this as well. In 1878, the French political philosopher Ernest Renan
wrote a play called Caliban that is neither an adaptation nor a revision of The
Tempest. Rather, it is an intellectual discourse (in dramatic form) opposing the
culture of democracy then emerging. Renans Caliban uses the characters of
Prospero, Ariel, and Caliban as archetypes for the aristocratic ruler, the ideal of
beauty and culture, and the industrialized masses.

1809August Wilhelm Schlegel.

From Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature
August Wilhelm Schlegel (17671845) was a German critic and poet.
One of the most influential figures of the German Romantic movement, he translated a number of Shakespeares plays into German.

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


The Tempest has little action or progressive movement; the union of Ferdinand
and Miranda is settled at their rst interview, and Prospero merely throws
apparent obstacles in their way; the shipwrecked band go leisurely about the
island; the attempts of Sebastian and Antonio on the life of the King of Naples,
and the plot of Caliban and the drunken sailors against Prospero, are nothing
but a feint, for we foresee that they will be completely frustrated by the magical
skill of the latter; nothing remains therefore but the punishment of the guilty by
dreadful sights which harrow up their consciences, and then the discovery and
nal reconciliation. Yet this want of movement is so admirably concealed by the
most varied display of the fascinations of poetry, and the exhilaration of mirth,
the details of the execution are so very attractive, that it requires no small degree
of attention to perceive that the dnouement is, in some degree, anticipated in
the exposition. The history of the loves of Ferdinand and Miranda, developed
in a few short scenes, is enchantingly beautiful: an aecting union of chivalrous
magnanimity on the one part, and on the other of the virgin openness of a
heart which, brought up far from the world on an uninhabited island, has never
learned to disguise its innocent movements. The wisdom of the princely hermit
Prospero has a magical and mysterious air; the disagreeable impression left by
the black falsehood of the two usurpers is softened by the honest gossiping of
the old and faithful Gonzalo; Trinculo and Stephano, two good-for-nothing
drunkards, nd a worthy associate in Caliban; and Ariel hovers sweetly over the
whole as the personied genius of the wonderful fable.
Caliban has become a by-word as the strange creation of a poetical
imagination. A mixture of gnome and savage, half daemon, half brute, in his
behaviour we perceive at once the traces of his native disposition, and the
inuence of Prosperos education. The latter could only unfold his understanding,
without, in the slightest degree, taming his rooted malignity: it is as if the use of
reason and human speech were communicated to an awkward ape. In inclination
Caliban is maliciously cowardly, false, and base; and yet he is essentially dierent
from the vulgar knaves of a civilized world, as portrayed occasionally by
Shakespeare. He is rude, but not vulgar; he never falls into the prosaic and low
familiarity of his drunken associates, for he is, in his way, a poetical being; he
always speaks in verse. He has picked up every thing dissonant and thorny in
language to compose out of it a vocabulary of his own; and of the whole variety
of nature, the hateful, repulsive, and pettily deformed, have alone been impressed
on his imagination. The magical world of spirits, which the sta of Prospero
has assembled on the island, casts merely a faint reection into his mind, as a
ray of light which falls into a dark cave, incapable of communicating to it either
heat or illumination, serves merely to set in motion the poisonous vapours. The
delineation of this monster is throughout inconceivably consistent and profound,
and, notwithstanding its hatefulness, by no means hurtful to our feelings, as the
honour of human nature is left untouched.


The Tempest

In the zephyr-like Ariel the image of air is not to be mistaken, his name
even bears an allusion to it; as, on the other hand Caliban signies the heavy
element of earth. Yet they are neither of them simple, allegorical personications
but beings individually determined. In general we nd in The Midsummer
Nights Dream, in The Tempest, in the magical part of Macbeth, and wherever
Shakespeare avails himself of the popular belief in the invisible presence of
spirits, and the possibility of coming in contact with them, a profound view of
the inward life of nature and her mysterious springs, which, it is true, can never
be altogether unknown to the genuine poet, as poetry is altogether incompatible
with mechanical physics, but which few have possessed in an equal degree with
Dante and himself.

18111812Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Lecture IX, from The Lectures of 18111812
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (17721834) was a great poet and critic
who was, with William Wordsworth, one of the founders of English
Romanticism. In collaboration with Wordsworth, he published Lyrical
Ballads, which among other pieces contained his enduring poem The
Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Coleridges best-known critical work is
Biographia Literaria.

Among the ideal plays, I will take The Tempest, by way of example. Various others
might be mentioned, but it is impossible to go through every drama, and what
I remark on The Tempest will apply to all Shakespeares productions of the same
In this play Shakespeare has especially appealed to the imagination, and he
has constructed a plot well adapted to the purpose. According to his scheme, he
did not appeal to any sensuous impression (the word sensuous is authorised by
Milton) of time and place, but to the imagination, and it is to be borne in mind,
that of old, and as regards mere scenery, his works may be said to have been
recited rather than actedthat is to say, description and narration supplied the
place of visual exhibition: the audience was told to fancy that they saw what they
only heard described; the painting was not in colours, but in words.
This is particularly to be noted in the rst scenea storm and its confusion
on board the kings ship. The highest and the lowest characters are brought
together, and with what excellence! Much of the genius of Shakespeare is
displayed in these happy combinationsthe highest and the lowest, the gayest

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


and the saddest; he is not droll in one scene and melancholy in another, but
often both the one and the other in the same scene. Laughter is made to swell
the tear of sorrow, and to throw, as it were, a poetic light upon it, while the tear
mingles tenderness with the laughter. Shakespeare has evinced the power, which
above all other men he possessed, that of introducing the profoundest sentiments
of wisdom, where they would be least expected, yet where they are most truly
natural. One admirable secret of his art is, that separate speeches frequently do
not appear to have been occasioned by those which preceded, and which are
consequent upon each other, but to have arisen out of the peculiar character of
the speaker.
Before I go further, I may take the opportunity of explaining what is meant
by mechanic and organic regularity. In the former the copy must appear as if it
had come out of the same mould with the original; in the latter there is a law
which all the parts obey, conforming themselves to the outward symbols and
manifestations of the essential principle. If we look to the growth of trees, for
instance, we shall observe that trees of the same kind vary considerably, according
to the circumstances of soil, air, or position; yet we are able to decide at once
whether they are oaks, elms, or poplars.
So with Shakespeares characters: he shows us the life and principle of each
being with organic regularity. The Boatswain, in the rst scene of The Tempest,
when the bonds of reverence are thrown o as a sense of danger impresses all,
gives a loose to his feelings, and thus pours forth his vulgar mind to the old
Hence! What care these roarers for the name of King? To cabin: silence!
trouble us not.
Gonzalo repliesGood; yet remember whom thou hast aboard. To
which the Boatswain answersNone that I more love than myself. You are a
counsellor: if you can command these elements to silence, and work the peace
of the present, we will not hand a rope more; use your authority: if you cannot,
give thanks that you have lived so long, and make yourself ready in your cabin
for the mischance of the hour, if it so hap.Cheerly, good hearts!Out of our
way, I say.
An ordinary dramatist would, after this speech, have represented Gonzalo
as moralising, or saying something connected with the Boatswains language;
for ordinary dramatists are not men of genius: they combine their ideas by
association, or by logical anity; but the vital writer, who makes men on the
stage what they are in nature, in a moment transports himself into the very
being of each personage, and, instead of cutting out articial puppets, he brings
before us the men themselves. Therefore, Gonzalo soliloquises,I have great
comfort from this fellow: methinks, he hath no drowning mark upon him; his
complexion is perfect gallows. Stand fast, good fate, to his hanging! make the


The Tempest

rope of his destiny our cable, for our own doth little advantage. If he be not born
to be hanged, our case is miserable.
In this part of the scene we see the true sailor with his contempt of danger,
and the old counsellor with his high feeling, who, instead of condescending to
notice the words just addressed to him, turns o, meditating with himself, and
drawing some comfort to his own mind, by triing with the ill expression of the
boatswains face, founding upon it a hope of safety.
Shakespeare had predetermined to make the plot of this play such as to
involve a certain number of low characters, and at the beginning be pitched
the note of the whole. The rst scene was meant as a lively commencement
of the story; the reader is prepared for something that is to be developed,
and in the next scene he brings forward Prospero and Miranda. How
is this done? By giving to his favourite character, Miranda, a sentence which
at once expresses the violence and fury of the storm, such as it might appear
to a witness on the land, and at the same time displays the tenderness of her
feelingsthe exquisite feelings of a female brought up in a desert, but with
all the advantages of education, all that could be communicated by a wise
and aectionate father. She possesses all the delicacy of innocence, yet with
all the powers of her mind unweakened by the combats of life. Miranda
O! I have suered
With those that I saw suer: a brave vessel,
Who had, no doubt, some noble creatures in her,
Dashd all to pieces.
The doubt here intimated could have occurred to no mind but to that of
Miranda, who had been bred up in the island with her father and a monster
only: she did not know, as others do, what sort of creatures were in a ship;
others never would have introduced it as a conjecture. This shows, that while
Shakespeare is displaying his vast excellence, he never fails to insert some
touch or other, which is not merely characteristic of the particular person,
but combines two thingsthe person, and the circumstances acting upon the
person. She proceeds:
O! the cry did knock
Against my very heart. Poor souls! they perishd.
Had I been any god of power, I would
Have sunk the sea within the earth, or eer
It should the good ship so have swallowd, and
The fraughting souls within her.

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She still dwells upon that which was most wanting to the completeness of her
naturethese fellow creatures from whom she appeared banished, with only one
relict to keep them alive, not in her memory, but in her imagination.
Another proof of excellent judgment in the poet, for I am now principally
adverting to that point, is to be found in the preparation of the reader for what
is to follow. Prospero is introduced, rst in his magic robe, which, with the
assistance of his daughter, he lays aside, and we then know him to be a being
possessed of supernatural powers. He then instructs Miranda in the story of their
arrival in the island, and this is conducted in such a manner, that the reader never
conjectures the technical use the poet has made of the relation, by informing the
auditor of what it is necessary for him to know.
The next step is the warning by Prospero, that he means, for particular purposes,
to lull his daughter to sleep; and here he exhibits the earliest and mildest proof
of magical power. In ordinary and vulgar plays we should have had some person
brought upon the stage, whom nobody knows or cares anything about, to let the
audience into the secret. Prospero having cast a sleep upon his daughter, by that
sleep stops the narrative at the very moment when it was necessary to break it
o, in order to excite curiosity, and yet to give the memory and understanding
sucient to carry on the progress of the history uninterruptedly.
Here I cannot help noticing a ne touch of Shakespeares knowledge of
human nature, and generally of the great laws of the human mind: I mean
Mirandas infant remembrance. Prospero asks her
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.
Miranda answers,
Certainly, sir, I can.
Prospero inquires,
By what? by any other house or person?
Of any thing the image tell me, that
Hath kept with thy remembrance.
To which Miranda returns,
Tis far o;
And rather like a dream than an assurance


The Tempest

That my remembrance warrants. Had I not

Four or ve women once, that tended me?
This is exquisite! In general, our remembrances of early life arise from vivid
colours, especially if we have seen them in motion: for instance, persons when
grown up will remember a bright green door, seen when they were quite young;
but Miranda, who was somewhat older, recollected four or ve women who
tended her. She might know men from her father, and her remembrance of the
past might be worn out by the present object, but women she only knew by
herself, by the contemplation of her own gure in the fountain, and she recalled
to her mind what had been. It was not, that she had seen such and such grandees,
or such and such peeresses, but she remembered to have seen something like the
reection of herself: it was not herself, and it brought back to her mind what she
had seen most like herself.
In my opinion the picturesque power displayed by Shakespeare, of all the
poets that ever lived, is only equalled, if equalled, by Milton and Dante. The
presence of genius is not shown in elaborating a picture: we have had many
specimens of this sort of work in modern poems, where all is so dutchied, if
I may use the word, by the most minute touches, that the reader naturally asks
why words, and not painting, are used? I know a young lady of much taste, who
observed, that in reading recent versied accounts of voyages and travels, she, by
a sort of instinct, cast her eyes on the opposite page, for coloured prints of what
was so patiently and punctually described.
The power of poetry is, by a single word perhaps, to instil that energy into
the mind, which compels the imagination to produce the picture. Prospero tells
One midnight,
Fated to the purpose, did Antonio open
The gates of Milan; and i the dead of darkness,
The ministers for the purpose hurried thence
Me, and thy crying self.
Here, by introducing a single happy epithet, crying, in the last line, a
complete picture is presented to the mind, and in the production of such pictures
the power of genius consists.
In reference to preparation, it will be observed that the storm, and all that
precedes the tale, as well as the tale itself, serve to develop completely the main
character of the drama, as well as the design of Prospero. The manner in which
the heroine is charmed asleep ts us for what follows, goes beyond our ordinary
belief, and gradually leads us to the appearance and disclosure of a being of the
most fanciful and delicate texture, like Prospero, preternaturally gifted.

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


In this way the entrance of Ariel, if not absolutely forethought by the reader,
was foreshewn by the writer: in addition, we may remark, that the moral feeling
called forth by the sweet words of Miranda,
Alack, what trouble
Was I then to you!
in which she considered only the suerings and sorrows of her father, puts the
reader in a frame of mind to exert his imagination in favour of an object so
innocent and interesting. The poet makes him wish that, if supernatural agency
were to be employed, it should be used for a being so young and lovely. The
wish is father to the thought, and Ariel is introduced. Here, what is called
poetic faith is required and created, and our common notions of philosophy give
way before it: this feeling may be said to be much stronger than historic faith,
since for the exercise of poetic faith the mind is previously prepared. I make this
remark, though somewhat digressive, in order to lead to a future subject of these
lecturesthe poems of Milton. When adverting to those, I shall have to explain
farther the distinction between the two.
Many Scriptural poems have been written with so much of Scripture in
them, that what is not Scripture appears to be not true, and like mingling
lies with the most sacred revelations. Now Milton, on the other hand, has
taken for his subject that one point of Scripture of which we have the mere
fact recorded, and upon this he has most judiciously constructed his whole
fable. So of Shakespeares King Lear: we have little historic evidence to guide
or conne us, and the few facts handed down to us, and admirably employed
by the poet, are sucient, while we read, to put an end to all doubt as to the
credibility of the story. It is idle to say that this or that incident is improbable,
because history, as far as it goes, tells us that the fact was so and so. Four or
ve lines in the Bible include the whole that is said of Miltons story, and the
Poet has called up that poetic faith, that conviction of the mind, which is
necessary to make that seem true, which otherwise might have been deemed
almost fabulous.
But to return to The Tempest, and to the wondrous creation of Ariel. If a doubt
could ever be entertained whether Shakespeare was a great poet, acting upon
laws arising out of his own nature, and not without law, as has sometimes been
idly asserted, that doubt must be removed by the character of Ariel. The very rst
words uttered by this being introduce the spirit, not as an angel, above man; not a
gnome, or a end, below man; but while the poet gives him the faculties and the
advantages of reason, he divests him of all mortal character, not positively, it is
true, but negatively. In air he lives, from air he derives his being, in air he acts; and
all his colours and properties seem to have been obtained from the rainbow and
the skies. There is nothing about Ariel that cannot be conceived to exist either


The Tempest

at sunrise or at sunset: hence all that belongs to Ariel belongs to the delight
the mind is capable of receiving from the most lovely external appearances.
His answers to Prospero are directly to the question, and nothing beyond; or
where he expatiates, which is not unfrequently, it is to himself and upon his own
delights, or upon the unnatural situation in which he is placed, though under a
kindly power and to good ends,
Shakespeare has properly made Ariels very rst speech characteristic of
him. After he has described the manner in which he had raised the storm and
produced its harmless consequences, we nd that Ariel is discontentedthat he
has been freed, it is true, from a cruel connement, but still that he is bound to
obey Prospero, and to execute any commands imposed upon him. We feel that
such a state of bondage is almost unnatural to him, yet we see that it is delightful
for him to be so employed. It is as if we were to command one of the winds in a
dierent direction to that which nature dictates, or one of the waves, now rising
and now sinking, to recede before it bursts upon the shore: such is the feeling
we experience, when we learn that a being like Ariel is commanded to full any
mortal behest.
When, however, Shakespeare contrasts the treatment of Ariel by Prospero
with that of Sycorax, we are sensible that the liberated spirit ought to be grateful,
and Ariel does feel and acknowledge the obligation; he immediately assumes the
airy being, with a mind so elastically correspondent, that when once a feeling has
passed from it, not a trace is left behind.
Is there anything in nature from which Shakespeare caught the idea of
this delicate and delightful being, with such child-like simplicity, yet with such
preternatural powers? He is neither born of heaven, nor of earth; but, as it were,
between both, like a May-blossom kept suspended in air by the fanning breeze,
which prevents it from falling to the ground, and only nally, and by compulsion,
touching earth. This reluctance of the Sylph to be under the command even of
Prospero is kept up through the whole play, and in the exercise of his admirable
judgment Shakespeare has availed himself of it, in order to give Ariel an interest
in the event, looking forward to that moment when he was to gain his last and
only rewardsimple and eternal liberty.
Another instance of admirable judgment and excellent preparation is to be
found in the creature contrasted with ArielCaliban, who is described in such
a manner by Prospero, as to lead us to expect the appearance of a foul, unnatural
monster. He is not seen at once: his voice is heard; this is the preparation; he was
too oensive to be seen rst in all his deformity, and in nature we do not receive
so much disgust from sound as from sight. After we have heard Calibans voice
he does not enter, until Ariel has entered like a water-nymph. All the strength
of contrast is thus acquired without any of the shock of abruptness, or of that
unpleasant sensation, which we experience when the object presented is in any
way hateful to our vision.

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


The character of Caliban is wonderfully conceived: he is a sort of creature

of the earth, as Ariel is a sort of creature of the air. He partakes of the qualities
of the brute, but is distinguished from brutes in two waysby having mere
understanding without moral reason; and by not possessing the instincts which
pertain to absolute animals. Still, Caliban is in some respects a noble being:
the poet has raised him far above contempt: he is a man in the sense of the
imagination: all the images he uses are drawn from nature, and are highly
poetical; they t in with the images of Ariel. Caliban gives us images from the
earth, Ariel images from the air. Caliban talks of the diculty of nding fresh
water, of the situation of morasses, and of other circumstances which even brute
instinct, without reason, could comprehend. No mean gure is employed, no
mean passion displayed, beyond animal passion, and repugnance to command.
The manner in which the lovers are introduced is equally wonderful, and it is
the last point I shall now mention in reference to this, almost miraculous, drama.
The same judgment is observable in every scene, still preparing, still inviting,
and still gratifying, like a nished piece of music. I have omitted to notice one
thing, and you must give me leave to advert to it before I proceed: I mean the
conspiracy against the life of Alonzo. I want to shew you how well the poet
prepares the feelings of the reader for this plot, which was to execute the most
detestable of all crimes, and which, in another play, Shakespeare has called the
murder of sleep.
Antonio and Sebastian at rst had no such intention; it was suggested
by the magical sleep cast on Alonzo and Gonzalo; but they are previously
introduced scong and scorning at what was said by others, without regard to
age or situationwithout any sense of admiration for the excellent truths they
heard delivered, but giving themselves up entirely to the malignant and unsocial
feeling, which induced them to listen to everything that was said, not for the sake
of proting by the learning and experience of others, but of hearing something
that might gratify vanity and self-love, by making them believe that the person
speaking was inferior to themselves.
This, let me remark, is one of the grand characteristics of a villain; and it
would not be so much a presentiment, as an anticipation of hell, for men to
suppose that all mankind were as wicked as themselves, or might be so; if they
were not too great fools. Pope, you are perhaps aware, objected to this conspiracy;
but in my mind, if it could be omitted, the play would lose a charm which
nothing could supply.
Many, indeed innumerable, beautiful passages might be quoted from this
play, independently of the astonishing scheme of its construction. Every body
will call to mind the grandeur of the language of Prospero in that divine speech,
where he takes leave of his magic art; and were I to indulge myself by repetitions
of the kind, I should descend from the character of a lecturer to that of a mere
reciter. Before I terminate, I may particularly recall one short passage, which has


The Tempest

fallen under the very severe, but inconsiderate, censure of Pope and Arbuthnot,
who pronounce it a piece of the grossest bombast. Prospero thus addresses his
daughter, directing her attention to Ferdinand:
The fringed curtains of thine eye advance,
And say what thou seest yond.
Taking these words as a periphrase ofLook what is coming yonder, it
certainly may to some appear to border on the ridiculous, and to fall under the
rule I formerly laid downthat whatever, without injury, can be translated into
a foreign language in simple terms, ought to be in simple terms in the original
language; but it is to be borne in mind, that dierent modes of expression
frequently arise from dierence of situation and education: a blackguard would
use very dierent words, to express the same thing, to those a gentleman would
employ, yet both would be natural and proper; dierence of feeling gives rise to
dierence of language: a gentleman speaks in polished terms, with due regard to
his own rank and position, while a blackguard, a person little better than half a
brute, speaks like half a brute, showing no respect for himself, nor for others.
But I am content to try the lines I have just quoted by the introduction to
them; and then, I think, you will admit, that nothing could be more t and
appropriate than such language. How does Prospero introduce them? He has
just told Miranda a wonderful story, which deeply aected her, and lled her
with surprise and astonishment, and for his own purposes he afterwards lulls her
to sleep. When she awakes, Shakespeare has made her wholly inattentive to the
present, but wrapped up in the past. An actress, who understands the character
of Miranda, would have her eyes cast down, and her eyelids almost covering
them, while she was, as it were, living in her dream. At this moment Prospero
sees Ferdinand, and wishes to point him out to his daughter, not only with great,
but with scenic solemnity, he standing before her, and before the spectator, in the
dignied character of a great magician. Something was to appear to Miranda on
the sudden, and as unexpectedly as if the hero of a drama were to be on the stage
at the instant when the curtain is elevated. It is under such circumstances that
Prospero says, in a tone calculated at once to arouse his daughters attention,
The fringed curtains of thine eye advance,
And say what thou seest yond.
Turning from the sight of Ferdinand to his thoughtful daughter, his attention
was rst struck by the downcast appearance of her eyes and eyelids; and, in
my humble opinion, the solemnity of the phraseology assigned to Prospero is
completely in character, recollecting his preternatural capacity, in which the
most familiar objects in nature present themselves in a mysterious point of view.

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


It is much easier to nd fault with a writer by reference to former notions and

experience, than to sit down and read him, recollecting his purpose, connecting
one feeling with another, and judging of his words and phrases, in proportion as
they convey the sentiments of the persons represented.
Of Miranda we may say, that she possesses in herself all the ideal beauties
that could be imagined by the greatest poet of any age or country; but it is not
my purpose now, so much to point out the high poetic powers of Shakespeare,
as to illustrate his exquisite judgment, and it is solely with this design that I have
noticed a passage with which, it seems to me, some critics, and those among the
best, have been unreasonably dissatised. If Shakespeare be the wonder of the
ignorant, he is, and ought to be, much more the wonder of the learned: not only
from profundity of thought, but from his astonishing and intuitive knowledge
of what man must be at all times, and under all circumstances, he is rather
to be looked upon as a prophet than as a poet. Yet, with all these unbounded
powers, with all this might and majesty of genius, he makes us feel as if he were
unconscious of himself, and of his high destiny, disguising the half god in the
simplicity of a child.

1817William Hazlitt.
The Tempest, from Characters of Shakespears Plays
William Hazlitt (17781830) was an English essayist and one of the finest Shakespearean critics of the nineteenth century. He examined the
work of poets, dramatists, essayists, and novelists.

The Tempest is one of the most original and perfect of Shakespears productions,
and he has shown in it all the variety of his powers. It is full of grace and
grandeur. The human and imaginary characters, the dramatic and the grotesque,
are blended together with the greatest art, and without any appearance of it.
Though he has here given to airy nothing a local habitation and a name, yet
that part which is only the fantastic creation of his mind, has the same palpable
texture, and coheres semblably with the rest. As the preternatural part has the
air of reality, and almost haunts the imagination with a sense of truth, the real
characters and events partake of the wildness of a dream. The stately magician,
Prospero, driven from his dukedom, but around whom (so potent is his art) airy
spirits throng numberless to do his bidding; his daughter Miranda (worthy
of that name) to whom all the power of his art points, and who seems the
goddess of the isle; the princely Ferdinand, cast by fate upon the haven of his
happiness in this idol of his love; the delicate Ariel; the savage Caliban, half


The Tempest

brute, half demon; the drunken ships creware all connected parts of the
story, and can hardly be spared from the place they ll. Even the local scenery
is of a piece and character with the subject. Prosperos enchanted island seems
to have risen up out of the sea; the airy music, the tempest-tossed vessel, the
turbulent waves, all have the eect of the landscape background of some ne
picture. Shakespeares pencil is (to use an allusion of his own) like the dyers
hand, subdued to what it works in. Everything in him, though it partakes
of the liberty of wit, is also subjected to the law of the understanding. For
instance, even the drunken sailors, who are made reeling-ripe, share, in the
disorder of their minds and bodies, in the tumult of the elements, and seem on
shore to be as much at the mercy of chance as they were before at the mercy
of the winds and waves. These fellows with their sea-wit are the least to our
taste of any part of the play: but they are as like drunken sailors as they can be,
and are an indirect foil to Caliban, whose gure acquires a classical dignity in
the comparison.
The character of Caliban is generally thought (and justly so) to be one of
the authors masterpieces. It is not indeed pleasant to see this character on the
stage any more than it is to see the God Pan personated there. But in itself it is
one of the wildest and most abstracted of all Shakespeares characters, whose
deformity whether of body or mind is redeemed by the power and truth of
the imagination displayed in it. It is the essence of grossness, but there is not a
particle of vulgarity in it. Shakespeare has described the brutal mind of Caliban
in contact with the pure and original forms of nature; the character grows out
of the soil where it is rooted uncontrolled, uncouth and wild, uncramped by
any of the meannesses of custom. It is of the earth, earthy. It seems almost
to have been dug out of the ground, with a soul instinctively superadded to
it answering to its wants and origin. Vulgarity is not natural coarseness, but
conventional coarseness, learnt from others, contrary to, or without an entire
conformity of natural power and disposition; as fashion is the commonplace
aectation of what is elegant and rened without any feeling of the essence
of it. Schlegel, the admirable German critic on Shakespeare observes that
Caliban is a poetical character, and always speaks in blank verse. He rst
comes in thus:
Caliban. As wicked dew as eer my mother brushd
With ravens feather from unwholesome fen,
Drop on you both: a south-west blow on ye,
And blister you all oer!
Prospero. For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps,
Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up; urchins
Shall for that vast of night that they may work,

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


All exercise on thee: thou shalt be pinchd

As thick as honey-combs, each pinch more stinging
Than bees that made em.
Caliban. I must eat my dinner.
This islands mine by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takst from me. When thou camest rst,
Thou strokdst me, and madst much of me; wouldst give me
Water with berries in t; and teach me how
To name the bigger light and how the less
That burn by day and night; and then I lovd thee,
And showd thee all the qualities o th isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:
Cursd be I that I did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Who rst was mine own king; and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o th island.
And again, he promises Trinculo his services thus, if he will free him from his
Ill show thee the best springs; Ill pluck thee berries,
Ill sh for thee, and get thee wood enough.
I prythee let me bring thee where crabs grow,
And I with my long nails will dig thee pig-nuts:
Show thee a jays nest, and instruct thee how
To snare the nimble marmozet: Ill bring thee
To clustring lberds; and sometimes Ill get thee
Young scamels from the rock.
In conducting Stephano and Trinculo to Prosperos cell, Caliban shows the
superiority of natural capacity over greater knowledge and greater folly; and in a
former scene, when Ariel frightens them with his music, Caliban to encourage
them accounts for it in the eloquent poetry of the senses:
Be not afraid, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twanging instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices,
That if I then had waked after long sleep,


The Tempest

Would make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me: when I wakd
I cried to dream again.
This is not more beautiful than it is true. The poet here shows us the savage with
the simplicity of a child, and makes the strange monster amiable. Shakespeare
had to paint the human animal rude and without choice in its pleasures, but not
without the sense of pleasure or some germ of the aections. Master Barnardine
in Measure for Measure, the savage of civilized life, is an admirable philosophical
counterpart to Caliban.
Shakespeare has, as it were by design, drawn o from Caliban the elements
of whatever is ethereal and rened, to compound them in the unearthly mould
of Ariel. Nothing was ever more nely conceived than this contrast between the
material and the spiritual, the gross and delicate. Ariel is imaginary power, the
swiftness of thought personied. When told to make good speed by Prospero,
he says, I drink the air before me. This is something like Pucks boast on a
similar occasion, Ill put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes. But
Ariel diers from Puck in having a fellow-feeling in the interests of those he
is employed about. How exquisite is the following dialogue between him and
Ariel. Your charm so strongly works em,
That if you now beheld them, your aections
Would become tender.
Prospero. Dost thou think so, spirit?
Ariel. Mine would, sir, were I human.
Prospero. And mine shall.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their aictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
Passiond as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?
It has been observed that there is a peculiar charm in the songs introduced in
Shakespeare, which, without conveying any distinct images, seem to recall all
the feelings connected with them, like snatches of half-forgotten music heard
indistinctly and at intervals. There is this eect produced by Ariels songs, which
(as we are told) seem to sound in the air, and as if the person playing them were
invisible. We shall give one instance out of many of this general power.

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century

Enter Ferdinand; and Ariel invisible, playing and singing.

Ariels Song
Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands;
Curtsied when you have, and kissd,
(The wild waves whist;)
Foot it featly here and there;
And sweet sprites the burden bear.
[Burden dispersedly.]
Hark, hark! bowgh-wowgh: the watch-dogs bark,
Ariel. Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
Cry cock-a-doodle-doo.
Ferdinand. Where should this music be? in air or earth?
It sounds no more: and sure it waits upon
Some god o th island. Sitting on a bank
Weeping against the king my fathers wreck,
This music crept by me upon the waters,
Allaying both their fury and my passion
With its sweet air; thence I have followd it,
Or it hath drawn me rather:but tis gone.
No, it begins again.
Ariels Song
Full fathom Eve thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suer a sea change,
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell
Hark! I now I hear them, ding-dong bell.
[Burden ding-dong.]
Ferdinand. The ditty does remember my drownd father.
This is no mortal business, nor no sound
That the earth owns: I hear it now above me.



The Tempest

The courtship between Ferdinand and Miranda is one of the chief beauties
of this play. It is the very purity of love. The pretended interference of Prospero
with it heightens its interest, and is in character with the magician, whose
sense of preternatural power makes him arbitrary, tetchy, and impatient of
The Tempest is a ner play than the Midsummer Nights Dream, which has
sometimes been compared with it; but it is not so ne a poem. There are a greater
number of beautiful passages in the latter. Two of the most striking in The Tempest
are spoken by Prospero. The one is that admirable one when the vision which he
has conjured up disappears, beginning, The cloud-cappd towers, the gorgeous
palaces, &c., which has so often been quoted that every schoolboy knows it by
heart; the other is that which Prospero makes in abjuring his art:
Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do y him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets, that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew, by whose aid
(Weak masters tho ye be) I have be-dimmd
The noon-tide sun, calld forth the mutinous winds,
And twixt the green sea and the azurd vault
Set roaring war; to the dread rattling thunder
Have I givn re, and rifted Joves stout oak
With his own bolt; the strong-basd promontory
Have I made shake, and by the spurs pluckd up
The pine and cedar: graves at my command
Have wakd their sleepers; opd, and let em forth
By my so potent art. But this rough magic
I here abjure; and when I have requird
Some heavnly music, which evn now I do,
(To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for) Ill break my sta,
Bury it certain fadoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound,
Ill drown my book.
We must not forget to mention among other things in this play, that Shakespeare
has anticipated nearly all the arguments on the Utopian schemes of modern

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


Gonzalo. Had I plantation of this isle, my lord,

Antonio. Held sowt with nettle-seed.
Sebastian. Or docks, or mallows.
Gonzalo. And were the king ont, what would I do?
Sebastian. Scape being drunk for want of wine.
Gonzalo. I the commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things; for no kind of trac
Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
No occupation; all men idle, all;
And women too, but innocent and pure;
No sovereignty;
Sebastian. Yet he would be king ont.
Antonio. The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning.
Gonzalo. All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavour: 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.
Sebastian. No marrying mong his subjects?
Antonio. None, man; all idle: whores and knaves.
Gonzalo. I would with such perfection govern, sir,
To excel the golden age.
Sebastian. God save his majesty!

1822Charles Lamb. From On the Tragedies
of Shakespeare; with Reference to Their Fitness
for Stage-Representation
Charles Lamb (17751834) was an English essayist and poet. Together
with his sister Mary he wrote prose narratives of Shakespeares plays,
which were published as Tales from Shakespeare.

. . . Much has been said, and deservedly, in reprobation of the vile mixture which
Dryden has thrown into The Tempest: doubtless without some such vicious alloy,


The Tempest

the impure ears of that age would never have sate out to hear so much innocence
of love as is contained in the sweet courtship of Ferdinand and Miranda. But
is The Tempest of Shakespeare at all a subject for stage representation? It is one
thing to read of an enchanter, and to believe the wondrous tale while we are
reading it; but to have a conjurer brought before us in his conjuring-gown, with
his spirits about him, which none but himself and some hundred of favored
spectators before the curtain are supposed to see, involves such a quantity of
the hateful incredible, that all our reverence for the author cannot hinder us
from perceiving such gross attempts upon the senses to be in the highest degree
childish and inecient.
Spirits and fairies cannot be represented, they cannot even be paintedthey
can only be believed. But the elaborate and anxious provision of scenery, which
the luxury of the age demands, in these cases works a quite contrary eect to
what is intended. That which in comedy, or plays of familiar life, adds so much to
the life of the imitation, in plays which appeal to the higher faculties positively
destroys the illusion which it is introduced to aid. A parlor or a drawing-room
a library opening into a gardena garden with an alcove in ita street, or the
piazza of Covent Garden, does well enough in a scene; we are content to give as
much credit to it as it demands; or rather, we think little about itit is little more
than reading at the top of a page, Scene, a garden; we do not imagine ourselves
there, but we readily admit the imitation of familiar objects.
But to think by the help of painted trees and caverns, which we know to be
painted, to transport our minds to Prospero, and his island and his lonely cell; or
by the aid of a ddle dexterously thrown in, in an interval of speaking, to make us
believe that we hear those super-natural noises of which the isle was full[!] The
garden of Eden, with our rst parents in it, is not more impossible to be shown
on a stage, than the Enchanted Isle, with its no less interesting and innocent
rst settlers.

1832Anna Brownell Jameson.
On Miranda, from Shakespeares Heroines:
Characteristics of Women, Moral, Poetical, and Historical
Anna Murphy Brownell Jameson (17941860), born in Dublin, is best
remembered for her character studies of Shakespeares heroines.

We might have deemed it impossible to go beyond Viola [in Twelfth Night],

Perdita [in The Winters Tale], and Ophelia [in Hamlet], as pictures of feminine
beautyto exceed the one in tender delicacy, the other in ideal grace, and the

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


last in simplicityif Shakespeare had not done this; and he alone could have
done it. Had he never created a Miranda, we should never have been made
to feel how completely the purely natural and the purely ideal can blend into
each other.
The character of Miranda resolves itself into the very elements of
womanhood. She is beautiful, modest, and tender, and she is these only;
they comprise her whole being, external and internal. She is so perfectly
unsophisticated, so delicately rened, that she is all but ethereal. Let us
imagine any other woman placed beside Mirandaeven one of Shakespeares
own loveliest and sweetest creationsthere is not one of them that could
sustain the comparison for a moment; not one that would not appear somewhat
coarse or articial when brought into immediate contact with this pure child
of nature. . . .
[Shakespeare] has removed Miranda far from all comparison with her own
sex; he has placed her between the demi-demon of earth and the delicate spirit
of air. The next step is into the ideal and supernatural; and the only being
who approaches Miranda, with whom she can be contrasted, is Ariel. Beside
the subtle essence of this ethereal sprite, this creature of elemental light and
air, that ran upon the winds, rode the curld clouds, and in the colours of the
rainbow lived, Miranda herself appears a palpable reality, a woman, breathing
thoughtful breath. . . walking the earth in her mortal loveliness, with a heart as
frail-strung, as passion-touched, as ever uttered in a female bosom.
I have said that Miranda possesses merely the elementary attributes of
womanhood; but each of these stand in her with a distinct and peculiar grace.
She resembles nothing upon earth: but do we therefore compare her, in our own
minds, with any of those fabled beings with which the fancy of ancient poets
peopled the forest depths, the fountain, or the ocean?oread or dryad eet,
sea-maid or naiad of the stream? We cannot think of them together. Miranda is
a consistent, natural, human being. Our impression of her nymph-like beauty,
her peerless grace and purity of soul, has a distinct and individual character.
Not only is she exquisitely lovely, being what she is, but we are made to feel
that she could not possibly be otherwise than as she is portrayed. She has never
beheld one of her own sex; she has never caught from society one imitated
or articial grace. The impulses which have come to her, in her enchanted
solitude, are of heaven and nature, not of the world and its vanities. She has
sprung up into beauty beneath the eye of her father, the princely magician; her
companions have been the rocks and woods, the many-shaped, many-tinted
clouds, and the silent stars; her playmates the ocean billows, that stooped their
foamy crests and ran rippling to kiss her feet. Ariel and his attendant sprites
hovered over her head, ministered duteous to her every wish, and presented
before her pageants of beauty and grandeur. The very air, made vocal by her
fathers art, oated in music around her. If we can pre-suppose such a situation


The Tempest

with all its circumstances, do we not behold in the character of Miranda not
only the credible, but the natural, the necessary results of such a situation? She
retains her womans heart, for that is unalterable and inalienable, as a part of
her being; but her deportment, her looks, her language, her thoughtsall these,
from the supernatural and poetical circumstances around her, assume a cast
of the pure ideal; and to us, who are in the secret of her human and pitying
nature, nothing can be more charming and consistent than the eect which
she produces upon others, who never having beheld anything resembling her,
approach her as a wonder, as something celestial
Be sure! the goddess on whom these airs attend!
And again
What is this maid? . . . Is she the goddess who hath severd us,
And brought us thus together?
And Ferdinand exclaims, while gazing on her
My spirits as in a dream are all bound up!
My fathers loss the weakness which I feel,
The wreck of all my friends, or this mans threats,
To whom I am subdued, are but light to me,
Might I but through my prison once a day
Behold this maid: all corners else o the earth
Let liberty make use of, space enough
Have I in such a prison.
Contrasted with the impression of her rened and dignied beauty, and its
eect on all beholders, is Mirandas own soft simplicity, her virgin innocence,
her total ignorance of the conventional forms and language of society. It is
most natural that, in a being thus constituted, the rst tears should spring from
compassion, suering with those that she saw suer . . . and that her rst
sigh should be oered to a love at once fearless and submissive, delicate and
fond. She has no taught scruples of honor like Juliet; no coy concealments like
Viola; no assumed dignity standing in its own defence. Her bashfulness is less
a quality than an instinct; it is like the self-folding of a ower, spontaneous
and unconscious. I suppose there is nothing of the kind in poetry equal to the
scene between Ferdinand and Miranda. In Ferdinand, who is a noble creature,
we have all the chivalrous magnanimity with which man, in a high state of
civilisation, disguises his real superiority, and does humble homage to the

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


being of whose destiny he disposes; while Miranda, the mere child of nature,
is struck with wonder at her own new emotions. Only conscious of her own
weakness as a woman, and ignorant of those usages of society which teach us
to dissemble the real passion, and assume (and sometimes abuse) an unreal
and transient power, she is equally ready to place her life, her love, her service
beneath his feet. . . .
Miranda. I am a fool,
To weep at what I am glad of.
Ferdinand. Wherefore weep you?
Miranda. At mine unworthiness, that dare not oer
What I desire to give; and much less take
What I shall die to want. But this is triing;
And all the more it seeks to hide itself,
The bigger bulk it shows. Hence, bashful cunning!
And prompt me, plain and holy innocence!
I am your wife, if you will marry me;
If not, Ill die your maid. To be your fellow
You may deny me; but Ill be your servant
Whether you will or no!
Ferdinand. My mistress, dearest!
And I thus humble ever.
As Miranda, being what she is, could only have had a Ferdinand for her
lover, and an Ariel for an attendant, so she could have had with propriety no
other father than the majestic and gifted being who fondly claims her as a
thread of his own lifenay, that for which he lives. Prospero, with his magical
powers, his superhuman wisdom, his moral worth and grandeur, and his kingly
dignity, is one of the most sublime visions that ever swept with ample robes,
pale brow, and sceptred hand before the eye of fancy. He controls the invisible
world, and works through the agency of spirits; not by any evil and forbidden
compact, but solely by superior might of intellectby potent spells gathered
from the lore of ages, and abjured when he mingles again as a man with his
fellow-men. He is as distinct a being from the necromancers and astrologers
celebrated in Shakspeares age as can well be imagined: and all the wizards of
poetry and ction, even Faust and St. Leon, sink into common-places before
the princely, the philosophic, the benevolent Prospero.



The Tempest

1857[unsigned]. Review of
The Tempest, from The Athenaeum
The Athenaeum was a weekly magazine published in London from 1828
to 1923, covering topics ranging from literature, fine arts, music, and
theater to politics and popular science. Reviews in The Athenaeum were
generally unsigned, but many of the anonymous contributors were wellknown literary figures.

[4 July 1857]
Elaborate as have been Mr. Keans Shaksperian revivals, his production of
The Tempest on Wednesday excelled its predecessors in the complexity of
its details. Mr. Kean has now to encounter the diculty that sooner or later
must beset his system of representation. Every fresh attempt must present
fresh attractions, and claim especial admiration as something other or better
than all that had preceded it. Complicated machinery to an indenite extent
must be provided, in order to produce startling eects, as well as nely painted
scenery and gorgeous costumes to aid the picturesque result. Accordingly, we
nd that the unwieldy manuvres of the machinist that have been employed
on the present occasion have not only demanded the expenditure of a large
capital in the rst instance, but involve a nightly expense not a little startling.
Mr. Kean pleads in the postscript to his Preface for the delay that must take
place in the setting of the scenes, stating that the scenic appliances of the
play are of a more extensive and complicated nature than have ever yet been
attempted in any theatre in Europe; requiring the aid of above 140 operatives
nightly, who (unseen by the audience) are engaged in working the machinery,
and in carrying out the various eects. Unfortunately, for the result, the very
ponderousness of the causes employed, and the delays needful between the
acts, not only produce weariness, but a state of consciousness that precludes
illusion; and, therefore, instead of illustrating the drama and aiding its poetic
expression, they protrude themselves as mechanical tricks, and are so accepted
and judged by the audience. This was eminently the case on Wednesday, and
the house was frequently on this account in a very unquiet state; a condition
of things exceptional on rst nights at this theatre.
The stage arrangements are certainly striking and startling, as well as novel.
The shipwreck of the rst scene is brought to the footlights, and the heaving
and turning of the vessel, while on the deck Ariel ames amazement are
suciently appalling. We heard it remarked, however, that it lasted too long;
that it survived the moment of surprise, and the spectator was thereby enabled
to discover the contrivance. The set scene of Prosperos island was exceedingly
beautiful, and the disposition of the enchanter and his daughter (Miss C.
Leclercq) on the summit of a cli was picturesque. The whole of the scene

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


was, indeed, beautifully acted. Here, too, commence the series of appearances
of Ariel, who throughout is attached to some machine or other, and produced
with the accessories of light and distance, in aid of the enchantment. Owing
to this mode of arrangement, it seems not to have been convenient to entrust
the tricksy spirit with the songs, which are sung by Miss Poole and choristers
behind the scenes. This takes away from Ariel a great charm, which the scenic
arrangements, however, are designed to compensate. To this scene, also,
belongs the rst appearance of Caliban (Mr. Ryder), which was promising;
but the poetic and romantic feeling was not sustained by the actor to the end.
There was some rough heartiness in his singing the song of Ban, ban, CaCaliban; but the preternatural and the monstrous were not equally impressive.
But we are now in the interior of the island, with its scenery so admirably
contrived, and the log-piles that indicate the task-work to which Caliban had
been subjected. Here the groups of the undrowned princely Neapolitans ll the
stage; and some tolerably fair acting on the part of Mr. Cathcart, as Antonio,
the usurping Duke, deserves notice. The Trinculo and Stephano scenes, by
Mr. Harley and Mr. Frank Matthews, were, of course, admirable. We were
not so well pleased with the love-scenes, in the third act, between Ferdinand
and Miranda. The propriety of representing the former by a female (Miss
Bufton) is doubtful;the real contrast of the sexes in this instance is decidedly
wanting. The lady-lover, however, was graceful in her attitudes, and though
decient in force, was not unpleasing. To this succeed a storm of thunder and
lightning, the eruption of a volcano in the distance, and the entry of Naiads,
Dryads, and Satyrs, bringing in the banquet with which the guilty group are
mocked. Mr. Kean takes credit for this scene, and justly,the contrivances
of it were signally complex, ingenious and beautiful. To one only objection
is it liableit is too much like a transformation scene in a pantomime,
and thus draws o the mind from the poetry of the incident to the stage
contrivance. The shapes, moreover, return to the stage in order to bring down
the curtain on a tableau not in the mind of the poet. The masque in Prosperos
cell was indeed magnicent, and worthy of entire commendation. The descent
of Juno, with the Graces, the Seasons and Hymen oating in the air about
her, is all in the highest style of scenic art, and in the best possible taste. An
expedient is resorted to at the end of the fourth act, when the spirits are shown
hunting Trinculo and his companion, Ariel being presented ying on a bats
back. To bring also the curtain down with eect at the conclusion of the fth
act, scenes of Nights descending, and spirits being released by Prospero are
introduced;and with the break of the morning we are shown the Kings ship
in a clam prepared to convey him and his suit back to Naples. The eect of
this spectacle, however, is marred by the delay needful in setting it. But partial
failures of this kind are due, in the present instance, not to any shortcoming in
the management, but to its desire to accomplish the almost impossible in order


The Tempest

to astonish with the novel and the wondrous. Altogether, this revival is the
most elaborate specimen of stage appliances ever witnessed in this country.

1864Robert Browning. From Caliban upon
Setebos; or, Natural Theology in the Island
The poet Robert Browning (18121889) wrote for the London stage
in his early career. He is best known, however, for his dramatic monologues such as My Last Duchess and Childe Roland to the Dark
Tower Came, the latter of which draws on Shakespeares King Lear. In
the following passage (the first half of the poetic monologue), Caliban
reflects on his god, Setebos.

[Will sprawl, now that the heat of day is best,

Flat on his belly in the pits much mire,
With elbows wide, sts clenched to prop his chin.
And, while he kicks both feet in the cool slush,
And feels about his spine small eft-things course,
Run in and out each arm, and make him laugh:
And while above his head a pompion-plant,
Coating the cave-top as a brow its eye,
Creeps down to touch and tickle hair and beard,
And now a ower drops with a bee inside,
And now a fruit to snap at, catch and crunch,
He looks out oer yon sea which sunbeams cross
And recross till they weave a spider-web
(Meshes of re, some great sh breaks at times)
And talks to his own self, howeer he please,
Touching that other, whom his dam called God.
Because to talk about Him, vexesha,
Could He but know! and time to vex is now,
When talk is safer than in winter-time.
Moreover Prosper and Miranda sleep
In condence he drudges at their task,
And it is good to cheat the pair, and gibe,
Letting the rank tongue blossom into speech.]
Setebos, Setebos, and Setebos!
Thinketh, He dwelleth i the cold o the moon.
Thinketh He made it, with the sun to match,

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century

But not the stars; the stars came otherwise;

Only made clouds, winds, meteors, such as that:
Also this isle, what lives and grows thereon,
And snaky sea which rounds and ends the same.
Thinketh, it came of being ill at ease:
He hated that He cannot change His cold,
Nor cure its ache. Hath spied an icy sh
That longed to scape the rock-stream where she lived,
And thaw herself within the lukewarm brine
O the lazy sea her stream thrusts far amid,
A crystal spike twixt two warm walls of wave;
Only, she ever sickened, found repulse
At the other kind of water, not her life,
(Green-dense and dim-delicious, bred o the sun)
Flounced back from bliss she was not born to breathe,
And in her old bounds buried her despair,
Hating and loving warmth alike: so He.
Thinketh, He made thereat the sun, this isle,
Trees and the fowls here, beast and creeping thing.
Yon otter, sleek-wet, black, lithe as a leech;
Yon auk, one re-eye in a ball of foam,
That oats and feeds; a certain badger brown
He hath watched hunt with that slant white-wedge eye
By moonlight; and the pie with the long tongue
That pricks deep into oak warts for a worm,
And says a plain word when she nds her prize,
But will not eat the ants; the ants themselves
That build a wall of seeds and settled stalks
About their holeHe made all these and more,
Made all we see, and us, in spite: how else?
He could not, Himself, make a second self
To be His mate; as well have made Himself:
He would not make what He mislikes or slights,
An eyesore to Him, or not worth His pains:
But did, in envy, listlessness or sport,
Make what Himself would fain, in a manner, be
Weaker in most points, stronger in a few,
Worthy, and yet mere playthings all the while,
Things He admires and mocks too,that is it.
Because, so brave, so better though they be,
It nothing skills if He begin to plague.



The Tempest

Look, now, I melt a gourd-fruit into mash,

Add honeycomb and pods, I have perceived,
Which bite like nches when they bill and kiss,
Then, when froth rises bladdery, drink up all,
Quick, quick, till maggots scamper through my brain;
Last, throw me on my back i the seeded thyme,
And wanton, wishing I were born a bird.
Put case, unable to be what I wish,
I yet could make a live bird out of clay:
Would not I take clay, pinch my Caliban
Able to y?for, there, see, he hath wings,
And great comb like the hoopoes to admire,
And there, a sting to do his foes oence,
There, and I will that he begin to live,
Fly to yon rock-top, nip me o the horns
Of grigs high up that make the merry din,
Saucy through their veined wings, and mind me not.
In which feat, if his leg snapped, brittle clay,
And he lay stupid-like,why, I should laugh;
And if he, spying me, should fall to weep,
Beseech me to be good, repair his wrong,
Bid his poor leg smart less or grow again,
Well, as the chance were, this might take or else
Not take my fancy: I might hear his cry,
And give the mankin three sound legs for one,
Or pluck the other o, leave him like an egg
And lessoned he was mine and merely clay.
Were this no pleasure, lying in the thyme,
Drinking the mash, with brain become alive,
Making and marring clay at will? So He.
Thinketh, such shows nor right nor wrong in Him,
Nor kind, nor cruel: He is strong and Lord.
Am strong myself compared to yonder crabs
That march now from the mountain to the sea;
Let twenty pass, and stone the twenty-rst,
Loving not, hating not, just choosing so.
Say, the rst straggler that boasts purple spots
Shall join the le, one pincer twisted o;
Say, this bruised fellow shall receive a worm,
And two worms he whose nippers end in red;
As it likes me each time, I do: so He.

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


Well then, supposeth He is good i the main,

Placable if His mind and ways were guessed,
But rougher than His handiwork, be sure!
Oh, He hath made things worthier than Himself,
And envieth that, so helped, such things do more
Than He who made them! What consoles but this?
That they, unless through Him, do nought at all,
And must submit: what other use in things?
Hath cut a pipe of pithless elder-joint
That, blown through, gives exact the scream o the jay
When from her wing you twitch the feathers blue:
Sound this, and little birds that hate the jay
Flock within stones throw, glad their foe is hurt:
Put case such pipe could prattle and boast forsooth
I catch the birds, I am the crafty thing,
I make the cry my maker cannot make
With his great round mouth; he must blow through mine!
Would not I smash it with my foot? So He. . . .

1872John Ruskin. From Munera Pulveris:
Six Essays on the Elements of Political Economy
John Ruskin (1819-1900) was one of the great Victorian thinkers, social
reformers, and prose stylists, and perhaps the greatest art critic of the

. . .The fact is that slavery is not a political institution at all, but an inherent, natural,
and eternal inheritance of a large portion of the human raceto whom, the more
you give of their own free will, the more slaves they will make themselves. In
common parlance, we idly confuse captivity with slavery, and are always thinking
of the dierence between pine-trunks (Ariel in the pine), and cowslip-bells (in
the cowslip-bell I lie), or between carrying wood and drinking (Calibans slavery
and freedom), instead of noting the far more serious dierences between Ariel
and Caliban themselves, and the means by which, practically, that dierence
may be brought about or diminished.
Platos slave, in the Polity, who, well dressed and washed, aspires to the hand
of his masters daughter, corresponds curiously to Caliban attacking Prosperos
cell; and there is an undercurrent of meaning throughout, in the Tempest as well
as in the Merchant of Venice; referring in this case to government, as in that to


The Tempest

commerce. Miranda (the wonderful, so addressed rst by Ferdinand, Oh, you

wonder!) corresponds to Homers Arete: Ariel and Caliban are respectively the
spirits of faithful and imaginative labour, opposed to rebellious, hurtful, and
slavish labour. Prospero (for hope), a true governor, is opposed to Sycorax,
the mother of slavery, her name Swine-raven indicating at once brutality and
deathfulness; hence the line
As wicked dew as eer my mother brushed
With ravens feather,etc.
For all these dreams of Shakespeare, as those of true and strong men must be,
are phantasmata theia, kai skiai ton ontondivine phantasms, and shadows
of things that are. We hardly tell our children, willingly, a fable with no purport
in it; yet we think God sends His best messengers only to sing fairy tales to us,
fond and empty. The Tempest is just like a grotesque in a rich missal, clasped
where paynims pray. Ariel is the spirit of generous and free-hearted service,
in early stages of human society oppressed by ignorance and wild tyranny:
venting groans as fast as mill-wheels strike; in shipwreck of states, dreadful;
so that all but mariners plunge in the brine, and quit the vessel, then all are
with me, yet having in itself the will and sweetness of truest peace, whence that
is especially called Ariels song, Come unto these yellow sands, and there,
take hands, courtesied when you have, and kissed, the wild waves whist: (mind,
it is cortesia, not curtsey,) and read quiet for whist, if you want the full
sense. Then you may indeed foot it featly, and sweet spirits bear the burden
for youwith watch in the night, and call in early morning. The vis viva in
elemental transformation followsFull fathom ve thy father lies, of his bones
are coral made. Then, giving rest after labour, it fetches dew from the still
vent Bermothes, and, with a charm joined to their suered labour, leaves
men asleep. Snatching away the feast of the cruel, it seems to them as a harpy;
followed by the utterly vile, who cannot see it in any shape, but to whom it is the
picture of nobody, it still gives shrill harmony to their false and mocking catch,
Thought is free; but leads them into briars and foul places, and at last hollas
the hounds upon them. Minister of fate against the great criminal, it joins itself
with the incensed seas and shoresthe sword that layeth at it cannot hold, and
may with bemocked-at stabs as soon kill the still-closing waters, as diminish one
dowle that is in its plume. As the guide and aid of true love, it is always called by
Prospero ne (the French ne, not the English), or delicateanother long
note would be needed to explain all the meaning in this word. Lastly, its work
done, and war, it resolves itself into the elements. The intense signicance of the
last song, Where the bee sucks, I will examine in its due place.
The types of slavery in Caliban are more palpable, and need not be dwelt on
now: though I will notice them also, severally, in their proper places;the heart

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


of his slavery is in his worship: Thats a brave god, and bears celestialliquor.
But, in illustration of the sense in which the Latin benignus and malignus are
to be coupled with Eleutheria and Douleia, note that Calibans torment is always
the physical reection of his own naturecramps and side stitches that shall
pen thy breath up; thou shalt be pinched, as thick as honeycombs: the whole
nature of slavery being one cramp and cretinous contraction. Fancy this of Ariel!
You may fetter him, but you set no mark on him; you may put him to hard work
and far journey, but you cannot give him a cramp.

1875Edward Dowden.
From Shakspere: A Critical Study of His Mind and Art
Edward Dowden (18431913) was a critic, a poet, and a lecturer at
Trinity College, Dublin. His books of literary criticism include Shakspere,
his Mind and Art; Shakspere Primer; and Studies in Literature.

The wrong-doers of The Tempest are a group of persons of various degrees

of criminality, from Prosperos perdious brother, still active in plotting evil,
to Alonzo, whose obligations to the Duke of Milan had been of a public or
princely kind. Spiritual powers are in alliance with Prospero, and these, by
terror and the awakening of remorse, prepare Alonzo for receiving the balm of
Prosperos forgiveness. He looks upon his son as lost, and recognizes in his sons
loss the punishment of his own guilt. The powers delaying, not forgetting, have
incensed the sea and shores against the sinful men; nothing can deliver them
except heart-sorrow, and a clear life ensuing. Goethe, in the opening of the
second part of Faust, has represented the ministry of external nature fullling
functions with reference to the human conscience precisely the reverse of those
ascribed to it in The Tempest. Faust, escaped from the prison-scene and the
madness of Margarete, is lying on a owery grass-plot, weary, restless, striving to
sleep. The Ariel of Goethe calls upon his attendant elvish spirits to prepare the
soul of Faust for renewed energy by bathing him in the dew of Lathes stream,
by assuaging his pain, by driving back remorse:
Besntftiget des Herzens grimmen Strauss;
Entfernt des Vorwurfs glhend bittre Pfeils,
Sein Innres reinigt von erlebtem Graus.
To dismiss from his conscience the sense of the wrong he has done to a dead
woman, is the initial step in the further education and development of Faust.


The Tempest

Shaksperes Ariel, breathing through the elements and the powers of nature,
quickens the remorse of the king, for a crime of twelve years since:
O 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 the ooze is bedded, and
Ill seek him deeper than eer plummet sounded,
And with him there lie mudded.
The enemies of Prospero are now completely in his power. How shall he
deal with them? They had perdiously taken advantage of his unworldly and
unpractical habits of life; they had thrust him away from his dukedom; they had
exposed him with his three-years-old daughter in a rotten boat to the mercy of
the waves. Shall he not now avenge himself without remorse? What is Prosperos
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
Yet with my nobler reason gainst my fury
Do I take part; the rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance; they being penitent,
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown further.
We have seen how Timon turned ercely upon mankind, and hated the
wicked race, I am Misanthropos and hate mankind. The wrongs inicted upon
Prospero were crueller and more base than those from which Timon suered.
But Prospero had not lived in a summer mood of lax and prodigal benevolence;
he had lived severely, all dedicated to closeness and the bettering of my mind.
And out of the strong comes forth sweetness. In the play of Cymbeline, the
wrong which Posthumus has suered from the Italian Iachimo is only less than
that which Othello endures at the hands of Iago. But Iachimo, unlike Iago, is
unable to sustain the burden of his guilt, and sinks under it. In the closing scene
of Cymbeline, that in which Posthumus is himself welcomed home to the heart
of Imogen, Posthumus in his turn becomes the pardoner:
Kneel not to me;
The bower that I have on you is to spare you;
The malice toward you to forgive you; live,
And deal with others better.

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


Hermione, Imogen, Prospero,these are, as it were, names for gracious

powers which extend forgiveness to men. From the rst Hermione, whose clearsightedness is equal to her courage, had perceived that her husband laboured
under a delusion which was cruel and calamitous to himself. From the rst she
transcends all blind resentment, and has true pity for the man who wrongs her.
But if she has fortitude for her own uses, she also is able to accept for her husband
the inevitable pain which is needful to restore him to his better mind. She will
not shorten the term of his suering, because that suering is benecent. And
at the last her silent embrace carries with itand justlya portion of that truth
she hail uttered long before:
How will this, grieve you,
When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that
You thus have published me! Gentle my lord,
You scarce can right me throughly then to say
You did mistake.
The calm and complete comprehension of the fact is a possession painful yet
precious to Hermione, and it lifts her above all vulgar confusion of heart or
temper, and above all unjust resentment.
Imogen, who is the reverse of grave and massive in character, but who has an
exquisite vivacity of feeling and of fancy, and a heart pure, quick, and ardent, passes
from the swoon of her sudden anguish to a mood of bright and keen resentment,
which is free from every trace of vindictive passion, and is indeed only pain
disguised. And in like manner she forgives, not with self-possession and a broad,
tranquil joy in the accomplished fact, but through a pure ardour, an exquisite
eagerness of love and of delight. Prosperos forgiveness is solemn, judicial, and
has in it something abstract and impersonal. He cannot wrong his own higher
nature, he cannot wrong the nobler reason, by cherishing so unworthy a passion
as the desire of vengeance. Sebastian and Antonio, from whose conscience no
remorse has been elicited, are met by no comfortable pardon. They have received
their lesson of failure and of pain, and may possibly be convinced of the good
sense and prudence of honourable dealing, even if they cannot perceive its moral
obligation, Alonzo, who is repentant, is solemnly pardoned. The forgiveness of
Prospero is an embodiment of impartial wisdom and loving justice.
A portion of another ploy certainly belongs to this latest period of Shaksperes
authorshipa portion of King Henry VIII.1 Dr Johnson observed that the
genius of Shakspere comes in and goes out with Queen Katharine. What then
chiey interested the dramatist in this designed and partly accomplished Henry
VIII.? The presence of a noble suerer,one who was grievously wronged, and
who by a plain loyalty to what is faithful and true, by a disinterestedness of soul,
and enduring magnanimity, passes out of all passion and personal resentment


The Tempest

into the reality of things, in which much indeed of pain remains, but no ignoble
wrath or shallow bitterness of heart. Her earnest endeavour for the welfare of
her English subjects is made with fearless and calm persistence in the face of
Wolseys opposition. It is integrity and freedom from self-regard set over against
guile, and power, and pride. In her trial-scene the indignation of Katharine
ashes forth against the Cardinal, but is an indignation which unswervingly
progresses towards and penetrates into the truth.
When a man has attained some high and luminous table-land of joy or of
renouncement, when he has really transcended self, or when some one of the
everlasting, virtuous powers of the world,duty or sacrice, or the strength
of anything higher than oneselfhas assumed authority over him, forthwith a
strange, pathetic, ideal light is shed over all beautiful things in the lower world
which has been abandoned. We see the sunlight on our neigbbours eld, while
we are pre-occupied about the grain that is growing in our own. And when we
have ceased to hug our souls to any material possession, we see the sunlight
wherever it falls. In the last chapter of George Eliots great novel, Romola, who
has ascended into her clear and calm solitude of self-transcending duty, bends
tenderly over the children of Tito, uttering in words made simple for their needs,
the lore she has learnt from life, and seeing on their faces the light of strange,
ideal beauty. In the latest plays of Shakspere, the sympathetic reader can discern
unmistakably a certain abandonment of the common joy of the world, a certain
remoteness from the usual pleasures and sadnesses of life, and at the same time,
all the more, this tender bending over those who are like children still absorbed
in their individual joys and sorrows.
Over the beauty of youth and the love of youth, there is shed, in these plays
of Shaksperes nal period, a clear yet tender luminousness, not elsewhere to
be perceived in his writings. In his earlier plays, Shakspere writes concerning
young men and maidens, their loves, their mirth, their griefs, as one who is
among them, who has a lively, personal interest in their concerns, who can make
merry with them, treat them familiarly, and, if need be, can mock them into
good sense. There is nothing in these early plays wonderful, strangely beautiful,
pathetic about youth and its joys and sorrows. In the histories and tragedies, as
was to be expected, more massive, broader, or more profound objects of interest
engaged the poets imagination. But in these latest plays, the beautiful pathetic
light is always present. There are the suerers, aged, experienced, triedQueen
Katharine, Prospero, Hermione. And over against these there are the children
absorbed in their happy and exquisite egoism,Perdita and Miranda, Florizel
and Ferdinand, and the boys of old Belarius.
The same means to secure ideality for these gures, so young and beautiful, is
in each case (instinctively perhaps rather than deliberately) resorted to. They are
lost children,princes or a princess, removed from the court, and its conventional
surroundings, into some scene of rare, natural beauty. There are the lost princes

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


Arviragus and Guiderius, among the mountains of Wales, drinking the free air,
and oering their salutations to the risen sun. There is Perdita, the shepherdessprincess, queen of curds and cream, sharing with old and young her owers,
lovelier and more undying than those that Proserpina let fall from Diss waggon.
There is Miranda, (whose very name is signicant of wonder), made up of beauty,
and love, and womanly pity, neither courtly nor rustic, with the breeding of an
island of enchantment, where Prospero is her tutor and protector, and Caliban
her servant, and the Prince of Naples her lover. In each of these plays we can see
Shakspere, as it were, tenderly bending over the joys and sorrows of youth. We
recognise this rather through the total characterization, and through a feeling
and a presence, than through denite incident or statement. But some of this
feeling escapes in the disinterested joy and admiration of old Belarius when he
gazes at the princely youths, and in Camillos loyalty to Florizel and Perdita;
while it obtains more distinct expression in such a word as that which Prospero
utters, when from a distance he watches with pleasure Mirandas zeal to relieve
Ferdinand from his task of log-bearing:Poor worm, thou art infected.2
It is not chiey because Prospero is a great enchanter, now about to break his
magic sta, to drown his book deeper than ever plummet sounded, to dismiss
his airy spirits, and to return to the practical service of his Dukedom, that we
identify Prospero in some measure with Shakspere himself. It is rather because
the temper of Prospero, the grave harmony of his character, his self-mastery, his
calm validity of will, his sensitiveness to wrong, his unfaltering justice, and with
these, a certain abandonment, a remoteness from the common joys and sorrows
of the world, are characteristic of Shakspere as discovered to us in all his latest
plays. Prospero is a harmonious and fully developed will. In the earlier play
of fairy enchantments, A Midsummer Nights Dream, the human mortals,
wander to and fro in a maze of error, misled by the mischievous frolic of Puck,
the jester and clown of Fairyland. But here the spirits of the elements, and
Caliban the gross genius of brute-matter,needful for the service of life,are
brought under subjection to the human will of Prospero.3
What is more, Prospero has entered into complete possession of himself.
Shakspere has shown us his quick sense of injury, his intellectual impatience,
his occasional moment of keen irritability, in order that we may be more deeply
aware of his abiding strength and self-possession, and that we may perceive
how these have been grafted upon a temperament, not impassive or unexcitable.
And Prospero has reached not only the higher levels of moral attainment; he
has also reached an altitude of thought from which he can survey the whole of
human life, and see how small and yet how great it is. His heart is sensitive, he is
profoundly touched by the joy of the children, with whom in the egoism of their
love he passes for a thing of secondary interest; he is deeply moved by the perdy
of his brother. His brain is readily set a-work, and can with diculty be checked
from eager and excessive energizing; he is subject to the access of sudden and


The Tempest

agitating thought. But Prospero masters his own sensitiveness, emotional and
We are such stu
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vexed;
Bear with my weakness; my old brain is troubled:
Be not disturbd with my inrmity;
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose; a turn or two Ill walk,
To still my beating mind.
Such stu as dreams are made on. Nevertheless, in this little life, in this
dream, Prospero will maintain his dream rights and full his dream duties. In the
dream, he, a Duke, will accomplish Dukes work. Having idealized everything,
Shakspere left everything real. Bishop Berkeleys foot was no less able to set
a pebble ying than was the lumbering foot of Dr Johnson. Nevertheless, no
material substance intervened between the soul of Berkeley and the immediate
presence of the play of Divine power.4
A thought which seems to run through the whole of The Tempest, appearing
here and there like a coloured thread in some web, is the thought that the true
freedom of man consists in service. Ariel, untouched by human feeling, is panting
for his liberty; in the last words of Prospero are promised his enfranchisement and
dismissal to the elements. Ariel reverences his great master, and serves him with
bright alacrity; but he is bound by none of our human ties, strong and tender, and
he will rejoice when Prospers is to him as though he never were.5 To Caliban, a
land-sh, with the duller elements of earth and water in his composition, but no
portion of the higher elements, air and re, though he receives dim intimations
of a higher world,a musical humming, or a twangling, or a voice heard in
sleepto Caliban, service is slavery.6 He hates to bear his logs; he fears the
incomprehensible power of Prospero, and obeys, and curses. The great master
has usurped the rights of the brute-power Caliban. And when Stephano and
Trinculo appear, ridiculously impoverished specimens of humanity, with their
shallow understandings and vulgar greeds, this poor earth-monster is possessed
by a sudden schwrmerei, a fanaticism for liberty!
Ban, ban, Ca-Caliban,
Has a new master; get a new man.
Freedom, heyday! heyday, freedom! freedom! freedom, heyday freedom!
His new master also sings his impassioned hymn of liberty, the Marseillaise of
the enchanted island:

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


Flout em and scout em,

And scout em and out em;
Thought is free.
The leaders of the revolution, escaped from the stench and foulness of the
horse-pond, King Stephano and his prime minister Trinculo, like too many
leaders of the people, bring to an end their great achievement on behalf of liberty
by quarrelling over booty,the trumpery which the providence of Prospero had
placed in their way. Caliban, though scarce more truly wise or instructed than
before, at least discovers his particular error of the day and hour:
What a thrice-double ass
Was I, to take this drunkard for a god,
And worship this dull fool!
It must be admitted that Shakspere, if not, as Hartley Coleridge asserted,
a Tory and a gentleman, had within him some of the elements of English
But while Ariel and Caliban, each in his own way, is impatient of service, the
human actors, in whom we are chiey interested, are entering into bondsbonds
of aection, bonds of duty, in which they nd their truest freedom. Ferdinand
and Miranda emulously contend in the task of bearing the burden which
Prospero has imposed upon the prince:
I am in my condition
A prince, Miranda; I do think, a king
I would, not so! and would no more endure
This wooden slavery than to suer
The esh-y blow my mouth. Hear my soul speak:
The very instant that I saw you, did
My heart y to your service; there resides,
To make me slave to it; and for your sake
Am I this patient log-man.
And Miranda speaks with the sacred candour from which spring the nobler
manners of a world more real and glad than the world of convention and
proprieties and pruderies:
Hence, bashful cunning!
And prompt me, plain and holy innocence!
I am your wife, if you will marry me;
If not, Ill die your maid: to be your fellow


The Tempest

You may deny me; but Ill be your servant

Whether you will or no.
Fer. My mistress, dearest;
And I thus humble ever.
Mir. My husband, then?
Fer. Ay, with a heart as willing
As bondage eer of freedom.
In an earlier part of the play, this chord which runs through it had been
playfully struck in the description of Gonzalos imaginary commonwealth, in
which man is to be enfranchised from all the laborious necessities of life. Here
is the ideal of notional liberty, Shakspere would say, and to attempt to realise it
at once lands us in absurdities and self-contradictions:
For no kind of trac
Would I admit: no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known: riches, poverty,
And use of service none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
No occupation; all men idle, all,
And women too, but innocent and pure;
No sovereignty.
Seb. Yet he would be king ont.7
Finally, in the Epilogue, which was written perhaps by Shakspere, perhaps by
some one acquainted with his thoughts, Prospero in his character of a man, no
longer a potent enchanter, petitions the spectators of the theatre for two things,
pardon and freedom. It would be straining matters to discover in this Epilogue
profound signicances. And yet in its playfulness it curiously falls in with the
moral purport of the whole. Prospero, the pardoner, implores pardon. Shakspere
was awarewhether such be the signicance (asidefor the writers mind) of
this Epilogue or notthat no life is ever lived which does not need to receive as
well as to render forgiveness. He knew that every energetic dealer with the world
must seek a sincere and liberal pardon for many things. Forgiveness and freedom:
these are keynotes of the play. When it was occupying the mind of Shakspere, he
was passing from his service as artist to his service as English country gentleman.
Had his mind been dwelling on the question of how he should employ his new
freedom, and had he been enforcing upon himself the truth that the highest
freedom lies in the bonds of duty?8
It remains to notice of The Tempest that it has had the quality, as a work of
art, of setting its critics to work as if it were an allegory; and forthwith it baes

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


them, and seems to mock them for supposing that they had power to pluck
out the heart of its mystery. A curious and interesting chapter in the history
of Shaksperian criticism might be written if the various interpretations were
brought together of the allegorical signicances of Prospero, of Miranda, of Ariel,
of Caliban. Caliban, says Kreyssig, is the People. He is Understanding apart from
Imagination, declares Professor Lowell. He is the primitive man abandoned
to himself, declares M. Mzires; Shakspere would say to Utopian thinkers,
predecessors of Jean Jacques Rousseau, Your hero walks on four feet as well as
on two. That Caliban is the missing link between man and brute (Shakspere
anticipating Darwinian theories), has been elaborately demonstrated by Daniel
Wilson. Caliban is one of the powers of nature over which the scientic intellect
obtains command, another critic assures us, and Prospero is the founder of the
Inductive Philosophy. Caliban is the colony of Virginia. Caliban is the untutored
early drama of Marlowe.9 Such allegorical interpretations, however ingenious, we
cannot set much store by. But the signicance of a work of art like the character
of a man is not to be discovered solely by investigation of its inward essence. Its
dynamical qualities, so to speak, must be considered as well as its statical. It must
be viewed in action; the atmosphere it euses, its inuence upon the minds of
men must be noted. And it is certainly remarkable that this, the last or almost
the last of Shaksperes plays, more than any other, has possessed this quality, of
soliciting men to attempt the explanation of it, as of an enigma, and at the same
time of baing their enquiry.
If I were to allow my fancy to run out in play after such an attempted
interpretation, I should describe Prospero as the man of genius, the great artist,
lacking at rst in practical gifts which lead to material success, and set adrift
on the perilous sea of life, in which he nds his enchanted island, where he
may achieve his works of wonder. He bears with him Art in its infancy,the
marvellous child, Miranda. The grosser passions and appetitesCalibanhe
subdues to his service,
Mir. Tis a villain, sir,
I do not love to look on.
Pros. But as tis
We cannot miss him.
and he partially informs this servant-monster with intellect and imagination;
for Caliban has dim anities with the higher world of spirits. But these grosser
passions and appetites attempt to violate the purity of art. Caliban would seize
upon Miranda and people the island with Calibans; therefore his servitude
must be strict. And who is Ferdinand? Is he not, with his gallantry and his
beauty, the young Fletcher, in conjunction with whom Shakspere worked upon
the two Noble Kinsmen and Henry VIII? Fletcher is conceived as a follower


The Tempest

of the Shaksperian style and method in dramatic art; he had eyed full many
a lady with best regard, for several virtues had liked several women, but never
any with whole-hearted devotion except Miranda. And to Ferdinand the old
enchanter will entrust his daughter, a third of his own life. But Shakspere had
perceived the weak point in Fletchers geniusits want of hardness of bre, of
patient endurance, and of a sense of the solemnity and sanctity of the service
of art. And therefore he nely hints to his friend that his winning of Miranda
must not be too light and easy. It shall be Ferdinands task to remove some
thousands of logs, and pile them according to the strict injunction of Prospero.
Dont despise drudgery and dryasdust work, young poets, Shakspere would
seem to say, who had himself so carefully laboured over his English and
Roman histories; for Mirandas sake such drudgery may well seem light.
Therefore, also, Prospero surrounds the marriage of Ferdinand to his daughter
with a religious awe. Ferdinand must honour her as sacred, and win her by
hard toil. But the work of the higher imagination is not drudgery,it is swift
and serviceable among all the elements, re upon the topmast, the sea-nymph
upon the sands, Ceres the goddess of earth, with harvest blessings, in the
Masque. It is essentially Ariel, an airy spirit,the imaginative genius of poetry
but recently delivered in England from long slavery to Sycorax. Prosperos
departure from the island is the abandoning by Shakspere of the theatre, the
scene of his marvellous works:
Graves at my command
Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let them forth,
By my so potent art.
Henceforth Prospero is but a man; no longer a great enchanter. He returns to the
dukedom he had lost, in Stratford upon Avon, and will pay no tribute henceforth
to any Alonzo or Lucy of them all.10
Thus one may be permitted to play with the grave subject of The Tempest,
and I ask no more credit for the interpretation here proposed than is given to any
other equally innocent, if triing, attempt to read the supposed allegory.
Shaksperes work, however, will indeed not allow itself to be lightly treated.
The prolonged study of any great interpreter of human life is a discipline. Our
loyalty to Shakspere must not lead us to assert that the discipline of Shakspere
will be suitable to every nature. He will deal rudely with heart, and will, and
intellect, and lay hold of them in unexpected ways, and fashion his disciple,
it may be, in a manner which at rst is painful, and almost terrible. There
are persons who, all through their lives, attain their highest strength only by
virtue of the presence of certain metaphysical entities which rule their lives;
and in the lives of almost all men there is a metaphysical period, when they
need such supposed entities more than the real presences of those personal

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


and social forces which surround them. For such persons, and during such a
period, the discipline of Shakspere will be unsuitable. He will seem precisely
the reverse of what he actually is: he will seem careless about great facts and
ideas; limited, restrictive, decient in enthusiasms and imagination. To one
who nds the highest poetry in Shelley, Shakspere will always remain a kind
of prose. Shakspere is the poet of concrete things and real. True, but are not
these informed with passion and with thought? A time not seldom comes
when a man, abandoning abstractions and metaphysical entities, turns to the
actual life of the world, and to the real men and women who surround him,
for the sources of emotion, and thought, and actiona time when he strives
to come into communion with the Unseen, not immediately, but through the
revelation of the Seen. And then he nds the strength and sustenance with
which Shakspere has enriched the world.
The true question to ask, says the Librarian of Congress, in a paper read
before the Social Science Convention, at New York, October 1869, The true
question to ask respecting a book, is, Has it helped any human soul! This is the
hint, statement, not only of the great Literatus, his book, but of every great
Artist. It may be that all works of art are to be rst tried by their art-qualities,
their image-forming talent, and their dramatic, pictorial, plot-constructing,
euphonious, and other talents. Then, whenever claiming to be rst-class works,
they are to be strictly and sternly tried by their foundation in, and radiation, in
the highest sense, and always indirectly, of the ethic principles, and eligibility to
free, arouse, dilate.11
What shall be said of Shaksperes radiation through art of the ultimate truths
of conscience and of conduct? What shall be said of his power of freeing, arousing,
dilating? Something may be gathered out of the foregoing chapters in answer
to these questions. But the answers remain insucient. There is an admirable
sentence by Emerson: A good reader can in a sort nestle into Platos brain, and
think from thence; but not into Shaksperes. We are still out of doors.
We are still out of doors; and for the present let us cheerfully remain in the
large, good space. Let us not attenuate Shakspere to a theory. He is careful
that we shall not thus lose our true reward; The secrets of Nature have not
more gift in taciturnity.12 Shakspere does not supply us with a doctrine, with
an interpretation, with a revelation. What he brings to us, is thisto each
one, courage, and energy, and strength, to dedicate himself and his work to
that,whatever it be,which his life has revealed to him as best, and highest,
and most real.
1. Karl Elze, in his article Zu Heinrich VIII. (Shakespeare Jahrbuch, vol. ix),
attempts to show, not successfully, I think, that the play was written in 1603, and
was set aside on account of Elizabeths death, and kept there till Rowley brought


The Tempest

out his When you See Me you Know Me; or the famous Chronicle Historie of King
Henrie the Eight, in 1613. The Globe Company thereupon thought of their
unused Henry VIII., put it into Fletchers hands to alter, and then acted it. The
portions of the play by Shakspere are Act i, Scenes 1 and 2; Act ii, Scenes 3 and 4; Act
iii, Scene 2 (in part Shakspere); Act v, Scene 1. Roderick, in Edwards Canons of
Criticism, (1765) noticed the peculiarity of the versification of this play. Mr Spedding and Mr Hickson {1850) independently arrived at identical results as to the
division of parts between Fletcher and Shakspere. Mr Fleay (1874) has confirmed
the conclusions of Mr Spedding, (double-endings forming in this instance his chief
test); Professor Ingram has further confirmed them by the weak-ending test, and
Mr Furnivall by the stopt-line test.
2. The same feeling appears in the lines which end Act iii, Scene 1.
Prospero. So glad of this as they I cannot be,
Who are surprised with all; but my rejoicing
At nothing can be more.
3. This point of contrast between The Tempest and A Midsummer Nights
Dream is noticed by Mzires: Shakespeare, ses uvres et ses Critiques, pp.
441, 442.
4. See a remarkable article on Goethe and Shakspere by Professor Masson,
reprinted among his collected Essays. On The Tempest, the reader may consult as
an excellent summary of facts, the article On the origin of Shakspeares Tempest:
Cornhill Magazine, October 1872. It is founded upon Meissners Untersuchungen ber Shakespeares Sturm, (1872). See also Meissners article in the Jahrbuch
der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, vol. v. Jacob Ayrers Comedia von der
schnen Sidea, will be found, with a translation, in Mr Albert Cohns interesting
volume Shakespeare in Germany (Asher: 1885).
5. Ariel is promised his freedom after two days, Act i, Scene 2. Why two days?
The time of the entire action of the Tempest is only three hours. What was to be
the employment of Ariel during two days? To make the winds and seas favourabie
during the voyage to Naples. Prosperos island therefore was imagined by Shakspere as within two days quick sail of Naples.
6. The conception of Caliban, the servant-monster, plain fish and no doubt
marketable, the tortoise, his fins like arms, with a very ancient and fish-like
smell, who gabbled until Prospero taught him languagethis conception was in
Shaksperes mind when he wrote Troilus and Cressida. Thersites describes Ajax,
(Act iii. Scene 3), Hes grown a very land-fish, languageless, a monster.
7. Act ii. Scene 1.The prolonged and dull joking of Sebastian is this scene
cannot be meant by Shakspere to be really bright and witty. It is meant to show
that the intellectual poverty of the conspirators is as great as their moral obliquity.
They are monsters more ignoble than Caliban. Their laughter is the crackling of
thorns under a pot.
8. Mr Furnivall, observing that in these later plays breaches of the family bond
are dramatically studied, and the reconciliations are domestic reconciliations in
Cymbeline and A Winters Tale, suggest to me that they were a kind of confession on Shaksperes part that he had inadequately felt the beauty and tenderness of
the common relations of father and child, wife and husband; and that he was now
quietly resolving to be gentle, and wholly just to his wife and his home. I cannot

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


altogether make this view of the later plays my own, and leave it to the reader to
accept and develop as he may be able.
9. This last suggestion is that of M. Emile Montgut in the Revue des Deux
Mondes. The following passage from Professor Lowell will compensate for its
length by its ingenuity. In The Tempest the scene is laid nowhere, or certainly in no
country laid down on any map. Nowhere, then? At once nowhere and anywhere,
for it is in the soul of man that still vexed island hung between the upper and the
nether world, and liable to incursions from both. . . . Consider for a moment if ever
the Imagination has been so embodied as in Prospero, the Fancy as in Ariel, the
brute Understanding as in Caliban, who, the moment his poor wits are warmed
with the glorious liquor of Stephano, plots rebellion against his natural lord, the
higher Reason. Miranda is mere abstract Womanhood, as truly so before she sees
Ferdinand as Eve before she was awakened to consciousness by the echo of her own
nature coming back to her, the same, and yet not the same, from that of Adam.
Ferdinand, again, is nothing more than Youth, compelled to drudge at something
he despises, till the sacrifice of will, and abnegation of self, win him his ideal in
Miranda. The subordinate personages are simply types: Sebastian and Antonio of
weak character and evil ambition; Gonzalo, of average sense and honesty; Adrian
and Francisco, of the walking gentlemen, who serve to fill up a world. They are
not characters in the same sense with Iago, Falstaff, Shallow, or Leontius; and it is
curious how every one of them loses his way in this enchanted island of life, all the
victims of one illusion after another, except Prospero, whose ministers are purely
ideal. The whole play, indeed, is a succession of illusions, winding up with those
solemn words of the great enchanter, who had summoned to his service every shape
of merriment or passion, every figure in the great tragicomedy of life, and who was
now bidding farewell to the scene of his triumphs. For in Prospero shall we not
recognise the Artist himself:
That did not better for his life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds,
Whence comes it that his name receives a brand
who has forfeited a shining place in the worlds eye by devotion to his art, and who,
turned adrift on the ocean of life in the leaky carcass of a boat, has shipwrecked
on that Fortunate Island (as men always do who find their true vocation) where
he is absolute lord, making all the powers of Nature serve him, but with Ariel and
Caliban as special ministers? Of whom else could he have been thinking when he
Graves, at my command,
Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let them forth,
By my so potent art?
Among my Books. Shakespeare Once More, pp. 191192.
10. Ulrici has recently expressed his opinion that a farewell to the theatre may
be discovered in The Tempest; but he rightly places Henry VIII. later than The
Tempest. Shakespeare Jahrbuch, vol. vi. p. 358.
11. Whitman, Democratic Vistas, p. 67.
12. Troilus and Cressida, Act iv, Scene 2.



The Tempest

1880A. C. Swinburne.
From A Study of Shakespeare
Algernon Charles Swinburne (18371909) was a precocious writer who
from his early career was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite artists
D. G. Rossetti and William Morris. Most famous for his poetry,
Swinburne was also an astute critic who wrote monographs on
Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and others.

True or false, and it would now seem something less than likely to be true, the
fancy which assumed the last lines spoken by Prospero to be likewise the last
words of the last completed work of Shakespeare was equally in either case at
once natural and graceful. . . . In no nook or corner of the island as we leave it is
any savor left or any memory lingering of any inexpiable evil. Alonzo is absolved;
even Antonio and Sebastian have made no such ineaceable mark on it by the
presence of their pardoned crimes as is made by those which cost the life of
Mamillius [in The Winters Tale] and the labors of Imogen [in Cymbeline]. Poor
Caliban is left in such comfort as may be allowed him by divine grace in the
favorable aspect of Setebos; and his comrades go by us reeling ripe and gilded
not by grand liquor only but also by the summer lightning of mens laughter:
blown softly out of our sight, with a sound and a gust of music, by the breath of
the song of Ariel.

1897George Bernard Shaw.
Shakespear and Mr. Barrie, from The Saturday Review
George Bernard Shaw (18561950), known for his wit, was a music
critic, social critic, and an important playwright. He often expressed
his ambivalence toward Shakespeare.

[13 November 1897]

It was a curious experience to see The Tempest one night and The Little
Minister the next. I should like to have taken Shakespear to the Haymarket
play. How well he would have recognized it! For he also once had to take a
popular novel; make a shallow, unnatural, indulgent, pleasant, popular drama of
it; and hand it to the theatre with no hint of his feelings except the signicant
title As you Like It. And we have not even the wit to feel the snub, but go on
complacently talking of the manufacture of Rosalinds and Orlandos (a sort of
thing that ought really to be done in a jam factory) as delineation of character

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


and the like. One feels Shakespears position most strongly in the plays written
after he had outgrown his interest in the art of acting and given up the idea
of educating the public. In Hamlet he is quite enthusiastic about naturalness
in the business of the stage, and makes Hamlet hold forth about it quite
Wagnerianly: in Cymbeline and The Tempest he troubles himself so little
about it that he actually writes down the exasperating clownish interruptions he
once denounced; brings on the god in the car; and, having indulged the public in
matters which he no longer set any store by, took it out of them in poetry.
The poetry of The Tempest is so magical that it would make the scenery of
a modern theatre ridiculous. The methods of the Elizabethan Stage Society (I
do not commit myself to their identity with those of the Elizabethan stage) leave
to the poet the work of conjuring up the isle full of noises, sounds and sweet
airs. And I do not see how this plan can be beaten. If Sir Henry Irving were to
put the play on at the Lyceum next season (why not, by the way?) what could he
do but multiply the expenditure enormously, and spoil the illusion? He would
give us the screaming violin instead of the harmonious viol; characteristic
music scored for wood-wind and percussion by Mr. German instead of Mr.
Dolmetschs pipe and tabor; an expensive and absurd stage ship; and some
windless, airless, changeless, soundless, electric-lit, wooden-oored mockeries of
the haunts of Ariel. They would cost more; but would they be an improvement
on the Mansion House arrangement? Mr. Poel says frankly, See that singers
gallery up there! Well, lets pretend that its the ship. We agree; and the thing
is done. But how could we agree to such a pretence with a stage ship? Before it
we should say, Take that thing away: if our imagination is to create a ship, it
must not be contradicted by something that apes a ship so vilely as to ll us with
denial and repudiation of its imposture. The singing gallery makes no attempt
to impose on us: it disarms criticism by unaected submission to the facts of
the case, and throws itself honestly on our fancy, with instant success. In the
same way a rag doll is fondly nursed by a child who can only stare at a waxen
simulacrum of infancy. A superstitious person left to himself will see a ghost
in every ray of moonlight on the wall and every old coat hanging on a nail; but
make up a really careful, elaborate, plausible, picturesque, bloodcurdling ghost
for him, and his cunning grin will proclaim that he sees through it at a glance.
The reason is, not that a man can always imagine things more vividly than art can
present them to him, but that it takes an altogether extraordinary degree of art
to compete with the pictures which the imagination makes when it is stimulated
by such potent forces as the maternal instinct, superstitious awe, or the poetry
of Shakespear. The dialogue between Gonzalo and that bawling, blasphemous,
incharitable dog the boatswain, would turn the House of Lords into a ship: in
less than ten wordsWhat care these roarers for the name of king?you see
the white horses and the billowing green mountains playing football with crown
and purple. But the Elizabethan method would not do for a play like The White


The Tempest

Heather, excellent as it is of its kind. If Mr. Poel, on the strength of the Drury
Lane dialogue, were to leave us to imagine the singers gallery to be the bicycling
ring in Battersea Park, or Boulters Lock, we should atly decline to imagine
anything at all. It requires the nicest judgment to know exactly how much help
the imagination wants. There is no general rule, not even for any particular
author. You can do best without scenery in The Tempest and A Midsummer
Nights Dream, because the best scenery you can get will only destroy the
illusion created by the poetry; but it does not at all follow that scenery will not
improve a representation of Othello. Maeterlincks plays, requiring a mystical
inscenation in the style of Fernand Knopf, would be nearly as much spoiled by
Elizabethan treatment as by Drury Lane treatment. Modern melodrama is so
dependent on the most realistic scenery that a representation would suer far less
by the omission of the scenery than of the dialogue. This is why the manager who
stages every play in the same way is a bad manager, even when he is an adept at
his one way. A great deal of the distinction of the Lyceum productions is due to
the fact that Sir Henry Irving, when the work in hand is at all within the limits
of his sympathies, knows exactly how far to go in the matter of scenery. When he
makes mistakes, they are almost always mistakes in stage management, by which
he sacrices the eect of some unappreciated passage of dialogue of which the
charm has escaped him.
Though I was suciently close to the stage at The Tempest to hear, or
imagine I heard, every word of the dialogue, yet it was plain that the actors were
not eminent after-dinner speakers, and had consequently never received in that
room the customary warning to speak to the second pillar on the right of the
door, on pain of not being heard. Though they all spoke creditably, and some of
them remarkably well, they took matters rather too easily, with the result that
the quieter passages were inaudible to a considerable number of the spectators. I
mention the matter because the Elizabethan Stage Society is hardly yet alive to
the accoustic diculties raised by the lofty halls it performs in. They are mostly
troublesome places for a speaker; for if he shouts, his vowels make such a roaring
din that his consonants are indistinguishable; and if he does not, his voice does
not travel far enough. They are too resonant for noisy speakers and too vast for
gentle ones. A clean, athletic articulation, kept up without any sentimental or
indolent relaxations, is indispensable as a primary physical accomplishment for
the Elizabethan actor who takes to the halls.
The performance went without a hitch. Mr. Dolmetsch looked after the music;
and the costumes were worthy of the reputation which the Society has made for
itself in this particular. Ariel, armless and winged in his rst incarnation, was not
exactly a tricksy sprite; for as the wing arrangement acted as a strait waistcoat,
he had to be content with the eect he made as a living picture. This disability
on his part was characteristic of the whole performance, which had to be taken
in a somewhat low key and slow tempo, with a minimum of movement. If any

The Tempest in the Nineteenth Century


attempt had been made at the impetuosity and liveliness for which the English
experts of the sixteenth century were famous throughout Europe, it would have
not only failed, but prevented the performers from attaining what they did attain,
very creditably, by a more modest ambition.
To our host the Lord Mayor I take o my hat. When I think of the guzzling
horrors I have seen in that room, and the insuerable oratory that has passed
through my head from ear to ear on its way to the second pillar on the right of the
door (which has the advantage of being stone deaf), I hail with sincere gratitude
the rst tenant of the Mansion House who has bidden me to an entertainment
worthy of the rst magistrate of a great city, instead of handing me over to an
army of waiters to be dealt with as one whose god is his belly.


The twentieth century witnessed a proliferation of critical commentary on The
Tempest, with critics employing a great diversity of approaches. Most continued
to admire the play as a rare and wonderful object. By centurys end, however, a
series of critics skeptical of its wonder had emerged.
In the rst half of the century, many established critics examined the form of
The Tempest, building on the nineteenth-century tradition of formalist criticism.
(Formalist criticism emphasizes aspects such as plot, character, and symbolism
and pays less attention to issues like the authors biography or the political
climate the author wrote in.) Some of these critics focused primarily on scholarly
matters such as the works sources, its critical history, and the interrelations of
its parts. For example, in 1919, John Rea sought the source for the storm in
The Tempest in the work of Erasmus and examined the idea of shipwreck as
it appears in his writings. In 1925, E. K. Chambers surveyed criticism of The
Tempest in an attempt to demonstrate the integrity of the work. In 1926, Helen
Sandison examined the use and signicance of clothing in The Tempest. Writers
like Wolfgang Clemen sought to understand the play (and all of Shakespeare)
through a study of its imagery.
Other critics attempted more comprehensive explorations. In 1907, Henry
James approached The Tempest in awe of what seemed to him its unfathomable
depth. G. Wilson Knight (1947) regarded the play as an interpretation of
Shakespeares world because, he said, it included no non-essentials.
In 1938, E. M. W. Tillyard considered what he called The Tempests tragic
pattern, in opposition to its conventional designation as a comedy or romance.
Harold Goddard, in his 1951 book The Meaning of Shakespeare, also compared
the play to tragedies such as King Lear and Macbeth, in addition to the comedies
it is more usually associated with. Some critics remarked on the mystery of The
Tempest. For instance, Mark Van Doren said in 1939 that readers ought to
approach the play without trying to understand it completely. Northrop Frye
concluded his introduction to the Pelican edition of The Tempest (1959) on a



The Tempest

similar note: However we take it, The Tempest is a play not simply to be read or
seen or even studied, but possessed.
In 1949, Derek Traversi traced the development of the themes of misdeed,
forgiveness, and reconciliation as they run through Shakespeares plays and are
resolved in The Tempest. But William Empson attacked this view in 1964, calling
Traversi and others in his vein Moral Critics. Contentious interpretation of
the play continued in the next decades: The cultural changes that exploded in
the 1960s had a dramatic impact on the way critics understood The Tempest.
Critics in the 1960s and succeeding decades tended to regard the play as a text to
manipulate rather than a wonder to be contemplated.
This, in itself, was not a new approach. Among others in the nineteenth
century, Robert Browning had taken this tack (in Caliban upon Setebos). In
the early 1940s, the poet W. H. Auden did likewise in The Sea and the Mirror,
which is a cross between an adaptation of The Tempest and a commentary upon it.
In this work Auden not only explored The Tempest and art but also used the play
to consider his own return to the Anglican Church.
What was new in the latter part of the twentieth century were the issues
that engaged critics and commentators. Rather than seeking inherent shape and
meaning in the play or archetypal qualities in its characters, critical readings and
theatrical productions aimed to reshape The Tempest. Colonial, post-colonial, and
anticolonial readings; feminist readings; and readings informed by the history
of the enslavement of Africans all became signicant entries into the body of
Tempest criticism and production. For example, in 1972 the maverick American
critic Leslie Fiedler identied Caliban as an archetype of the American Indian.
Such schools of interpretation often reect the concerns of the critic more than
the meaning of the work. Late twentieth-century criticism, however, was not
lacking in scholarship; the scholarship it practiced had simply expanded.
These multiple interpretations invited assessment of their own merits. In
1989 Meredith Anne Skura evaluated her peers criticism regarding colonialism
in The Tempest. Meanwhile, Harold Bloom asserted in 1992 (in opposition to
critical trends) that the relationship between Prospero and Caliban was more
familial than colonial.

1907Henry James. Introduction to The Tempest

Harold Bloom has called Henry James (18431916) the major
American writer of prose fiction. A proponent of psychological realism, James was the author of more than 100 short stories, novellas, and
novels, including The Portrait of a Lady and The Wings of the Dove. He was
also a noted critic, both of others writing and his own.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


If the eect of the Plays and Poems, taken in their mass, be most of all to appear
often to mock our persistent ignorance of so many of the conditions of their
birth, and thereby to place on the rack again our strained and aching wonder,
this character has always struck me as more particularly kept up for them by
The Tempest; the production, of the long series, in which the Questions, as
the critical reader of Shakespeare must ever comprehensively and ruefully call
them and more or less resignedly live with them, hover before us in their most
tormenting form. It may seem no very philosophic state of mind, the merely
baed and exasperated view of one of the supreme works of all literature;
though I feel, for myself, that to confess to it now and then, by way of relief, is
no unworthy tribute to the work. It is not, certainly, the tribute most frequently
paid, for the large body of comment and criticism of which this play alone has
been the theme abounds much rather in armed conclusions, complacencies of
conviction, full apprehensions of the meaning and triumphant pointings of the
moral. The Questions, in the light of all this wisdom, convert themselves with
comparatively small diculty, into smooth and denite answers; the innumerable
dim ghosts that it, like started game at eventide, through the deep dusk of our
speculation, with just form enough to quicken it and no other charity for us at all,
bench themselves along the vista as solidly as Falsta and as vividly as Hotspur.
Everything has thus been attributed to the piece before us, and every attribution
so made has been in turn brushed away; merely to glance at such a monument
to the interest inspired is to recognise a battleground of opposed factions, not a
little enveloped in sound and smoke. Of these copious elements, produced for
the most part of the best intention, we remain accordingly conscious; so that to
approach the general bone of contention, as we can but familiarly name it, for
whatever purpose, we have to cross the scene of action at a mortal risk, making
the fewest steps of it and trusting to the probable calm at the centre of the storm.
There in fact, though there only, we nd that serenity; nd the subject itself intact
and unconscious, seated as unwinking and inscrutable as a divinity in a temple,
save for that vague icker of derision, the only response to our interpretative heat,
which adds the last beauty to its face. The divinity never relentsnever, like the
image of life in The Winters Tale, steps down from its pedestal; it simply leaves us
to stare on through the ages, with this fact indeed of having crossed the circle of
re, and so got into the real and right relation to it, for our one comfort.
The position of privilege of The Tempest as the latest example, to all
appearance, of the authors rarer work, with its distance from us in time thereby
shortened to the extent of the precious step or two, was certain to expose it, at
whatever nal cost, we easily see, to any amount of interpretative zeal. With its
rst recorded performance that of February 1613, when it was given in honour
of the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth, its nished state cannot have preceded
his death by more than three years, and we accordingly take it as the nest ower
of his experience. Here indeed, as on so many of the Questions, judgments


The Tempest

sharply dier, and this use of it as an ornament to the nuptials of the daughter
of James I and the young Elector Palatine may have been but a repetition of
previous performances; though it is not in such a case supposable that these
can have been numerous. They would antedate the play, at the most, by a year
or two, and so not throw it essentially further back from us. The Tempest speaks
to us, somehow, convincingly, as a pice de circonstance, and the suggestion that
it was addressed, in its brevity, its rich simplicity, and its free elegance, to courtproduction, and above all to providing, with a string of other dramas, for the
intellectual splendour of a wedding-feast, is, when once entertained, not easily
dislodged. A few things fail to t, but more t strikingly. I like therefore to think
of the piece as of 1613. To refer it, as it is referred by other reckonings, to 1611 is
but to thicken that impenetrability of silence in which Shakespeares latest years
enfold him. Written as it must have been on the earlier calculation, before the age
of forty-seven, it has that rare value of the richly mature note of a genius who, by
our present measure of growth and fulness, was still young enough to have had in
him a world of life: we feel behind it the immense procession of its predecessors,
while we yet stare wistfully at the plenitude and the majesty, the expression as
of something broad-based and ultimate, that were not, in any but a strained
sense, to borrow their warrant from the weight of years. Nothing so enlarges the
wonder of the whole time-question in Shakespeares career as the fact of this
date, in easy middle life, of his time-climax; which, if we knew less, otherwise,
than we do about him, might aect us as an attempt, on the part of treacherous
History, to pass him o as one of those monsters of precocity who, fortunately for
their probable reputation, the too likely betrayal of short-windedness, are cut o
in their comparative prime. The transmuted young rustic who, after a look over
London, brief at the best, was ready at the age of thirty to produce The Merchant
of Venice and A Midsummer Nights Dream (and this after the half-dozen splendid
prelusive things that had included, at twenty-eight, Romeo and Juliet), had been
indeed a monster of precocitywhich all geniuses of the rst order are not; but
the day of his paying for it had neither arrived nor, however faintly, announced
itself, and the fathomless strangeness of his story, the abrupt stoppage of his pulse
after The Tempest, is not, in charity, lighted for us by a glimmer of explanation.
The explanation by some interposing accident is as absent as any symptom of
declining powers.
His powers declined, that isbut declined merely to obey the spring we
should have supposed inherent in them; and their possessors case derives from
this, I think, half the secret of its so inestimably mystifying us. He died, for a
nature so organized, too lamentably soon; but who knows where we should have
been with him if he had not lived long enough so to arm, with many other
mysteries, the mystery of his abrupt and complete cessation? There is that in
The Tempest, specically, though almost all indenably, which seems to show us
the artist consciously tasting of the rst and rarest of his gifts, that of imaged

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


creative Expression, the instant sense of some copious equivalent of thought for
every grain of the grossness of reality; to show him as unresistingly aware, in
the depths of his genius, that nothing like it had ever been known, or probably
would ever be again known, on earth, and as so given up, more than on other
occasions, to the joy of sovereign science. There are so many sides from which any
page that shows his stamp may be looked at that a handful of reections can
hope for no coherency, in the chain of association immediately formed, unless
they happen to bear upon some single truth. Such a truth then, for me, is this
comparativeby which one can really but mean this superlativeartistic value
of the play seen in the meagre circle of the items of our knowledge about it. Let
me say that our knowledge, in the whole connection, is a quantity that shifts,
surprisingly, with the measure of a felt need; appearing to some of us, on some
sides, adequate, various, large, and appearing to others, on whatever side, a scant
beggars portion. We are concerned, it must be remembered, herethat is for
getting generally near our authornot only with the number of the mustered
facts, but with the kind of fact that each may strike us as being: never unmindful
that such matters, when they are few, may go far for us if they be individually
but ample and signicant; and when they are numerous, on the other hand,
may easily fall short enough to break our hearts if they be at the same time but
individually small and poor. Three or four stepping-stones across a stream will
serve if they are broad slabs, but it will take more than may be counted if they
are only pebbles. Beyond all gainsaying then, by many an estimate, is the penury
in which even the most advantageous array of the Shakespearean facts still leaves
us: strung together with whatever ingenuity they remain, for our discomture, as
the pebbles across the stream.
To balance, for our occasion, this light scale, however, The Tempest aects us,
taking its complexity and its perfection together, as the rarest of all examples of
literary art. There may be other things as exquisite, other single exhalations of
beauty reaching as high a mark and sustained there for a moment, just as there
are other deep wells of poetry from which cupfuls as crystalline may, in repeated
dips, be drawn; but nothing, surely, of equal length and variety lives so happily
and radiantly as a whole: no poetic birth ever took place under a star appointed
to blaze upon it so steadily. The felicity enjoyed is enjoyed longer and more
intensely, and the art involved, completely revealed, as I suggest, to the master,
holds the securest revel. The man himself, in the Plays, we directly touch, to my
consciousness, positively nowhere: we are dealing too perpetually with the artist,
the monster and magician of a thousand masks, not one of which we feel him
drop long enough to gratify with the breath of the interval that strained attention
in us which would be yet, so quickened, ready to become deeper still. Here at
last the artist is, comparatively speaking, so generalised, so consummate and
typical, so frankly amused with himself, that is with his art, with his power, with
his theme, that it is as if he came to meet us more than his usual halfway, and


The Tempest

as if, thereby, in meeting him, and touching him, we were nearer to meeting and
touching the man. The man everywhere, in Shakespeares work, is so eectually
locked up and imprisoned in the artist that we but hover at the base of thick
walls for a sense of him; while, in addition, the artist is so steeped in the abysmal
objectivity of his characters and situations that the great billows of the medium
itself play with him, to our vision, very much as, over a ships side, in certain
waters, we catch, through transparent tides, the ash of strange sea-creatures.
What we are present at in this fashion is a series of incalculable plungesthe
series of those that have taken eect, I mean, after the great primary plunge,
made once for all, of the man into the artist: the successive plunges of the artist
himself into Romeo and into Juliet, into Shylock, Hamlet, Macbeth, Coriolanus,
Cleopatra, Antony, Lear, Othello, Falsta, Hotspur; immersions during which,
though he always ultimately nds his feet, the very violence of the movements
involved troubles and distracts our sight. In The Tempest, by the supreme felicity
I speak of, is no violence; he sinks as deep as we like, but what he sinks into,
beyond all else, is the lucid stillness of his style.
One can speak, in these matters, but from the impression determined by ones
own inevitable standpoint; again and again, at any rate, such a masterpiece puts
before me the very act of the momentous conjunction taking place for the poet,
at a given hour, between his charged inspiration and his claried experience: or, as
I should perhaps better express it, between his human curiosity and his aesthetic
passion. Then, if he happens to have been, all his career, with his equipment
for it, more or less the victim and the slave of the former, he yields, by way of
a change, to the impulse of allowing the latter, for a magnicent moment, the
upper hand. The human curiosity, as I call it, is always therewith no more need
of making provision for it than use in taking precautions against it; the surrender
to the luxury of expertness may therefore go forward on its own conditions. I
can oer no better description of The Tempest as fresh re-perusal lights it for me
than as such a surrender, sublimely enjoyed; and I may frankly say that, under
this impression of it, there is no renement of the artistic consciousness that I
do not see my wayor feel it, better, perhaps, since we but grope, at the best,
in our darknessto attribute to the author. It is a way that one follows to the
end, because it is a road, I repeat, on which one least misses some glimpse of
him face to face. If it be true that the thing was concocted to meet a particular
demand, that of the master of the Kings revels, with his prescription of date,
form, tone and length, this, so far from interfering with the Poets perception of
a charming opportunity to taste for himself, for himself above all, and as he had
almost never so tasted, not even in A Midsummer Nights Dream, of the quality of
his mind and the virtue of his skill, would have exceedingly favoured the happy
case. Innumerable one may always suppose these delicate debates and intimate
understandings of an artist with himself. How much taste, in the world, may
I conceive that I have?and what a charming idea to snatch a moment for

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


nding out? What moment could be better than thisa bridal evening before
the Court, with extra candles and the handsomest companyif I can but put my
hand on the right scenario? We can catch, across the ages, the searching sigh
and the look about; we receive the stirred breath of the ripe, amused genius; and,
stretching, as I admit I do at least, for a still closer conception of the beautiful
crisis, I nd it pictured for me in some such presentment as that of a divine
musician who, alone in his room, preludes or improvises at close of day. He sits
at the harpsichord, by the open window, in the summer dusk; his hands wander
over the keys. They stray far, for his motive, but at last he nds and holds it; then
he lets himself go, embroidering and rening: it is the thing for the hour and his
mood. The neighbours may gather in the garden, the nightingale be hushed on
the bough; it is none the less a private occasion, a concert of one, both performer
and auditor, who plays for his own ear, his own hand, his own innermost sense,
and for the bliss and capacity of his instrument. Such are the only hours at which
the artist may, by any measure of his own (too many things, at others, make
heavily against it); and their challenge to him is irresistible if he has known, all
along, too much compromise and too much sacrice.
The face that beyond any other, however, I seem to see The Tempest turn to us
is the side on which it so superlatively speaks of that endowment for Expression,
expression as a primary force, a consuming, an independent passion, which was
the greatest ever laid upon man. It is for Shakespeares power of constitutive
speech quite as if he had swum into our ken with it from another planet,
gathering it up there, in its wealth, as something antecedent to the occasion and
the need, and if possible quite in excess of them; something that was to make of
our poor world a great at table for receiving the glitter and clink of outpoured
treasure. The idea and the motive are more often than not so smothered in it
that they scarce know themselves, and the resources of such a style, the provision
of images, emblems, energies of every sort, laid up in advance, aects us as the
storehouse of a king before a famine or a siegewhich not only, by its scale,
braves depletion or exhaustion, but bursts, through mere excess of quantity or
presence, out of all doors and windows. It renders the poverties and obscurities
of our world, as I say, in the dazzling terms of a richer and better. It constitutes,
by a miracle, more than half the authors material; so much more usually does it
happen, for the painter or the poet, that life itself, in its appealing, overwhelming
crudity, oers itself as the paste to be kneaded. Such a personage works in
general in the very elements of experience; whereas we see Shakespeare working
predominantly in the terms of expression, all in the terms of the artists specic
vision and genius; with a thicker cloud of images to attest his approach, at any
point than the comparatively meagre given case ever has to attest its own identity.
He points for us as no one else the relation of style to meaning and of manner to
motive; a matter on which, right and left, we hear such rank ineptitudes uttered.
Unless it be true that these things, on either hand, are inseparable; unless it be


The Tempest

true that the phrase, the cluster and order of terms, is the object and the sense,
in as close a compression as that of body and soul, so that any consideration of
them as distinct, from the moment style is an active, applied force, becomes a
gross stupidity: unless we recognise this reality the author of The Tempest has no
lesson for us. It is by his expression of it exactly as the expression stands that
the particular thing is created, created as interesting, as beautiful, as strange,
droll or terribleas related, in short, to our understanding or our sensibility; in
consequence of which we reduce it to naught when we begin to talk of either of
its presented parts as matters by themselves.
All of which considerations indeed take us too far; what it is important to
note being simply our Poets high testimony to this independent, absolute value
of Style, and to its need thoroughly to project and seat itself. It had been, as
so seating itself, the very home of his mind, for his all too few twenty years; it
had been the supreme source to him of the joy of life. It had been in ne his
material, his plastic clay; since the more subtly he applied it the more secrets it
had to give him, and the more these secrets might appear to him, at every point,
one with the lights and shades of the human picture, one with the myriad pulses
of the spirit of man. Thus it was that, as he passed from one application of it to
another, tone became, for all its suggestions, more and more sovereign to him,
and the subtlety of its secrets an exquisite interest. If I see him, at the last, over
The Tempest, as the composer, at the harpsichord or the violin, extemporising in
the summer twilight, it is exactly that he is feeling there for tone and, by the
same token, nding itnding it as The Tempest, beyond any register of ours,
immortally gives it. This surrender to the highest sincerity of virtuosity, as we
nowadays call it, is to my perception all The Tempest; with no possible depth or
delicacy in it that such an imputed character does not cover and provide for.
The subject to be treated was the simple fact (if one may call anything in the
matter simple) that renement, selection, economy, the economy not of poverty,
but of wealth a little weary of congestionthe very air of the lone island and
the very law of the Court celebrationwere here implied and imperative things.
Anything was a subject, always, that oered to sight an aperture of size enough
for expression and its train to pass in and deploy themselves. If they lled up
all the space, none the worse; they occupied it as nothing else could do. The
subjects of the Comedies are, without exception, old wives taleswhich we are
not too insuerably aware of only because the iridescent veil so perverts their
proportions. The subjects of the Histories are no subjects at all; each is but a row
of pegs for the hanging of the cloth of gold that is to mue them. Such a thing
as The Merchant of Venice declines, for very shame, to be reduced to its elements
of witless story; such things as the two Parts of Henry the Fourth form no more
than a straight convenient channel for the procession of evoked images that is
to pour through it like a torrent. Each of these productions is none the less of
incomparable splendour; by which splendour we are bewildered till we see how

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


it comes. Then we see that every inch of it is personal tone, or in other words
brooding expression raised to the highest energy. Push such energy far enough
far enough if you can!and, being what it is, it then inevitably provides for
Character. Thus we see character, in every form of which the story gives the
thinnest hint, marching through the pieces I have named in its habit as it lives,
and so lling out the scene that nothing is missed. The story in The Tempest is
a thing of naught, for any story will provide a remote island, a shipwreck and a
coincidence. Prospero and Miranda, awaiting their relatives, are, in the present
case, for the relatives, the coincidencejust as the relatives are the coincidence
for them. Ariel and Caliban, and the island-airs and island-scents, and all the
rest of the charm and magic and the ineable delicacy (a delicacy positively at
its highest in the conception and execution of Caliban) are the style handed over
to its last disciplined passion of curiosity; a curiosity which owers, at this pitch,
into the freshness of each of the characters.
There are judges for whom the piece is a tissue of symbols; symbols of the
facts of State then apparent, of the lights of philosophic and political truth, of the
deeper meanings of life, above all, of a high crisis in its authors career. At this
most relevant of its mystic values only we may glance; the consecrated estimate
of Prosperos surrender of his magic robe and sta as a gure for Shakespeares
own self-despoilment, his considered purpose, at this date, of future silence.
Dr. George Brandes works out in detail that analogy; the production becomes,
on such a supposition, Shakespeares farewell to the stage; his retirement to
Stratford, to end his days in the care of his property and in oblivion of the
theatre, was a course for which his arrangements had already been made. The
simplest way to put it, since I have likened him to the musician at the piano, is
to say that he had decided upon the complete closing of this instrument, and that
in fact he was to proceed to lock it with the sharp click that has reverberated
through the ages, and to spend what remained to him of life in walking about
a small, squalid country-town with his hands in his pockets and an ear for no
music now but the chink of the coin they might turn over there. This is indeed
in general the accepted, the imposed view of the position he had gained: this
freedom to elect, as we say, to cease, intellectually, to exist: this ability, exercised
at the zenith of his splendour, to shut down the lid, from one day to another,
on the most potent aptitude for vivid reection ever lodged in a human frame
and to conduct himself thereafter, in all ease and comfort, not only as if it were
not, but as if it had never been. I speak of our accepting the prodigy, but by the
established record we have no choice whatever; which is why it is imposed, as
I say, on our bewildered credulity. With the impossibility of proving that the
author of The Tempest did, after the date of that production, ever again press the
spring of his fountain, ever again reach for the sacred key or break his heart for
an hour over his inconceivable act of sacrice, we are reduced to behaving as if
we understood the strange case; so that any rubbing of our eyes, as under the


The Tempest

obsession of a wild dream, has been held a gesture that, for common decency,
must mainly take place in private. If I state that my small contribution to any
renewed study of the matter can amount, accordingly, but to little more than
an irresistible need to rub mine in public, I shall have done the most that the
condition of our knowledge admits of. We can accept, but we can accept only in
stupefactiona stupefaction that, in presence of The Tempest, and of the intimate
meaning so imputed to it, must despair of ever subsiding. These things leave us
in darknessin gross darkness about the Man; the case of which they are the
warrant is so dicult to embrace. None ever appealed so sharply to some light of
knowledge, and nothing could render our actual knowledge more contemptible.
What manner of human being was it who could so, at a given moment, announce
his intention of capping his divine ame with a twopenny extinguisher, and who
then, the announcement made, could serenely succeed in carrying it out? Were it
a question of a ame spent or burning thin, we might feel a little more possessed
of matter for comprehension; the fact being, on the contrary, one can only
repeat, that the value of The Tempest is, exquisitely, in its renement of power, its
renewed artistic freshness and roundness, its mark as of a distinction unequalled,
on the whole (though I admit that we here must take subtle measures), in any
predecessor. Prospero has simply waited, to cast his magic ring into the sea, till
the jewel set in it shall have begun to burn as never before.
So it is then; and it puts into a nutshell the eternal mystery, the most insoluble
that ever was, the complete rupture, for our understanding, between the Poet
and the Man. There are moments, I admit, in this age of sound and fury, of
connections, in every sense, too maddeningly multiplied, when we are willing to
let it pass as a mystery, the most soothing, cooling, consoling too perhaps, that
ever was. But there are others when, speaking for myself, its power to torment
us intellectually seems scarcely to be borne; and we know these moments best
when we hear it proclaimed that a comfortable clearness reigns. I have been for
instance reading over Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps, and I nd him apparently of the
opinion that it is all our fault if everything in our authors story, and above all
in this last chapter of it, be not of a primitive simplicity. The complexity arises
from our suering our imagination to meddle with the Man at all; who is quite
suciently presented to us on the face of the record. For critics of this writers
complexion the only facts we are urgently concerned with are the facts of the
Poet, which are abundantly constituted by the Plays and the Sonnets. The Poet is
there, and the Man is outside: the Man is for instance in such a perfectly denite
circumstance as that he could never miss, after The Tempest, the key of his piano,
as I have called it, since he could play so freely with the key of his cash-box. The
supreme master of expression had made, before fty, all the money he wanted;
therefore what was there more to express? This view is admirable if you can get
your mind to consent to it. It must ignore any impulse, in presence of Play or
Sonnet (whatever vague stir behind either may momentarily act as provocation)

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


to try for a lunge at the gured arras. In front of the tapestry sits the immitigably
respectable person whom our little slateful of gathered and numbered items,
heaven knows, does amply account for, since there is nothing in him to explain;
while the undetermined gure, on the other handundetermined whether in the
sense of respectability or of anything elsethe gure who supremely interests
us, remains as unseen of us as our Ariel, on the enchanted island, remains of the
bewildered visitors. Mr. Halliwell-Phillippss theory, as I understand itand I
refer to it but as an advertisement of a hundred othersis that we too are but
bewildered visitors, and that the state of mind of the Duke of Naples and his
companions is our proper critical portion.
If our knowledge of the greatest of men consists therefore but of the neat
and proved addition of two or three dozen common particulars, the rebuke to
a morbid and monstrous curiosity is no more than just. We know enough, by
such an implication, when we admire enough, and as diculties would appear
to abound on our attempting to push further, this is an obvious lesson to us
to stand as still as possible. Not dicultiesthose of penetration, exploration,
interpretation, those, in the word that says everything, of appreciationare
the approved eld of criticism, but the very forefront of the obvious and the
palpable, where we may go round and round, like holiday-makers on hobbyhorses, at the turning of a crank. Dierences of estimate, in this relation, come
back, too clearly, let us accordingly say, to dierences of view of the character of
genius in generalif not, in truth, more exactly stated, to that strangest of all
fallacies, the idea of the separateness of a great mans parts. His genius places
itself, under this fallacy, on one side of the line and the rest of his identity on
the other; the line being that, for instance, which, to Mr. Halliwell-Phillippss
view, divides the author of Hamlet and The Tempest from the man of exemplary
business-method whom alone we may propose to approach at all intimately. The
stumbling-block here is that the boundary exists only in the vision of those able
to content themselves with arbitrary marks. A mark becomes arbitrary from the
moment we have no authoritative sign of where to place it, no sign of higher
warrant than that it smoothes and simplies the ground. But though smoothing
and simplifying, on such terms, may, by restricting our freedom of attention and
speculation, make, on behalf of our treatment of the subject, for a livelier eect
of businessthat business as to a zealous care for which we seem taught that
our author must above all serve as our modelit will see us little further on any
longer road. The fullest appreciation possible is the high tribute we must oer to
greatness, and to make it worthy of its oce we must surely know where we are
with it. In greatness as much as in mediocrity the man is, under examination, one,
and the elements of character melt into each other. The genius is a part of the
mind, and the mind a part of the behaviour; so that, for the attitude of inquiry,
without which appreciation means nothing, where does one of these provinces
end and the other begin? We may take the genius rst or the behaviour rst,


The Tempest

but we inevitably proceed from the one to the other; we inevitably encamp, as it
were, on the high central table-land that they have in common. How are we to
arrive at a relation with the object to be penetrated if we are thus forever met by a
locked door anked with a sentinel who merely invites us to take it for edifying?
We take it ourselves for attachingwhich is the very essence of mysteriesand
profess ourselves doomed forever to hang yearningly about it. An obscurity
endured, in ne, one inch further, or in one hour longer, than our necessity truly
holds us to, strikes us but as an articial spectre, a mued object with waving
arms, set up to keep appreciation down.
For it is never to be forgotten that we are here in presence of the human
character the most magnicently endowed, in all time, with the sense of the life
of man, and with the apparatus for recording it; so that of him, inevitably, it goes
hardest of all with us to be told that we have nothing, or next to nothing, to do
with the eect in him of this gift. If it does not satisfy us that the eect was to
make him write King Lear and Othello, we are verily dicult to please: so it is,
meanwhile, that the case for the obscurity is argued. That is sovereign, we reply,
so far as it goes; but it tells us nothing of the eect on him of being able to write
Lear and Othello. No scrap of testimony of what this may have been is oered
us; it is the quarter in which our blankness is most blank, and in which we are
yet most ociously put o. It is true of the poet in generalin nine examples
out of tenthat his life is mainly inward, that its events and revolutions are his
great impressions and deep vibrations, and that his personality is all pictured in
the publication of his verse. Shakespeare, we essentially feel, is the tenth, is the
millionth example; not the sleek bachelor of music, the sensitive harp set once for
all in the window to catch the air, but the spirit in hungry quest of every possible
experience and adventure of the spirit, and which, betimes, with the boldest of
all intellectual movements, was to leap from the window into the street. We are
in the street, as it were, for admiration and wonder, when the incarnation alights,
and it is of no edication to shrug shoulders at the felt impulse (when made
manifest) to follow, to pursue, all breathlessly to track it on its quickly-taken way.
Such a quest of imaginative experience, we can only feel, has itself constituted
one of the greatest observed adventures of mankind; so that no point of the
history of it, however far back seized, is premature for our fond attention. Half
our connection with it is our desire to assist at it; so how can we fail of curiosity
and sympathy? The answer to which is doubtless again that these impulses are
very well, but that as the case stands they can move but in one channel. We are
free to assist in the Plays themselvesto assist at whatever we like; so long, that
is, as, after the fashion I have noted, we rigidly limit our inductions from them. It
is put to us once more that we can make no bricks without straw, and that, rage as
we may against our barrier, it none the less stubbornly exists. Granted on behalf
of the vaulting spirit all that we claim for it, is still, in the street, as we sayand
in spite of the eect we see it as acrobatically producing thereabsolutely dees

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


pursuit. Beyond recovery, beyond curiosity, it was to lose itself in the crowd. The
crowd, for that matter, the witnesses we must take as astonished and dazzled, has,
though itself surviving but in a dozen or two dim, scarce articulate ghosts, been
interrogated to the last man and the last distinguishable echo. This has practically
elicited nothingnothing, that is, of a nature to gratify the indiscreetly, the
morbidly inquisitive; since we nd ourselves not rarely reminded that morbidity
may easily become a vice. He was notoriously not morbid; he stuck to his
businesssave when he so strangely gave it up; wherefore his own common
sense about things in general is a model for the tone he should properly inspire.
You speak of his career as a transcendent adventure, as the conspicuously
transcendent adventureeven to the sight of his contemporariesof the mind
of man; but no glimmer of any such story, of any such gure or presence, to use
your ambiguous word, as you desire to read into the situation, can be discerned
in any quarter. So what is it you propose we should do? What evidence do you
suggest that, with this absence of material, we should put together? We have
what we have; we are not concerned with what we have not.
In some such terms as that, one makes out, does the best attainable
appreciation appear to invite us to let our great personage, the mighty adventurer,
slink past. He slunk past in life: that was good enough for him, the contention
appears to be. Why therefore should he not slink past in immortality? Ones
reply can indeed only be that he evidently must; yes I profess that, even while
saying so, our poor point, for which The Tempest once more gives occasion, strikes
me as still, as always, in its desperate way, worth the making. The question, I hold,
will eternally interest the student of letters and of the human understanding, and
the envied privilege of our play in particular will be always to keep it before him.
How did the faculty so radiant there contrive, in such perfection, the arrest of its
divine ight? By what inscrutable process was the extinguisher applied and, when
once applied, kept in its place to the end? What became of the checked torrent,
as a latent, bewildered presence and energy, in the life across which the dam
was constructed? What other mills did it set itself turning, or what contiguous
country did itrather indeed did it not, in default of theseinevitably ravage?
We are referred, for an account of the matter, to recorded circumstances which
are only not supremely vulgar because they are supremely dim and few; in which
character they but mock, and as if all consciously, as I have said, at our unrest.
The one at all large indication they give is that our hero may have diedsince
he died so soonof his unnatural eort. Their quality, however, redeems them
a little by having for its eect that they throw us back on the work itself with a
rebellious renewal of appetite and yearning. The secret that baes us being the
secret of the Man, we know, as I have granted, that we shall never touch the
Man directly in the Artist. We stake our hopes thus on indirectness, which may
contain possibilities; we take that very truth for our counsel of despair, try to
look at it as helpful for the Criticism of the future. That of the past has been too


The Tempest

often infantile; one has asked ones self how it could, on such lines, get at him. The
gured tapestry, the long arras that hides him, is always there, with its immensity
of surface and its proportionate underside. May it not then be but a question, for
the fulness of time, of the ner weapon, the sharper point, the stronger arm, the
more extended lunge?

1938E. M. W. Tillyard. The Tragic Pattern:
The Tempest, from Shakespeares Last Plays
E. M. W. Tillyard (18891962) was a critic known for books on
Elizabethan literature in general and on the works of Shakespeare and
Milton in particular. He promoted the idea that people who lived in
the Renaissance believed in a highly stratified world order ordained
by God.

It is a common notion that Cymbeline and The Winters Tale are experiments
leading to the nal success of The Tempest. I think it quite untrue of The Winters
Tale, which, in some ways though not in others, deals with the tragic pattern
more adequately than the later play. Certainly it deals with the destructive
portion more directly and fully. On the other hand, The Tempest, by keeping
this destructive portion largely in the background and dealing mainly with
regeneration, avoids the juxtaposition of the two themes, which some people (of
whom I am not one) nd awkward in The Winters Tale. The simple truth is that if
you cram a trilogy into a single play something has to be sacriced. Shakespeare
chose to make a dierent sacrice in each of his two successful renderings of
the complete tragic pattern: unity in The Winters Tale, present rendering of the
destructive part of the tragic pattern in The Tempest.
Many readers, drugged by the heavy enchantments of Prosperos island, may
demur at my admitting the tragic element to the play at all. I can cite in support
one of the latest studies of the play, Dover Wilsons1 (although I dier somewhat
in the way I think the tragic element is worked out). Of the storm scene he
It is as if Shakespeare had packed his whole tragic vision of life into
one brief scene before bestowing his new vision upon us.
But one has only to look at the total plot to see that in its main lines it
closely follows those of Cymbeline and The Winters Tale, and that tragedy is an
organic part of it. Prospero, when one rst hears of him, was the ruler of an

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


independent state and beloved of his subjects. But all is not well, because the
King of Naples is his enemy. Like Basilius in Sidneys Arcadia, he commits
the error of not attending carefully enough to aairs of state. The reason for
this error, his Aristotelian amartia, is his love of study. He hands over the
government to his brother Antonio, who proceeds to call in the King of Naples
to turn Prospero out of his kingdom. Fearing the people, Antonio refrains
from murdering Prospero and his infant daughter, but sets them adrift in a
boat. Now, except for this last item, the plot is entirely typical of Elizabethan
revenge tragedy. Allow Prospero to be put to death, give him a son instead of a
daughter to live and to avenge him, and your tragic plot is complete. Such are
the anities of the actual plot of The Tempest. And in the abstract it is more
typically tragic in the fashion of its age than The Winters Tale, with its debt to
the Greek romances.
In handling the theme of regeneration, Shakespeare in one way alters his
method. Although a royal person had previously been the protagonist, it had been
only in name. Cymbeline had indeed resembled Prospero in having his enemies
at his mercy and in forgiving them, but he owed his power not to himself, but
to fortune and the eorts of others. As for Leontes, he has little to do with his
own regeneration; for it would be perverse to make too much of his generosity
in sheltering Florizel and Perdita from the anger of Polixenes. But Prospero is
the agent of his own regeneration, the parent and tutor of Miranda; and through
her and through his own works he changes the minds of his enemies. It was by
this centering of motives in Prospero as well as by subordinating the theme of
destruction that Shakespeare gave The Tempest its unied structure.
In executing his work, Shakespeare chose a method new to himself but
repeated by Milton in Samson Agonistes. He began his action at a point in the
story so late that the story was virtually over; and he included the total story
either by narrating the past or by re-enacting samples of it: a complete reaction
from the method of frontal attack used in The Winters Tale.
For the re-enactment of tragedy it is possible to think with Dover Wilson
that the storm scene does this. But it does nothing to re-enact the specic
tragic plot in the play, the fall of Prospero; and one of its aims is to sketch (as
it does with incomparable swiftness) the characters of the ships company. The
true re-enactment is in the long rst scene of the second act where Antonio,
in persuading Sebastian to murder Alonso, personates his own earlier action in
plotting against Prospero, thus drawing it out of the past and placing it before us
in the present. This long scene, showing the shipwrecked king and courtiers and
the conspiracy, has not had sucient praise nor sucient attention. Antonios
transformation from the cynical and lazy badgerer of Gonzalos loquacity to the
brilliantly swift and unscrupulous man of action is a thrilling aair. Just so Iago
awakes from his churlish honesty to his brilliant machinations. Antonio is
indeed one of Shakespeares major villains:


The Tempest

Will you grant with me
That Ferdinand is drownd?
Hes gone.
Then, tell me,
Whos the next heir to Naples?
Antonio. She that is Queen of Tunis; she that dwells
Ten leagues beyond mans life; she that from Naples
Can have no note, unless the sun were post
The man i the moons too slowtill newborn chins
Be rough and razorable; she that from whom
We all were sea-swallowd, though some cast again,
And by that destiny, to perform an act
Whereof whats past is prologue, what to come,
In yours and my discharge.
What stu is this! how say you?
Tis true my brothers daughters Queen of Tunis,
So is she heir of Naples; twixt which regions
There is some space.
A space whose every cubit
Seems to cry out, How shall that Claribel
Measure us back to Naples? Keep in Tunis,
And let Sebastian wake. Say this were death
That now hath seized them; why, they were no worse
Than now they are. There be that can rule Naples
As well as he that sleeps; lords that can prate
As amply and unnecessarily
As this Gonzalo; I myself could make
A chough of as deep chat. O, that you bore
The mind that I do! What a sleep were this
For your advancement! Do you understand me?
We should do wrong to take the conspiracy very seriously in itself. We know
Prosperos power, and when Ariel enters and wakes the intended victims we have
no fears for their future safety. But all the more weight should the scene assume
as recalling the past.
Dover Wilson2 greatly contributes to a right understanding of the play by
stressing the rst lines of the fth act, when Prospero declares to Ariel that he
will pardon his enemies, now quite at his mercy:
Ariel. Your charm so strongly works em
That if you now beheld them, your aections

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


Would become tender.

Dost thou think so, spirit?
Ariel. Mine would, sir, were I human.
And mine shall.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their aictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
Yet with my nobler reason gainst my fury
Do I take part: the rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent,
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown further.
But when Dover Wilson would have this to represent Prosperos sudden
conversion from a previously intended vengeance, I cannot follow him. It is true
that Prospero shows a certain haste of temper up to that point of the play, and
that he punishes Caliban and the two other conspirators against his life with
some asperity; but his comments on them, after his supposed conversion, have
for me the old ring:
Mark but the badges of these men, my lords,
Then say if they be true. This misshapen knave,
His mother was a witch, and one so strong
That could control the moon, make ows and ebbs,
And deal in her command without her power.
These three have robbd me; and this demi-devil
For hes a bastard onehad plotted with them
To take my life. Two of these fellows you
Must know and own; this thing of darkness I
Acknowledge mine.
The last words express all Prosperos old bitterness that Caliban has resisted
him and refused to respond to his nurture.3 Indeed, Prospero does not change
fundamentally during the play, though, like Samsons, his own accomplished
regeneration is put to the test. If he had seriously intended vengeance, why
should he have stopped Sebastian and Antonio murdering Alonso? That he did
stop them is proof of his already achieved regeneration from vengeance to mercy.
This act, and his talk to Ariel of taking part with his reason against his fury,
are once again a re-enactment of a process now past, perhaps extending over a
period of many years. I do not wish to imply that the re-enactment is weak or


The Tempest

that the temptation to vengeance was not there all the time. Prosperos fury at the
thought of Calibans conspiracy, which interrupts the masque, must be allowed
full weight. It is not for nothing that Miranda says that
never till this day
Saw I him touchd with anger so distemperd.
We must believe that Prospero felt thus, partly because Calibans conspiracy
typies all the evil of the world which has so perplexed him, and partly because
he is still tempted to be revenged on Alonso and Antonio. He means to pardon
them, and he will pardon them. But beneath his reasons sway is this anger
against them, which, like Satans before the sun in Paradise Lost, disgures his
face. When Dover Wilson calls Prospero
a terrible old man, almost as tyrannical and irascible as Lear at the
opening of his play,
he makes a valuable comparison, but it should concern Prospero as he once
was, not the character who meets us in the play, in whom these traits are mere
The advantage of this technique of re-enactment was economy, its drawback
an inevitable blurring of the sharp outline. The theme of destruction, though
exquisitely blended in the whole, is less vivid than it is in The Winters Tale.
Having made it so vivid in that play, Shakespeare was probably well content to
put the stress on the theme of re-creation. And here he did not work solely by
re-enactment. He strengthened Prosperos re-enacted regeneration by the gures
of Ferdinand and Miranda. I argued above that, in view of his background
of Elizabethan chivalrous convention, Ferdinand need not have been as
insignicant as he is usually supposed. Similarly, Mirandas character has been
unduly diminished in recent years. Today, under the stress of the new psychology,
men have become nervous lest they should be caught illicitly attaching their
daydreams of the perfect woman to a character in ction. They laugh at the
Victorians for falling unawares into this error, and Miranda may have been one
of the most popular victims. Hence the anxiety not to admire her too much.
E. K. Chambers has written:
Unless you are sentimentalist inveterate, your emotions will not
be more than faintly stirred by the blameless loves at rst sight of
Ferdinand and Miranda.
Schcking4 goes further and considers Miranda a poor imitation of Beaumont
and Fletchers idea of the chaste female, an idea that could be dwelt on so

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


lovingly and emphatically only in a lascivious age. In depicting her with her
talk of modesty, the jewel in my dower and her protests that if Ferdinand will
not marry her, Ill die your maid, and in making Prospero so insistent that
she should not lose her maidenhead before marriage, Shakespeare, according to
Schcking, is yielding to the demands of his age against his own better judgment.
But Miranda is suciently successful a symbolic gure for it to matter little if she
makes conventional and, in her, unnatural remarks. And even this defense may be
superuous. Since Miranda had never seen a young man, it might reasonably be
doubted whether she would behave herself with entire propriety when she did.
Prospero, too, had made enough mistakes in his life to be very careful to make
no more. Further, Miranda was the heiress to the Duchy of Milan and her father
hoped she would be Queen of Naples. What most strikingly emerged from
the abdication of our late King was the strong anthropological feeling of the
masses of the people concerning the importance of virginity in a kings consort.
The Elizabethans were not less superstitious than ourselves and would have
sympathized with Prosperos anxiety that the future Queen of Naples should
keep her maidenhead till marriage: otherwise ill luck would be sure to follow.
To revert to Mirandas character, like Perdita she is both symbol and human
being, yet in both capacities somewhat weaker. She is the symbol of original
virtue, like Perdita, and should be set against the devilish gure of Antonio. She
is the complete embodiment of sympathy with the men she thinks have been
drowned: and her instincts are to create, to mend the work of destruction she has
witnessed. She isagain like Perdita, though less clearlya symbol of fertility.
Stephano asks of Caliban, Is it so brave a lass? and Caliban answers,
Ay, lord; she will become thy bed, I warrant,
And bring thee forth brave brood.
Even if The Tempest was written for some great wedding, it need not be assumed
that the masque was inserted merely to t the occasion. Like the goddesses in
Perditas speeches about the owers, Juno and Ceres and the song they sing may
be taken to reinforce the fertility symbolism embodied in Miranda:
Juno. Honor, riches, marriage blessing,
Long continuance, and increasing,
Hourly joys be still upon you!
Juno sings her blessings on you.
Ceres. Earths increase, foison plenty,
Barns and garners never empty,
Vines with clustering bunches growing,
Plants with goodly burthen bowing;


The Tempest

Spring come to you at the farthest

In the very end of harvest!
Scarcity and want shall shun you;
Ceres blessing so is on you.
The touches of ordinary humanity in Mirandaher siding with Ferdinand
against a supposedly hostile father, for instanceare too well known to need
recalling. They do not amount to a very great deal and leave her vaguer as a
human being than as a symbol. Middleton Murry is not at his happiest when he
says that they are so terribly, so agonizingly real, these women of Shakespeares
last imagination. As far as Miranda is concerned, any agonizing sense of her
reality derives from the critic and not from the play. But this does not mean
that, judged by the plays requirements (which are not those of brilliant realism),
Miranda is not perfection. Had she been more weakly drawn, she would have
been insignicant, had she been more strongly, she would have interfered with
the unifying dominance of Prospero.
Not only do Ferdinand and Miranda sustain Prospero in representing a
new order of things that has evolved out of destruction; they also vouch for its
continuation. At the end of the play Alonso and Prospero are old and worn men.
A younger and happier generation is needed to secure the new state to which
Prospero has so painfully brought himself, his friends, and all his enemies save
1. The Meaning of the Tempest, the Robert Spence Watson Memorial Lecture
for 1936, delivered before the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastleupon-Tyne, on October 5th, 1936.
2. Op. cit., pp. 1418.
3. See the admirable discussion of nature and nurture in The Tempest in
Middleton Murrys Shakespeare, pp. 396 ff.
4. Character Problems in Shakespeares Plays, pp. 24950.

1939Mark Van Doren.
The Tempest, from Shakespeare
Mark Van Doren (18941972) was a Pulitzer prizewinning poet,
a literary critic, and an editor and reviewer for the magazine the
Nation. He was also a professor at Columbia University for nearly
40 years.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


If Shakespeare thought of The Tempest as the last play he would write he

may have said to himselfsilently, we must assumethat he could aord to let
action come in it to a kind of rest; that its task was not so much to tell a story
as to x a vision; that the symbols he hitherto had dened his art by concealing
might now confess themselves, even obtrude themselves, in measured dance and
signicant song; and that while he was at it he would recapitulate his poetic
career. It is interesting to conjecture thus, but it is perilous. The Tempest
does bind up in nal form a host of themes with which its author has been
concerned. It is a mirror in which, if we hold it very still, we can gaze backward
at all of the recent plays; and behind them will be glimpses of a past as old as
the tragedies, the middle comedies, and even A Midsummer Nights Dream.
Or it is a thicket of resonant trees, in an odd angle of the Shakespearean wood,
which hums with echoes of every distant aisle. And certainly its symbols expose
themselves as their ancestors in Shakespeare seldom or never did. The play seems
to order itself in terms of its meanings; things in it stand for other things, so that
we are tempted to search its dark backward for a single meaning, quite nal for
Shakespeare and quite abstract. The trouble is that the meanings are not selfevident. One interpretation of The Tempest does not agree with another. And
there is deeper trouble in the truth that any interpretation, even the wildest, is
more or less plausible. This deep trouble, and this deep truth, should warn us that
The Tempest is a composition about which we had better not be too knowing.
If it is one of Shakespeares successes, and obviously it is, it will not yield its
secret easily; or it has no secret to yield. Notwithstanding its visionary grace, its
tendency toward lyric abstraction, it keeps that lifelike surface and that humor
with which Shakespeare has always protected his meaning if he had one: that
impenetrable shield o which the spears of interpretation invariably glanceor
return, bent in the shaft and dulled at the point, to the hand of the thrower. It
may well be that Shakespeare in The Tempest is telling us for the last time, and
consciously for the last time, about the world. But what he is telling us cannot be
simple, or we could agree that it is this or that. Perhaps it is this: that the world
is not simple. Or, mysteriously enough, that it is what we all take it to be, just as
The Tempest is whatever we would take it to be. Any set of symbols, moved
close to this play, lights up as in an electric eld. Its meaning, in other words, is
precisely as rich as the human mind, and it says that the world is what it is. But
what the world is cannot be said in a sentence. Or even in a poem as complete
and beautiful as The Tempest.
Separations and reconciliations are woven here within the circle of a remote
and musical island where an enchanter, controlling the black magic of native
witchcraft with the white magic of his liberal art, controls also a tempest until
it brings to pass all things he has desired. The ship it founders on the shore, or
seems to founder, carries his two chief enemies: his brother Antonio, whose
treason has put the sea between them, and Alonso king of Naples, confederate to


The Tempest

this treason. Prospero as duke of Milan had honored his brother with condence
sans bound. But Antonio had abused his trust, and that is the rst separation.
The second has occurred likewise before the play begins, and nothing in the play
can cure it. Alonso has lost his fair daughter Claribel by marriage to the King
of Tunis, and indeed it is from that sweet marriage that he is returning, bound
sadly home for Naples, when he suers shipwreck on Prosperos island. Alonsos
loss of his remaining heir, his son Ferdinand, is temporary in so far as Prospero
merely keeps them apart on the island until the separation has served its purpose,
meanwhile entertaining the prince with the unearthly music of Ariel and with
the charms of his own daughter Miranda; but it is permanent when Ferdinand
and Miranda give themselves away to each other in love. And by the same blow,
happy though it be, Prospero loses Miranda. The plot of The Tempest is a
complex of separationsand, swiftly and harmoniously, of reconciliations, so
that Gonzalo can say:
In one voyage
Did Claribel her husband nd at Tunis,
And Ferdinand, her brother, found a wife
Where he himself was lost, Prospero to his dukedom
In a poor isle, and all of us ourselves
When no man was his own. (V, i, 20813)
But we have known from the beginning that Gonzalo would have grounds for
speaking so. Prosperos isle is not poor; it is rich and strange and full of fair
noises, and the magic with which he controls it will maneuver all lives into
peace. We know this not merely from his assuring Miranda in the second
scene that the sea-storm has been safely ordered (29), or from Ariels report
that not a hair has perished (217), but from the sense we always have here
that danger is not real, that artice is disarmingly at work, and that woe is
only waiting upon sea-change. Tides of understanding must shortly ll the
reasonable shore (V, i, 7982) when music like this music playsconstantly,
and with such continuing sweetness that the one unregenerate person on the
island can speak of sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not
(III, ii, 145).
The hag-born Caliban is not deaf to the thousand twangling instruments
that hum about his ears. He is, however, the lowest inhabitant of the play; the
human scale which Shakespeare has built begins with him. The island as we
have it is among other things a microcosm of humanity, and its meanest soul
smells music rather than apprehends it; or receives it at any rate in his grosser
senses. We know Caliban rst of all by his style, which may not be the special
language an old critical tradition says it is, but which gives us a creature
complete in beastliness. His characteristic speech does not open the mouth to

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


music; it closes it rather on harsh, hissing, or guttural consonants that in the

slowness with which they must be uttered express the dicult progress of a
mind bemired in fact, an imagination beslimed with particulars. Caliban has
no capacity for abstraction, and consequently for the rational harmonies of
music and love.
As wicked dew as eer my mother brushd
With ravens feather from unwholesome fen
Drop on you both! A south-west blow on ye
And blister you all oer! (I, ii, 3214)
The second of these sentences is scarcely articulated; it is a mouthed curse which
no tongues skill can rene.
This islands mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takst from me. When thou camst rst,
Thou strokdst me and made much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in t, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night; and then I lovd thee
And showd thee all the qualities o the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile.
Cursd be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you! (I, ii, 33140)
Thou strokdst me and made much of methe second word is a thicket of vile
sound, and the ms that follow are the mutterings of less than human lips.
All the infections that the sun sucks up
From bogs, fens, ats, on Prosper fall and make him
By inch-meal a disease! His spirits hear me
And yet I needs must curse. But theyll nor pinch,
Fright me with urchin-shows, pitch me i the mire,
Nor lead me, like a rebrand, in the dark
Out of my way, unless he bid em; but
For every trie are they set upon me,
Sometime like apes that mow and chatter at me
And after bite me, then like hedgehogs which
Lie tumbling in my barefoot way and mount
Their pricks at my footfall; sometime am I
All wound with adders who with cloven tongues
Do hiss me into madness. (II, ii, 114)


The Tempest

Like hedgehogs which lie tumblingthe tongue of the speaker is thick in his
throat, his palate is untrained.
Pray you, tread softly, that the blind mole may not
Hear a foot fall. (IV, i, 1945)
Out of its context this has been thought pretty, but its context is an island among
whose pits and thistles Caliban roots more like a hog than a man. He knows
every detail of the place but he understands nothing.
Ill show thee every fertile inch o the island. . . .
Ill show thee the best springs; Ill pluck thee berries;
Ill sh for thee and get thee wood enough. . . .
I prithee, let me bring thee where crabs grow;
And I with my long nails will dig thee pig-nuts;
Show thee a jays nest and instruct thee how
To snare the nimble marmoset. Ill bring thee
To clustring lberts and sometimes Ill get thee
Young scamels from the rock. (II, ii, 15176)
Ill dig thee pig-nuts, he promises the drunken Stephano, ignorant that
Stephano is not a god. It may not matter what relation Caliban bears to
Montaignes cannibalwhether he is an answer to the doctrine of the noble
savage, or whether he supports the doctrine by showing how nature is degraded
upon contact with cultureso long as one sees that in Prosperos mind, which
is the only mind where he counts, he is uneducable. He cannot take any print of
goodness; he has that in him which good natures cannot abide to be with; he is
a born devil on whose nature nurture can never stick. The phrases are Prosperos,
for it is only Prospero who has taken pains with this thing of deformity, and it is
only he who cares that failure has been his reward. He has failed with Caliban,
either because Caliban was incapable of becoming man or because there is no art,
Prosperos or Shakespeares, by which the inhuman can be made human. Caliban
represents the lower limit, as Prospero to his own confusion forgets for a moment
when he loses himself in a certain vanity of his art and entertains Ferdinand
with the pageant of Iris, Ceres, Juno, and the Naiads. Remembering Calibans
plot against his life, and remembering even more the intractable nature of the
beast, he starts suddenly and waves the pageant awayexplaining to Ferdinand
that it has melted into air even as the earth will dissolve into sleep when its
dreamer ceases to dream:
You do look, my son, in a movd sort,
As if you were dismayd. Be cheerful, sir,

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-cappd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stu
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. (IV, i, 14658)
Scarcely higher on the scale than Caliban stand Trinculo and Stephanoor
reel, for they are drunken rascals past reform, and there is no promise for
them, as there is for Alonso and Antonio, of a clear life ensuing (III, iii, 82).
Alonso and Antonio will reach the reasonable shore and own themselves again.
When they do they will nd Gonzalo there, for he has never strayed away. The
good old counselor who made it possible for Prospero to survive the voyage
from Milan with his daughter and his secret books, who amuses three cynical
gentlemen with talk of the golden age (II, i, 14379), who seasons all of his
discourse with a wise wit, and who upon recognizing Prospero can weep, has
always been possessed of an honor which cannot be measurd or connd (V,
i, 1212). He sits near the top of the scale, just beneath the honey-throated
Ferdinand and his admired Miranda. The top is reserved for these young lovers
who have yet to know the world, and who for that reason alone are its best
lovers. Ferdinand is all gallantry and devotion, and the compliments he pays
his island mistress are worthy of one who when she rst saw him could say:
Nothing natural I ever saw so noble (I, ii, 4189). He had seemed to her
almost divine, as if the upper human limit were more than reached in him. He
continues to deserve her wonder, as she his:
You, O you,
So perfect and so peerless, are created
Of every creatures best. . . . I
Beyond all limit of what else i the world
Do love, prize, honour you. (III, i, 4673)
Miranda, as her name half tells, is all tears and wonder. Her pity is had before
it is asked, since she is without guile; and she knows how to weep for joy when
Ferdinand returns her adoration. And if Shakespeare was thinking of The
Tempest as his last play he may have written a special meaning, not to say a
special irony, into these now famous words:


The Tempest

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in t! (V, i, 1814)
Tis new to thee, says Prospero quietly, noting that Miranda is more beautiful
than any man she beholds, and more virtuous. The carcass of the world that age
hands on to youth is suddenly not a carcass but a brave new goodly thing. There
is mystery in that, and an irony which works either way, for both age and youth
are as right as they are wrong.
Prospero is in one sense not measured on the scale, since he himself is its
measurer. Yet he has human traits, one of which is his pride in his art and another
of which is his sternness as he employs it. For he belongs among the strict elders
of the later plays; his behavior not only toward Caliban but toward the delightful
Ariel is harsh with threats and curses, and if his cruelty to Ferdinand is only
feigned lest too light winning make the prize light (I, ii, 4512), the feigner at
least is master of the mood.
My fathers of a better nature, sir,
Than he appears by speech. (I, ii, 4967)
But Miranda does not know her father perfectly. She perhaps does not follow
the turnings of his great speech on dreams. She has never shared with him
the secret knowledge to which he bids farewell as he breaks his wand and
takes breath for a masterpiece of hymn new-harmonized from Arthur
Goldings Ovid:
Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do y him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimmd
The noontide sun, calld forth the mutinous winds,
And twixt the green sea and the azurd vault
Set roaring war; to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given re, and rifted Joves stout oak
With his own bolt; the strong-basd promontory

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


Have I made shake, and by the spurs pluckd up

The pine and cedar; graves at my command
Have wakd their sleepers, opd, and let em forth
By my so potent art. But this rough magic
I here abjure, and, when I have requird
Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, Ill break my sta,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
Ill drown my book. (v, i, 3357)
And if she is giving him any attention at the end she probably does not guess
what he means when he speaks of a retirement to Milan
Every third thought shall be my grave. (V, i, 31011)
The meaning may be Shakespeares no less than Prosperos. If so, the ambiguity
does admirably for an ending note.
Is Shakespeare Prospero, and is his magic the art with which he has
fabricated thirty-seven plays? Is he now burying his bookabandoning the
theaterand retiring where every third thought will be his grave? And does
The Tempest so signify? Answers are not too easy. Shakespeare has never
dramatized himself before, and it may not have occurred to him to do so now.
Also, The Tempest is not a cantata; it is still a play, and it is ballasted with
much life. It has snarling beasts and belching drunkards to match its innocent
angels and white magicians. It contains two of Shakespeares nest songs
Full fathom ve thy father lies and Come unto these yellow sandsand
two of his coarsestBan, Ban, Cacaliban and The master, the swabber, the
boatswain, and I. And Ariel is more than an angelic musician; he is a mischiefmaker, another Puck, unwilling at his work and restless under the burden of
magic he bears. It can be doubted, in other words, that Shakespeare sat down
solemnly to decorate his lifes work with a secret signature. The Tempest,
pressed a little, yields this meaning as it yields most of the meanings ingenuity
can insist upon, and yields it with grace. But a better signature was the play
itself, which, if its author had been given to such exercises, he might have
recognized as one of the most beautiful literary objects ever made. He would
scarcely, however, have been so conscious of what he had done. He is more
likely to have let the moment go with four simple words: Now I will rest.



The Tempest

1944W. H. Auden. From The Sea

and the Mirror: A Commentary on
Shakespeares The Tempest
W. H. Auden (19071973) was one of the most famous poets of the
century, and his criticism was also influential. The Sea and the Mirror
is a long poem that purports to comment on Shakespeares play. One
of its sections is a prose speech by Caliban that Auden considered his
masterpiece. The passage below is from the poems opening.

Prospero to Ariel
Stay with me Ariel, while I pack, and with your rst free act
Delight my leaving; share my resigning thoughts
As you have served my revelling wishes: then, brave spirit,
Ages to you of song and daring, and to me
Briey Milan, then earth. In all, things have turned out better
Than I once expected or ever deserved;
I am glad that I did not recover my dukedom till
I do not want it; I am glad that Miranda
No longer pays me any attention; I am glad I have freed you
So at last I can really believe I shall die. . . .

1947G. Wilson Knight. The Shakespearian
Superman: A Study of The Tempest,
from The Crown of Life
G. Wilson Knight (18971985) was professor of English at Leeds
University and also taught at the University of Toronto. At both universities he produced and acted in Shakespeare plays. In addition, Knight
wrote plays for the British stage and television. His books include The
Wheel of Fire, Shakespearian Production, and Lord Byron: Christian Virtues.

We have seen how [Shakespeares] nal plays tend to refashion old imagery
into some surprising dramatic incident; of which the most striking examples
are the jewel-thrown-into-the-sea, Thaisa in her casket-con; Pericles on
board his storm-tossed ship; the co-presence of actual storm and bear, an old
poetic association, in The Winters Tale; the appearance of Jupiter the Thunderer
in Cymbeline. This is, however, a variation of a normal Shakespearian process;
for Shakespeare is continually at work splitting up and recombining already

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used plots, persons, and themes, weaving something new and strange from old
material. . . .
The last plays are peculiar in their seizing on poetry itself, as it were, for their
dominating eects; and in doing this also nd themselves often reversing the
logic of life as we know it, redeveloping the discoveries and recognitions of old
comedy into more purposeful conclusions, impregnated with a far higher order
of dramatic belief. . . .
This tendency The Tempest drives to the limit. For once, Shakespeare has no
objective story before him from which to create. He spins his plot from his own
poetic world entirely, simplifying the main issues of his total workplot, poetry,
persons; whittling o the non-essential and leaving the naked truth exposed. The
Tempest, patterned of storm and music, is thus an interpretation of Shakespeares
Its originating action is constructed, roughly, on the pattern of The Comedy
of Errors and Twelfth Night, wherein wreck in tempest leads to separation of
certain persons and their reunion on a strange shore; the plots being entwined
with magic and amazement, as in Antipholus of Syracuses comment on Ephesus
as a land of Lapland sorcerers (The Comedy of Errors, IV. iii. 11), and Sebastians
amazement at Olivias welcome (Twelfth Night, IV. iii. 121; see also Violas pun
on Illyria and Elysium at I. ii. 23). There is an obvious further relation of The
Tempest to A Midsummer Nights Dream, both plays showing a fairy texture, with
Puck and Ariel, on rst acquaintance, appearing as blood-brethren, though the
dierences are great. The balance of tempests and music, not only in imagery but
in plot too, throughout the Comedies (including A Midsummer Nights Dream
and The Merchant of Venice) here reaches its consummation; but the Tragedies,
wherein tempests and music are yet more profoundly important, are also at work
within our new pattern of shipwreck and survival.
Prospero is a composite of many Shakespearian heroes; not in character,
since there is no one quite like him elsewhere, but rather in his fortunes and
the part he plays. As a sovereign wrongfully dethroned he carries the overtones
of tragic royalty enjoyed by Richard II. Ejected from his dukedom by a wicked
brotherThat a brother should be so perdious (I. ii. 67)he is placed, too,
like the unfortunate Duke in As You Like It and as Don Pedro might have been
placed had Don Johns rebellion succeeded in Much Ado about Nothing. Clarence,
Orlando and Edgar suer from similar betrayals.
Now Prosperos reaction is one of horror at such betrayal of a trust and a
condence sans bound (I. ii. 96) by one whom, as he tells Miranda, next thyself
of all the world I lovd (I. ii. 69). So Valentine suers from Proteus betrayal
in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Antonio, as he thinks, from Sebastian in
Twelfth Night. King Henry treats the faithless lords in Henry V to a long tirade
of withering blank-verse on ingratitude and betrayal comparable with Richard
IIs scathing denunciation of his betrayers. Ingratitude generally is basic to the


The Tempest

emotions, speeches, and songs of As You Like It; and in King Lear we have a lial
ingratitude (III. iv. 14), corresponding to Prosperos viewing of himself as a good
parent, too kindly begetting in his child (meaning his brother) a corresponding
falsehood (I. ii. 94; cp. King Lear, Your old kind father whose frank heart gave
all at III. iv. 20). Loyalty to king, master, friend, wife, husband, is a continual
theme. It is basic in Julius Caesar, in Brutus relation to Caesar, in Portias to
Brutus, in the friendship of Brutus and Cassius: it vitalizes the whole of Antony
and Cleopatra, with the subtly dened, personal, tragedy of Enobarbusa
master-leaver and a fugitive (IV. ix. 22). There are the loyal friends: Antonio to
Sebastian; Horatio to Hamlet; or servantsthe Bastard in King John, Adam,
Kent; Gonzalo here winning a corresponding honour. The extensions into sexual
jealousy are equally, or more, important; as in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much
Ado about Nothing, Troilus and Cressida, Hamlet (felt on the fathers behalf by the
son), Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winters Tale, Cymbeline.
There is a recurring sense of desertion, of betrayal, very strong in Troilus and
Cressida; and also in King Lear, the old mans age underlining his helplessness. In
King Lear, and often elsewhere, the result is a general nausea at human falsity;
the poet continually driving home a distinction of falsehood, and especially
attery, and true, unspectacular, devotion (as in Theseus words to Hippolyta, A
Midsummer Nights Dream, V. i. 89105). This disgust tends to project the action
into wild nature, conceived, as in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, As You Like It,
and King Lear, as an improvement on the falsities of civilization. In King Lear
the return to nature is acted by Edgar and endured, for his purgation, by Lear
on the tempest-torn heath; while many variations are played throughout on the
comparison and contrast of human evil with the beasts and elemental forces.
The pattern of The Winters Tale shows a similar movement from falsehood
through rugged nature to an idealized rusticity. Of all this the great prototype,
or archetype, is Timon of Athens, where the princely hero, conceived as a sublime
patron and lover of humanity, is so thunder-struck by discovery of falsehood
and ingratitude that he rejects man and all his works and in uncompromising
bitterness retires in nakedness to a cave by the sea-shore, where he denounces to
all who visit him the vices of civilization and communes, in savage solitude, with
all of nature that is vast and eternal; his story nally fading into the ocean surge.
The Tempest shows a similar movement. Prospero, like Timon and Bellariusfor
Bellarius is another, driven to the mountains by the ingratitude of Cymbeline
lives (presumably) in a cave; like Timon, by the sea.
He is akin, too, to all princes whose depth of understanding accompanies
or succeeds political failure: to Hamlet, Brutus, Richard II, Henry VI. Hamlet,
like Timon, is an archetypal gure, being a complex of many heroes. He is out
of joint with a society of which he clearly sees the decadence and evil. Through
his ghostly converse and consequent profundity of spiritual disturbance, he
is untted for direct action, while nevertheless doing much to control the

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


other persons, indeed dominating them, half magically, from within. Hamlet
is a student and scholar; and in this too, as in his surface (though not actual)
ineectuality and his revulsion from an evil society, he forecasts the learned
Prospero, whose dukedom was
In dignity, and for the liberal arts,
Without a parallel. (I. ii. 72)
Such enlightenment was bought at a cost:
these being all my study,
The government I cast upon my brother,
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies. (I. ii. 74)
Prospero is in straight descent from those other impractical governors,
Agamemnon in Troilus and Cressida, whose philosophic attitude to his armys
disaster (I. iii. 130) calls forth Ulysses famous speech on order; and Vincentio,
Duke of Vienna, in Measure for Measure, whose depth of study and psychological
insight make execution of justice impossible. All these are in Prospero; while the
surrounding action, both serious and comic, condenses the whole of Shakespeares
political wisdom.
He is also a recreation of Cerimon in Pericles. Listen to Cerimon:
I hold it ever
Virtue and cunning were endowments greater
Than nobleness or riches; careless heirs
May the two latter darken and expend
But immortality attends the former,
Making a man a god. (Pericles, III. ii. 26)
And to Prospero:
I, thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated
To closeness and the bettering of my mind
With that which, but by being so retird,
Oerprizd all popular rate . . . (I. ii. 89)
The lines set the disadvantage of the monastic life against the supreme end it
pursues. Duke Prospero was, like Lord Cerimon (also a nobleman), a religious
recluse on the brink of magical power; and may be compared with those earlier


The Tempest

religious persons, Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet, whose magic arts control
the action (and who speaks, like Prospero, of his cell), and Friar Francis in
Much Ado about Nothing, who negotiates Heros death and reappearance. These
are people of spiritual rather than practical eciency; like Duke Vincentio
and Hamlet (who so mysteriously dominates his society, by play-production
and otherwise), they are plot-controllers; Duke Vincentio, disguised as a Friar,
organizing the whole action, and being directly suggestive of power divine
(Measure for Measure, V. i. 370). So, too, Prospero manipulates his own plot like
a god. He is a blend of Theseus and Oberon.
Prospero is a matured and fully self-conscious embodiment of those moments
of fth-act transcendental speculation to which earlier tragic heroes, including
Macbeth, were unwillingly forced. He cannot be expected to do more than typify;
there is not time; and, as a person, he is, no doubt, less warm, less richly human,
than most of his poetic ancestors. But only if we recognize his inclusiveness, his
summing of nearly all Shakespeares more eminent persons, shall we understand
clearly what he is about. He, like others, Vincentio and Oberon preeminently,
is controlling our plot, composing it before our eyes; but, since the plot is, as we
shall see, so inclusive an interpretation of Shakespeares life-work, Prospero is
controlling, not merely a Shakespearian play, but the Shakespearian world. He is
thus automatically in the position of Shakespeare himself, and it is accordingly
inevitable that he should often speak as with Shakespeares voice.
Ariel incorporates all those strong picturizations of angels aerially riding
observed in our recent analysis of the Vision in Cymbeline.1 To these we may add
the Dauphins humorous but poetically revealing comparison of his horse to a
Pegasus in Henry V:
When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth
sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical
than the pipe of Hermes. . . . It is a beast for Perseus; he is pure air and
re; and the dull elements of earth and water never appear in him but
only in patient stillness while his rider mounts him; he is indeed a
horse. . . . It is a theme as uent as the sea. (III. vii. 1144)
Precisely from this complex of air, re, music and lightly apprehended sea in
contrast to the duller Caliban-elements of earth and water Ariel is compounded.
He personies all Shakespeares more volatile and aerial impressionism (he is
called a bird at IV. i. 184, chick at V. i. 316, and an airy spirit in the dramatis
personae), especially those images or phrases involving swift (i.e. either intuitional
or emotional) thought (a vein of poetry discussed in The Shakespearian Tempest,
Appendix A, particularly pp. 30811). A good example occurs in the association
of thoughts swiftness and feathered Mercury at King John, IV. ii. 174. Ariel is
mercurial and implicit in both the agile wit and Queen Mab fantasies of the

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


aptly-named Mercutio; compare his denition of dreams, as thin of substance

as the air (Romeo and Juliet, I. iv. 100), with Prosperos thou, which art but air
(V. i. 21), addressed to Ariel. Ariel is implicit often in Shakespeares love-poetry:
though he is not an Eros-personication, yet, wherever we nd emphasis on
loves lightning passage, as at Romeo and Juliet, II. ii. 11820 or A Midsummer
Nights Dream, I. i. 1419; on its uncapturable perfection, as throughout Troilus
and Cressida (with strong emphasis on volatility and speed at III. ii. 815 and IV.
ii. 14); on its spiritual powers, as in the aerial imagery and energy of Antony and
Cleopatra, with Cleopatra at death as re and air (V. ii. 291); or on its delicate
and tender sweetness, as in the piece of tender air, Imogen (Cymbeline, V. v.
43653); wherever such elusive and intangible excellences are our matter, there
Ariel is forecast. He is the spirit of loves aspiration all compact of re in Venus
and Adonis, 1.49. He is made of Birons speech of elaborate love-psychology with
its contrast of slow arts and the quicksilver swiftnesses of loves heightened
consciousness, its new delicacy of perception and increased power, all entwined
with re, thoughts of mythology, poetry and music, and the ability (shown by
Ariels music in The Tempest at III. ii. 12350 and IV. i. 1758) to
ravish savage ears
And plant in tyrants mild humility;
while at the limit touching, as does Ariel (at V. i. 19), charity (Loves Labours
Lost, IV. iii. 32065). Closely similar is Falsta s speech on sherris-sack, which
makes the brain apprehensive, quick, forgetive, full of nimble, ery and delectable
shapes which, delivererd oer to the voice, the tongue, which is the birth, becomes
excellent wit (2 Henry IV, IV. iii. 107). Ariel is, indeed, forecast by other passages
on wit (in the modern sense), so often, as with Mercutio, levelled against love;
as when the shafts of feminine mockery are compared to the swiftness of
arrows, bullets, wind, thought at Loves Labours Lost, V. ii. 262. Ariel exists in
a dimension overlooking normal categories of both reason and emotion: he is
the mutual ame in which the winged partners of The Phoenix and the Turtle
transcend their own duality.
Since, moreover, he personies these subtle and overruling powers of the
imagination, he becomes automatically a personication of poetry itself. His
sudden appearance depends, precisely, on Prosperos thought (IV. i. 1645; cp.
the quick forge and working-house of thought, Henry V, V. chor. 23). He is
the poetic medium, whatever the subject handled, his powers ranging over the
earthy and the ethereal, tragic and lyric, with equal ease. As a dramatic person,
he certainly descends from Puck and also, in view of his songs and trickeryhe
is a tricksy spirit (V. i. 226; a word associated with Launcelot Gobbo in The
Merchant of Venice, III. v. 75)from the jesters Feste, Touchstone, even Lears
Fool; all of whom share something of the poets own, critical, awareness, as in


The Tempest

certain of Pucks generalized speeches and his nal epilogue, the philosophic
detachment of Festes and Touchstones wit, and the Fools perceptual clarity.
Ariel likewise is apart: he is emotionally detached, though actively engaged,
everyone and everything, except Prospero and Miranda, being the rough material
of creation on which the Ariel-spirit of poetry works; an opposition seen most
starkly in his piping to Caliban.
Ariel is accordingly shown as the agent of Prosperos purpose. He is Prosperos
instrument in controlling and developing the action. Through him Prospero
raises the tempest, Ariel (like mad Tom in Lear) being part of it, acting it (I. ii.
195215). He puts people to sleep, so tempting the murderers, but wakes them
just in time (II. i), thunderously interrupts the feast, pronouncing judgement
and drawing the moral (III. iii). He plays tricks on the drunkards (III. ii), hears
their plot and leads them to disaster (III. ii; IV. i. 17184). His music leads
Ferdinand to Miranda (I. ii). He puts the ship safely in harbour (I. ii. 226) and
later releases and conducts the mariners (V. i). He is Prosperos stage-manager;
more, he is the enactor of Prosperos conception: Prospero is the artist, Ariel the
art. He is a spirit of air (V. i. 21) corresponding to the denition of poetry as
airy nothing in A Midsummer Nights Dream (V. i. 16). His powers range freely
over and between the thunderous and the musical, tragic and lyric, extremes of
Shakespearian drama.
Caliban condenses Shakespeares concern, comical or satiric, with the animal
aspect of man; as seen in Christopher Sly and the aptly-named Bottom (whose
union with Titania drives fantasy to an extreme), Dogberry, writ down an ass
(Much Ado about Nothing, IV. ii. 7593), Sir Toby Belch; and Falsta, especially
in The Merry Wives of Windsor, where his animality is punished by fairies (that
Falsta should show contacts with both Ariel and Caliban exactly denes
the universal nature of his complexity). Caliban also symbolizes all brainless
revolution, such as Jack Cade in 2 Henry VI, and the absurdities of mob-mentality
in Julius Caesar and Coriolanus. So much is fairly obvious; but there is more.
Caliban derives from other ill-graced cursers, a misshapen knave and
bastard (V. i. 26873) like the deformed Thersites (bastard begot, bastard
instructed, bastard in mind, bastard in valour, in everything illegitimate, Troilus
and Cressida, V. vii. 17) and bitter as Apemantus; from the indigest deformed
lump, abortive rooting hog, poisonous bunch-backd toad and cacodemon,
Richard III (3 Henry VI, V. vi. 51; Richard III, I. iii. 228, 246, 144; cp. Caliban
as demi-devil at V. i. 272); and from all Shakespeares imagery of nausea and
evil expressed through reptiles or, since we must not forget Sycorax (who may
be allowed to sum all Shakespeares evil women), creatures of black magic, as
in Macbeth. He derives from all bad passion, as when Lear and Coriolanus are
called dragons (King Lear, I. i. 124; Coriolanus, V. iv. 14). He combines the infranatural evil of Macbeth with the bestial evil of King Lear, where mans suicidal
voracity is compared to monsters of the deep (King Lear, IV. ii. 50). He is

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


himself a water-beast, growing from the ooze and slime of those stagnant pools
elsewhere associated with vice, being exactly dened by Thersites description of
Ajax as a very land-sh, languageless, a monster (Troilus and Cressida, III. iii.
266). But he has a beasts innocence and pathos too, and is moved by music as are
the race of youthful and unhandled colts of The Merchant of Venice (V. i. 719; cp.
the comparison of the music-charmed Caliban to unbackd colts at IV. i. 1768).
He sums up the ravenous animals that accompany tempest-passages, the boar,
bull, bear; especially the much-loathed boar of Venus and Adonis. In him is the
ugliness of sexual appetite from Lucrece onwards, and also the ugliness vice raises
in those who too much detest it, the ugliness of hatred itself and loathing, the
ugliness of Leontes. Man, savage, ape, water-beast, dragon, semi-devilCaliban
is all of them; and because he so condenses masses of great poetry, is himself
beautiful. He is the physical as opposed to the spiritual; earth and water as
opposed to air and re. That he may, like Ariel, be considered in closest relation
to Prospero himself is witnessed by Prosperos admission: This thing of darkness
I acknowledge mine (V. i. 275).
These three main persons present aspects of Timon. Besides Prosperos
resemblance already observed, Ariels thunderous denunciation (at III. iii. 53)
recalls Timons prophetic fury, both addressed to a society that has rejected true
nobility for a sham, while Caliban reproduces his naked savagery and the more
ugly, Apemantus-like, anities of his general hatred. This especial inclusiveness
marks Timons archetypal importance.
To turn to the subsidiary persons. Alonso and his party present a varied
assortment of more or less guilty people. We have, rst, a striking recapitulation
of Macbeth, Antonio persuading Sebastian to murder the sleeping king in phrases
redolent of Duncans murder:
What might,
Worthy Sebastian? O! what might?No more:
And yet methinks I see it in thy face,
What thou shouldst be. The occasion speaks thee; and
My strong imagination sees a crown
Dropping upon thy head. (II. i. 199)
We remember Your face, great thane, is as a book . . .; Nor time, nor place, did
then adhere and yet you would make both; they have made themselves . . .; and
all that impedes thee from the golden round . . . (Macbeth, I. v. 63; I. vii. 51; I.
v. 29). Antonios
If you but knew how you the purpose cherish
Whiles thus you mock it . . . (II. i. 218)


The Tempest

is a crisp capitulation of Lady Macbeths soliloquy on her husbands divided will

(I. v. 1730). Macbeth is resurrected in both phrase and verse-texture:
And by that destiny to perform an act
Whereof whats past is prologue, what to come
Is yours and my discharge. (II. i. 247)
Compare Macbeths happy prologues to the swelling act of the imperial theme
and Lady Macbeths Leave all the rest to me (Macbeth, I. iii. 128; I. v. 74). Death
and sleep are all but identied in both (II. i. 2557; Macbeth, II. ii. 54). Antonios
attitude to conscience (Ay, sir, where lies that? at II. i. 271) parallels Lady
Macbeths, while her Who dares receive it other? (Macbeth, I. vii. 77) is expanded
into Antonios scornful certainty that all the rest will
take suggestion as a cat laps milk;
Theyll tell the dock to any business that
We say bets the hour . . . (II. i. 283)
where even the cat, a comparatively rare Shakespearian animal, harks back to
the poor cat i the adage (Macbeth, I. vii. 45). In both plays the victims weariness
is brutally advanced as an assurance of sleep: compare Duncans days hard
labour, which shall invite him to sound sleep (Macbeth, I. vii. 62) with now they
are oppressed with travel (III. iii. 15). That Macbeth should be singled out for so
elaborate a re-enactment is not strange, since, standing alone in point of absolute
and abysmal evil, it shares only slightly (via Sycorax) in the general recapitulation
covered by Caliban, whom Prospero specically acknowledges. Thus poetic
honesty leaves Antonios nal reformation doubtful.
Alonso is less guilty, nor is there here any so vivid correspondence to be
observed. Sebastian blames him for insisting on marrying his daughter Claribel
against her and his subjects will to an African (II. i. 11931); and, since Gonzalo
partly sanctions the criticism, we must, it would seem, perhaps with some faint
reference to Desdemonas ill-starred marriage, regard Alonsos action as a fault.
He was also a silent accomplice to Antonios original treachery, and Ariel later
asserts that he is being punished for it by his sons loss (III. iii. 75). As one of
Shakespeares many autocratic fathers and also as a king rather pathetically
searching for his child, he is a distant relative of Lear. Both are purgatorial
gures: he realizes his trespass (III. iii. 99).
The faithful and garrulous old lord Gonzalo is a blend of Polonius, Adam
and Kent. The courtiers Adrian and Francisco are not particularized. The wit of
Antonio and Sebastian on their rst entry needs, however, a remark.
It is cynical and cruel. The points made are of slight importance except for
the extraordinary reiteration of widow Dido (II. i. 7379). There is presumably

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


a sneer at an unmarried woman who has been deserted by her lover being given
the status of widow; and this we may tentatively relate to Antony and Cleopatra,
wherein Dido and her Aeneas are once compared to the protagonists (IV. xii.
53) and which in Cleopatras phrase Husband, I come! (V. ii. 289) reaches a
compact self-interpretation in direct answer to such cynicism as Antonios. The
whole dialogue, starting with criticism of Gonzalos and Adrians insistence on
the isles fertility (the island varies mysteriously according to the nature of the
spectator) and leading through ridicule of Gonzalos phrase widow Dido and his
identication of Tunis and Carthage, to a nal owering in his Utopian dream,
serves very precisely to dene an opposition of cynic and romantic.2 The points
at issue are less important than the points of view:
Antonio. He misses not much.
Sebastian. No. He doth but mistake the truth totally. (II. i. 54)
That is cynical keenness in good form; and our dialogue takes us accordingly
to the threshold at least of Antony and Cleopatra, the supreme answer of
romanticism, wherein human love, though criticized as lth, wins through to
glory. There is further corroboration: not only do the phrases such a paragon
to their queen, miraculous harp and impossible matter (II. i. 79, 83, 85) raise,
ironically or otherwise, suggestion of the marvellous harking back to Antony and
Cleopatra, but we have one direct reminder:
Sebastian. I think he will carry this island home in his pocket, and give it
his son for an apple.
Antonio. And, sowing the kernels of it in the sea, bring forth more
islands. (II. i. 86)
Compare Cleopatras dream, with its realms and islands were as plates dropt
from his pocket (Antony and Cleopatra, v. ii. 91). We nd the romantic extreme,
whether in jocular cynicism or in visionary earnest, reaching denition in similar
terms. Certainly one expects some trace of the earlier play, some honest facing in
this austere work of its golden sexuality; and perhaps the easiest way to honour
it was through the self-negating cynicism of an Antonio.3
To return to the marriage of Claribel to the King of Tunis. Any further
correspondences (outside Othello) may again be sought in Antony and Cleopatra,
where a westeast conict in relation to marriage is strongly developed; and
again in the Prince of Morocco, in The Merchant of Venice (see also The Winters
Tale, v. i. 15667). Criticism of the marriage originates from Sebastian, the cynic
being naturally hostile, as in Othello, to the eastern glamour; while Gonzalo
changes his view later, regarding it as part of the general happiness (V. i. 209).
To Shakespeare Africa and the Orient are at once glamorous and dangerous


The Tempest

(Sycorax came from Argier), with something of the disturbing magic wielded by
the Indian fairies in A Midsummer Nights Dream: perhaps that is why Antonio
seems to regard Tunis as an innite distance from Milan.
The central experience of this group is the oering and sudden withdrawal
of the mysterious banquet, with Ariels appearance as a Harpy and speech of
Feasts are regularly important throughout Shakespeare, but are so obvious
that one accepts them without thought. It is the mark of greatest literature
to play on such fundamentals of human existence and we must remember
their importance in Homer and the New Testament; in the one direct, in the
other, in event, miracle and parable, carrying symbolic overtones. Shakespeare
ends his two morality farces, The Taming of the Shrew and The Merry Wives of
Windsor, with feasts, acted or announced, to convey a sense of general good-will
succeeding horse-play. In Romeo and Juliet a feast and dance relate neatly to the
family feud, raising questions of daring, adventure and hospitality. There is the
rough feasting in Arden and Bellarius cave, both characterized by hospitality.
Eating and drinking are continually given dramatic emphasis, with various
ethical implications: they are important throughout Antony and Cleopatra, with
one gorgeous feast-scene celebrating union after hostility, though nearly ruined
by treachery. An elaborate banquet occurs in Pericles, with Thaisa as queen of
the feast (II. iii. 17) pointing on, as we have seen, to Perdita as mistress of
the feast (IV. iii. 68) in The Winters Tale. Important examples occur in Timon
of Athens and Macbeth. In Timon there are two: the rst (I. ii) conceived as a
sacrament of love and friendship (with New Testament reminiscence at line
51), crowned by Timons speech and negatively underlined by Apemantus
cynicism; the second (III. vi), planned as a deadly serious practical joke, in
which Timon, after raising his false friends hopes, speaks an ironic grace,
overturns (probably) their tables, and douses them with lukewarm water. In
Macbeth, we have rst the irony of the feasting of Duncan (I. vii), and later on
(IV. i) the inverted good of the hell-broth brewed by the Weird Women; and,
in between (III. iv), the feast to which Banquo has been carefully invited and
which he attends as a ghost, smashing up the conviviality and social health so
vividly emphasized in the text, and thus denying to Macbeths tyrannous and
blood-stained rule all such sacraments of brotherhood. These two broken feasts
in Timon of Athens and Macbeth, related to the two main Shakespearian evils
of unfaithfulness and crime, are key-scenes; and their shattering stage-power
derives precisely from the simplicity of the eects used, planted squarely as
they are on fundamentals.
The meaning of the feast oered but denied to Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio
will now be clear; and also its relevance to the Shakespearian world.
The solemn and strange music (III. iii. 18) of the feast is followed by Ariels
appearance as a Harpy to thunder and lightning (III. iii. 53). The sequence

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


recalls the Vision in Cymbeline, and Ariels harpy-appearance drives home the
similarity. Like Jupiter, he enters as a gure of overruling judgment, speaking
scornfully of the lesser beings who think to dispute the ordinances of fate
(III. iii.; cp. How dare you ghosts . . . Cymbeline, V. iv. 94). Both epitomize the
Shakespearian emphasis on thunder as the voice of the gods, or God. So Ariel
acts the more awe-inspiring attributes of Shakespeares tempest-poetry before
our eyes, and in a long speech drives home its purgatorial purpose.
Besides Alonso and his party, we have the comic group of Stephano and
Trinculo, in association with Caliban. The comedy is delightful, but scarcely
subtle. Stephano the butler is an unqualied, almost professional, drunkard,
with nothing of the philosophic quality of Falsta or the open if unprincipled
bonhomie of Sir Toby. Both those are, in their way, gentlemen, and yet their new
representative (as drunkard) is of a low type socially; as are Dogberry, Bottom
and the Gravediggers, though Stephano is a poor equivalent, lacking natural
dignity. Trinculo is an equally poor successor to Touchstone, Feste, Yorick and
Lears Fool. Note that their representative quality is nevertheless emphasized
by their joint embodiment of the two main sorts of clown: the natural and the
The Tempest is an austere work. The poet, while giving his clowns full rein in
comic appeal, allows them no dignity. In writing of Autolycus we have observed
Shakespeares tendency there, as with Falsta, earlier, to show his humorist as
disintegrating; both as losing dignity and revealing ugly tendencies. So, too, with
Sir Toby: in spite of his admirable cakes and ale (Twelfth Night, II. iii. 125) he
is carefully made to lose dignity towards the plays conclusion, the balance of
conviviality and reproof being carefully held.
Both Falsta and Autolycus, as their glow of humour pales, show
themselves as rather cheaply ambitious: whilst bearers of the comic spirit,
they are, for a while, the superiors of kings; but when they, in their turn, ape
the courtier, join in the vulgar scramble for show, they fall lower than their
meanest dupes. Falsta in 2 Henry IV is enjoying his advance, ordering new
clothes, being the grand man. Here the distinction is subtle; but the way is
open for his nal disintegration in The Merry Wives of Windsor. So, too, with
Autolycus: he dresses as a courtier, apes a courtiers grandiosity and trades
sadistically on the Shepherds and Clowns anguish. He is nally shown as
cringing to his former dupe. Now, remembering, too, Hamlets disgust at the
heavy drinking of Claudius court, observe what happens to our comic trio,
especially Stephano.
First, he drinks and sings maudlin songs. Next, he becomes a petty tyrant
and engages in a bloody plot, aiming to make himself lord of the island. He is
a burlesque of the power-quest, with all the absurdity of a barbaric despotism,
having his foot licked by Caliban and posing as king, resembling Marlowes
Tamburlaine and the Macbeth of


The Tempest

Now does he feel his title

Hang loose about him, like a giants robe
Upon a dwarsh thief. (Macbeth, V. ii. 20)
Stephano parodies the essential absurdity of tyrannic ambition. Now he and his
companions are lured by Ariel to a lthy pool:
at last I left them
I the lthy-mantled pool beyond your cell,
There dancing up to the chins, that the foul lake
Oerstunk their feet. (IV. i. 181)
Stagnant water occurs regularly to suggest lth and indignity. Poor Tom in King
Lear has been led by the foul end through re and through ame, through ford
and whirlpool, oer bog and quagmire; and an utmost degradation is suggested by
his eating the swimming frog, the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt and the water
and drinking the green mantle of the standing pool (King Lear, III. iv. 50; 132,
137). The lascivious Falsta is ducked in The Merry Wives of Windsor; in owing
water, certainly, but the dirty-linen basket supplies the rest. There is also the nal
entry of the absurd braggart, Parolles, in Alls Well that Ends Well, bedraggled,
with lthy clothes, and admitting that he is muddied in Fortunes mood and
smelling somewhat strong of her strong displeasure; with a developed dialogue
on bad smells, an unclean sh-pond, carp, etc. (V. ii, 127). Notice that (i)
lustthere is direct association of pools to sexual vice at The Winters Tale, I. ii.
195 and Cymbeline, I. iv. 103and (ii) braggadocio are involved. Stephano, the
would-be tyrant, meant to possess Miranda after murdering Prospero; Caliban
has already tried to rape her; and all three are accordingly left in the lthymantled pool.
Our buoons are next tempted, like Autolycus, by an array of trumpery
(IV. i. 186), of glistering apparel (IV. i. 193). Rich clothes were a more pressing
masculine temptation in Shakespeares day than in ours. One of Faustus
ambitions was to clothe Wittenbergs students in silk, and Macbeths power-quest
is characterized in terms of a giants robe (Macbeth, V. ii. 21; cp. The Tempest,
II. i. 267). Shakespeare reiterates his scorn for the latest (usually foreign)
fashions, for all tinsel of clothes, speech, or manners, in play after play; as
with Claudio, Sir Andrew and his ame-colourd stock (Twelfth Night, I. iii.
146), Kents a tailor made thee (King Lear, II, ii. 59), Osric, and many others.
The prim Malvolio is fooled in his yellow stockings; Christopher Sly dressed
absurdly in a noblemans robes; Katharina the Shrew tormented with nery.
This vein of satire beats in our present symbolic incident: the two fools are
ensnared by a tinsel glitter, though Caliban, being closer to nature, has more
sense (the temptation is perhaps slightly out of character for the others too,

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whose job here is, however, to parody their social superiors). All three are
next chased o by Prosperos hounds. The pool and the show of garments will
be now understood, but what of the hounds? Hounds are impregnated with
a sense of healthy, non-brutal, and (like Shakespeares horses) man-serving
virility, occurring favourably at Venus and Adonis, 91324; Henry V, III. i. 31;
and Timon of Athens, I. ii. 198. Hunting is a noble sport, though sympathy can
be accorded the hunted hare (at Venus and Adonis, 679708, and 3 Henry VI,
II. v. 130). Courteous gentlemen, such as Theseus and Timon, necessarily hunt,
especially important being the long description of Theseus musical hounds, with
reference also to those of Hercules, baying the bear in Crete (A Midsummer
Nights Dream, IV. i. 11232). Hounds are adversaries to the bear and (in Venus
and Adonis) the boar, both tempest-beasts, and, though the fawning of dogs is
used satirically, hounds, as such, may be musically, almost spiritually, conceived:
hence their picturesque names in The Tempest: Mountain, Silver, Fury and
Tyrant.4 They are spirit-essences directed against the bestial Caliban and his
So, too, the eshly and corrupt Falsta was punished by fairies or supposed
fairies in The Merry Wives of Windsor by pinching, conceived as a punishment of
sinful fantasy, lust and unchaste desire by spirits (V. v. 96108). Here Caliban
regularly (I. ii. 32732, 3713; II. ii. 4), and now Stephano and Trinculo, too,
are thoroughly pinched and given cramps and aches (IV. i. 25861).5
Such is Shakespeares judgement on drunkenness, sexual lust and braggart
ambition. Such evils have, variously, held dignity, as in Falsta s speech on
sherris-sack (2 Henry IV, IV. iii. 92), the riotous love of Antony and Cleopatra
and, for the power-quest, Macbeth; but it is a tight-rope course; one slip and the
several vices appear in their nakedness. That naked essence, in all its lewd and
ludicrous vulgarity, is here emphasized.
There remain Ferdinand and Miranda. These are representative of beautiful
and virtuous youth as drawn in former plays (Marina, Florizel and Perdita,
Guiderius and Arviragus), though lacking something of their human impact.
Our new pair illustrate humility (as in Ferdinands log-piling), innocence, faith
and purity; their words being characterized by utter simplicity and sincerity.
They are whittled down to these virtues with slight further realization, and
in comparison with earlier equivalents must be accounted pale. As elsewhere,
essences are abstracted and reclothed. Except for Prospero, Ariel and Caliban,
the people scarcely exist in their own right. The real drama consists of the actions
and interplay of our three major persons with the natural, human and spiritual
powers in which their destiny is entangled.
Prospero, who controls this comprehensive Shakespearian world, automatically
reects Shakespeare himself. Like Hamlet, he arranges dramatic shows to rouse
his sinning victims conscience: the mock-feast (whose vanishing, as we have
seen, recalls Macbeths ghost-shattered banquet), brought in by a living drollery


The Tempest

of shapes (III. iii. 21); and the masque of goddesses and dancers (IV. i), which,
like the Final Plays themselves (of whose divinities these goddesses are pale
reections), is addressed to the purer consciousness (Ferdinands). This tendency,
as in Hamlet, reects some degree of identication of the protagonist with the
playwright, whose every work is a parable. Prospero himself delivers what is
practically a long prologue in Act I, and in his own person speaks the epilogue.
He is, even more than the Duke in Measure for Measure, a designer of the drama
in which he functions as protagonist. We have seen how many of Shakespeares
tragic themes are covered by him; and that his farewell might have been spoken
by Shakespeare is a correspondence demanded by the whole conception.
He addresses (V. i. 3357) the various powers (drawn from folk-lore and
called, with a grand humility, weak) by whose aid he has bedimmd the noontide
sun (as the travelling lamp is strangled in Macbeth, II, iv. 7) and loosed the
mutinous winds to set roaring war between sea and sky, thereby recalling such
tempests throughout the great tragedies, in Julius Caesar, Othello, Macbeth, King
Lear, with their many symbolic undertones of passionate conict here crisply
recapitulated in thought of war betwixt sea and sky. He has used Joves own
bolt to blast (as at Measure for Measure, II. ii. 116, and Coriolanus, V. iii. 152)
Joves tree, the oak, recalling Jupiter the Thunderer in Cymbeline. From such
images the speech moves inevitably to:
Graves at my command
Have wakd their sleepers, opd, and let them forth
By my so potent art. (V. i. 48)
The statement, with its parallel in the resurrections of Pericles and The Winters Tale
and the less vivid restoration of Imogen in Cymbeline, may seem to apply more
directly to Shakespeare than to Prospero; though the miraculous preservation
of the ship and its crew must be regarded as an extension of earlier miracles.
Prosperos speech, ending in heavenly or solemn (V. i. 52, 57) musics, forms a
recapitulation of Shakespeares artistic progress from tempest-torn tragedy to
resurrection and music (cp. the music of the spheres at Pericles, V. i. 231, and
the resurrection music of Pericles, III. ii. 88, 91; and The Winters Tale, V. iii. 98)
corresponding to its forecast in Richard II.
Prospero uses his tempest-magic to draw his enemies to the island, and
there renders them harmless. He wrecks and saves, teaches through disaster,
entices and leads by music, getting them utterly under his power, redeeming
and nally forgiving. What are the Shakespearian analogies? The poet himself
labours to master and assimilate that unassuaged bitterness and sense of rejection
so normal a lot to humanity (hence the popularity of Hamlet) by drawing the
hostile elements within his own world of artistic creation; and this he does
mainly through tragedy and its thunderous music; and by seeing that, in spite

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


of logic, his creation is good. By destroying his protagonists, he renders them

deathless; by expressing evil, in others and in himself, he renders it innocent. And
throughout this tumult of creative activity, turning every grief to a star, making
of his very loathing something rich and strange, there is a danger: a certain
centre of faith or love must be preserved, this centre at least kept free from the
taint of that rich, wild, earthy, lustful, violent, cursing, slimy yet glittering thing
that is creation itself, or Caliban; that uses cynicism (born of the knowledge of
lust) to ruin Desdemona, though not Othellos love for her; that tries in vain, but
only just in vain, to make of Timon an Apemantus. Therefore Prospero keeps
Miranda intact, though threatened by Caliban, just as Marina was threatened in
the brothel of Mitylene. Alone with her he had voyaged far to his magic land,
cast o in a wretched boat,
To cry to the sea that roard to us; to sigh
To the winds whose pity, sighing back again,
Did us but loving wrong. (I. ii. 149)
What an image of lonely, spiritual, voyage, like that of Wordsworths Newton
voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone; while echoing back, through
the long story of Shakespearian sea-sorrow (I. ii. 170) to the Nordic origins of
our literature in The Wanderer and The Seafarer. Prospero, unlike Lear, Pericles
and Leontes, guards his Miranda, and with her survives on his island of poetry,
with Ariel and Caliban. Who are these? The one, clearly, his art, his poetry in
action; the other, the world of creation, smelling of earth and water, with the
salt tang of the physical, of sexual energy, and with, too, all those revulsions
and curses to which it gives birth. Prospero nds both Ariel and Caliban
on the island, releasing the one (as genius is regularly characterized less by
inventiveness than by the ability to release some dormant power) and aiming to
train the other; and both must be strictly controlled. Prospero, Ariel, Caliban,
Miranda: all are aspects of Shakespeare himself. Prospero, corresponding to the
poets controlling judgement, returns to Milan, uniting his daughter, his human
faith, to his enemys son; and Shakespeares life-work, in Henry VIII, draws to
its conclusion.
It is, indeed, remarkable how well the meanings correspond. Prospero has
been on the island for twelve years (I. ii. 53); and it is roughly twelve years
since the sequence of greater plays started with Hamlet. Before that, Ariel had
been prisoned in a tree for another twelve years (I. ii. 279); again roughly, the
time spent by Shakespeare in his earlier work, before the powers of bitterness
and abysmal sight projected him into the twilit, lightning-riven and nally
transcendent regions; rather as Herman Melville passed from Typee and White
Jacket to Moby Dick, Pierre and his later poetry. And now, as the end draws near,
Ariel cries (as does Caliban too) for freedom from ceaseless toil:


The Tempest

Prospero. How now! moody? What ist thou canst demand?

Ariel. My liberty.
Prospero. Before the time be out? No more! (I. ii. 244)
Prospero dominates Ariel and Caliban with an equal severity: as Shakespeare
may be supposed to have willed, sternly, the safe conclusion of his labour in
Henry VIII.
That labour is not all easy. Prospero, though still, is not static. As with
Hamlet, his very centrality is dynamic, drawing others to him, like Timon in
his retirement, radiating power; or rather those earlier spiritual radiations are
here given appropriate, symbolic, action, just as, according to Shelleys denition,
poetry itself holds, in its very reserve, its stillness, a myriad radiations.
1. See G. Wilson Knight, The Crown of Life (1947), p. 187.
2. According to Vergil, Dido was widowed before Aeneas arrival at Carthage
and Gonzalo here, as in his identification of Tunis and Carthage, is correct. The
cynics sneer is based on lack of information.
3. My suggestion must remain tentative; but it has at least some confirmation
from my brothers reading of Vergils poetic methods. (See W. F. Jackson Knight,
Roman Vergil (1944).)
4. The use of such names as Tyrant and Fury does not lower the animals
status, since the implied humanizing serves as an idealization; as with battleships,
where the names H.M.S. Furious or H.M.S. Venomous, by attributing living status
to a machine, witness a respect not usually offered to ill-temper and snakes.
5. Compare the fairies song Pinch him black and blue in Lylys Endimion.

1949Derek Traversi.
From The Tempest, in Scrutiny
Derek Traversi (19122005) was known as a practitioner of New
Criticism. He was born in England and taught in the United States
at Swarthmore College, University of CaliforniaDavis, and Hofstra
University. His books include An Approach to Shakespeare, Shakespeare: The
Roman Plays, and T. S. Eliot: The Longer Poems.

In his presentation (in The Tempest II. i) of the social situation created on the island
mainly by Prosperos devisings, Shakespeare carries (forward) his analysis of the
nature and development of evil. He relates it, in fact, to a personal interpretation

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


of the doctrine of the original innocence of man. This he does by putting into
the mouth of Gonzalo an example, apparently drawn from Montaigne, of those
nostalgic speculations about primeval simplicity which seem to have so greatly
attracted the sophisticated court societies of the sixteenth century and to which
the discovery of the New World had given a fresh meaning. In landing upon the
island Alonso and his followers are placed in the possession of virgin soil. Here,
according to Gonzalo, is their opportunity to organize a community untainted
by competition or the shadow of ambition, an arcadian anarchy founded upon
the permission given to each of its members to follow his own instincts. His
remarks with the accompanying comments of Antonio and Sebastian, are full
of interest:
Gonzalo: Had I plantation of this isle, my lord,
Antonio: Hed sow it with nettle-seed.
Or docks or mallows.
Gonzalo: And were the king ont, what would I do?
Sebastian: Scape being drunk for want of wine.
Gonzalo: I the commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things; for no kind of trac
Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
And use of service, none . . .
No occupation, all men idle, all;
And women, too, but innocent and pure;
No sovereignty;
Yet he would be king ont.
Antonio: The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning.
The dispassionate, academic catalogue in which Gonzalo expresses himself
reects perfectly the unreality of the whole dream. The nostalgia for an
arcadian simplicity which produced, among other things, the pastoral
convention of the sixteenth century was an international development which a
writer like Cervantes, in Don Quixotes discourse on the Golden Age,1 could
raise to genuine intensity of feeling. No doubt it was a half-realized reaction
against the sense of anarchy and moral pessimism which dominated so much
of the court life of the time. Yet it is not Shakespeares purpose here to express
any nostalgia of this kind, but rather to use its inherent weakness as a foil to
bring out certain conceptions of his own. The sources of human misery are
indeed to be excluded, according to Gonzalo, from the commonwealth; but
with them, as soon appears, every distinctive quality of human life. Gonzalos
next words show that the state of innocence is also necessarily the state of


The Tempest

All things in common nature should produce

Without sweat or endeavour, treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine
Would I not have; but nature should bring north
Of its own kind, all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.
All this is to come about, according to Gonzalos ideal, without sweat or
endeavour; but also without the salutary experience of eort from which is
born, often slowly and painfully, the capacity to distinguish between good
and evil which is the foundation of the whole moral life. For knowledge
of good implies awareness of the evil from which it is distinguished; and
this knowledge is acquired through a process, dicult but redeeming, of
procreation and maturity. The inadequacy of Gonzalos simplicity, already
suciently indicated in his own words, is revealed once more by the comments
of Antonio and Sebastian:
Sebastian: No marrying mong his subjects?
Antonio: None, man, all idle; whores and knaves.
Gonzalos commonwealth is founded upon an amorality which leaves place for
nettle-seed, docks, and mallows to take possession of the ground. The fact
that men like Antonio and Sebastian exist proves that some kind of cultivation
of the human terrain is necessary. This cultivation, as they point out, is admitted
by Gonzalo himself when he imagines that he is king of the island; for the
latter, the anarchic end of his commonwealth had forgotten that its beginning
was founded upon kingship, accepted authority, degree. The substance of the
passage is evidently paralleled in the conception which underlies the treatment
of the pastoral scene in The Winters Tale. The state of nature is one which man
must, in the nature of things, outgrow as his experience develops; the crucial
problem is whether this development will be towards good, in the acceptance
of some dened moral standard (sanctioned, in this play, by the Destiny which
upholds Prospero) or towards the anarchy of unlimited personal desires.
At this point it is time to consider Caliban. For Caliban, half man and half
beast, represents the real state of nature far more truly than any of Gonzalos
courtly theorizings, and in his relations with Prospero the connection between
nature and the moral, civilized state is far more profoundly considered. The
poetic strain which, it has been generally agreed, Caliban possesses, represents
in him the positive aspect of the real state of nature. Unlike the men with
whom he comes into contact and who corrupt him, Caliban has the advantage
of being in touch with natural simplicity. His poetry turns invariably upon
his knowledge of and appreciation for the natural forces of the island. When

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


Trinculo and Stephano meet him he oers, in language that contrasts vividly
and surely of set intention with their coarseness, to show them the best springs
and berries, where the jays nest is to be found, and how to snare the nimble
marmoset. All this is attractive, so attractive that we are sometimes apt to nd
Prosperos harshness to himThou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself (I,
ii)excessive and unsympathetic. Yet, if we consider further, the harshness is a
necessary part of Shakespeares purpose. For Caliban, with his natural simplicity,
is indissolubly bound to Prospero. Prospero himself admits this to Miranda when
he tells her:
We cannot miss him; he does make our re,
Fetch in our wood, and serves in oces
That prot us. (I, ii)
The kind of life that Prospero has established on his island assumes, in short, the
existence of Caliban as a necessary condition.
Besides being necessary, moreover, Caliban is in part Prosperos creation.
Finding him already on the island and needing him, Prospero tried from the rst
to incorporate him into the new civilized order of moral realities; and Caliban
himself in his reply at once admits this and turns it into a most formidable
indictment of the whole civilizing process which began by attering him and
nally turned into his tyrant:
When thou camest rst,
Thou strokst me, and made much of me; wouldst give me
Water with berries in it; and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night; and then I lovd thee,
And showd thee all the qualities o the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:
Cursd be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have.
Which rst was mine own king.
From this we may learn more than one thing fundamental to the play. In the
rst place, the poetry which we admire in Caliban was given to him, at least in
part, by Prospero; the instinctive appreciation was, if we like, his own, a natural
endowment, but the gift of expression, essentially a social, a civilizing gift, came
to him from Prospero. The natural and the civilized orders are, in other words,
inextricably mixed, and the problem with which Prospero is wrestling is simply
that the natural, animal man is a complete anarchist. For the burden of Calibans


The Tempest

grievance is that Prospero has deprived him of his freedom, subjected his physical
individuality to the preeminence of spiritual rule:
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which rst was my own king;
and he goes on to accuse Prospero of keeping him in prison who had originally
been master of the whole island. Prosperos answer once more shows the problem
in all its complexity:
I have used thee,
Filth as thou art, with human care, and lodgd thee
In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate
The honour of my child.
Caliban, who is necessary to Prospero, whose animal instincts are a true part of
human nature, is yet, by virtue of his very character, recalcitrant to all restraint,
to every claim of moral discipline. Regarding himself as lawful owner of the
island he echoes, in his own way, Antonio by the assertion of his right to enjoy
everything that appeals to his passions as desirable; so that when Prospero gave
him liberty and the use of his own cell, he used his liberty to attack his masters
dearest possession in the person of his daughter.
The conict of esh and spirit, which is simply that between civilized
values and the state of nature, is not at this point in the play within sight of
resolution. The animal instincts which man inherits from nature can neither
be ignored, for they are a necessary part of his being, nor integrated in the
new spiritual order; and so they lie in bondage to the master who came to
give them spiritual signicance but who has in fact destroyed their original
Abhorred slave,
Which any print of goodness will 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 would gabble, like
A thing most brutish, I endowd thy purposes
With words that make them known. But thy vile race,
Though thou didst learn, had that int which good natures
Could not abide to be with: therefore wast thou
Deservedly conned into this rock, who hadst
Deserved more than a prison.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


Caliban: You taught me language, and my prot ont

Is, I know how to curse.
Prosperos denunciation and Calibans reply are each, from their own point of
view, unanswerable. How to harmonize these points of view, how to t the
claims of animal instinct harmoniously into those of reasonable spirituality, is
something that Prospero himself does not yet appear to see; not until the events
precipitated on the island by the advent of strangers have taken their course and
Ariel has spoken with the voice of judgment, is there any sign of clarication.
The deciencies of Calibans natural anarchism, already suggested by
Prospero, are further brought out by his meeting with Stephano and Trinculo.
Once more the theme is one which was being worked out in the New World
before the eyes of Shakespeares contemporaries. The arrival on the island of men
from the outer world of civilization is fatal to the natural creature, who escapes
from the bondage of Prospero only to fall into that, innitely more degrading, of
the basest camp-followers of a supposedly civilized society. Caliban is, of course,
greatly superior to Stephano and Trinculo. The poetry of his simplicity is enough
to ensure that; but, divorced as he is from spiritual judgment and seeking only
the anarchic freedom of his desires, he falls into a slavery which the superiority
of the expression, being so incongruous, only serves to make more grotesque.
Seduced by the celestial liquor which Stephano gives him, he oers to serve
him as a god:
I prithee be my god.
Thats a brave god and bears celestial liquors;
Ill kneel to him.
Ill kiss thy foot and swear myself thy subject. (II, ii)
His aim in doing so is above all to free himself from serviceIll bear no more
sticks, but follow theebut, in following the freedom thus oered him by his
fallacious instincts, he goes out drunk, crying Freedom, hey-day!, indeed, but
reduced in reality to a slavery far more degrading than any to which he had been
subjected before.
The depth of his degradation, and that of his new masters, is fully brought
out when they next appear. Completely enslaved as he now is in his ignorance to
the worthless Stephano, Calibans savagery begins to inspire the drunken sailors
to plot against Prospero; animality takes charge of human nature and debases
it to new levels of evil. For Caliban, ridiculous though he has become in his
worship of Stephano and Trinculo, is far more dangerous than the other two. In
the brutal savagery of his proposals something breaks out which has been held
in check so far by the domination of Prospero. That something nds expression
in the unrestrained physical cruelty of the speeches in which he outlines his plot


The Tempest

against his former master. Prospero is to be brained in his sleep, to have his skull
battered in with a log, to be paunched with a stake, to have his throat cut; most
brutally of all perhaps
Ill yield thee him asleep
Where thou mayst knock a nail into his head. (III, ii)
But rst, and above all, he must be deprived of his books:
First to possess his books; for without them
Hes but a sot as I am, nor hath not
One spirit to command: they all do hate him
As rootedly as I.
In ascribing his own hatred to the other spirits Caliban is speaking falsely,
measuring spiritual things in terms of his own anarchic bestiality; but his emphasis
on the books, and on his own comparative sottishness without them, shows that
he realizes and fears the sources of Prosperos power. His realization accounts for
the vehemence of his proposals. Against the spiritual power of Prospero his own
instincts arise in physically inspired revulsion. The true motive of his craving for
liberty is expressed more directly in the same and other speeches:
that most deeply to consider is
The beauty of his daughter.
She will become thy bed, I warrant,
And bring thee forth brave brood.
The use of the word brood to describe the progeny of this imagined union
brings out well the animal spirit in which it is conceived, the revolt of passion
against reason, of blood against moral control which it implies. And this is
the spirit which leads Caliban to lick the boots of the coarsest, lowest kind of
human being. That he is still superior to Stephano and Trinculo is shown by the
survival of his poetic instincts (Be not afeared, the isle is full of noises); but his
subjection is in essence complete and springs inevitably from his conception of
liberty. We are reminded of Shakespeares treatment of the problem of liberty in
Measure for Measure. In that play Claudio, as he is being taken to prison, freely
confesses that the cause of his present condition is liberty, too much liberty.2
Freedom from restraint, unchecked by adherence to any spiritual loyalty freely
accepted, can lead man through his instincts only to moral dissolution and
chaos. This in turn is the lowest form of slavery. Caliban is bound by his nature
to service, but his service, which might have been that oered him by Prospero

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


when he rst took him into his cell and tried to teach him the civilized graces,
turns to a mixture of the lowest animal brutality and sheer folly.

At this point the development of the situation on the island is substantially
complete. The two plotsthat against Alonso and that against Prosperoare
fully launched and the original seclusion of the island has been most eectively
shattered by the entry of human passion and sin. Yet Prospero, in spite of all,
has the threads in his hands and it is precisely at this moment that he chooses
to indicate the moral resolution. Ariels great speech addressed to Alonso and
his companions before he deprives them of the enchanted banquet that has just
been set before them is, in fact, nothing less than the keystone upon which the
structure of the whole play rests:
You are three men of sin, whom Destiny,
That hath to instrument this lower world,
And what is int, the never-surfeited sea
Hath causd to belch up you; and, on this island,
Where man doth not inhabit, you mongst men
Being most unt to live . . .
But remember
(For thats my business to you) that you three
From Milan did supplant good Prospero,
Exposd unto the sea (which hath requit it)
Him and his innocent child: for which foul deed,
The powers delaying, not forgetting, have
Incensd the seas and shores, yea, all the creatures,
Against your peace. Thee of thy son, Alonso,
They have bereft; and do pronounce by me
Lingering perdition (worse than any death
Can be at once) shall step by step attend
You and your ways, whose wraths to guard you from,
Which here, in this most desolate isle, else falls
Upon your heads, is nothing but hearts sorrow
And a clear life ensuing. (III, iii)
Here at lastrather even than in any speech of Prosperosis an explicit
statement of what The Tempest is about. Shakespeare is careful to introduce the
speech with a degree of pageantry and circumstance that make it stand out with
great dramatic force against the general action. Arielgenerally the gentle Ariel
of Prosperos preferenceis brought on to the stage in the form of a harpy to
the accompaniment of thunder and lightning. He causes the banquet to vanish


The Tempest

by a motion of his wings and then, left face to face with those he has come to
judge, he speaks. His words have a weighted simplicity that underlines their
unique character and seriousness. The eect is obtained by means so direct that
they barely call for analysis. Partly by the persistent use of heavy vocalic stresses,
partly by the emphatic use of pauses in the middle and at the end of lines, partly
by the signicant insertion of parenthetic pauses into long unfolding sentences,
the speech attains a measured magnicence unsurpassed, in its kind, anywhere
in Shakespeare. Unsurpassed because, perhaps for the rst time in his work, the
voice of Destiny delivers itself directly in judgment. I and my fellows, says Ariel,
are ministers of Fate. As such he speaks and, by so speaking, he brings out the
full meaning of the play.
The most important feature of the speech, indeed, is its armation of Destiny.
This armation is, in its unequivocal expression, unique in Shakespeares work.
Much of the symbolism of the later playsthe use, for example, of the associations
of grace in relation to fertilityhas religious implications; but nowhere, not
even in The Winters Tale with its still rather misty references to the gods, is
Destiny so personally conceived or conceded such absolute power in the working
out of human aairs. Destiny, according to Ariel, hath to instrument the lower
world. Delaying, not forgetting, it watches over the whole story and brings the
characters concerned in it, with infallible foreknowledge to the conclusions willed
by absolute justice. All this, however it may have been foreshadowed in earlier
works, is substantially new, but at the same time inevitable. For all Shakespeares
symbolism, with the harmonizing purpose which underlies it, moves towards the
presentation of the problems, moral and artistic, involved in this nal acceptance
of the personal reality of Destiny. Without that acceptance the intuition of grace
is only an insubstantial dream, a tenuous harmony woven out of elements that
have no more validity than that of a personal mood; with it, possibly, the author
lays himself open to the charge of going beyond his experience, of introducing
an element of discontinuity in what had been so far the harmonious pattern of
his work. Whatever we may conclude in this respect, we should do well to begin
by recognizing that the problem, and the eort to resolve it, were implicit in the
whole Shakespearean experience. Needless to say it was not part of the artists
purpose to substantiate this objective conception of Destiny by argument; but it
was his aim, inevitable and necessary, to place it in the centre of his play, to allow
the symbolic web of experiences to form around it and to see if it would, in the
last analysis, t.
In the detailed working out of this conception he returns to familiar ground.
The symbolic use of storm and its association with new-born forces of harmony
is one common to all Shakespeares last plays. Marina in Pericles loses her mother
and is herself apparently lost in a storm at sea, but the storm itself throws her
up on a friendly shore and eventually she is restored to her fathers arms. In The
Winters Tale, when Perdita is exposed to the elements by her fathers unreasoning

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


folly, she is found by the shepherds and her nding, while the storm is still raging
and the younger Clown sees a ship struggling in vain to preserve itself against
the elements, is really the rst step in reconciliation: thou mettest with things
dying, I with things new-born.3 So it is in The Tempest. Only here the neversurfeited seas are explicitly controlled by a Destiny which has incensed them
against the foul deed of those who plotted against Prospero and made them, in
their anger, the instruments of an inexorable justice. The sea, to which Prospero
and Miranda were exposed by human selshness, hasthrough Prosperos own
actionbrought the criminals to judgment.
The key-note of the whole play, which Ariel comes to emphasize, is indeed
judgment. Only when the good and evil in human nature have been understood
and separated will the nal reconciliation and restoration of harmony take place.
This moral judgment is based in The Tempest upon an objective sanction which
needs to be proved in operation. For this purposeand really for this purpose
alonethe various actors in the forgotten story of Naples and Milan have been
brought together through the providential action of the storm upon this most
desolate isle, where man doth not inhabit. Desolate surely because the work
of purgation which is about to be accomplished needs to be accompanied by
abstinence and a certain asceticism; and desolate too because it is not a place
upon which men are to live their full, civilized livesafter the nal reconciliation
it is left by all except those whose nature debars them from playing a part in the
brave new world of beings at once spiritualized and social to which they are
being oered entrybut on which they are to achieve moral understanding and
learn to accept the judgment passed upon them. In this process of education the
fundamental need is for repentance. Repentance is the necessary consequence,
on the human side, of accepting judgment. Here again the conception is not
new in Shakespeare. His last plays throw an increasing stress upon the Christian
conception of penitence. Lear is restored to his daughter after becoming aware
of his own folly although the restoration, still insuciently developed to prevail
against the tragic spirit which dominates the play, is only temporary and illusory;
Leontes, after sixteen years of penance for the follies to which his own passion
has prompted him, is restored to Hermione and, through the innocence of
his daughter, to his broken friendship with Polixenes. Ariel calls for a similar
repentance from Alonso and his fellows. Unless their sojourn on this most
desolate isle has taught them their own evil and folly, unless it has shown them
the necessity for hearts sorrow and a clear life to follow, their doom is certain.
For it is in the nature of unbridled passion, as Shakespeare had already presented
it in the great series of tragedies from Othello to Timon of Athens, to lead its
victims to self-destruction; and The Tempest, with its insistence upon ideas of
penance and amendment that can only follow from acceptance of a personal,
spiritual conception of Destiny, is conceived as nothing less than a counterpoise
to this tragic process of ruin.


The Tempest

1. Don Quixote, Part 1, chapter xi.

2. Measure for Measure, I, ii.
3. Act III, Sc. iii. I have tried to indicate the importance of this and other passages from The Winters Tale in an essay on the play published in Arena, January
1938, pp. 301314.

1951Harold C. Goddard. The Tempest,
from The Meaning of Shakespeare
Harold C. Goddard (18781950) was head of the English Department
at Swarthmore College. One of the most important twentieth-century
books on Shakespeare is his The Meaning of Shakespeare, published after
his death.
God knows there are desert islands enough to go roundthe
diculty is to sail away from thembut dream islands . . . they
are rare, rare.
Katherine Mansfield on The Tempest

It is customary to set The Tempest beside A Midsummer-Nights Dream as
Shakespeares mature compared with his more youthful treatment of fairyland.
Its connection with Macbeth, if less obvious, is profounder, the earlier play
revealing the relation to human life of the darker part of the spiritual world as
the later one does the brighter. But a still more interesting, if more unusual, way
of taking The Tempest is as a sequel to King Lear.
We two alone will sing like birds i the cage.
The Enchanted Isle is like a bird cage only in a certain sense and Prospero and
Miranda bear no personal resemblance to Lear and Cordelia. But there they
arethey two alonefather and daughter, transmigrated and altered as they
might be in a dream. For what other name than Wonderful could t Cordelia
after the miracle of her death and what compensation better suit the angry and
irrational old King than power to command the winds of which he formerly had
been the victim? Yet even this little runs the risk of making too particular an
analogy that should be left vague. Enough if we feel that the storm that rocked
King Lear all but to the end is not unrelated to the tempest that is just about

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


to blow itself out as this play begins. In Othello and King Lear we thought we
caught glimpses into a region on the Other Side of the Storm. Nearly all of this
play takes place there. In that sensebut in that sense onlyThe Tempest is King
Lear in Heaven.

The opening scene of The Tempestthe shipwreckis like an overture
throughout which we catch echoes, like distant thunder, of the themes that
dominated the historical and tragic music dramas of Shakespeares earlier
periods. It is an extraordinary epitome. What cares these roarers for the
name of king? Into that questionor exclamation, if you willthe disdainful
Boatswain condenses not only King Lear but all that Shakespeare ever said on
the subject of worldly place and power. Here are a group of great onesfrom
king downup against it. The king and prince at prayers! The mingled
surprise, humor, and consternation in those words of old Gonzalo says it
all. When kings and princes are reduced to prayer, then indeed is the day of
doom near. The roaring Boatswaina kind of emancipated and active twin of
Barnardine in Measure for Measureis the one man who shines in this crisis,
his combined cheerfulness, energy, resourcefulness, and contempt being just
the brew needed in the situation. Even the master of the boat relies on him
to carry ship, mariners, passengers, and master himself through on his lone
shoulders. Emergencies crown their own kings. As the Bastard needed no title
in King John, so this man can stand on his own feet. Nature hands him the
command and everybody of any account concurs. Keep your cabins; you do
assist the storm, he orders his royal passengers. There is a symbolic diagnosis
of war in eight words, with a prescription for peace thrown in. Let great ones
go below and leave the decks to the boatswains and their mariners. It is still
sound advice. Even the good Gonzalo, with his philosophy, strikes us as a bit
superuous at the moment. You are a counsellor, says the Boatswain; if you
can command these elements to silence, and work the peace of the present, we
will not hand a rope more; use your authority . . . Cheerly, good hearts! Out
of our way, I say. Again Shakespeare amends Plato: not when philosophers
are kings, but when boatswains are. William James declared that the best
thing education can impart is the power to know a good man when you see
him. In that case these scions of royalty are not educated, for all they can call
this genius of the storm is bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog, whoreson,
insolent noisemaker, and cur. What fools! What a man! What a scene!
Commentators have long been tempted to identify Prospero with
Shakespeare and to nd in his farewell to his art, with the breaking of his wand
and the drowning of his book, the poets farewell to the stage. The magicians
summary of his deedsthe graves he has opened, the wars of the elements he
has fomented, the oaks he has rifted with lightning-bolts, on to the heavenly


The Tempest

music he is even now requiring, which might so easily be The Tempest

itselfts the masterpieces of the poet so exactly that the inference seems
all but inescapable. (And then there are Miranda and Judith Shakespeare.)
But a parallelism, however close at one or two points, is a dierent matter
from a full identication, and we can easily believe that Shakespeare had
his own retirement from the theater in mind when he wrote this particular
speech, without committing ourselves to the idea that Prospero is the author
throughout. Indeed it is hard to see how anyone who has attended to the whole
of Prosperos role could entertain such a notion for a moment.
For there are two Prosperos in this play, the man and the magician, Prospero
the father of Miranda, and Prospero the master of Caliban and Ariel, fomenter
of tempests. Mirandas father is an antitype of Hamlets father (as ghost) in his
treatment of his child, beginning, in this respect at least, where King Lear left
o. From this angle The Tempest might be entitled The Education of Miranda and
be put over against The Education of Coriolanus. But there should be no hasty
inference that children should be brought up by their fathers rather than their
mothers, for though Prospero calls himself Mirandas schoolmaster, I imagine
that, like Cadwal and Polydore, she was brought up mainly by a woman, Nature.
Prospero, like Belarius, probably merely added a touch of wisdom here or exerted
the restraining hand of experience there, so little, under healthy conditions, does
civilization need to interfere with the natural impulses of a gifted child. And he
was rewarded. Miranda plainly taught him more than he did her, and laid in him
that basis of love and wonder which made possible the miraculous change that
comes over him in the end. His discarding of his magic mantle in her presence
in the rst scene of the play is clearly a preparation for his nal discarding of it
in the last scene. (There is a reason for Shakespeares careful attention to stage
directions in The Tempest.)
But Prospero the magician is a being of a dierent order from Mirandas
father. He can be traced to the former Duke of Milan, the recluse so absorbed
in his books that he was unconscious of the conspiracy of the brother who
deposed him. Now in exile, this master of strange lore can emerge from solitude
to issue stern commands and rebukes. Those who nonchalantly equate him with
Shakespeare have not only his treatment of his abhorred fetcher of fuel to come
to terms with, but the more dicult fact of his sharp words to Ariel. Dull
thingof all things to this spirit of re and air!Thou liest, malignant thing!
His threat to imprison his winged servant if he murmurs is enough in itself to
put any identication with the author out of court.
How shall we reconcile these oppositesthe loving father and the harsh

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


The Tempest has an unrivaled power to inspire in almost all sensitive readers a
belief that it contains a secret meaning. Even those who make no attempt to
search it out retain the feeling that it is there and that if it could only be found
it would lead close not merely to the heart of Shakespeares convictions about
life but close to the heart of life itself. Naturally I have no reference here to the
many minute and elaborate allegorical interpretations of the play that have been
oered, which, even if they were convincing within their own limits, could have
only a historical, biographical, or other subpoetical interest. What I have in mind
rather are more modest attempts to connect and elucidate the main themes and
symbols around which the poem is obviously built and which seem to have in
peculiar degree the power, in Keatss words, to tease us out of thought as doth
eternity. To set out to interpret The Tempest (which I do not intend to do) is one
thing; to point out certain aspects of its symbolism and thematic structure with
which any satisfactory interpretation must come to terms as a sort of minimum
requirement is another and much less ambitious undertaking.
To begin with, this play is centrally concerned with the three things that
Shakespeare had perhaps come to value most highly in life: liberty, love, and
wonderthe identical trinity, by the way, that Haz, long before Shakespeare,
had also chosen. Concerned with realities rather than with names, the poet not
only gives examples of these things but, to make clear what they are in their purity,
shows us what they are in their perversions: license is set over against liberty; lust
against love; banality, but more particularly wonders, against wonder.
And the play has also what might be called a biological theme. As has often
been pointed our, the characters are arranged in a sort of evolutionary hierarchy
from Caliban, who is a kind of demi-creature of water and earth, up through
human strata of various stages of development to Ariel, who is all re and air
though it is made clear that where human nature becomes degenerate it seems
to sink to a level lower than that of Caliban.
Closely allied to this, yet distinct from it, is a psychological interest. The play
is fairly saturated with references to sleep and wakingand to various states of
consciousness and unconsciousness between the two, drowsiness, daydreaming,
dreaming, trance, hallucination, and other hypnagogic conditions. Likewise The
Tempest is lled from end to end with noises and musicfrom the thunder and
roaring of the storm itself, the howling of beasts, through the sounds and sweet
airs of the Enchanted Isle that could charm even Caliban, through every variety
of human utterance from the cries and coarse ballads of drunkards to the voices
of lovers, up nally to the songs of Ariel. And Shakespeare seems interested not
only in these two things, sleep and music, but even more in the relation between
themin the relation, to put it more pedantically, between music and the


The Tempest

unconscious mind. The voices of the isle could induce such sleep in Caliban that
when he waked he cried to dream again. Miranda falls asleep on the entrance
of Ariel and awakens on his exit. The same is true in some degree of the other
good characters, but not of the baser ones, who become victims on at least one
occasion of an evil form of waking hallucination. All these reactions turn on the
receptivity of the unconscious mind.
These various themes and symbols are inextricably interwoven, and, seen
from a slightly dierent angle, give us Shakespeares nal word on a subject that
had engaged his attention from the beginning: the dierent kinds of power that
men possess and are possessed by. Here the political and religious aspects of the
story merge as we are carried all the way from the demonic tyranny of the witch
Sycorax to the reign of pure goodness in old Gonzalos ideal commonwealth.
More specically, we have within the main action of the play: the political and
military power of Alonso and Antonio, the magical power of Prospero, the
alcoholic power of Stephano, the unveiling power of love in Ferdinand and
Miranda, and the musical power of Ariel. (Nor am I omitting, though I may
seem to be, the religious power of forgiveness.)
The play culminates in three emancipationsof Caliban from the enthralment
of the drunken Stephano, of Prospero from his magic, and of Ariel from the
service of Prospero in the cause of that magic (not to mention the emancipation
from moral bondage of Alonso and his companions). What might be called,
grotesquely, the biography of Ariel gives at least an intimation of what these
interrelated emancipations mean, though we must beware here not to fetter the
play within any rigid allegory. For twelve yearsyears doubtless comparable to
the days of creation in GenesisAriel was imprisoned in a cloven pine by the
witch Sycorax because he was
a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and abhorrd commands.
This imprisonment, once imposed, Sycorax is powerless to undo and Prospero
with his art must come to the rescue. What does this signify? Might it not
mean that when imagination is enslaved by the senses superstition usurps its
functionand the senses become powerless to release it? It must be set free
by knowledge and reason. But that is not the end of the story. Out from under
the domination of the senses, imagination now becomes the slave of the very
intellect that rescued it. Prospero is now master and the delicate spirit he has set
free from Sycorax is impressed into the service of his magiceven at one point
at the threat of a second imprisonment, in a cloven oak, of like duration as the
rst, if he complains. Here, again, is a Prospero remote enough from anything
we associate with Shakespeare.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


What is the character of Prosperos magic? If it is not black art, it certainly is

not white in the sense of being dedicated unreservedly to noble ends. Prospero
was indeed the victim of injustice. But his main miracle, the raising of the
tempest, appears to have been undertaken primarily to get his enemies within
his power for purposes of revenge. Moreover, his magic banquets and charmed
swords have an element of mere display about them that is reminiscent of the
wonders of the common conjurer. The higher the nature of the miracle sought,
the more Prospero seems to intrust its execution to Ariels improvisation, as
in the saving of Gonzalo and most of all the falling in love of Ferdinand and
Miranda. Prospero willed this love aair, but the bringing of it into being was
plainly Ariels work, and his success so delights Prospero that he promises his
servant his freedom as a reward:
It goes on, I see,
As my soul prompts it.
(Not, notice, as I ordered but as my soul prompts!)
Spirit, ne spirit! Ill free thee
Within two days for this.
And as if he would not have us miss the point, the poet repeats it a moment
At the rst sight
They have changd eyes. Delicate Ariel,
Ill set thee free for this!
He sees that this is Ariels accomplishmentnothing of his own magic at all.
(From Prosperos command to his servant to summon his rabble of spirits and
incite them to quick motion we seem entitled to think that even the wedding
masque is mainly the latters doing.) As in the case of Lear and his Fool, the
servant has become the master of the master, a fact that comes out emphatically
when Prospero has his enemies at his mercy. He is then in the same position as
was the banished Coriolanus, except that the force at his command is knowledge
and magic rather than the sword.
Now does my project gather to a head,
he cries triumphantly in the rst line of the last act. His foes, along with some
innocent ones entangled with them, are powerless to budge, and we feel that he


The Tempest

is now about to get even for the injustices they formerly inicted on him. And
then, like Virgilia with her kiss, Ariel speaks:
Ariel: Him that you termd, sir, the good old lord, Gonzalo,
His tears run down his beard like winters drops
From eaves of reeds. Your charm so strongly works them
That if you now beheld them, your aections
Would become tender.
Dost thou think so, spirit?
Ariel: Mine would, sir, were I human.
And mine shall.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their aictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply
Passion as they, be kindlier movd than thou art?
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
Yet with my nobler reason gainst my fury
Do I take part. The rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance. They being penitent,
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown further. Go release them, Ariel.
My charms Ill break, their senses Ill restore,
And they shall be themselves.
Prospero thinks it is his reason that overcomes his fury. But what has just
happened contradicts him. It was his angel that whispered the suggestion in his
car. And a mans angel or genius is not to be confused with the man himself.1
Indeed this very one of Prosperos is a spirit whose independence he is about to
declare. Crying, My charms Ill break, he invokes the elves and demi-puppets
weak masters who have helped him to do only such tries as to bedim the
sun and call forth windsand bids farewell forever to them and magic. Ariel,
his strong master, enters on the instant, with music, to displace them. And
forthwith follows a wonder that genuinely deserves the namethe forgiveness
and reconciliation that Prospero has just resolved on. Here is a divine right of
kings to which even the strictest equalitarian could not objectthe intervention
of one of those angels in whom Richard II, because he was unworthy, trusted
in vain. Here is the counterpart and antithesis of Macbeths surrender to the
Witches. As they tempted him to crime and death, so Ariel tempts Prospero to
forgiveness and life.
How all this illuminates what has gone before! The stages in Ariels estate now
stand out unmistakable. While he was subjected to Sycorax, he was imprisoned
and powerless. While he obeys Prospero, he performs material wondersthough

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


even then, if the initiative is left to him, he goes beyond them. Finally, when it is
he who whispers the hint in Prosperos ear and Prospero obeys him, the wonder
of a spiritual miracle occurs. Music replaces magic; Ariels songs achieve what is
beyond the scope of Prosperos wand.
Those who, once powerful, suer defeat, are restored to power, and then
might take revenge but do notthey hold the keys of peace. That is what the end
of The Tempest seems to say, as Shakespeare himself said it in the 94th sonnet:
They that have power to hurt and will do none . . .
They rightly do inherit heavens graces.
It is an old truthno discovery of Shakespeares. But crowning as it does
the last act of what was probably the last full play he ever wrote, backed up
by hundreds, we might almost say thousands, of minute particulars from his
previous works, and embodied in his own practice of understanding rather
than judging all humanity from saint to sinner, it acquires the character of a
Be cheerful
And think of each thing well.
By itself, that could sound commonplace or even banal. But against the inferno
of the Tragedies, it is no silly philosophy of smiling evil out of existence.

Where the bee sucks, there suck I,
sings Ariel when Prospero tells him the moment of his release is near,
Where the bee sucks, there suck I.
In a cowslips bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bats back I do y
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
This angel will not use his freedom to y away to some distant heaven: he will
hide under the nearest ower. The world of spirit, in other words, is not Another
World after all. It is this world rightly seen and heard. From end to end The
Tempest reiterates this. To innocent senses the isle itself is pure loveliness; to
corrupted ones it is no better than a swamp:


The Tempest

Adrian: The air breathes upon us here most sweetly.

Sebastian: As if it had lungs, and rotten ones.
Antonio: Or as twere perfumed by a fen.
Gonzalo: Here is everything advantageous to life.
Antonio: True; save means to live.
Even in Caliban an Ariel slumbers. He loves the voices of the isle, and his moral
awakening at the end
What a thrice-double ass
Was I, to take this drunkard for a god
And worship this dull fool!
though passed over swiftly is as hopeful a note as is struck in the entire play.
Prospero was wrong in thinking that Caliban was impervious to education.
But it is Miranda of course, of the human inhabitants of the isle, who gives
supreme expression to the way the world looks to uncontaminated senses and
O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in t!
Imagination, as dreams show, is something that awakens in most of us only when
the senses are put to sleep. It is only when they awaken refreshed at sunrise that
we occasionally see the world for a moment as God intended us to. But really,
Shakespeare is telling us in The Tempest, sense and spirit are as much made for
each other as lovers are. It is appetite and intellect that have put an abyss between
them. That is what Prospero the Magician learned from Ariel and his own child.
Miranda did not need to read King Lear. But unless we have a child or angel to
teach us, we do. We must go to Shakespeare and the other poetsfor poetry,
as Shelley said, lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world and makes
familiar things as if they were not familiar.
But whatever may be true of the rest of us, why does a poet need poetry? It is
easy to see why a young poet does. But why should an old one?
We have noted how Shakespeares need for drama in the narrower sense
yielded to his need for poetry. Was his need for poetry now yielding to his need
for life? It was the moment after Prospero listened to his spirit that he decided
to break his sta and drown his book. Perhaps Shakespeare at last perceived that
dramatic compositions, even poetic ones, are only airy charms. Perhaps he said
to himself,

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


. . . this rough magic

I here abjure:
I will return from the necromancy of art to the wonder of life itself. Whatever he
said or didnt say, he must have come to realize what creative minds in the end
are almost bound to see: that the arts are to men only what toys are to children,
a means for the rehearsal of life. And so, paradoxically, the object of art is to get
rid of the arts. When they mature, the art of life will be substituted for themas
children outgrow their toys.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
Perhaps Shakespeare had himself in mind when he wrote those lines of Ariels. I
picture him retired to Stratford lying under a plum tree in May doing nothing.
Had I a little son, said Charles Lamb, I would christen him Nothing-to-Do;
he should do nothing. Shakespeare would have understood. Nothing brings
me all things.

Shakespeare could have bidden farewell to the theater in no better way than
through Ariel, for no gure he ever created more utterly transcends the stage.
How shall Ariel be acted? The most graceful girl to be found for the part, the
most charming boy, will instantly blur or erase the Shakespearean conception.
Which, indeed, should play the role, if it is to be played, boy or girl? And what
pronoun should be resorted to in referring to this spirit of music and the dance?
The paucity of language compels us, as in the case of the angels, to use either
the masculine or the feminine. But neither will do. Ariel is above sex. In that
respect this ultimate creation of the poets genius seems like the culmination
of something he had been seeking all his life. From Adonis and the Young
Man of the Sonnets, through Rosalind and Hamlet, Desdemona and Cordelia,
on to Imogen, Florizel and Cadwal, Ferdinand and Miranda (remember her
willingness to carry logs!), Shakespeare is bent on nding men and women who,
without losing the virtues and integrity of their own sex, have also the virtues
of the other. If Shakespeare had no admiration for the womanly woman in the
sense of the clinging vine, neither had he any for the manly man as embodied
in what our generation refers to as the he-man or the red-blooded man. He
scorned the gentleman, but all his best men are gentle men. Whatever else he
may be, Ariel is a symbol of this union of the masculine and feminine elements
of the soul.
But what makes Ariel even more akin, if possible, to the spirit of his maker is
the capacity to assume any form or shape, to perform any function, to be at home


The Tempest

in any element. By universal consent this is close to Shakespeares supreme gift.

And there is no better example of it than his creation (along with Caliban) of this
very Ariela creature so unique that he seems to have sprung full-blown from
the head of his maker. But even Ariel has been prepared for. From Puck with his
ower juice squeezed in lovers eyes, to the Fool with his wise folly whispered in
Lears ear, Ariel has seldom been far away in Shakespeare wherever spiritual force
from without comes to the rescue of weak or foolish or proud humanity. Who
shall say that Ariel was not there when the God Hercules left Antony and music
was heard in the air, or when Cleopatra herself turned to re and air?

Of the many universal symbols on which The Tempest is erected that of the island
is fundamental. An island is a bit of a higher element rising out of a lowerlike
a fragment of consciousness thrusting up out of the ocean of unconsciousness.
Like a clearing in the wilderness or a walled city, like a temple or a monastery,
it is a piece of cosmos set over against chaos and ready to defend itself if chaos,
as it will be bound to do, tries to bring it back under its old domination. It is a
magic circle, a small area of perfection shutting out all the rest of innite space.
What wonder that an island has come to be a symbol of birth and of rebirth, or
that from the fabled Atlantis and that earthly island, the Garden of Eden, to the
latest Utopia, an island, literal or metaphorical, is more often than any other the
spot the human imagination chooses for a fresh experiment in life!2
Like Ariel himself, this island play, The Tempest, is so sui generis that we do not
easily see how naturally it emerges from the rest of Shakespeare. In its emphasis
on parent and child and the theme of reconciliation, its kinship with the others
in the group of plays that begins with Pericles, it is true, is a commonplace. But
its roots go deeper than that.
Prospero, Duke of Milan, deprived of his dukedom and exiled on an island,
is restored at the end to his former place, a man so altered by his experience that
henceforth, he declares, every third thought shall be his grave. Obviously, this is
the pattern of As You Like It with the Forest of Arden in place of the Enchanted
Isle and with the dierence that the Senior Duke is in no need of regeneration.
But, less obviously, this theme of the King, Prince, Duke, or other person of high
estate losing his place or inheritance only to recover it or its spiritual equivalent,
after exile or suering, in a sense in which he never possessed it before, is
repeated by Shakespeare over and over. All stemming in a way from that early
and undervalued study of King Henry VI, Measure for Measure, King Lear, Timon
of Athens, Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra, and parts of Pericles, Cymbeline and
The Winters Tale are built on this situation. They all, in one way or another,
contrast with and supplement Hamlet, whose hero propounds the same problem,
wavers on the edge of a fresh solution, only to oer in the end the old erroneous

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


answer. They all, in various keys, reiterate the theme of Timon: Nothing brings
me all things.
But it is not just those who have lost worldly kingdoms in a literal sense who
come to realize this truth. Shakespeare uses the same idea metaphorically. Over
and over in his plays when the object valued or the person loved is taken away,
an imaginative object or person, more than compensating for the loss, appears
in its place.
Friar Francis in Much Ado about Nothing formulates the psychology of it. Hero,
accused at the marriage altar by Claudio of unfaithfulness, falls unconscious
dead, it is thought at rst. Give it out that she is dead, advises Friar Francis later,
and you will perceive a miracle: the real Hero will be reborn in Claudios soul.
So will it fare with Claudio.
When he shall hear she died upon his words,
The idea of her life shall sweetly creep
Into his study of imagination,
And every lovely organ of her life
Shall come apparelld in more precious habit,
More moving-delicate and full of life,
Into the eye and prospect of his soul,
Than when she livd indeed.
And so it proves, when the supposedly dead Hero, posing as her own cousin,
is produced, and Claudio, seeing now with his imagination, superimposes his
puried memory on the new bride and cries, Another Hero! Another Hero
indeed, and yet the same. Beatrice and Benedick, too, are toppled out of their
pride and disdain by a variation of the same psychology. Listening to lies
about each other and themselves that are nearer the truth than the counterfeit
personalities their wit has created, and shaken into sincerity by Claudios
mistreatment of Hero, they bid farewell to contempt and confess their love. And
as if fascinated by the situation, Shakespeare relies on it yet again in Alls Well
That Ends Well, when Bertram resees the dead Helena at the end. In the light
comedy of these over-theatrical plays, however, Claudio and Bertram have acted
so outrageously that their conversions are to many modern readers or spectators
unconvincing. Some will suspect the poet himself of skepticism or irony in these
happy endings.
But the moment we pass to tragedy we accept this psychology without
question. Romeo falls in love with Juliet at rst sight but he loves her utterly
only when she lies dead at his feet. Hamlet3 realizes what Ophelia is to him
only when he has driven her to madness and death and is literally with her in
her grave. Othello recognizes the divinity of Desdemona only after he has killed
her. Lear sees Cordelia fully only when she is dead in his arms. Antony becomes


The Tempest

conqueror of himself only when he believes that Cleopatra has committed

suicide, and Cleopatra is translated into re and air only when her Emperor has
proved his faith by taking his own life. The number of repetitions of this theme
or situation in the Tragedies is startling and it is continued in modied form
in the last group of plays. Posthumus discards his Italian weeds and his shame
only when he believes he has murdered Imogen. Leontes falls truly in love with
the dead wife he has wronged only when she is transformed into a statue.
Symbolically this last instance might stand for all. The illusion of loss permits
the senses to see life as if it were a work of art. In how many cases imagination
is the child of death: in tragedy generally of death itself, in comedy often of a
false report of deathdeath being the supreme nothing that brings all things.
In the dramatic romances especially Shakespeare seems to be asking whether
some great shock short of death cannot awaken the imagination as death itself
does in the Tragedies. In banishment, exile, or separation Shakespeare nds such
shocks, but even these understudies of death, as they might be called, are rather
the necessary condition than the cause of the awakening. Prospero on his island
is not enough. There must be a Miranda too. And in all the plays where this
theme of exile is conspicuous, of which The Tempest is the typical and terminal
one, we never fail to nd childhood or a childlike innocence preserved into
maturity as seed for the soil that has been plowed by adversity. It is not chance
that in these last plays there are so many children, unspotted maidens (and young
men) together with older women and old men who have attained the wisdom
of a renewed childhood: young Mamillius, Cadwal and Polydore, Perdita and
Florizel, Marina, Imogen, Ferdinand and Miranda, Hermione, Paulina, Belarius,
the Old Shepherd, and Prospero himself. (The innocent Desdemona is in a sense
the tragic mother of them all.) One of the certainties about the later Shakespeare
is his conviction of the reciprocal necessity of childhood to age and of age
to childhood. Conrming King Lear, these plays assert that where the older
generation has sinned it must seek pardon of the younger generation:
Alonso: But O! how oddly will it sound that I
Must ask my child forgiveness!
but where it has kept virtuous, as Belarius did, its function is to help keep the
younger generation uncontaminated by the worlduncontaminated by it, be it
noted, not unacquainted with it. For Shakespeare is the last one to advocate the
closing of eyes to fact. Only he keeps faith in the power of imagination to subdue
fact to its own shape. The Tempest seems like the summation and consummation
of what he has been saying on that subject all his life. Prospero, when expelled
from his dukedom, is a narrow and partial man. Thanks to his child, the island,
and Ariel, he gives promise of coming back to it something like a whole one.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


But an integrated man is only another name for an imaginative man. And so the
marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda is not the only union this play celebrates,
nor is the island the only symbol of wholeness. On this isle we have all found
ourselves, Gonzalo proclaims in the end, when no man was his own. In this
location of spiritual treasure within the self (The Kingdom of Heaven is within
you) as well as in its emphasis on childhood and forgiveness, together with the
note of humility and the appeal for mercy on which its epilogue ends, The Tempest
is a profoundly Christian play.

When we consider out of what this poem is woven, is it any wonder it
produces the eect it does? Its action takes place on an enchanted island. Its
main human character is a magician. Its most celestial gure is the very spirit
of metamorphosis. Its most earthy one undergoes a seemingly impossible
transformationan extreme example of the moral regeneration that comes to
a number of others in the play. Its atmosphere throughout is as insubstantial
as a rainbow. (Iris herself actually appears at one point.) The best-remembered
sentence from its best-remembered speech is
We are such stu
As dreams are made on.
Shakespeare must have known what would happen within the minds of readers
and auditors to such a diaphanous and ethereal thing. Life, as he had long since
discovered, reveals as much of herself to any man as he brings to herand
no two bring the same. Bright or dark, the world seems contrived to conrm
whatever idea of it we conceive it under. A poem, in proportion as it is like life,
like that world, will do the same. What else than this is the ultimate meaning
of the Shakespearean rmament at which we have been gazingthis human
universe we have been passing in reviewwherein hundreds of stars, though
they inhabit the same sky, dier in glory each from each? A single universal
symbol invites projection as surely as a mirror does reection. The Tempest is
crowded with such symbols from end to end. How inevitable that it should
tempt the sensitive reader, as the stories of Belarius did Cadwal, to strike life
into it and show much more his own conceiving! So long as we reverence and
do not neglect its text, what The Tempest means, then, is what it means to you
or to me. And it will never mean when we are in one mood precisely what it
does when we are in another, or mean tomorrow precisely what it does today.
And so, as in the case of Hamlet, and in due degree of the other plays, each age
will nd its own interpretation of The Tempest, and, miraculously, it will seem
to have been written for each age. A main thing it says to our age ought to


The Tempest

be plain. Its great opposed symbols are the tempest of Prospero, which Ariel
made as Prosperos slave, and Ariels music, which Ariel made of his own free
will. The former is the result of necromantic science or theurgy. The latter is a
spontaneous overow of joy in life. The one creates an opportunity for revenge.
The other resolves the situation thus created. What that says to a generation
that has used its own science to make an atomic bomb is as illuminating as a
ash of lightning by night.

If lovers of Shakespeare were asked to select a single passage from his works best
representative of both his poetry and his philosophy of life, there would probably
be nearly unanimous agreement in choosing Prosperos lines beginning,
Our revels now are ended . . .
We are such stu
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
In their context, as Prospero utters them, they are susceptible of a profoundly
sad, not to say pessimistic, interpretation. But as Shakespeares words the world
has on the whole refused to take them so, nding in them rather a supreme
expression of the mystery and wonder of life. Rounded with a sleep can mean
several other things than ended with a sleep, and when did a dream ever exist
without a dreamer?
There is one little word here, of only two letters, that makes all the
dierence. Most commentators explain that We are such stu as dreams are
made on means according to Elizabethan usage, as indeed it may, We are
such stu as dreams are made of. But it may also mean just what it says to the
unlearned modern mind. Whether we are such stu as dreams are made of is
at best a matter of opinion or conviction, even though Shakespeares authority
is supposed to support the assertion. But that we are such stu as dreams are
made on is a matter of fact. It is indeed the one datum of consciousness
more nearly ultimate even than Descartess Cogito, ergo sum. The science of our
age seeks to explain the constitution of matter. But perhaps the nal secret
and denition of matter will turn out to be not some mathematical formula
but simply this: Matter is that stu on which dreams can be imprinted, that
substance, in other words, on which creative energy can be projected. How
else could things as frail as dreams have survived the tempest and chaos of
material evolution?

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,

Whose action is no stronger than a ower?
A question that contains its own answer.
1. Thy demonthats thy spirit which keeps thee (Antony and Cleopatra, II,
iii, 19).
2. A rarely beautiful and subtle example is Green Island in Sarah Orne Jewetts
The Country of the Pointed Firs.
3. This case, it is admitted, is debatable.

1959Northrop Frye.
Introduction to The Tempest
The Canadian scholar Northrop Frye (19121991) was one of the most
influential literary critics of the twentieth century. Harold Bloom has
called him the largest and most crucial literary critic in the English language since Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde. One of Fryes most famous
books is The Anatomy of Criticism.

In the opening scene of The Tempest there is not only a sinking ship but a
dissolving society. The storm, like the storm in King Lear, does not care that it is
aicting a king, and Gonzalos protests about the deference due to royalty seem
futile enough. But while everyone is unreasonable, we can distinguish Gonzalo,
who is ready to meet his fate with some detachment and humor, from Antonio
and Sebastian, who are merely screaming abuse at the sailors trying to save their
lives. The boatswain, who comes so vividly to life in a few crisp lines, dominates
this scene and leaves us with a strong sense of the superiority of personal
character to social rank.
The shipwrecked characters are then divided by Ariel into three main groups:
Ferdinand; the Court Party proper; Stephano and Trinculo. Each goes through
a pursuit of illusions, an ordeal, and a symbolic vision. The Court Party hunts
for Ferdinand with strange shapes appearing and vanishing around them; their
ordeal is a labyrinth of forthrights and meanders in which they founder with
exhaustion, and to them is presented the vision of the disappearing banquet,
symbolic of deceitful desires. There follows connement and a madness which
brings them to conviction of sin, self-knowledge, and repentance. Like Hamlet,
Prospero delays revenge and sets up a dramatic action to catch the conscience


The Tempest

of a king; like Lear on a small scale, Alonso is a king who gains in dignity by
suering. The search of Stephano and Trinculo for Prospero is also misled by
illusions; their ordeal is a horse-pond and their symbolic vision the trumpery
dangled in front of them. What happens to them is external and physical rather
than internal and mental: they are hunted by hounds, lled with cramps, and
nally reach what might be called a conviction of inadequacy. Probably they
then settle into their old roles again: if a cold-blooded sneering assassin like
Antonio can be forgiven, these amusing and fundamentally likeable rascals can
be too. Ferdinand, being the hero, has a better time: he is led by Ariels music to
Miranda, undergoes the ordeal of the log pile, where he takes over Calibans role
as a bearer of wood, and his symbolic vision is that of the wedding masque.
The characters thus appear to be taking their appropriate places in a new
kind of social order. We soon realize that the island looks dierent to dierent
peopleit is a pleasanter place to Gonzalo than to Antonio or Sebastianand
that each one is stimulated to exhibit his own ideal of society. At one end,
Ferdinand unwillingly resigns himself to becoming King of Naples by the death
of Alonso; at the other, Sebastian plots to become King of Naples by murdering
Alonso. In between come Stephano, whose ambition to be king of the island
is more ridiculous but somehow less despicable than Sebastians, and Gonzalo,
who dreams of a primitive golden age of equality and leisure, not very adequate
as a social theory, but simple and honest, full of good nature and good will, like
Gonzalo himself.
Into the midst of this society comes the islander Caliban, who is, on one level
of nature, a natural man, a primitive whose name seems to echo the cannibals of
Montaignes famous essay. He is not a cannibal, but his existence in the play forms
an ironic comment on Gonzalos reverie, which has been taken from a passage
in the same essay. Caliban is a human being, as Ariel is not; and whatever he
does, Prospero feels responsible for him: this thing of darkness I / Acknowledge
mine, Prospero says. Whether or not he is, as one hopeful critic suggested, an
anticipation of Darwins missing link, he knows he is not like the apes With
foreheads villainous low; his sensuality is haunted by troubled dreams of beauty;
he is not taken in by the trumpery, and we leave him with his mind on higher
things. His ambitions are to kill Prospero and rape Miranda, both, considering
his situation, eminently natural desires; and even these he resigns to Stephano,
to whom he tries to be genuinely loyal. Nobody has a good word for Caliban:
he is a born devil to Prospero, an abhorred slave to Miranda, and to others not
obviously his superiors either in intelligence or virtue he is a puppy-headed
monster, a mooncalf, and a plain sh. Yet he has his own dignity, and he is
certainly no Yahoo, for all his ancient and shlike smell. True, Shakespeare, like
Swift, clearly does not assume that the natural man on Calibans level is capable
also of a reasonable life. But he has taken pains to make Caliban as memorable
and vivid as any character in the play.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


As a natural man, Caliban is mere nature, nature without nurture, as Prospero

would say: the nature that manifests itself more as an instinctive propensity to evil
than as the calculated criminality of Antonio and Sebastian, which is rationally
corrupted nature. But to an Elizabethan poet nature had an upper level, a
cosmic and moral order that may be entered through education, obedience to
law, and the habit of virtue. In this expanded sense we may say that the whole
society being formed on the island under Prosperos guidance is a natural society.
Its top level is represented by Miranda, whose chastity and innocence put her,
like her poetic descendant the Lady in Comus, in tune with the harmony of a
higher nature. The discipline necessary to live in this higher nature is imposed
on the other characters by Prosperos magic. In Shakespeares day the occult arts,
especially alchemy, whose language Prospero is using at the beginning of the fth
act, were often employed as symbols of such discipline.
Shakespeare did not select Montaignes essay on the cannibals as the basis
for Gonzalos commonwealth speech merely at random. Montaigne is no
Rousseau: he is not talking about imaginary noble savages. He is saying that,
despite their unconventional way of getting their proteins, cannibals have many
virtues we have not, and if we pretend to greater virtues we ought to have at least
theirs. They are not models for imitation; they are children of nature who can
show us what is unnatural in our own lives. If we can understand that, we shall
be wiser than the cannibals as well as wiser than our present selves. Prospero
takes the society of Alonsos ship, immerses it in magic, and then sends it back
to the world, its original ranks restored, but given a new wisdom in the light of
which Antonios previous behavior can be seen to be unnatural. In the Epilogue
Prospero hands over to the audience what his art has created, a vision of a society
permeated by the virtues of tolerance and forgiveness, in the form of one of the
most beautiful plays in the world. And, adds Prospero, you might start practising
those virtues by applauding the play.
The Tempest is not an allegory, or a religious drama: if it were, Prosperos
great revels speech would say, not merely that all earthly things will vanish,
but that an eternal world will take their place. In a religious context, Prosperos
renunciation of magic would represent the resigning of his will to a divine will,
one that can do what the boatswain says Gonzalo cannot do, command the
elements to silence and work the peace of the present. In Christianity the higher
level of nature is Gods original creation, from which man broke away with
Adams fall. It is usually symbolized by the music of the heavenly spheres, of
which the one nearest us is the moon. The traditional conception of the magician
was of one who could control the moon: this power is attributed to Sycorax, but
it is a sinister power not associated with Prospero, whose magic and music belong
to the sublunary world.
In the wedding masque of the fourth act and the recognition scene of the
fth, therefore, we nd ourselves moving, not out of the world, but from an


The Tempest

ordinary to a renewed and ennobled vision of nature. The masque shows the
meeting of a fertile earth and a gracious sky introduced by the goddess of the
rainbow, and leads up to a dance of nymphs representing the spring rains with
reapers representing the autumnal harvest. The masque has about it the freshness
of Noahs new world, after the tempest had receded and the rainbow promised
that seedtime and harvest should not cease. There is thus a glimpse, as Ferdinand
recognizes, of an Earthly Paradise, where, as in Miltons Eden, there is no winter
but spring and autumn Danced hand in hand. In the last act, as in The Winters
Tale, there is a curious pretense that some of the characters have died and are
brought back to life. The discovery of Ferdinand is greeted by Sebastian, of all
people, as A most high miracle But the miracles are those of a natural, and
therefore also a moral and intellectual, renewal of life. Some of Shakespeares
romances feature a nal revelation through a goddess or oracle, both of which
Alonso expects, but in The Tempest goddess and oracle are represented by
Miranda and Ariel (in his speech at the banquet) respectively. Ariel is a spirit of
nature, and Miranda is a natural spirit, in other words a human being, greeting
the brave new world in all the good faith of innocence.
Hence we distort the play if we think of Prospero as supernatural, just as we
do if we think of Caliban as a devil. Prospero is a tempest-raiser like the witches
in Macbeth, though morally at the opposite pole; he is a white magician. Anyone
with Prosperos powers is an agent of fate, a cheating fate if evil, a benevolent fate
or providence if motivated as he is. Great courage was required of all magicians,
white or black, for the elemental spirits they controlled were both unwilling and
malignant, and any sign of faltering meant terrible disaster. Ariel is loyal because
of his debt of gratitude to Prospero, and because he is a very high-class spirit, too
delicate to work for a black witch like Sycorax. But even he has a short memory,
and has to be periodically reminded what his debt of gratitude is. Of the others
Caliban says, probably with some truth, They all do hate him / As rootedly as I.
The nervous strain of dealing with such creatures shows up in Prosperos relations
with human beings too; and in his tormenting of Caliban, in his lame excuse
for making Ferdinands wooing uneasy, in his fussing over protecting Miranda
from her obviously honorable lover, there is a touch of the busybody.
Still, his benevolence is genuine, and as far as the action of the play goes he
seems an admirable ruler. Yet he appears to have been a remarkably incompetent
Duke of Milan, and not to be promising much improvement after he returns.
His talents are evidently dramatic rather than political, and he seems less of a
practical magician plotting the discomture of his enemies than a creative artist
calling spirits from their connes to enact his present fancies. It has often been
thought that Prospero is a self-portrait of Shakespeare, and there may well be
something in him of a harassed overworked actor-manager, scolding the lazy
actors, praising the good ones in connoisseurs language, thinking up jobs for
the idle, constantly aware of his limited time before his show goes on, his nerves

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


tense and alert for breakdowns while it is going on, looking forward longingly to
peaceful retirement, yet in the meantime having to go out and beg the audience
for applause.
Prosperos magic, in any case, is an art which includes, in fact largely
consists of, music and drama. Dramatists from Euripides to Pirandello have
been fascinated by the paradox of reality and illusion in drama: the play is an
illusion like the dream, and yet a focus of reality more intense than life aords.
The action of The Tempest moves from sea to land, from chaos to new creation,
from reality to realization. What seems at rst illusory, the magic and music,
becomes real, and the Realpolitik of Antonio and Sebastian becomes illusion. In
this island the quality of ones dreaming is an index of character. When Antonio
and Sebastian remain awake plotting murder, they show that they are the real
dreamers, sunk in the hallucinations of greed. We nd Stephano better company
because his are the exuberant dreams of the stage boaster, as when he claims to
have swum thirty-ve leagues o and on, when we know that he has oated to
shore on a wine cask. Calibans life is full of nightmare interspersed by strange
gleams of ecstasy. When the Court Party rst came to the island no man was his
own; they had not found their proper selves. Through the mirages of Ariel, the
mops and mows of the other spirits, the vanities of Prosperos art, and the fevers
of madness, reality grows up in them from inside, in response to the fertilizing
inuence of illusion.
Few plays are so haunted by the passing of time as The Tempest: it has derived
even its name from a word (tempestas) which means time as well as tempest.
Timing was important to a magician: everything depended on it when the
alchemists project gathered to a head; astrologers were exact observers of time
(The very minute bids thee ope thine ear, Prospero says to Miranda), and the
most famous of all stories about magicians, the story told in Greenes play Friar
Bacon and Friar Bungay, had the warning of time is past for its moral. The
same preoccupation aects the other characters too, from the sailors in the storm
to Ariel watching the clock for his freedom. The tide, which also waits for no
man, ebbs and ows around this Mediterranean island in deance of geography,
and its imagery enters the plotting of Antonio and Sebastian and the grief of
Ferdinand. When everyone is trying to make the most of his time, it seems
strange that a melancholy elegy over the dissolving of all things in time should
be the emotional crux of the play.
A very deliberate echo in the dialogue gives us the clue to this. Morally, The
Tempest shows a range of will extending from Prosperos self-control, which
includes his control of all the other characters, to the self-abandonment of
Alonsos despair, when, crazed with guilt and grief, he resolves to drown himself
deeper than eer plummet sounded. Intellectually, it shows a range of vision
extending from the realizing of a moment in time, the zenith of Prosperos
fortune, which becomes everyone elses zenith too, to the sense of the nothingness


The Tempest

of all temporal things. When Prospero renounces his magic, his book falls into
the vanishing world, deeper than did ever plummet sound. He has done what
his art can do; he has held the mirror up to nature. Alonso and the rest are
promised many explanations after the play is over, but we are left only with the
darkening mirror, the visions fading and leaving not a rack behind. Once again
the Epilogue reminds us that Prospero has used up all his magic in the play, and
what more he can do depends on us.
It is not dicult to see, then, why so many students of Shakespeare, rightly
or wrongly, have felt that The Tempest is in a peculiar sense Shakespeares play,
and that there is something in it of Shakespeares farewell to his art. Two other
features of it reinforce this feeling: the fact that no really convincing general
source for the play has yet been discovered, and the fact that it is probably the
last play wholly written by Shakespeare.
Whether a general source turns up or not, The Tempest is still erudite and
allusive enough, full of echoes of literature, from the classics to the pamphlets
of Shakespeares own time. The scene of the play, an island somewhere between
Tunis and Naples, suggests the journey of Aeneas from Carthage to Rome.
Gonzalos identication of Tunis and Carthage, and the otherwise tedious
business about Widow Dido in the second act, seems almost to be emphasizing
the parallel. Like The Tempest, the Aeneid begins with a terrible storm and goes on
to tell a story of wanderings in which a banquet with harpies gures prominently.
Near the route of Aeneas journey, according to Virgil, was the abode of Circe,
of whom (at least in her Renaissance form) Sycorax is a close relative. Circe
suggests Medea, whose speech in Ovids Metamorphoses is the model for
Prosperos renunciation speech. Echoes from the shipwreck of St Paul (Ariels
phrase Not a hair perished recalls Acts xxvii, 34), from St Augustine, who also
had associations with Carthage, and from Apuleius, with his interest in magic
and initiation, are appropriate enough in such a play. Most of the traditional
magical names of elemental spirits were of Hebrew origin, and Ariel, a name
occurring in the Bible (Isaiah xxix, i), was among them.
The imagery of contemporary accounts of Atlantic voyages has also left strong
traces in The Tempest, and seems almost to have been its immediate inspiration.
One ship of a eet that sailed across the ocean to reinforce Raleghs Virginian
colony in 1609 had an experience rather like that of Alonsos ship. It was driven
aground on the Bermudas by a storm and given up for lost, but the passengers
managed to survive the winter there and reached Virginia the following spring.
William Stracheys account of this experience, True Repertory of the Wracke,
dated July 15, 1610, was not published until after Shakespeares death, and as
Shakespeare certainly knew it, he must have read it in manuscript. Stracheys and
a closely related pamphlet, Sylvester Jourdains Discovery of the Barmudas (1610),
lie behind Calibans allusions to making dams for sh and to water with berries
(i.e. cedar-berries) in it. Other details indicate Shakespeares reading in similar

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


accounts. Setebos is mentioned as a god (divell) of the Patagonians in Richard

Edens History of Travayle in the West and East Indies (1577), and the curious
Bowgh, wawgh refrain in Ariels rst song seems to be from a contemporary
account of an Indian dance. It is a little puzzling why New World imagery should
be so prominent in The Tempest, which really has nothing to do with the New
World, beyond Ariels reference to the still-vexed Bermoothes and a general, if
vague, resemblance between the relation of Caliban to the other characters and
that of the American Indians to the colonizers and drunken sailors who came to
exterminate or enslave them.
However that may be, the dates of these pamphlets help to establish the fact
that The Tempest is a very late play. A performance of it is recorded for November
1, 1611, in Whitehall, and it also formed part of the celebrations connected with
the wedding of King James daughter Elizabeth in the winter of 161213. The
versication is also that of a late play, for The Tempest is written in the direct
speaking style of Shakespeares last period, the lines full of weak endings and so
welded together that every speech is a verse paragraph in itself, often very close
in its rhythm to prose, especially in the speeches of Caliban. One should read
the verse as an actor would read it, attending to the natural stresses, of which
there are usually four to a line, rather than the metre. Some critics have felt that
a few lines are unmetrical, but no line that can be easily spoken on the stage is
unmetrical, and it is simple enough to nd the four natural stresses in You do
look, my son, in a moved sort, or (in octosyllabics) Earths increase, foison plenty
In such writing all the regular schematic forms of verse, rhyme, alliteration,
assonance, and the like, fall into the background, peeping out irregularly through
the texture:
I will stand to, and feed;
Although my last, no matter, since I feel
The best is past. Brother, my lord the Duke,
Stand to, and do as we.
In its genre The Tempest shows a marked anity with dramatic forms outside
the normal range of tragedy and comedy. Among these is the masque: besides
containing an actual masque, The Tempest is like the masque in its use of elaborate
stage machinery and music. The magician with his wand and mantle was a
frequent gure in masques, and Caliban is like the wild men common in the
farcical interludes known as antimasques. Another is the commedia dellarte, which
was well known in England. Some of the sketchy plots of this half-improvised
type of play have been preserved, and they show extraordinary similarities to
The Tempest, especially in the StephanoTrinculo scenes. The Tempest in short is
a spectacular and operatic play, and when we think of other plays like it, we are
more apt to think of, say, Mozarts Magic Flute than of ordinary stage plays.


The Tempest

But more important than these aliations is the position of The Tempest as
the fourth and last of the great romances of Shakespeares nal period. In these
plays Shakespeare seems to have distilled the essence of all his work in tragedy,
comedy, and history, and to have reached the very bedrock of drama itself, with
a romantic spectacle which is at once primitive and sophisticated, childlike and
profound. In these plays the central structural principles of drama emerge with
great clarity, and we become aware of the anity between the happy endings
of comedy and the rituals marking the great rising rhythms of life: marriage,
springtime, harvest, dawn, and rebirth. In The Tempest there is also an emphasis
on moral and spiritual rebirth which suggests rituals of initiation, like baptism or
the ancient mystery dramas, as well as of festivity. And just as its poetic texture
ranges from the simplicity of Ariels incredibly beautiful songs to the haunting
solemnity of Prosperos speeches, so we may come to the play on any level, as
a fairy tale with unusually lifelike characters, or as an inexhaustibly profound
drama that has inuenced some of the most complex poems in the language,
including Miltons Comus and Eliots The Waste Land. However we take it, The
Tempest is a play not simply to be read or seen or even studied, but possessed.

1964William Empson. From
Hunt the Symbol, in Essays on Shakespeare
William Empson (19061984) was a professor at Sheffield University,
a poet, and one of the finest literary critics of his time. Two of his bestknown books are Seven Types of Ambiguity and Some Versions of Pastoral.

As to the moralising which these religious critics naturally insert as part of their
programme, I have a dierent objection: I think their morals are bad. Just as there
isnt only one religion, but a lot of religions, so there are many dierent ethical
beliefs and a man who is simply in favour of religion and morality is pretty sure
to include bad ones. The instincts of Derek Traversi keep him fairly straight, but
his principles might land him anywhere.
In The Tempest, Traversi invents a startling punishment for the clowns:
Stephano and Trinculo will be, in turn, left by Prospero on the island which he
himself abandons to return to the fullness of civilised life. Prospero says to his
guests, when the two sinful comics and Caliban shamble in at the end:
two of these fellows you
Must know and own; this thing of darkness I
Acknowledge mine.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


The cell needs getting ready to lodge the guests, and almost all Prospero says
to Caliban is:
Go, sirrah, to my cell:
Take with you your companions: as you look
To have my pardon, trim it handsomely.
The owners of the fellows are responsible for looking after them, and Caliban is
given a strong hint that he will be pardoned. Marooning was naturally thought a
terrible punishment, and the only drama in the play is that Prospero has brought
himself to forgive his enemies. Traversi had no reason to expect marooning,
except that he felt spiteful, and believed that this was a moral way to feel.
Caliban has also to be viewed gravely because in his case there is Symbolism
at work. Sentimental critics have given Caliban credit for a poetical nature, but
Traversi has an answer: the poetry which we admire in Caliban was given him,
at least in part, by Prospero (You taught me language; and my prot on t/Is,
I know how to curse). We know that Caliban is beyond redemption because
when boasting he threatens to inict on Prospero unrestrained physical cruelty;
whereas when Prospero makes Caliban scream with pain all night that is spiritual
power. Indeed Caliban is bound by his nature to service; please notice that
Traversi is expressing here the pure milk of the master-race doctrine, and it
is presented with the usual glum sanctimoniousness as a traditional Christian
moral, with no sign that it has ever been questioned. Before the rst entry of
Caliban, Miranda expresses distaste for him and Prospero answers:
But, as tis,
We cannot miss him: he does make our re,
Fetch in our wood; and serves in oces
That prot us.
The kind of life that Prospero has established in his retreat assumes, in fact, the
submission of Caliban as a necessary condition. That this submission requires an
eort, indicates once more that the island is a reection of the outer world.
It appears that, if you have to pinch Caliban black and blue as soon as he
stops chopping wood, that is rather like keeping a vow of chastity. I must say, I
wouldnt like to run into a Moral Critic on a dark night; there is something very
shambling and subhuman about the whole movement.
Frank Kermode, whose edition of The Tempest came out the same year as
The Last Phase (1954), realises that the tradition of the Savage was a very
contradictory one: he appreciates the paradoxes of The Faerie Queene Book
VI, and denies that the utopian fancy of Gonzalo is meant as satire upon
the reections in favour of savages by Montaigne. But he maintains that the


The Tempest

description of Caliban in the List of Names as a savage and deformed slave

means that Shakespeare considered him inherently a slave, much as Aristotle
would have done. Well, Caliban simply is a slave of Prospero, who rst addresses
him as slave!; this is not in itself proof that Shakespeare approved of slavery.
You might as well say that to write a prostitute in the dramatis personae would
mean approval of prostitution. When Kermode assumes it he is accepting a
formula: Way back in early times they didnt have advanced ideas, like we
have; they just had moral ideas, and that was much better. His own mind does
not stop there, and I was not struck with the praise of slavery in reading the
introduction to his edition; but then a student at Sheeld wrote an essay on it
for me, and it was plain that her natural earnestness had been gravely misled.
How could a prince be wicked, she wondered, when he has royal blood and a
rst class education too; it seemed to her a more painful diculty than it does
to Kermode; though she too brightened up at the thought that it illustrates the
doctrine of Free Will. The rst audiences of course could hardly feel the same
surprise, because they seldom saw any play without a wicked prince in it. Surely
it is an absurdly deluding education for the modern world, when it reaches the
peak of this exquisite owering confusionhow can a royal prince be bad at all?
I dont think there can be much future in it.

1972Leslie A. Fiedler. The New World Savage
as Stranger, from The Stranger in Shakespeare
Leslie Fiedler (19172003) was a controversial professor and critic
whom Harold Bloom has called a Freudian with a difference. Fiedler
is best known for his critical study Love and Death in the American Novel.

To be sure, the world slave is ambiguous in Shakespeare, meaning sometimes

(as in the case of Iago) one so vile that only total subjugation to another seems
an appropriate fate, and sometimes one actually thus subjugated (like Othello),
whether he deserves it or not. Read either way, however, Calibans label raises
themes of colonialism and race; and taken all together, such themes evoke the
place in which, for two hundred years, white Europeans had been confronting
them in fact as well as theory, the land already called by Shakespeares time
America, though he uses the word only once in a joke and never in The
There seems little doubt, however, that America was on Shakespeares mind,
particularly at the point in Act II when he puts into the mouth of that kindly but
ineectual old wind-bag, Gonzalo, the speech beginning, Had I the plantation

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


of this isle, my lord and ending, I would with such perfection govern, sir,
/ To excel the Golden Age. There is something especially pathetic about the
constantly interrupted speech of one who, having been unable to save Prospero
and Miranda (he contented himself with smuggling the Dukes favorite books
aboard their rotting ship), can now scarcely hold his listeners attention long
enough to make his points. But they are important points, all the same.
I the commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things, for no kind of trac
Would I admit, no name of magistrate.
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
And use of service none; . . .
all men idle, all;
And women too, but innocent and pure; . . .
All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavor.
And when Shakespeare allows this vision to be mocked through the foul
mouths of the bad brothers, Sebastian and Antonio, it is Montaignes dream
of a communist utopia in the New World he is allowing them to vilify. For the
very words he attributes to Gonzalo he has lifted from Florios translation of the
French skeptic, whose skepticism seems to have failed him for once in his essay
Of the Cannibals.
Montaigne had begun by reading the accounts of returned travelers from
Brazil about the life lived by man-eating savages on the banks of the Amazon
and, comparing their way of life. with that lived by his European neighbors,
had moved toward a kind of cultural relativism. Chacun appelle barbarie, he
commented, ce qui nest pas de son usage (Each calls savagery customs dierent
from his own). It is the observation of a protoanthropologist, a contributor to
the Encyclopdie born before his time. And beginning thus, he inevitably ends up
with a sentimental paradox worthy of Rousseau: that the New World barbarians
are, in some sense, less barbarous than the European ones, providing at least,
for all their cannibalism, models for a perfect commonwealth, the Golden Age
restored. If there is the merest hint of irony in all this, it is quite gone from
Gonzalos version, which leaves all the ironical qualication to his interlocutors,
who observe aside, The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning.
And this can be read as meaning not only that the old councillor, carried away by
his own rhetoric, forgets how he has begun his speech before concluding it but
also that he has forgotten the Fall in the garden with which the whole history
of human society began.
Certainly Shakespeare is on their side in the debate, utter, even hopeless
villains though they may be, for the events of the play prove them, not


The Tempest

Gonzalo, right. Indeed, that old man himself, who has begun by observing of
the New World, Here everything is advantageous to life, ends by confessing,
All torment, trouble, wonder, and amazement / Inhabits here. Some heavenly
power guide us / Out of this fearful country! The pun on maze is clearly
intended, the image it suggests being picked up later by Alonso who says, This
is as strange a maze as eer men trod. Indeed, the maze seems as central to the
mythology of the West in The Tempest as the riddle is to the mythology of the
East. And with its emergence, the two archetypal equations which underlie
the plays action are made completely manifest: the East = the past = incest =
the riddle; the West = the future = rape and miscegenation = the maze. And
there is in this business more than nature / Was ever conduct of, Alonso
continues. Some oracle / Must rectify our knowledge. But Prospero proves
oracle enough, unriddling the enigma, unwinding the maze in his actions as
well as his words.
To seek the past, the fable of his life signies, is to leave action for books
and to end up enisled with a nubile daughter in an ultimate travesty of the
endogamous family, an incestuous mnage deux. But in place of the East he
dreams, the common source of Rome and Carthage and the mouldy tale of
Apollonius of Tyre, he wakes to nd the West, a beach more strange and fearful
than the still-vexed Bermoothes. Here rape and miscegenation threaten the
daughter too dearly loved in an ultimate travesty of the exogamous family. And
instead of himselfthat is, the pastrepeated in the child that daughter bears,
he can look forward only to total strangers, monsters as grandchildrenthat is,
a future utterly alien to anything he knows.
The identication of incest with the riddle is traditional enough to seem
convincing, even without the testimony of Claude Lvi-Strauss; but that of
miscegenation-rape with the maze may seem at rst arbitrary and implausible.
Yet a moments reection on the myth of Crete reminds us that the latter
identication, too, is rooted in ancient mythology; for at the center of the rst
of all mazes, the labyrinth, there lay in wait the Minotaur, bestial product of
womans lust to be possessed, without due rite or ceremony, by the horned
beast, monstrously hung but bereft of human speech. And Caliban is, in eect,
a New World Minotaur, inheritor by Mutterrecht of a little world which proves,
therefore, a maze to all European castaways, even those who dream it Paradise
regained. But Caliban exists in history as well as myth, or more properly, perhaps,
represents myth in the process of becoming history: the Minotaur rediscovered
in the Indian.
His very name is meant to indicate as much, since it is cannibal
anagrammatized and cannibal is derived from Carib, rst tribal Indian name
made known to Europe. Caliban seems to have been created, on his historical side,
by a fusion in Shakespeares imagination of Columbuss rst New World savages
with Montaignes Brazilians, Somerss native Bermudans, and those Patagonian

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


giants encountered by Pigafetta during his trip around the world with Magellan,
strange creatures whose chief god was called, like Calibans mothers, Setebos.
But to say that Caliban was for Shakespeare an Indian means that he was a
problem, since the age had not been able to decide what in fact Indians were.
And, in a certain sense, The Tempest must be understood as an attempt to answer
that troubling question on the basis of both ancient preconceptions and new
information about the inhabitants of the Americas.
That Caliban seems to be part sh has always troubled some readers of
Shakespeare, though the characterization is apt enough for a native of the
hemisphere which medieval scholars had believed to be all water. He is portrayed
nally as a creature of the mud ats who has managed to climb onto land at long
last, but has not yet acclimatized himself to the higher elements of air and re.
Humanoid without being quite human, though a step above what he himself
describes as apes / With foreheads villainous low, he is as the play draws to
its close called more and more exclusively monster: servant-monster, brave
monster, man-monster, or simply monster unqualied. And the point is to
identify him with a kind of subhuman freak imagined in Europe even before the
discovery of red men in America: the homme sauvage or savage man, who, in the
nightmares of Mediterranean humanists, had been endowed with sexual powers
vastly in excess of their own. Such monstrous virility Shakespeare attributes to
Caliban, associating him not with cannibalism, after all, but with unbridled lust,
as Prospero reminds us when he answers Calibans charges of exploitation and
appropriation with the countercharge:
I have used thee,
Filth as thou art, with human care, and lodged thee
In mine own cell till thou didst seek to violate
The honor of my child.
And Caliban, glorying in the accusation, answers:
Oh ho, oh ho! Would t had been done!
Thou didst prevent me. I had peopled else
The isle with Calibans.
He becomes thus the rst nonwhite rapist in white mans literature, ancestor
of innumerable Indian warriors and skulking niggers who have threatened ever
since in print, as well as on stage and screen, the fragile honor of their oppressors
daughters. And it is his unredeemable carnality which, as both Prospero and
Miranda insist, condemns him to eternal slavery, since, incapable of being
educated to virtue, he must be controlled by force. A devil, a born devil, on
whose nature / Nurture never can stick, the master of arts describes him. And his


The Tempest

daughter, more explicitly racist, concurs: But thy vile race, / Though thou didst
learn, had that int which good natures / Could not abide to be with.
This charge Caliban never directly answers, though with his usual generosity,
Shakespeare permits him an eloquent plea on his own behalf, less relevant,
perhaps, but quite as moving as Shylocks.
This islands mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me. When thou camest rst,
Thou strokedst me, and madest much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in t. And teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night. And then I loved thee,
And showed thee all the qualities o th isle. . . .
Cursed be I that did so! . . .
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which rst was mine own king. And here you sty me
In this hard rock whiles you do keep from me
The rest o th island.
There is, moreover, a kind of music in Calibans speech, one is tempted to say a
natural rhythm, quite remote from Shylocks tone; for the Jew is postulated as an
enemy of all sweet sound, whereas the New World savage is a singer of songs and
a maker of poems, especially when he remembers the virginal world he inhabited
before the coming of patriarchal power.
Prospero thinks of his island kingdom as a place to be subdued, hewed,
trimmed, and ordered, so that, indeed, the chief use of his slave is to chop down
trees and pile logs for the re. But Caliban remembers a world of unprofaned
magic, a living nature, in which reality had not yet quite been separated from
dream, nor waking from sleeping:
Be not afeared. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about my 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
Once awakened from the long dream of primitive life, fallen out of the
mother into the world of the father, there is no falling back into that intra-uterine

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


sleep, only the hope for another kind of happiness, a new freedom on the farther
side of slavery. Even drunk, Caliban remains a poet and visionary, singing that
new freedom in a new kind of song.
No more dams Ill make for sh.
Nor fetch in ring
At requiring,
Nor scrape trencher, nor wash dish.
Ban, Ban, Cacaliban
Has a new masterGet a new man.
Freedom, heyday! Heyday, freedom! Freedom,
heyday, freedom.
Particularly in its Whitmanian long last lineshowled, we are told by the two
mocking European clowns who listenhe has created something new under the
sun: the rst American poem.
And what has this in common with the Old World pastoral elegance of the
marriage masque, in which Prospero compels certain more temperate spirits to
speak for the top of his mind, even as the rebellious Caliban does for the depths
of his soul.
You nymphs, called Naiads, of the wandring brooks,
With your sedged crowns and ever-harmless looks,
Leave your crisp channels, and on this green land
Answer your summons. Juno does command.
Come, temperate nymphs. . . .
They simply cannot see eye to eye, the bookman and the logman, for while
one is planning marriage, the other is plotting rape, since the savage (as even
Gonzalo seems to know, providing that Letters should not be known . . . in
his commonwealth) prefers freedom to culture and would rather breed new
Americans in passion than himself become a new European in cold blood. But
against Prosperos art he is powerless and must abide, therefore, enslaved and
desexed until some outside deliverer comes to his rescue.
That outside deliverer turns out to be, alas, the team of Stephano and
Trinculo, the scum of the Old World promising themselves unaccustomed glory
in the New and attempting to use against their old masters the New World
savage, converted by whisky to their cause. But a drunken revolution is a comic
one, and joining the clowns who would be kings, Caliban turns drunken, too,
which is to say, becomes a clown himself. Indeed, the subject of drunkenness
haunts The Tempest early and late quite as compulsively as it does Macbeth or
Othello. But it has lost its tragic implications, providing only occasions for jokes,


The Tempest

from the rst scene, with its sodden sailors, to the last, from which Stephano and
Trinculo exit reeling ripe and prophesying that they will remain pickled forever.
What a thrice-double ass / Was I, Caliban comments toward the plays close, to
take this drunkard for a god. And we remember how only a little while before, he
had cried, Thats a brave god, and bears celestial liquor, thus preparing to become
the rst drunken Indian in Western literature.
Together with Stephano and Trinculo, in any case, he had plotted a slaves
revolt against what Shakespeare believed to be proper authority. Caliban, in
fact, was the tactician of this fools rebellion, suggesting, out of his fantasies of
revenge, means to destroy their common enemy: with a log / Batter his skull,
or paunch him with a stake, / Or cut his weasand with thy knife. But especially
he insists that they must rst take from the master of arts the instruments
which give him a fatal advantage over them all: his books, which is to say,
those symbols of a literate technology with which the ruling classes of Europe
controlled the subliterates of two worlds. The theme recurs almost obsessively in
his speeches: Having rst seized his books. . . . Remember / First to possess his
books, for without them / Hes but a sot. . . . Burn but his books. Yet the revolt
is foredoomed because Stephano and Trinculo prove interested only in the trashy
insignia of power, while Caliban is dreaming not just the substitution of one
master for another but the annihilation of all authority and all culture, a world
eternally without slaves and clowns.
Moreover, Prospero has been aware of what they plotted from the very
start, only awaiting the proper moment to quash it. By the time he has hunted
them down, however, with dogs called Fury and Tyrant, the whole history
of imperialist America has been prophetically revealed to us in brief parable:1
from the initial act of expropriation through the Indian wars to the setting up
of reservations, and from the beginnings of black slavery to the rst revolts and
evasions. With even more astonishing prescience, The Tempest foreshadows as well
the emergence of that democracy of fugitive white slaves, deprived and cultureless
refugees from a Europe they never owned, which D. H. Lawrence was so bitterly
to describe. And it prophesies, nally, like some inspired piece of science ction
before its time, the revolt against the printed page, the anti-Gutenberg rebellion
for which Marshall McLuhan is currently a chief spokesman.
Thus fallen into history, however, has Shakespeare not also fallen out of
his own myth, for what, after all, has America to do with Apollonius of Tyre,
the guilt of expropriating ex-Europeans with that of incestuous fathers? It is
easy enough to perceive on the literal level of his fable common images which
betrayed Shakespeare from legend to chronicle: the sea voyage itself, for instance,
along with the attendant circumstances of storm and shipwreck and miraculous
salvation. In the most general sense, moreover, both the Old World of Apollonius
and the New World of Caliban are worlds inhabited by terrifying and hostile
strangers, or conversely, ones in which the castaway European feels himself a

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


stranger in a strange land. Indeed, the word strange appears everywhere in The
Tempest, not only in the speeches of the shipwrecked Neapolitans but in the
stage directions as well: strange drowsiness, strange beast, strange music, strange
Shapes, strange stare, strange storyall climaxing in Alonsos description of
Caliban: This is a strange thing as eer I looked on.
These last words are only spoken, however, after Prosperos unknotting of the
web he has woven; before, it is themselves and their plight which the displaced
Europeans nd superlatively strange. And the sense of total alienation stirs in
them not only wonder, and amazement but trouble and torment, too, which
is to say, the pangs of guilt. It is not merely that all of them are in fact guilty of
treachery and usurpation in respect to each other but that having entered so alien
a realm, however inadvertently, they become also guilty, on the metaphorical
level, of rape and miscegenation. They are all, in short, Calibans, for America
was at once virgin and someone elses before they cameand this they dimly
The gure of Caliban, at any rate, casts its shadow upon two utopian visions
at once: that of Montaigne-Gonzalo, on the one hand, and that of ShakespeareProspero, on the other, the dream of a political utopia and the vision of sexuality
redeemed. Inside the skin of every free man, Mark Twain was to observe three
centuries later, there is a slave; and Shakespeare has concurred in advance,
adding, and a monster as well! But all this Prospero has somehow temporarily
forgotten, as the play which Shakespeare let him write movesinexorably, it
seemstoward its intended happy endings.
1. Appropriately enough, one of the hounds pursuing two runaway stave girls
in Harriet Beecher Stowes Uncle Toms Cabin is also called Fury, whether in
tribute to the prescience of Shakespeare (whom Mrs Stowe knew well) or by apt
coincidence it is hard to be sure.

1987Harold Bloom. Introduction, from The Tempest
(Blooms Modern Critical Interpretations)
Harold Bloom (1930 ) is a professor at Yale University. He has
edited dozens of anthologies of literature and literary criticism and is
the author of more than 30 books, including The Western Canon and
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.

The Tempest is not a mystery play, oering a secret insight into human nalities;
act 5 of Hamlet is closer to that. Perhaps The Tempest does turn ironically


The Tempest

upon Shakespeares conscious farewell to his dramatic art, but such an irony
or allegory does not enhance the plays meanings. I sometimes think The
Tempest was the rst signicant drama in which not much happens, beyond its
protagonists abandonment of his scheme of justied revenge precisely when
he has all his enemies in his power. Most explanations of Prosperos refusal to
take revenge reduce to the formulaic observation: Thats the way things turn
out in Shakespeares late romances. Let us move again towards the question:
why does Prospero not gratify himself by fullling his revenge?
The originality of representation in The Tempest embraces only Prospero,
the supernatural Ariel, compounded of re and air, and the preternatural
Caliban, compounded of earth and water. Unlike The Winters Tale, The Tempest
contrives to be a romance of the marvelous without ever being outrageous;
the Shakespearean exuberance expresses itself here by cheerfully discarding any
semblance of a plot.
Prospero, who is almost always sympathetic as Mirandas father, is
dubiously fair to Ariel, and almost too grimly censorious towards the wretched
Caliban. His peculiar severity towards Ferdinand also darkens him. But only
this split, between loving father and puritanical hermeticist, makes Prospero
truly interesting. He does not move our imagination as Ariel does, and Ariel, a
kind of revised Puck, is less original a representation than Caliban is. Caliban
does not run o with the play, as Barnardine does in Measure for Measure, but
he makes us wonder how much humanity Prospero has sacriced in exchange
for hermetic knowledge and wisdom.
Caliban is uncanny to us, in precisely Freuds sense of the uncanny.
Something long estranged from us, yet still familiar, returns from repression in
Caliban. We can be repelled by Calibans degradation and by his deformity, but
like Prospero we have to acknowledge that Caliban is somehow ours, not to be
repudiated. It is not clear to me whether Caliban is meant to be wholly human,
as there is something amphibian about him, and his mother Sycorax, like the
weird sisters in Macbeth, has her preternatural aspects. What is certain is that
Caliban has aesthetic dignity, and that the play is not wholly Prosperos only
because of him. You could replace Ariel by various sprites (though not without
loss), but you would not have The Tempest if you removed Caliban.
Why Shakespeare called the play The Tempest I cannot understand. Perhaps he
should have called it Prospero or even Prospero and Caliban. Though the names of
the actors describes Caliban as a savage and deformed slave, I have never known
any reader or theatergoer who could regard that as an adequate account of what
may be Shakespeares most deeply troubling single representation after Shylock.
Robert Brownings Caliban, in the great monologue Caliban upon Setebos,
seems to me the most remarkable interpretation yet ventured, surpassing all overt
literary criticism, and so I will employ it here as an aid, while yielding to all those

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


who would caution me that Brownings Caliban is not Shakespeares. Yes, but
whose Caliban is?
Prospero forgives his enemies (and evidently will pardon Caliban because
he achieves a complex stance that hovers between the disinterestedness of the
Hamlet of act 5, and a kind of hermetic detachment from his own powers,
perhaps because he sees that even those are dominated by a temporal ebb and
ow. But there is also a subtle sense in which Prospero has been deeply wounded
by his failure to raise up a higher Caliban, even as Caliban is palpably hurt (in
many senses) by Prospero. Their relations, throughout the play, are not less than
dreadful and wound us also, as they seem to have wounded Browning, judging
by his Calibans meditation:
Himself peeped late, eyed Prosper at his books
Careless and lofty, lord now of the isle:
Vexed, stiched a book of broad leaves, arrow-shaped,
Wrote thereon, he knows what, prodigious words;
Has peeled a wand and called it by a name;
Weareth at whiles for an enchanters robe
The eyed skin of a supple oncelot;
And hath an ounce sleeker than youngling mole,
A four-legged serpent he makes cower and couch,
Now snarl, now hold its breath and mind his eye,
And saith she is Miranda and my wife:
Keeps for his Ariel a tall pouch-bill crane
He bids go wade for sh and straight disgorge;
Also a sea-beast, lumpish, which he snared,
Blinded the eyes of, and brought somewhat tame,
And split its toe-webs, and now pens the drudge
In a hole o the rock and calls him Caliban;
A bitter heart that bides its time and bites.
Plays thus at being Prosper in a way,
Taketh his mirth with make-believes: so He.
(ll. 15069)
That lumpish sea-beast, a bitter heart that bides its time and bites, is the
tortured plaything of a sick child, embittered by having been cast out by a foster
father. As a slave, Shakespeares Caliban is rhetorically deant, but his curses are
his only weapon. Since he has not inherited his mothers powers, Calibans curses
are in vain, and yet they have the capacity to provoke Prospero and Miranda, as
in the rst scene where the three appear together:


The Tempest

PROSPERO: Come on,

Well visit Caliban my slave, who never
Yields us kind answer.
MIRANDA: tis a villain, sir,
I do not love to look on.
PROSPERO: But as tis,
We cannot miss him. He does make our re,
Fetch in our wood, and serves in oces
That prot us. What ho! slave! Caliban!
Thou earth, thou! speak.
CALIBAN: (Within.) Theres wood enough within.
PROSPERO: Come forth, I say, theres other business for thee.
Come, thou tortoise, when?
Enter ARIEL like a water-nymph.
Fine apparition! My quaint Ariel,
Hark in thine ear.
ARIEL: My lord, it shall be done. Exit.
PROSPERO: Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself
Upon thy wicked dam, come forth!
CALIBAN: As wicked dew as eer my mother brushd
With ravens feather from unwholesome fen
Drop on you both! A south-west blow on ye,
And blister you all oer!
PROSPERO: For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps,
Side-stitches, that shall pen thy breath up; urchins
Shall, for that vast of night that they may work,
All exercise on thee; thou shalt be pinchd
As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging
Than bees that made em.
CALIBAN: I must eat my dinner.
This islands mine by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takst from me. When thou camst rst,
Thou strokst me and made much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries int, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night; and then I lovd thee
And showd thee all the qualities o th isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile.
Cursd be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century

For I am all the subjects that you have,

Which rst was mine own king; and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o th island.
PROSPERO: Thou most lying slave,
Whom stripes may move, not kindness! I have usd thee
(Filth as thou art) with human care, and lodgd thee
In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate
The honor of my child.
CALIBAN: O ho, O ho, wouldst had been done!
Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else
This isle with Calibans.
MIRANDA: Abhorred 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 endowd thy purposes
With words that made them known. But thy vild race
(Though thou didst learn) had that int which good natures
Could not abide to be with; therefore wast thou
Deservedly connd into this rock,
Who hadst deservd more than a prison.
CALIBAN: You taught me language, and my prot ont
Is, I know how to curse. The red-plague rid you
For learning me your language!
PROSPERO: Hag-seed, hence!
Fetch us in fuel, and be quick, thourt best,
To answer other business. Shrugst thou, malice?
If thou neglectst, or dost unwillingly
What I command, Ill rack thee with old cramps,
Fill all thy bones with aches, make thee roar
That beasts shall tremble at thy din.
CALIBAN: No, pray thee.
[Aside.] I must obey. His art is of such powr,
It would control my dams god, Setebos,
And make a vassal of him.
PROSPERO: So, slave, hence! Exit Caliban.



The Tempest

Is it, as some would say, that our resentment of Prospero and Miranda
here and our sympathy (to a degree) with Caliban, are as irrelevant as
a preference for Shylock over Portia? I do not think so, since Shylock is a
grotesque bogeyman rather than an original representation, while Caliban,
though grotesque, is immensely original. You can New Historicize Caliban
if you wish, but a discourse on Caliban and the Bermudas trade is about as
helpful as a neo-Marxist analysis of Falsta and surplus value, or a Lacanianfeminist exegesis of the dierence between Rosalind and Celia. Calibans
peculiar balance of character and personality is as unique as Falstas and
Rosalinds, though far more dicult to describe. But Prosperos balance also
yields reluctantly to our descriptions, as if more than his white magic is beyond
us. Prospero never loses his anger or sense of outrage in regard to Caliban, and
surely some guilt attaches to the magus, who sought to make Caliban into
what he could not become and then went on punishing Caliban merely for
being himself, Caliban, a man of his own island and its nature, and not at
all a candidate for hermetic transformations. Caliban can be controlled and
chastised by Prosperos magical art, but he is recalcitrant, and holds on to the
strange dignity of being Caliban, although endlessly insulted by everyone who
speaks to him in the play.
Alas, that dignity vanishes in the presence of the jester Trinculo and the
drunken Stephano, with whom Caliban attempts to replace Prospero as master.
The immense puzzle of Shakespeares vision of Caliban is enhanced when the
slaves most beautiful speech comes in the grotesque context of his seeking to
soothe the fears of Trinculo and Stephano which are caused by the music of the
invisible Ariel:
Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That if I then had wakd 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 wakd
I cried to dream again.
This exquisite pathos is Calibans nest moment, and exposes the sensibility
that Prospero presumably hoped to develop, before Calibans attempted rape
of Miranda. The bitterest lines in the play come in Prosperos Jehovah-like
reections upon his fallen creature:

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


A devil, a born devil, on whose nature

Nurture can never stick; on whom my pains,
Humanely taken, all, all lost, quite lost;
And as with age his body uglier grows,
So his mind cankers. I will plague them all,
Even to roaring.
This could be Miltons God, Schoolmaster of Souls, fulminating at the opening
of Paradise Lost, book 3. True, Prospero turns to the rarer action of forgiveness
and promises Caliban he yet will receive pardon and Caliban promises to seek for
grace. Yet Shakespeare was uninterested in dening that grace; he does not even
tell us if Caliban will remain alone on the island in freedom, or whether he is to
accompany Prospero to Milan, a weird prospect for the son of Sycorax. All that
Prospero promises himself in Milan is a retirement where / Every third thought
shall be my grave. We want Caliban to be left behind in what is, after all, his own
place, but Shakespeare neither indulges nor denies our desires. If Prospero is at
last a kind of benign Iago (an impossible oxymoron), then Calibans recalcitrances
nally look like an idiosyncratic rebellion of actor against playwright, creature
against demiurge. A warm monster is dramatically more sympathetic than a
cold magus, but that simplistic dierence does not explain away the enigma of
Caliban. I suspect that Prospero forgives his enemies because he understands,
better than we can, the mystery of time. His magic reduces to what Nietzsche
called the wills revenge against time, and against times it was. Caliban, who
need not fear time, and who hates Prosperos books of magic, perhaps represents
nally times revenge against all those who conjure with books.

1989Meredith Anne Skura. The Case
of Colonialism in The Tempest, from Shakespeare Quarterly
Meredith Anne Skura (1944 ) teaches at Rice University, where she
is the Libbie Shearn Moody Professor of English. Her books include
Shakespeare the Actor and the Purposes of Playing and The Literary Use of the
Psychoanalytic Process.

For many years idealist readings of The Tempest presented Prospero as an exemplar
of timeless human values. They emphasized the way in which his hard-earned
magical powers enable him to re-educate the shipwrecked Italians, to heal their


The Tempest

civil warand, even more important, to triumph over his own vengefulness by
forgiving his enemies; they emphasized the way he achieves, if not a wholly
brave, at least a harmoniously reconciled new world. Within the last few years,
however, numbers of critics have oered remarkably similar critiques of this
reading. There is an essay on The Tempest in each of three recent anthologies of
alternative, political, and reproduced Shakespeare criticism, and another in the
volume on estranging Renaissance criticism; The Tempest was a focus for the 1988
SAA session on Shakespeare and Colonialism and was one of the masthead
plays in the Folger Institutes 1988 seminar on new directions in Shakespeare
studies.1 Together, the revisionists call for a move to counteract some deeply
ahistorical readings of The Tempest,2 a play that is now seen to be not simply
an allegory about timeless3 or universal experience but rather a cultural
phenomenon that has its origin in and eect on historical events, specically in
English colonialism. New historicist criticism in general, of which much recent
work on The Tempest is a part, has itself begun to come under scrutiny, but the
numerous historical reinterpretations of The Tempest deserve closer attention in
their own right,4 and they will be the subject of the rest of this essay.
In assessing the new historicist version of the play, it is important to realize
that here, even more than in other new historical criticism, an historical emphasis
in itself is not new. Since the early nineteenth century The Tempest has been
seen in the historical context of the New World, and Frank Kermode, citing the
early scholars, argued in the fties that reports of a particular episode in British
eorts to colonize North America had precipitated the plays major themes.5 In
1609 nine ships had left England to settle the colony in Jamestown, Virginia,
and the Sea Venture, carrying all of the colonial ocers, had disappeared. But its
passengers reappeared in Virginia one year later, miraculously saved; they had
wrecked o the Bermudas, until then believed demonically dangerous but now
found to be providentially mild and fruitful. These events, much in the news in
the year just preceding The Tempest, have long been seen as a relevant context
for the play by all but a very few critics.6 These earlier historical interpretations
generally placed the play and its immediate source in the context of voyaging
discourse in general, which stressed the romance and exoticism of discoveries in
the Old as well as the New World. Even the factual reports in this discourse,
as Charles Frey notes, were themselves colored by the romance of the situation,
for better and for worse; and the traditional view was that The Tempests stylized
allegory abstracts the romance core of all voyagers experience.7
Nor had traditional criticism entirely ignored either Prosperos aws8
or their relation to the dark side of Europes confrontation with the Other.
Kermode had identied Caliban as the core or ground of the play, insofar as
confrontation with this strange representative of uncivilized man prompts the
plays reexamination of civilized human nature. Harry Levin, Leslie Fiedler,
Leo Marx, and others had suggested that in trying to understand the New World

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


representatives of uncivilized human nature, Prospero, like other Europeans,

had imposed Old (and New) World stereotypes of innocence and monstrosity
on the Native Americans, distorting perception with hope and fear.9 Fiedlers
landmark book had indeed placed The Tempest suggestively in the context of a
series of plays about the Other (or, as he called it in 1972, the Stranger) in
Shakespeare, showing Calibans resemblance to the demonized women, Moors,
and Jews in the canon. O. Mannoni had added that, in this process, Prospero
displayed the psychology of colonials who projected their disowned traits onto
New World natives.10
Why, then, so many recent articles? In part they are simply shifting the
emphasis. Revisionists claim that the New World material is not just present
but is right at the center of the play, and that it demands far more attention
than critics have been willing to grant it. They argue that the civil war in Milan
that had ousted Prospero should be recognized as merely an episode in a minor
dispute between Italian dynasties, of little import compared to the transatlantic
action;11 they show how the love story can be seen as a political maneuver by
Prospero to ensure his return to power in Milan,12 and how even Calibans
attempted rape of Miranda can be seen as an expression not merely of sexual but
also of territorial lust, understandable in its context.13
These recent critics are not simply repeating the older ones, however; they
are making important distinctions. First and most explicitly, they are not
calling attention to history in general but rather to one aspect of history: to
power relations and to the ideology in which power relations are encoded.14
The revisionists look not at the New World material in the play but to the
plays eect on power relations in the New World. What matters is not just the
particular Bermuda pamphlets actually echoed in the play but rather the whole
ensemble of ctional and lived practices known as English colonialism,
which, it is now being claimed, provides the dominant discursive con-texts15
for the play. (Though the term colonialism may allude to the entire spectrum
of New World activity, in these articles it most often refers specically to
the use of power, to the Europeans exploitative and self-justifying treatment
of the New World and its inhabitantsand I shall use it in that sense.) If
Caliban is the center of the play, it is not because of his role in the plays
self-contained structure, and not even because of what he reveals about mans
timeless tendency to demonize strangers, but because Europeans were at that
time exploiting the real Calibans of the world, and The Tempest was part of
the process. It is no longer enough to suggest that Europeans were trying to
make sense of the Indian; rather, the emphasis is now on the way Europeans
subdued the Indian to make sense/order/moneynot of him, so much as
out of him.16 Revisionists argue that when the English talked about these
New World inhabitants, they did not just innocently apply stereotypes or
project their own fears: they did so to a particular eect, whether wittingly


The Tempest

or unwittingly. The various distortions were discursive strategies that served

the political purpose of making the New World t into a schema justifying
colonialism.17 Revisionists therefore emphasize the discursive strategies that
the play shares with all colonial discourse, and the ways in which The Tempest
itself not only displays prejudice but fosters and even enacts colonialism by
mystifying or justifying Prosperos power over Caliban.18 The new point is that
The Tempest is a political act.
Second, this shift in our attitude toward the object of interpretation entails
a less explicit but extremely important move away from the psychological
interpretation that had previously seemed appropriate for the play (even to its
detractors) largely because of its central gure who, so like Shakespeare, runs the
show. Where earlier criticism of Prospero talked about his prejudice, the more
recent revisionists talk about power and euphemisation. Thus, a critic writing
in 1980 argued that The Tempests allegorical and neoplatonic overlay masks
some of the most damaging prejudices of Western civilization;19 but by 1987
the formulation had changed: The Tempest is . . . fully implicated in the process of
euphemisation, the eacement of power, in operations [that] encode struggle
and contradiction even as they, or because they, strive to insist on the legitimacy
of colonialist narrative.20
Psychological criticism of the play is seen as distracting at best; one recent
critic, for example, opens his argument by claiming that we need to conceive The
Tempest in an historical context that is not hamstrung by specious speculations
concerning Shakespeares mind.21 Even in less polemical examples the
political unconscious often replaces, rather than supplements, any other
unconscious; attention to culture and politics is associated with an implicit
questioning of individuality and of subjective experience. Such a stance extends
beyond an objection to wholesale projections of twentieth-century assumptions
onto sixteenth-century subjects, or to psychological interpretations that totally
ignore the cultural context in which psyches exist. As Frederick Jameson argued
in a work that lies behind many of these specic studies, it derives from the
desire to transcend personal psychology altogether, because Freuds psychology
remains locked into the category of the individual subject.22 The emphasis
now is on psychology as a product of culture, itself a political structure; the
very concept of a psyche is seen to be a product of the cultural nexus evolved
during the Renaissance, and indeed, psychoanalysis itself, rather than being
a way of understanding the Renaissance psyche, is a marginal and belated
creation of this same nexus.23 Thus the revisionists, with Jameson, may look
for a political unconscious and make use of Freuds insights into the logic
of dreams 24the concepts of displacement, condensation, the management
of desire 25but they do not accept Freuds assumptions about the mindor
the subjectcreating that logic.26 The agent who displaces or manages is not
the individual but the collective or associative mind; at times it seems to be the

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


text itself, seen as a libidinal apparatus or desiring machine27 independent

of any individual creator.
The revisionist impulse has been one of the most salutary in recent years
in correcting New Critical blindness to history and ideology. In particular
it has revealed the ways in which the play has been reproduced and drafted
into the service of colonialist politics from the nineteenth century through G.
Wilson Knights twentieth-century celebration of Prospero as representative of
Englands colonizing, especially her will to raise savage peoples from superstition
and blood-sacrice, taboos and witchcraft and the attendant fears and slaveries,
to a more enlightened existence.28 But here, as critics have been suggesting
about new historicism in general, it is now in danger of fostering blindness of
its own. Granted that something was wrong with a commentary that focused on
The Tempest as a self-contained project of a self-contained individual and that
ignored the political situation in 1611. But something seems wrong now also,
something more than the rhetorical excesses characteristic of any innovative
critical movement. The recent criticism not only attens the text into the mold of
colonialist discourse and eliminates what is characteristically Shakespearean in
order to foreground what is colonialist, but it is alsoparadoxicallyin danger
of taking the play further from the particular historical situation in England in
1611 even as it brings it closer to what we mean by colonialism today.
It is dicult to extrapolate back from G. Wilson Knights colonialist
discourse to seventeenth-century colonialist discourse without knowing more
about the particulars of that earlier discourse. What is missing from the recent
articles is the connection between the new insights about cultural phenomena
like power and elds of discourse and the traditional insights about the text, its
immediate sources, its individual authorand his individual psychology. There is
little sense of how discourse is related to the individual who was creating, even
as he was participating in, that discourse. The following discussion will suggest
how such a relation might be conceived. Sections I and II briey elaborate on
The Tempests versions of problems raised by new historicist treatment of the text
and its relation to the historical context; sections III and IV go on to suggest
that the recognition of the individuality of the play, and of Shakespeare, does not
counter but rather enriches the understanding of that context. Perhaps by testing
individual cases, we can avoid the circularity of a denition that assumes that
colonialism was present in a given group of texts, and so discovers it there.

How do we know that The Tempest enacts colonialism rather than merely alluding
to the New World? How do we know that Caliban is part of the discourse of
colonialism? To ask such a question may seem perversely naive, but the play is
notoriously slippery. There have been, for example, any number of interpretations
of Caliban,29 including not only contemporary post-colonial versions in which


The Tempest

Caliban is a Virginian Indian but also others in which Caliban is played as a

black slave or as missing link (in a costume half monkey, half coco-nut30),
with the interpretation drawing on the issues that were being debated at the
timeon the discursive contexts that were culturally operativeand articulated
according to changing Anglo-American attitudes toward primitive man.31
Most recently one teacher has suggested that The Tempest is a good play to teach
in junior colleges because students can identify with Caliban.
Interpretation is made even more problematic here because, despite the
claims about the plays intervention in English colonialism,32 we have no external
evidence that seventeenth-century audiences thought the play referred to the
New World. In an age when real voyages were read allegorically, the status of
allegorical voyages like Prosperos can be doubly ambiguous, especially in a
play like The Tempest, which provides an encyclopedic context for Prosperos
experience, presenting it in terms of an extraordinary range of classical, biblical,
and romantic exiles, discoveries, and confrontations.33 Evidence for the plays
original reception is of course extraordinarily dicult to nd, but in the two
nearly contemporary responses to Caliban that we do know about, the evidence
for a colonialist response is at best ambiguous. In Bartholomew Fair (1614)
Jonson refers scornfully to a servant-monster, and the Folio identies Caliban
as a salvage and deformed slave34 in the cast list. Both monster and salvage
are rmly rooted in the discourse of Old World wild men, though the latter
was of course also applied to the New World natives. In other words, these two
seventeenth-century responses tend to invoke the universal and not the particular
implications of Calibans condition. A recent study of the plays history suggests
that if Shakespeare, however obliquely, meant Caliban to personify Americas
natives, his intention apparently miscarried almost completely.35
Despite this lack of contemporary testimony, the obvious reason for our
feeling that the play is colonialistmore so than The Winters Tale or Henry
VIII, for example, which were written at roughly the same timeis, of course,
the literal resemblance between its plot and certain events and attitudes in
English colonial history: Europeans arrive in the New World and assume they
can appropriate what properly belongs to the New World Other, who is then
erased. The similarities are clear and compellingmore so than in many cases
of new historical readings; the problem, however, is that while there are also
many literal dierences between The Tempest and colonialist ctions and practice,
the similarities are taken to be so compelling that the dierences are ignored.
Thus Caliban is taken to be a Native American despite the fact that a multitude
of details dierentiate Caliban from the Indian as he appeared in the travelers
reports from the New World.36 Yet it does seem signicant that, despite his
closeness to nature, his naivet, his devil worship, his susceptibility to European
liquor, and, above all, his treacherycharacteristics associated in writings
of the time with the Indianshe nonetheless lacks almost all of the dening

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


external traits in the many reports from the New Worldno superhuman
physique, no nakedness or animal skin (indeed, an English gaberdine instead),
no decorative feathers,37 no arrows, no pipe, no tobacco, no body paint, andas
Shakespeare takes pains to emphasizeno love of trinkets and trash. No one
could mistake him for the stereotyped Indian with a great tool, mentioned in
passing in Henry VIII. Caliban in fact is more like the devils Strachey expected to
nd on the Bermuda island (but didnt) than like the Indians whom adventurers
did nd in Virginia, though he is not wholly a monster from the explorers wild
tales either.38
In other ways, too, it is assumed that the similarities matter but the dierences
do not: thus Prosperos magic occupies the space really inhabited in colonial history
by gunpowder39 (emphasis mine); or, when Prospero has Caliban pinched by the
spirits, he shows a similar sadism to that of the Haitian masters who roasted
slaves or buried them alive;40 or, when Prospero and Ariel hunt Caliban with
spirit dogs, they are equated to the Spaniards who hunted Native Americans with
dogs.41 So long as there is a core of resemblance, the dierences are irrelevant.
The dierences, in fact, are themselves taken to be evidence of the colonialist
ideology at work, rationalizing and euphemizing poweror else inadvertent
slips. Thus the case for colonialism becomes stronger insofar as Prospero is good
and insofar as Caliban is in some ways badhe did try to rape Mirandaor is
himself now caught trying to falsify the past by occluding the rape and presenting
himself as an innocent victim of Prosperos tyranny. Prosperos goodness and
Calibans badness are called rationalizations, justications for Prosperos tyranny.
Nor does it matter that the play seems anti-colonialist to the degree that it
qualies Prosperos scorn by showing Calibans virtues, or that Prospero seems to
achieve some kind of transcendence over his own colonialism when at the end
of the play he says, This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.42 Prosperos
acknowledgement of Caliban is considered a mistake, a moment of inadvertent
sympathy or truth, too brief to counter Prosperos underlying colonialism: in
spite of the deceptively resonant poetry of his acknowledgement, Prospero
actually does nothing to live up to the meaning which that poetry suggests;43 it
has even been argued that Prospero, in calling Caliban mine, is simply claiming
possession of him: It is as though, after a public disturbance, a slaveowner said,
Those two men are yours; this darkies mine.44
Nonetheless, in addition to these dierences that have been seen as
rationalizations, there are many other dierences as well that collectively
raise questions about what counts as colonialist discourse and about what, if
anything, might count as a relevant dierence. Thus, for example, any attempt
to cast Prospero and Caliban as actors in the typical colonial narrative (in which a
European exploits a previously freeindeed a reigningnative of an unspoiled
world) is complicated by two other characters, Sycorax and Ariel. Sycorax,
Calibans mother, through whom he claims possession of the island, was not only


The Tempest

a witch and a criminal, but she came from the Old World herself, or at least from
eastern-hemisphere Argier.45 She is a reminder that Caliban is only half-native,
that his claim to the island is less like the claim of the Native American than the
claim of the second generation Spaniard in the New World.46 Moreover, Caliban
was not alone when Prospero arrived. Ariel either came to the island with Sycorax
or was already living on the islandits true reigning lord47when Sycorax
arrived and promptly enslaved him, thus herself becoming the rst colonialist,
the one who established the habits of dominance and erasure before Prospero
ever set foot on the island. Nearly all revisionists note some of these dierences
before disregarding them, though they are not agreed on their signicanceon
whether they are symptoms of ideological conict in the discourse, for example,
or whether Shakespeares insights exceeded his sympathies.48 But however
they are explained, the dierences are discarded. For the critic interested only in
counteracting earlier blindness to potentially racist and ideological elements in
the play, such ignoring of dierences is understandable; for his or her purposes,
it is enough to point out that The Tempest has a political unconscious and is
connected in some way to colonialist discourse without specifying further.
But if the object is, rather, to understand colonialism, instead of simply
identifying it or condemning it, it is important to specify, to notice how the
colonial elements are rationalized or integrated into the plays vision of the
world. Otherwise, extracting the plays political unconscious leads to the same
problems Freud faced at the beginning of his career when he treated the
personal unconscious as an independent entity that should be almost surgically
extracted from conscious discourse by hypnotizing away the defenses. But, as
is well known, Freud found that the conscious defenses were as essentialand
problematicas the supposedly prior unconscious wish, and that they served
purposes other than containment.49 Indeed, in most psychoanalytic practice
since Freud, the unconsciousor, rather, unconscious mentationis assumed to
exist in texts rather than existing as a reied id, and interpretation must always
return to the text.
As in the case of the personal unconscious, the political unconscious exists
only in texts, whose defenses or rationalizations must be taken into account.
Otherwise interpretation not only destroys the texthere The Tempestas a
unique work of art and attens it into one more example of the master plotor
master ployin colonialist discourse; it also destroys the evidence of the play as
a unique cultural artifact, a unique voice in that discourse. Colonialist discourse
was varied enough to escape any simple formulation, even in a group of texts with
apparent thematic links. It ranged from the lived Spanish colonialist practice of
hunting New World natives with dogs to Bartholomew Las Casass factual
account lamenting and exposing the viciousness of that hunt,50 to Shakespeares
possible allusion to it in The Tempest, when Prospero and Ariel set spirit dogs
on Caliban, to a still earlier Shakespearean allusionor possible allusionin

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


the otherwise non-colonialist A Midsummer Nights Dream, when Puck (who

has come from India himself ) chases Greek rude mechanicals with illusory
animals in a scene evoking an entirely English conict. The same colonialist
hunt informs radically dierent ctions and practices, some of which enact
colonialism, some of which subvert it, and some of which require other categories
entirely to characterize its eect.
It is not easy to categorize the several links between The Tempest and colonialist
discourse. Take the deceptively simple example of Calibans name. Revisionists
rightly emphasize the implications of the cannibal stereotype as automatic mark
of Other in Western ethnocentric colonialist discourse,51 and, since Shakespeares
name for Caliban is widely accepted as an anagram of cannibal, many read the
play as if he were a cannibal, with all that the term implies. But an anagram is not
a cannibal, and Shakespeares use of the stereotype is hardly automatic.52 Caliban
is no cannibalhe barely touches meat, conning himself more delicately to
roots, berries, and an occasional sh; indeed, his symbiotic harmony with the
islands natural food resources is one of his most attractive traits. His name seems
more like a mockery of stereotypes than a mark of monstrosity, and in our haste
to conrm the link between cannibal and Indian outside the text, we lose
track of the way in which Caliban severs the link within the text.53 While no one
would deny some relation between Caliban and the New World natives to whom
such terms as cannibal were applied, what that relation is remains unclear.
To enumerate dierences between The Tempest and colonialist discourse is
not to reduce discussion of the play to a counting contest, pitting similarities
against dierences. Rather, it is to suggest that inherent in any analysis of the
play as colonialist discourse is a particular assumption about the relation between
text and discoursebetween one mans ction and a collective ctionor,
perhaps, between one mans ction and what we take for reality. This relation
matters not only to New Critics trying to isolate texts from contexts but to
new historicists (or just plain historicists) trying to put them back together. The
relation is also vital to lived practices like censorship and inquisitionsand there
are dierences of opinion about what counts in these cases. Such dierences need
to be acknowledged and examined, and the method for reading them needs to be
made more explicit before the implications of The Tempest as colonialist discourse
can be fully understood.

Similar problems beset the denition of the discourse itself, the means of
identifying the ctionaland the livedpractices constituting English
colonialism in 1611. Given the impact of English colonialism over the last
350 years, it may again seem perversely naive to ask what colonialist discourse
was like in 1611, as opposed to colonialism in 1911 or even in 1625, the year
when Samuel Purchas asked, alluding to the treachery of the Virginian


The Tempest

Indians, Can a Leopard change his spots? Can a Savage remayning a Savage
be civill? Purchas added this comment when he published the 1610 document
that Shakespeare had used as his source for The Tempest, and Purchas has been
cited as an example of colonialist discourse.54 Purchas does indeed display the
particular combination of exploitative motives and self-justifying rhetoricthe
eacement of power55that revisionists identify as colonialist and which they
nd in The Tempest. But, one might reasonably ask, was the discursive context in
1611, when Shakespeare was writing, the same as it would be fourteen years later,
when Purchas added his marginal comment?56
There seems, rather, to have been in 1611 a variety of what we might call
New World discourses with multiple points of view, motives, and eects,
among which such comments as Purchass are not as common as the revisionist
emphasis implies. These are colonialist only in the most general sense in which
all ethnocentric cultures are always colonialist: narcissistically pursuing their
own ends, oblivious to the desires, needs, and even the existence of the Other.
That is, if this New World discourse is colonialist, it is so primarily in that it
ignores Indians, betraying its Eurocentric assumptions about the irrelevance of any
people other than white, male, upper-class Europeans, preferably from England.
It thus expresses not an historically specic but a timeless and universal attitude
toward the stranger, which Fiedler described in so many of Shakespeares plays.
We might see this discourse as a precondition57 for colonialism proper, which
was to follow with the literal rather than the gurative colonizing of New World
natives. But to assume that colonialism was already encoded in the anomalous
situation in 1611 is to undermine the revisionist eort to understand the
historical specicity of the moment when Shakespeare wrote The Tempest.
It is not easy to characterize the situation in 1611. On the one hand, Spain
had long been engaged in the sort of colonialist discourse that revisionists
nd in The Tempest; and even in England at the time there were examples of
colonialist discourse (in the rhetoric, if not yet often in the lived practices)
produced by those directly involved in the colonialist project and expecting to
prot from it. The ocial advertisements in the rst rush of enthusiasm about
Virginia, as well as the stream of defenses when the Virginia project began to
fail, often have a euphemistic ring and often do suggest a fundamental greed
and implicit racism beneath claims to be securing the earthly and spiritual wellbeing of the Virginia natives.58 ([We] doe buy of them the pearles of earth, and
sell to them the pearles of heauen.59) These documents eace not only power
but most practical problems as well, and they were supplemented by sermons
romanticizing hardships as divine tribulation.60 Scattered throughout this
discourse are righteous defenses of taking land from the Indians, much in the
spiritand toneof Rabbi Zeal-of-the-Land Busy defending his need to eat
pig. (This was also the tone familiar from the anti-theatrical criticsand, indeed,

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


occasional colonialist sermons included snipes at the Plaiers, along with the
Devil and the papists, as particular enemies of the Virginia venture.61)
On the other hand, even in these documents not only is the emphasis
elsewhere but often there are important contradictory movements. For example,
A True Declaration, the ocial record of the Bermuda wreck, refers once to the
Indians as humane beasts and devotes one paragraph of its twenty-four pages to
the greedy Vulture Powhattan and his ambush. It notes elsewhere, however, that
some of the English settlers themselves had created the Indians our implacable
enemies by some violence they had oered, and it actually spends far more time
attacking the lazy scum of men among the settlers, who had undermined the
colony from within, than demonizing the less relevant Indians.62
And on the whole, the exploitative and self-justifying rhetoric is only one
element in a complex New World discourse. For much of the time, in fact, the
main conict in the New World was not between whites and Native Americans
but between Spain and England. Voyages like Drakes (157780) were motivated
by this international conict, as well as by the romance of discovery and the lure
of treasurebut not by colonizing.63 Even when Raleigh received the rst patent
to settle and trade with the New World (1584), necessitating more extended
contact with Native Americans, the temporary settlements he started in the
1580s were largely tokens in his play for fame and wealth rather than attempts
to take over sizable portions of land from the natives.64
Only when the war with Spain was over (1604) and ships were free again did
colonization really begin; and then America and Virginia were on everyones
lips.65 But this New World discourse still reects little interest in its inhabitants.
Other issues are much more widely discussed. For example, what would the New
World government be like? Would James try to extend his authoritarianism to
America? Could he? This was the issue, for example, most energizing Henry
Wriothesley, Shakespeares Southampton, who led the Patriot faction on the
London Virginia Council, pushing for more American independence.66 (As
for Jamess own colonial discourse, it seems to have been devoted to worries
about how it would all aect his relations with Spain,67 and to requests for
ying squirrels and other New World toyes.68) Of more immediate interest,
perhaps, to the mass of real or armchair adventurers were the reports of New
World wealth that at rst made Virginia known as a haven for bankrupts
and spendthrifts, as well as for wild dreamersfollowed by the accounts of
starvation, rebellion, and hardship brought back by those who had escaped
from the reality of colonial existence. Now the issue became Is it worth it?
The ocial propaganda, optimistic about future prots, was soon countered by a
backlash from less optimistic scoers challenging the value of the entire project,
one which sent money, men, and ships to frequent destruction and brought back
almost no prot.69


The Tempest

Even the settlers actually living with the natives in the New World itself
werefor entirely non-altruistic reasonsnot yet fully engaged in colonialist
discourse as dened by revisionists. In 1611 they had not managed to establish
enough power to euphemize; they had little to be defensive about. They were
too busy ghting mutiny, disease, and the stupidities of the London Council
to have much energy left over for Indians. It is true that no writer ever treated
Native Americans as equalsany more than he treated Moors, Jews, Catholics,
peasants, women, Irishmen, or even Frenchmen as equals; travellers complacently
recorded kidnapping natives to exhibit in England, as if the natives had no rights
at all.70 And it is true that some of their descriptions are distorted by Old World
stereotypes of wild men or cannibalsthough these descriptions are often
conned to earlier pre-colonial explorers reports.71 Or, far more insidiously, the
descriptions were distorted by stereotypes of unfallen innocent noble savages
stereotypes that inevitably led to disillusionment when the settlers had to realize
that the Indians, like the land itself, were not going to fulll their dreams of
a golden world made expressly to nurture Englishmen. The noble savage
stereotype thus fueled the recurring accusation of Indian treachery, a response to
betrayal of settlers fantasies as well as to any real Indian betrayal,72 and one to
which I will return in discussing The Tempest.
But, given the universality of racial prejudice towards New World natives
along with all Others, in this early period the movement was to loosen, not
to consolidate, the prejudices brought from the Old World. The descriptions
of these extended face-to-face encounters with Native Americans were perhaps
even more varied than contemporary responses to Moors and Jews, who were
usually encountered on the white mans own territory, where exposure could
be limited and controlled. The very terms imported from the Old World
to name the nativessavages or naturalsbegan to lose their original
connotations as the diering descriptions multiplied and even contradicted
themselves. The reports range from Harriots widely republished attempt at
scientic, objective reporting (1588), which viewed natives with great respect,
to Smiths less reliable adventure stories (160831), disputed even in his own
time by Purchas. And although these do not by any means live up to our
standards for non-colonialist discourse, their typical attitude is a wary, often
patronizing, but live-and-let-live curiosity, rather than the exploitative erasure
which would later become the mark of colonialist discourse. So long as the
conicts remained minimal, Native Americans were seen as beings like the
writers;73 further, tribes were distinguished from one another, and recognition
was granted to their dierent forms of government, class structure, dress codes,
religion, and language.74 And when conict did trigger the recurring accusation
of treachery, the writers never presented the Indians as laughable Calibans,
but rather as capable, indeed formidable, enemies whose skill and intelligence
challenged that of the settlers.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


Horrors had already been perpetrated by the Spanish in the name of

colonialism; not learning from theseor perhaps learning all too wellthe
English would soon begin perpetrating their own. But that lay in the future.
When The Tempest was written, what the New World seems to have meant for
the majority of Englishmen was a sense of possibility and a set of conicting
fantasies about the wonders to be found there; these were perhaps the
preconditions for colonialismas for much elsebut not yet the thing itself.
To place colonialist discourse as precisely as possible within a given moment
(like stressing the dierences between The Tempest and colonialist discourse) is
not to reduce the discussion to a numbers game. What is at stake here is not
a quibble about chronology but an assumption about what we mean by the
relevant discursive context, about how we agree to determine it, and about how
we decide to limit it. Here too there are dierences of opinion about what counts,
and these dierences need to be acknowledged, examined, and accounted for.

My point in specifying Shakespeares precise literal and temporal relation
to colonialist discoursein specifying the unique mind through which the
discourse is mediatedis not to deny that the play has any relation to its context
but to suggest that the relation is problematic. In the eort to identify Caliban
as one more colonialist representation of the Other, we fail to notice how
remarkable it is that such a Caliban should exist. In 1611 there were in England
no literary portrayals of New World inhabitants and certainly no ctional
examples of colonialist discourse.75 Insofar as The Tempest does in some way
allude to an encounter with a New World native (and I will for the remainder of
this essay accept this premise), it is the very rst work of literature to do so. There
may be Indians, more or less demonized, in the nonliterary discourse. Outside
of Shakespeare, however, there would be none in literature until two years after
The Tempest, when they began to appearfeathers and allin masques.76 And
Shakespeare went out of his way to invent Caliban: Stracheys account of the
wreck on the uninhabited Bermuda islandsShakespeares main New World
sourcecontains, of course, no island natives.77 For these Shakespeare had to
turn elsewhere in Strachey and in others who described the mainland colony in
Virginia. Shakespeare was the rst to show one of us mistreating a native, the
rst to represent a native from the inside, the rst to allow a native to complain
on stage, and the rst to make that New World encounter problematic enough
to generate the current attention to the play.
To argue for Shakespeares uniqueness is not to argue that as ction The
Tempest is above politics, or that as a writer of ction Shakespeare transcended
ideology. It does imply, however, that if the play is colonialist, it must be seen as
prophetic rather than descriptive.78 As such, the plays status immediately raises
important questions. Why was Shakespearea man who had no direct stake in


The Tempest

colonizationthe rst writer of ction to portray New World inhabitants? Why

then? Shakespeare had shown no signs of interest in the New World until The
Tempest, despite the fact that there had been some colonial activity and some
colonialist rhetoric for several years among those who did have a stake in it. How
did the colonialist phenomenon spread?
To hasten over Shakespeares relation to colonialism as if it were not a
question but a conclusion is to lose one of the most important bits of data we
may ever have about how such things as colonialismand discoursework.
Problematic as it may be to speculate about an individual mind, it is even more
problematic to speculate about the discourse of an entire nation or an entire
period. One way to give substance to such large generalizations is to trace, in as
much detail as may be available, the particulars on which they are based. Here
the particulars include the individuals who produced, as well as reproduced,
the larger cultural discourseespecially individuals like Shakespeare, who,
more than almost any other, both absorbed and shaped the various conicting
discourses of the period.
To do this, as I have been arguing, it is necessary to consider the entire
play, without deciding prematurely what is only a distortion or only an
irrelevance. In addition, however, we must also look to a context for The
Tempest that is as relevant as colonialist discourse and perhaps even more
essential to the presence of colonialism in The Tempest in the rst placethat
is, to the context of Shakespeares own earlier discourse. Only then can we
see how the two elds of discourse intersect. In making use of the New World
vocabulary and imagery, Shakespeare was in part describing something much
closer to homeas was Jonson when he called the London brothel district the
Bermudas,79 or as would Donne when he found his America, his new founde
land, in the arms of his mistress. Or as was Dudley Carleton in a gossipy letter
from London about Lord Salisbury enduring a tempest of reproof from a
lady; or Sir Ralph Winwood in trying to begin a new world by setting himself
and his wife here at home.80
Long before writing The Tempest, Shakespeare had written another play about
a ruler who preferred his books to government. Navarres academy in Loves
Labors Lost was no island, but, like an island, it was supposed to be isolated
from territorial negotiations. And Navarre, oblivious to colonial issues, though
certainly not exempt from timeless aristocratic prejudice, brought his own
version of Ariel and Caliban by inviting Armado and Costard to join him. Like
Prospero, he asked his Ariel to make a pageant for him, and he imprisoned his
Caliban for trying to do a wench. His relation to the two is not a matter of
colonization but rather of condescension and ironic recognition, as Navarre is
forced to see something of himself in the conict between ery Armados overactive imagination and earthy Costards lust.81 Only much later did this pattern
come to be colonial.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


The Tempest is linked in many other ways not only to Loves Labors Lost but
also to the rest of the canon, as continued eorts of critics have shown,82 and it is
revealing to see how, in each case, the non-colonial structures become associated
with colonialist discourse. Indeed, the very details of The Tempest that revisionists
see as marking the nodal point of the plays imbrication into this discourse of
colonialism83 are reworkings of similar moments in earlier and seemingly precolonial plays. The moment I will focus on for the rest of this paper is the one
that many revisionists take as the strongest evidence in the play for the falseness
of Prosperos positionthe moment when the hidden colonialist project emerges
openly,84 when the political unconscious is exposed.85 It occurs when Calibans
plot interrupts the pageant Prospero is staging for Ferdinand and Miranda, and
Prospero is so enraged that Miranda says she has never seen him so angry. The
explanation, it has been suggested, is that if psychology matters at all, Prosperos
anger here, like his anger earlier when Caliban tried to rape Miranda, derives
from the politics of colonialism. It reveals Prosperos political disquiet at the
irruption into consciousness of an unconscious anxiety concerning the grounding
of his legitimacy on the island.86
But the dramatic context counters the assumption that politics is primary
in this episode. Like Caliban, Prospero diers in signicant ways from the
stereotyped real life characters in colonial political drama. Unlike the singleminded colonial invader, Prospero is both an exile and a father; and the action
of the play is initiated when both these roles are newly activated by the arrival
of Prosperos old enemies, those who had exiled him as well as his daughters
husband-to-be. At the moment of Prosperos eruption into anger, he has just
bestowed Miranda on his enemys son Ferdinand87 and is in the midst of
presenting his pageant as a wedding gift, wrapped in a three-fold warning about
chastity.88 If Prospero is to pass on his heritage to the next generation, he must
at this moment repress his desire for power and for revenge at home, as well as
any sexual desire he feels toward Miranda.89 Both desires are easily projected
onto the shily phallic Caliban, a walking version of Prosperos own thing of
darkness. Not only has Caliban already tried to rape Miranda; he is now out to
kill Prospero so that he can turn Miranda over to Stephano (she will give thee
brave brood); and Caliban does not even feel guilty. Calibans function as a
walking screen for projection may help explain why Calibans sin does not consist
in cannibalism, to which, one assumes, Prospero was never tempted, but rather in
Prosperos own repressed fantasies of omnipotence and lust.90 Of course Prospero
is also angry that Caliban is now threatening both his authority on the island and
his justication of that authority; but the extraordinary intensity of Prosperos
rage suggests a conjunction of psychological as well as political passion.
This conjunction of the psychological and the political not only appears
here in The Tempest but also characterizes a surprising number of Prospero-like
characters in Shakespeares earlier plays who provide a suggestive context for The


The Tempest

Tempest. All through the canon one nds characters who escape from active lives
to some kind of pastoral retreat, who step aside from power and aggressionand
usually from sexuality as welland from all the forbidden fantasies in which
these are enacted. But while each adopts a disinterested stance, as if having
retired behind the scenes, each sees life as a play and manipulates others still on
stage in a way that suggests a fascination with what he has rejected and assigned
to the Others. And each of these has his Caliban and his moment of sudden,
irrational anger when his Caliban threatens to overstep the limits dening him
as other and separating him from Prospero. At this moment of confrontation,
boundaries threaten to disappear and hierarchies are menaced. And in each of the
earlier plays, this moment is indicative of inner conict, as the earlier Prospero
gure confronts someone who often has neither property nor power to colonize,
and whose threat is largely symbolic. In all these plays Shakespeare is dealing not
just with power relations but also with the psychology of domination, with the
complicated ways in which personal psychology interacts with political power.
As early as the mid-1590s, two gures show some resemblance to Prospero.
Antonio, the merchant of Venice, sees the world as A stage where every man
must play a part, / And mine a sad one (1.1.7879). Almost eagerly accepting his
passive lot, he claims to renounce both prot and love. But, as Marianne Novy
suggests, a repressed self-assertion is hinted at in the passive/aggressive claims
he makes on Bassanio and comes out clearly when he lashes out at the greedy
and self-assertive Shylock with a viciousness like Prosperos toward Caliban, a
viciousness he shows nowhere else.91 He admits calling the Jew a dog and says,
I am as like to call thee so again,
To spet on thee again. . . . (1.3.13031)92
A related and similarly problematic exchange occurs in the Henry IV plays,
written a year or so later, where role-playing Prince Hal, during his temporary
retreat from power, had found a version of pastoral in Falsta s tavern. After
reclaiming his throne, when he nds that Falsta has also come from the tavern
to claim a role in the new kingdom, Hal suddenly repudiates Falsta with a
cruelty as cold as Prosperos anger at Calibanand equally excessive: I know
thee not, old man. In both these cases, though the resemblance to Prospero is
clear, the relation to an historically specic colonialism is hard to establish.
Then in As You Like It (1599) and Measure for Measure (1604) come the two
exiled or self-exiled Dukes who leave homeone to usurp the deer in the forest
(2.1.2128), the other to usurp the beggary in the Vienna streets (3.2.93)and
who most resemble Prospero. Duke Senior in As You Like It is banished to the
pastoral forest of Arden, where he professes himself utterly content to live a life
notable for the absence of both power and women (a woeful pageant, he calls
it cheerfully [2.7.138]). He is saved from having to ght for power when his evil

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


brother (unlike the one in Shakespeares source) conveniently repents and hands
back the dukedom; but an ambivalence about sexuality is at least suggested when
this mildest of men lashes out at Jaques, precisely when Jaques returns from
melancholy withdrawal and claims the fools license to satirize societys illsto
cleanse the foul body of the infected world.93 Fie on thee! says the Duke,
. . . thou thyself hast been a libertine,
As sensual as the brutish sting itself,
And all th embossed sores, and headed evils,
That thou with license of free foot hast caught,
Wouldst thou disgorge into the general world. (2.7.6569)
Jaques seems to have touched a nerve. Elsewhere Jaques makes a claim on behalf
of the deer in the forest rather like the claim Caliban makes for himself on the
island, complaining that Duke Senior has usurped these velvet friends; he
even makes it most invectively, having, like Caliban, learned how to curse. Just
as in the case of Caliban, we cannot laugh away the claim the way the Duke does.
But Jaquess complaint seems intended more as an insight into the Duke than a
comment on the deerwhom Jaques later kills anyway.
The touchiest of these precursors, Vincentio in Measure for Measure (1604), is
the one who most closely resembles Prospero. He too prefers study to government,
and he turns over his power to Angelo, claiming [I] do not like to stage me to
their eyes (1.1.68)but then he steps behind the scenes to manipulate the
action. Like Prospero, Vincentio sees his manipulation as an altruistic means of
educating his wayward subjects into chastity, repentance, and merciful mildness;
but it seems to serve more private needs of self-denition as well. For it rst
allows him, as ghostly father, to deny any aggressive or sexual motives of his
own, and then allows him to return at the end to claim both power and sexual
rewards as he resumes his dukedom and claims Isabel.94 Vincentios Caliban is
the libidinous and loose-tongued Lucio, who not only indulges his own appetites
but openly accuses the Duke of indulging his, so that it is unusually clear in this
case that the Caliban gure is a representation of the Dukes own disowned
passions. Lucios slanders include the claim that the Duke has usurp[ed] the
beggary he was never born to, but, like Jaques speaking for the deer, he is
more concerned with revealing the Dukes contradictory desires here than with
defending beggars rights. Goaded by Lucios insubordination, the Duke lashes
out at him as he does at no one else and threatens a punishment much worse
than the one he assigned to the would-be rapist and murderer Angelo or to the
actual murderer Barnardine.
In the case of all of these Prosperos, it is hard to see the attack on Caliban
as part of a specically colonialist strategy, as a way of exploiting the Other or
of rationalizing illegitimate power over him rather than over what he represents


The Tempest

in Prospero himself. To a logical observer, the Prospero-attack seems at best

gratuitousand the more frightening for being so. It has no political rationale.
The political attack always takes place outside the plays old world, after the
characters withdrawal to a second world that is not so much a new world as
one that projects, exaggerates, turns upside down, or polarizes the conicts that
made the old world uninhabitable. In the case of each earlier Prospero, the
conicts seem internal as well as external, so that when he moves out to meet his
Caliban, he is always meeting himself. Political exile is also presented as selfestrangement, a crisis of selfhood expressed in social and geographical divisions.
And in each case, Shakespeare exposes the fragility of such arrangements,
whether they take the form of the pastoralization of the forest of Arden, or of the
scapegoating of Shylock in Venice, or of Falsta s carnival misrule in the tavern,
or of the theatricalizing of the prison in Vincentios Vienna, or of Prosperos
colonizing of a utopian island.
Whatever varying political role each earlier Caliban plays as inhabitant of his
secondor second-classworld, each seems to embody a similar psychological
quality. In each case he displays the overt self-assertion that the retired or
retiring Prospero cannotor wishes not tomuster for himself, and that for
Shakespeare seems to be the mark of the Other. Each is an epitome of what
Shakespeare (perhaps in his own punning ambivalence about acknowledging
it as his own) elsewhere calls will.95 This will includes a range of forbidden
desires and appetites often attributed to the Other and always associated with
the foul body, as Jaques calls it; or with the fat appetitive body, as in Hals
picture of Falsta; or with the body as mere pounds of esh and blood; perhaps
with what we might call, after Bakhtin, the grotesque body. And it is dened in
opposition to the ethereal, or ariel, virtues such as mercy, honor, and chastity
characterizing the various Prosperos.
The will of these Calibans can carry suggestions of primitive oral greed,
as in Shylocks desire to feed fat his revenge with a pound of human esh, in
Falsta s voracious appetite, or in Calibans name. Or it emerges in a rampant
sexual greed, as in Falsta, in Jaquess past, in Lucio, perhaps even in Shylocks
reproductive miracles with sheep, and of course in Caliban himself. But the
most alien aspect of self-assertion or will in these plays emerges in a primitive
vengefulness. This vengefulness is associated with an infantile need to control and
dominate and with the scatological imagery of lthwith a disgust at the whole
messy, physical world that always threatens to get out of control. Thus Shylocks
drive for revenge is linked to his Jonsonian anal virtues (fast bind, fast nd), to
his fecal gold, and to his tightly locked orices (stop my houses ears, I mean my
casements [2.5.34]). Thus, too, Duke Seniors description of Jaques disgorging
his embossed sores suggests that he is projecting onto Jaques his disgust at
the idea of the foul body of the infected worldand his fear that Jaques will
disgorge and overow his boundaries rather than cleanse; Jaquess very name

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


associates him with this scatological vision. Caliban, very much concerned with
revenge, also takes on a taint of anality through the words of Trinculo and
Stephano. The latter sees Caliban hiding under his gabardine with Trinculo and
takes Caliban for a monster whose rst act is to vent a Trinculoa Gargantuan
act of defecation; Trinculo elsewhere complains that Caliban led them to a foul
lake that oerstunk their feet till they smelled all horse-piss.96
Thus, although Caliban is like the New World natives in his otherness, he is
linked at least as closely to Shakespeares earlier Calibans. What is interesting
in any attempt to understand The Tempests uniqueness in other aspects is that in
Caliban for the rst time Shakespeare shows will, or narcissistic self-assertion,
in its purest and simplest form as the original grandiosity or megalomania
of a child;97 for the rst time he makes the representative of bodily existence a
seeming child whose ego is a body ego, as Freud said, a subject whose self
is dened by the body. There is a childishly amoraland almost asexualglee
in Calibans sexuality (O ho, O ho, wouldt had been done! he says of the
attempted rape [1.2.349]) and a childish exaggeration in his dreams of revenge
(brain him / . . . or with a log / Batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake, /
Or cut his wezand with thy knife [3.2.8891]).98 Like a child he thinks often
about his mother,99 and now that she is gone, he dreams of riches dropping
from heaven and cries to dream again; like a child he was taught language and
shown the man in the moon.100 And like an imperious child he is enraged when
his pie in the sky does not appear. If he rebukes Prospero for rst stroking and
then disciplining him, if he objects to being made a subject when he was mine
own king (1.2.342), this is the rebuke made by every child, who begins life as
His Majesty the Baby, tended by his mother, and who is then subjected to
the demands of the community,101 represented by the father. Childhood is the
period in which anyoneeven the most powerful Elizabethan aristocratcan
experience the slaves side of the master/slave relation, its indignities, and the
dreams of reversal and revenge it can imbue. Appropriate and acceptable in a
baby, all these traits (like Caliban himself ) with age [grow] uglier (4.1.191)
and far more dangerous.
Calibans childishness has been dismissed as a defense, another rationalization
of Prosperos illegitimate power.102 But if it is a defense, it is one which itself is
revealing. Calibans childishness is a dimension of the Other in which Shakespeare
seems extremely interested.103 It is a major (not peripheral) source both of
Calibans dening characteristics and of what makes his relation to Prospero
so highly charged. Calibans childish innocence seems to have been what rst
attracted Prospero, and now it is Calibans childish lawlessness that enrages him.
To a man like Prospero, whose life has been spent learning a self-discipline in
which he is not yet totally adept, Caliban can seem like a child who must be
controlled, and who, like a child, is murderously enraged at being controlled.
Prospero treats Caliban as he would treat the willful child in himself.


The Tempest

The importance of childishness in dening Caliban is suggested by the

nal Tempest precedent to be cited here, one that lies behind Prosperos
acknowledgement of Caliban as his own thing of darknessand in which the
Caliban gure is literally a child. This gure is found in Titus Andronicus, where
a bastard child, called devil and slave, is cast out by his mother but rescued
by his father, who promisesin language foreshadowing Calibans imagery in
The Tempestto raise him in a cave and feed him on berries and roots.104 Here
the father is black Aaron the Moor, and the childish thing of darkness, whom
Aaron is at some pains to acknowledge his, is his own literally black son. What
is remarkable about this portrait of a barbarian father and son is that Aarons
is the only uncomplicated parental love in a play-world where civilized white
men like Titus kill their own children on principle. It is a world, by the way,
which contains the only literal (if unwitting) cannibal in Shakespeares plays,
the childs white mother. Unlike Titus, Aaron can love his child because he
can identify with him; as an uncivilized black man, he can accept the greedy,
sensual, lawless child in himself: This is my self, the vigor and the picture
of my youth, he says (4.2.108). This love, which comes easily to Aaron in
acknowledging his own esh and blood, is transformed in The Tempest to
Prosperos strained and dicult recognition of a tribal Other whose blackness
nonetheless gures his own.
The echoes of Aaron not only suggest the family resemblance between
Prospero and Caliban. They also suggest that here Shakespeare is changing
his earlier vision of authority. In the earlier play it is white Titus wholike
Prosperogives away his power and is betrayed; but it is black Aaron who is
stigmatized as the vengeful villain. And Titus maintains this black-and-white
distinction even while savagely carrying out his own revenge. But distinctions
in The Tempest have become less rigid. By merging his fantasy about a white
(but exiled and neurotically puritanical) duke with his fantasy about a villainous
(but loving) black father, Shakespeare for the rst time shows, in Prospero,
a paternal leader who comes back to power by admitting rather than denying
the blackness in himself. Prospero may not, as several revisionists point out,
physically do much for Caliban at the end; however, what he says matters a
great deal indeed, for his original transgression, when he rst dened Caliban
as the Other, was intellectual as well as physical. When Prospero nally
acknowledges Caliban, although he is a long way from recognizing the equality
of racial others, he comes closer than any of Shakespeares other Prosperos to
acknowledging the otherness within, which helps generate all racismand he
comes closer than anyone else in colonialist discourse. Prospero acknowledges
the child-like Caliban as his own, and although he does not thus undo hierarchy,
he moves for the rst time towards accepting the child in himself rather than
trying to dominate and erase that child (along with random vulnerable human
beings outside himself ) in order to establish his adult authority.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


Thus, although Shakespeare may, as the revisionists claim, to some degree

reproduce Prosperos colonialist vision of the island, the plays emphasis lies
not so much in justifying as in analyzing that vision, just as Shakespeare had
analyzed the origins of dominance in the earlier plays. The play insists that we
see Prosperos current relation to Caliban in terms of Prosperos own past; it
contains the colonial encounter rmly within the framing story of his own
family history. And though that history does not extend backward to Prosperos
own childhood, it does begin with family ties and Mirandas memory of the
dark backward and abysm of time (1.2.50), before either she or Prospero had
known the Other. Prospero was then, he thought, in total harmony with his
world and himself, happy in his regressive retreat to his library-Eden; he was
buered from reality, he thought, by a lovd brother so linked to himself and
his own desires that Prospero had in him a trust with no limit, / A condence
sans bound (1.2.9697), like the trust that Miranda must have had in the
women who tended her then. Only when Antonios betrayal shattered that
trust and Prospero was ousted from Edennewly aware of both the brother
as Other and of himself as a willful self in oppositiondid he discover the
island and Caliban. In a sense, then, Caliban emerged from the rift between
Prospero and Antonio,105 just as Ariel emerged from Sycoraxs riven pine. Once
the brother has shown that he is not identical to the self, reecting back its
own narcissistic desire, then he becomes the Otherand simultaneously rouses
the vengeful Other in the self. In The Tempest the distance that a colonialist
Prospero imposes between self and Other originated in a recoil from the closest
relation of all; it was a recoil that in fact dened both the distant and the close,
the public and the privatethe political and the personalas separate realms.
When Prospero acknowledges Caliban, he thus partly defuses an entire dynamic
that began long before he had ever seen the island.

When Shakespeare created a childish Caliban, he was himself rounding out a
dynamic process that had begun as long ago as the writing of Titus Andronicus.
We will never know why Shakespeare gave to this nal version of his exile
story a local habitation incorporating aspects of colonialist discourse. But the
answer lies not only in that discourse but also in him and in what was on his
mind. Some of the most specious speculations about Shakespeares mind have
been stimulated by his presumed resemblance to Prospero at the end of the play:
past his zenith, on the way to retirement, every third thought turned to his grave.
Without trying speciously to read minds, however, it seems safe to say that to
some degree Shakespeare had been for several years concerned with the aging,
loss, mortality, and death that recur in so much of what we know he was writing
and reading at the time. To this degree, both the play and its context deal with the
end of the individual self, the subject and the body in which it is located. It is the


The Tempest

end of everything associated with the discovery of self in childhood, the end of
everything Caliban representsand thus the greatest threat to infantile narcissism
since His Majesty the Baby was rst de-throned. John Bender has noted that the
occasion of the plays presumed court debut in 1611 was Hallowmas, the feast
of winter and the time of seasonal celebrations guring the more nal endings
and death associated with winter.106 As part of the celebrations, Bender suggests,
the play might have served to structure a communal response to the recurring
seasonal mentality brought on by the reminder of mortality. Whether or not
this is true, that which recurs in seasons and communities comes only once to
individuals; and as the nal stage in Shakespeares own seasonal movement
from A Midsummer Nights Dream to The Winters Tale, the play can be seen as
staging a nal crisis of selfhood and of betrayal like those in the earlier exile
playsbut this time a far more extreme one.107 For those who rage against the
dying of the light, it is a crisis that awakens the old infantile narcissistic demand
for endless fulllment and the narcissistic rage and vengefulness against a world
that denies such satisfactions.108
To one on the threshold of retirement from the Old World, the New
World is an appropriate stage on which to enact this last resurgence of the
infantile self. We take for granted the historical conditions generating utopian
visions in the voyagers reports outside the play. What the example of Calibans
childish presence in the play suggests is that for Shakespeare the desire for
such utopiasthe golden worlds and fountains of youthhas roots in personal
history as well as in history. The desire has been shaped by the most local as
well as by the largest, collective, material constraints: by being born small and
weak in a world run by large, strong people with problems of their own; by being
born in a sexed and mortal body109 that must somehow become part of a social
and linguistic community. Calibans utopia of sweet voices and clouds dropping
riches (3.2.13743) draws most directly on the infantile substratum that colored
Columbuss report when he returned from his third voyage convinced that the
newly discovered hemisphere was shaped like a womans breast, and that the
Earthly Paradise was located at a high point corresponding to the nipple.110
But the plays other utopias draw on it too. Gonzalos utopia is more socialized
(nature should bring forth, / . . . all abundance, / To feed my innocent people
[2.1.16365]); Prosperos pageant utopia is more mythic (a world without winter,
blessed by nurturing Ceres); but, like Calibans, their utopias recreate a union
with a bounteous Mother Nature. And, like every childs utopia, each is a fragile
creation, easily destroyed by the rage and violence that constitute its dening
alternativea dystopia of murderous vengeance; the interruption of Prosperos
pageant is only the last in a series of such interruptions.111 Each is the creation
of a childish mind that operates in binary divisions: good mother/bad mother,
love/rage, brother/Other.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


That Shakespeare was drawn to the utopian aspects of the New World is
suggested by the particular fragment of New World discourse that most directly
precipitated (Kermodes suggestive term) the playthe Bermuda pamphlets,
which record what was perhaps he most romantic incident associated with
Americas beginnings.112 What attracted Shakespeare, that is, was the story in
which a merciful God, a loving and fatherly protector, rescued a whole shipload
of people from certain death; it was a story that countered thoughts of winter
with reports of magical bounty in the aptly named Summer Islands.
The concerns that made Shakespeares approach to colonialist discourse
possible may have been operative later in other cases as well. In analyzing the
colonialist discourse growing out of political motives, it is important not to
lose touch with the utopian discourse growing out of a dierent set of motives.
Without reducing colonialism to the merely subjective and to the status of
psychological projection,113 one can still take account of fantasies and motives
that, though now regarded as secondary, or as irrelevant to politics, may interact
with political motives in ways we have not yet begun to understandand cannot
understand so long as we are diverted by trying to reduce psychology to politics
or politics to psychology. The binary dynamics of infantile utopian fantasies can,
for example, help explain why frustrated settlers succumbed so easily to the twin
stereotypes of the Native Americans as innocent primitives who would welcome
and nurture the settlers, and as hopelessly treacherous Others. They can serve as
a reminder that the desire for friendship and brotherhood can be as destructive
as a desire to exploit. Reference to irrational, outdated infantile needs can help
explain why the settlers, once they actually did begin colonizing, set out with
such gratuitous thoroughness to reduce the savage to civility. As James Axtell
describes the process, In European eyes, no native characteristic was too small to
reform, no habit too harmless to reduce.114 Such behavior seems to go beyond
any immediate political or material motive and seems rather to serve more
general psychological needs stirred up by conict with the natives. The recent
emphasis on the colonists obvious material greed and rational self-interestor
class-interesthas unnecessarily obscured the role of these less obvious irrational
motives and fantasies that are potentially even more insidious.
Shakespeares assimilation of elements from historical colonialist discourse
was neither entirely isolated from other uses or innocent of their eects.
Nonetheless, the colonialism in his play is linked not only to Shakespeares
indirect participation in an ideology of political exploitation and erasure but also
to his direct participation in the psychological aftereects of having experienced
the exploitation and erasure inevitable in being a child in an adults world. He
was not merely reproducing a preexistent discourse; he was also crossing it with
other discourses, changing, enlarging, skewing, and questioning it. Our sense of
The Tempests participation in colonialist discourse should be exible enough
to take account of such crossings; indeed our notion of that in which such


The Tempest

discourse consisted should be exible enough to include the whole of the text
that constitutes the rst English example of ctional colonialist discourse.115
1. Two of the earliest of these critiques were actually written, although not
published, by 1960: George Lamming, A Monster, a Child, a Slave (1960) in
The Pleasures of Exile (London: Allison and Busby, 1984); James Smith, The
Tempest (1954) in Shakespearian and Other Essays, ed. E. M. Wilson (Cambridge:
Cambridge Univ. Press, 1974), pp. 159261. Two more articles, less politicized,
followed in the sixties: Philip Brockbank, The Tempest: Conventions of Art and
Empire in Later Shakespeare, eds. J. R. Brown and B. Harris (London: Edward
Arnold, 1966), pp. 183201; and D. G. James, The New World in The Dream of
Prospero (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), pp. 72123.
The recent group, returning to the political perspective of the first two,
includes: Stephen Greenblatt, Learning to Curse: Aspects of Linguistic Colonialism in the Sixteenth Century in First Images of America, ed. Fredi Chiappelli,
2 vols. (Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1976), Vol. 2, 56180; Bruce
Erlich, Shakespeares Colonial Metaphor: On the Social Function of Theatre
in The Tempest, Science and Society, 41 (1977), 4365; Lorie Leininger, Cracking the Code of The Tempest, Bucknell Review, 25 (1980), 12131; Peter Hulme,
Hurricanes in the Caribbees: The Constitution of the Discourse of English
Colonialism in 1642: Literature and Power in the Seventeenth Century, Proceedings
of the Essex conference on the Sociology of Literature, eds. Francis Barker et al.
(Colchester: Univ. of Essex, 1981), pp. 5583; Paul N. Siegel, Historical Ironies
in The Tempest, Shakespeare Jahrbuch, 119 (Weimar: 1983), 10411; Francis Barker
and Peter Hulme, Nymphs and Reapers Heavily Vanish: The Discursive Contexts
of The Tempest in Alternative Shakespeares, ed. John Drakakis (London and New
York: Methuen, 1985), pp. 191205; Terence Hawkes, Swisser-Swatter: Making
a Man of English Letters in Alternative Shakespeares, pp. 2646; Paul Brown,
This Thing of Darkness I Acknowledge Mine: The Tempest and the Discourse
of Colonialism in Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism (Ithaca,
N.Y., and London: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985), pp. 4871; Peter Hulme, Colonial
Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 14921797 (London and New York:
Methuen, 1986), pp. 89134; Thomas Cartelli, Prospero in Africa: The Tempest
as Colonialist Text and Pretext in Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and
Ideology, eds. Jean Howard and Marion OConner (New York: Methuen, 1987),
pp. 99115; I would include two essays by Stephen Orgel somewhat different in
their focus but nonetheless related: Prosperos Wife in Rewriting the Renaissance,
eds. Margaret Ferguson et al. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1986), pp. 5064,
and Shakespeare and the Cannibals in Cannibals, Witches, and Divorce: Estranging the Renaissance, ed. Marjorie Garber (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins
Univ. Press, 1987), pp. 4066.
2. Hulme, Colonial Encounters, p. 94.
3. See, for example, Paul Brown, This Thing of Darkness, p. 48.
4. In fact Edward Pechter, in one of the earliest of such scrutinies, cited several
of the recent Tempest articles as especially problematic. See The New Historicism and Its Discontents: Politicizing Renaissance Drama, PMLA, 102 (1987),
292303. See also Howard Felperin, Making It Neo: The New Historicism and
Renaissance Literature, Textual Practice, 1 (1987), 26277; Jean Howard, The

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


New Historicism in Renaissance Studies, English Literary Renaissance, 16 (1986),

1343; and Anthony B. Dawson, Measure for Measure, New Historicism, and
Theatrical Power, Shakespeare Quarterly, 39 (1988), 32841.
5. The Tempest, The Arden Shakespeare, ed. Frank Kermode (London:
Methuen, 1954), p. xxv. For an account of the work of earlier scholars exploring the
connection between the play and these documents, see Kermode, pp. xxvxxxiv,
and Charles Frey, The Tempest and the New World, SQ, 30 (1979), 2941.
6. E. E. Stoll and Northrop Frye are the only exceptions I have seen cited.
7. Recently there has been a renewed emphasis on the romance elements. See
Gary Schmidgall, The Tempest and Primaleon: A New Source, SQ, 37 (1986),
42339, esp. p. 436; and Robert Wiltenberg, The Aeneid in The Tempest, Shakespeare Survey, 39 (1987), 15968.
8. See, for example, Harry Bergers important essay, Miraculous Harp: A
Reading of Shakespeares Tempest, Shakespeare Studies, 5 (1969), 25383.
9. Harry Levin, The Myth of the Golden Age in the Renaissance (Bloomington:
Indiana Univ. Press, 1969); Leslie A. Fiedler, The Stranger in Shakespeare (New
York: Stein and Day, 1972); Leo Marx, Shakespeares American Fable, The
Machine in the Garden (London and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1964), pp.
10. O. Mannoni, Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization, trans.
Pamela Powesland (1950; rpt. New York: Praeger, 1964).
11. Hulme, Colonial Encounters, p. 133.
12. Hulme, Colonial Encounters, p. 115; Barker and Hulme, p. 201; Orgel,
Prosperos Wife, pp. 6263.
13. Orgel, Shakespeare and the Cannibals, p. 55.
14. As Paul Werstine wrote in the brochure announcing the NEH Humanities
Institute on New Directions in Shakespeare Criticism (The Folger Shakespeare
Library, 1988), To appreciate The Tempest . . . today . . . we must understand discourses of colonialism, power, legitimation.
15. Barker and Hulme, p. 198.
16. Hawkes, Swisser-Swatter, p. 28.
17. Thus stereotypes, for example, served as part of a discursive strategy . . . to
locate or fix a colonial other in a position of inferiority . . . (Paul Brown, modifying Edward Said on orientalism, p. 58).
18. Actually, this point too is a matter of emphasis. R. R. Cawley (Shaksperes
Use of the Voyagers in The Tempest, PMLA, 41 [1926], 688726) and Kermode,
among others, had noted in passing some similarities between the plays view of
Caliban and the distortions of colonialist self-serving rhetorical purposes; but revisionists take this to be the important point, not to be passed over.
19. Leininger, Cracking the Code of The Tempest, p. 122.
20. Paul Brown, pp. 64, 66. Brown also contends that The Tempest exemplifies
. . . a moment of historical crisis. This crisis is the struggle to produce a coherent
discourse adequate to the complex requirements of British colonialism in its initial
phase (p. 48).
21. Hulme, Colonial Encounters, p. 93. Later he does grant a little ground to
the psychological critics in allowing that their totally spurious identification of
Prospero with Shakespeare yet half grasps the crucial point that Prospero . . . is a
dramatist and creator of theatrical effects (p. 115).


The Tempest

22. From the point of view of a political hermeneutic, measured against the
requirements of a political unconscious, we must conclude that the conception
of wish-fulfillment remains locked in a problematic of the individual subject . . .
which is only indirectly useful to us. The objection to wish-fulfillment is that it is
always outside of time, outside of narrative and history; what is more damaging,
from the present perspective, is that desire . . . remains locked into the category of
the individual subject, even if the form taken by the individual in it is no longer
the ego or the self, but the individual body. . . . the need to transcend individualistic
categories and modes of interpretation is in many ways the fundamental issue for any
doctrine of the political unconscious (The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially
Symbolic Act [Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1981], pp. 66, 68, italics added).
23. Stephen Greenblatt, Psychoanalysis and Renaissance Culture, Literary
Theory/Renaissance Texts, eds. Patricia Parker and David Quint (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins Univ. Press, 1986), 21024.
24. Jameson, p. 12. So, too, Freuds hermeneutic manual can be of use to the
political critic (p. 65).
25. Norman Hollands suggestive term, Jameson, p. 49.
26. Jameson, p. 67. Cf. Paul Brown, My use of Freudian terms does not mean
that I endorse its ahistorical, Europocentric and sexist models of psychical development. However, a materialist criticism deprived of such concepts as displacement and condensation would be seriously impoverished . . . (p. 71, n. 35).
27. Jameson discussing Althusser (p. 30) and Greimas (p. 48).
28. The Crown of Life (1947; rpt. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1966), p. 255.
29. See Trevor R. Griffiths, This Islands mine: Caliban and Colonialism,
Yearbook of English Studies, 13 (1983), 15980.
30. Griffiths, p. 166.
31. Virginia Mason Vaughan, Something Rich and Strange: Calibans Theatrical Metamorphoses, SQ, 36 (1985), 390405, esp. p. 390.
32. Erlich, Shakespeares Colonial Metaphor, p. 49; Paul Brown, p. 48.
33. Even St. Paul in his travels (echoed in the play) met natives wholike
Calibanthought him a god.
34. Hulme produces as evidence against Shakespeare these four words from
the cast list, which Shakespeare may or may not have written (Hurricanes in the
Caribbees, p. 72).
35. Alden T. Vaughan, Shakespeares Indian: The Americanization of Caliban, SQ, 39 (1988), 13753. He argues that the intention miscarried not only at
the time but also for the three centuries following. He adds, Rather, from the Restoration until the late 1890s, Caliban appeared on stage and in critical literature as
almost everything but an Indian (p. 138).
36. Hulme, while noting Calibans anomalous nature, sees the anomaly as
yet another colonialist strategy: In ideological terms [Caliban is] a compromise
formation and one achieved, like all such formations, only at the expense of distortion elsewhere (Hurricanes in the Caribbees, pp. 71, 72). This begs the question:
Caliban can only be a distortion if he is intended to represent someone. But that
is precisely the questionis he meant to represent a Native American? Sidney Lee
noted that Calibans method of building dams for fish reproduces the Indians;
though he is often cited by later writers as an authority on the resemblance, the rest
of his evidence is not convincing (The Call of the West: America and Elizabethan
England, Elizabethan and Other Essays, ed. Frederick S. Boas [Oxford: Clarendon

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


Press, 1929], pp. 263301). G. Wilson Knight has an impressionistic essay about
the relationship between Caliban and Indians (Caliban as Red Man [1977] in
Shakespeares Styles, eds. Philip Edwards, Inga-Stina Ewbank, and G. K. Hunter
[London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980]). Hulme lists Calibans resemblances to
Caribs (Hurricanes in the Caribbees), and Kermode cites details taken from
natives visited during both the Old and the New World voyages.
37. The Indians who would appear in Chapmans 1613 masque would be fully
equipped with feathers. See R. R. Cawley, The Voyagers and Elizabethan Drama
(Boston: D. C. Heath; London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1938), p. 359, and Orgel,
Shakespeare and the Cannibals, pp. 44, 47.
38. Shakespeare had apparently read up on his monsters (R. R. Cawley,
Shaksperes Use of the Voyagers, p. 723, and Frey, passim), but he picked up the
stereotypes only to play with them ostentatiously (in Stephanos and Trinculos
many discredited guesses about Calibans identity) or to leave them hanging (in
Prosperos identification of Caliban as devil).
39. Hulme, Hurricanes in the Caribbees, p. 74.
40. Lamming (n. 1, above), pp. 9899.
41. Lamming, p. 97; Erlich, p. 49.
42. The play also seems anti-colonialist because it includes the comic sections
with Stephano and Trinculo, which show colonialism to be nakedly avaricious,
profiteering, perhaps even pointless; but this too can be seen as a rationalization:
This low version of colonialism serves to displace possibly damaging charges . . .
against properly-constituted civil authority on to the already excremental products
of civility, the masterless (Paul Brown, p. 65).
43. Greenblatt, Learning to Curse, pp. 57071; Leininger (n. 1, above), pp.
44. Leininger, p. 127.
45. As Fiedlers book implies (n. 9, above), she is less like anything American
than like the Frenchwoman Joan of Arc, who also tried to save herself from the
law by claiming she was pregnant with a bastard; Joan simply wasnt as successful
(see pp. 4381, esp. p. 77).
46. See Brockbank, p. 193. Even these details can be discounted as rationalizations, of course. Paul Brown, for example, explains Sycoraxs presence as a rationalization: by degrading her black magic, he argues, Shakespeare makes Prospero
seem better than he is (pp. 6061). Hulme notes that Sycorax may be Prosperos
invention, pointing out that we never see any direct evidence that she was present
(Colonial Encounters, p. 115). Orgel links Calibans claims of legitimacy by birth to
James Is claims (Prosperos Wife, pp. 5859).
47. See Fiedler, p. 205.
48. Erlich, Shakespeares Colonial Metaphor, p. 63.
49. The trend, moreover, is to move away from anthropomorphic terms like
repression or censorship, themselves inherited from the political terminology
on which Freud drew for his own. Like the vocabulary of scientific hydraulics
on which Freud also drew for his notions of libido flowing and damming up, the
older terms are being replaced by contemporary terminologies more appropriate
to describing a conflict among meanings or interpretations, rather than between
anthropomorphized forces engaged in a simple struggle for and against.
50. Spaniards, he writes, taught their Hounds, fierce Dogs, to teare [the Indians] in peeces (A Briefe Narration of the Destruction of the Indies by the Spaniards


The Tempest

[1542 (?)], Samuel Purchas, Purchas: His Pilgrimes, 20 vols. [Glasgow: Maclehose
and Sons, 19051907], Vol. XVIII, 91). This was apparently a common topos,
found also in Edens translation of Peter Martyrs Decades of the Newe Worlde
(1555), included in Edens Historie of Trauaile (1577), which Shakespeare read for
The Tempest. It was also used by Greene and Deloney (Cawley, Voyagers and Elizabethan Drama, pp. 38384).
51. Hulme, Hurricanes in the Caribbees, pp. 6366; see also Orgel on this
New World topos in Shakespeare and the Cannibals, pp. 4144.
52. Neither was Montaignes in the essay that has been taken as a source for
the play. Scholars are still debating about Montaignes attitude toward cannibals,
though all agree that his critical attitude toward Europeans was clear in the essay.
53. This blend of Old and New World characteristics, earlier seen as characteristic of New World discourse, is acknowledged in many of the revisionist studies
but is seen as one of the rhetorical strategies used to control Indians.
54. William Strach[e]y, A True Reportorie . . . , Purchas, Vol. XIX, p. 62. For
the citation of Purchas as colonialist, see Hulme, Hurricanes in the Caribbees,
p. 78, n. 21.
55. Paul Brown, p. 64.
56. This is an entirely separate question from another that one might ask:
How comparable were Purchass remarks, taken from the collection of travelers
tales which he edited, censored, and used to support his colonialist ideal, on the
one hand, and a play, on the other? In Purchas, Richard Marienstras argues, the
multiplicity of interpretations modulates and reinforces a single ideological system. The same can certainly not be said of . . . The Tempest (New Perspectives on
the Shakespearean World, trans. Janet Lloyd [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press,
1985], p. 169). This entire book, which devotes a chapter to The Tempest, is an
excellent study of certain aspects of Elizabethan ideology and . . . the way these
are used in Shakespeare (p. 1).
57. See Pechter (n. 4, above). This kind of condition, he argues, is really a
precondition in the sense that it is assumed to be logically (if not chronologically)
prior. It is assumed to have the kind of explanatory power that the Elizabethan
world view was once accorded (p. 297).
58. See, for example, the following contemporary tracts reprinted in Tracts and
Other Papers Relating Principally to the Origin, Settlement, and Progress of . . . North
America, ed. Peter Force, 4 vols. (183647; rpt. New York: Peter Smith, 1947): R.
I., Nova Brittania: OFFERING MOST Excellent fruites by Planting IN VIRGINIA. Exciting all such as be well affected to further the same (1609), Vol. 1,
No. 6; Virginia richly valued (1609), Vol. 4, No. 1; A TRVE DECLARATION
of the estate of the Colonie in Virginia, With a confutation of such scandalous
reports as haue tended to the disgrace of so worthy an enterprise (1610), Vol. 3,
NOW CALLED SOMMER ILANDS (1613), Vol. 3, No. 3.
In The Genesis of the United States, ed. Alexander Brown, 2 vols. (New York:
Russell & Russell, 1964), see also: Robert Gray, A GOOD SPEED to Virginia
(1609), Vol. 1, 293302; A True and Sincere declaration of the purpose and
ends of the Plantation begun in Virginia of the degrees which it hath received;
and meanes by which it hath beene advanced: and the . . . conclusion of His Majesties
Councel of that Colony . . . untill by the mercies of GOD it shall retribute a fruitful
harvest to the Kingdome of heaven, and this Common-Wealth (1609), Vol. 1, 33753;

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


A Publication by the Counsell of Virginea, touching the Plantation there (1609),

TRIUMPHANT . . . (1610), Vol. 1, 42026.
59. A Trve Declaration, p. 6.
60. Alexander Brown, in The Genesis of the United States, reprints extracts
from the following pertinent documents: William Symonds, VIRGINIA: A
SERMON PREACHED AT WHITECHAPPEL . . . (1609), Vol. 1, 28291;
Daniel Price, SAVLES PROHIBITION STAIDE . . . And to the Inditement
of all that persecute Christ with a reproofe of those that traduce the Honourable
Plantation of Virginia (1609), Vol. 1, 31216; and, most important, William
Crashaws sermon titled A Newe-Yeeres Gift to Virginea, and preached, as the
title page announced, before Lord La Warre Lord Governour and Captaine
Generall of Virginia, and others of [the] Counsell . . . At the said Lord Generall
his . . . departure for Virginea . . . Wherein both the lawfulnesses of that action
is maintained and the necessity thereof is also demonstrated, not so much out
of the grounds of Policie, as of Humanity, Equity and Christianity (1610), Vol.
1, 36075.
61. In Alexander Brown, see William Crashaw for two of these references (in
A Newe-Yeeres Gift to Virginea [1610], and Epistle Dedicatory to Alexander
Whitakers Good Newes from Virginia [1613], Vol. 2, 61120); and see Ralphe
Hamor in A True Discourse of the Present Estate of Virginea (1615), Virginia State
Library Publications, No. 3 (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1957).
62. Pp. 16, 17.
63. For the general history of the period, see David Beers Quinn, England and
the Discovery of America, 14811620 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974); Alexander Browns Genesis identifies similar shifting motives in the history of colonization. Such voyages were made famous by often-reprinted accounts, especially in
collections by Richard Eden and Richard Hakluyt, both of whose anthologies
Shakespeare would consult for The Tempest. In the introductory material in these
collections, as in the voyages themselves, the self-interest is obvious but so mixed
with excitement and utopian hopes, and so focused on competition with Spain,
that the issue of relation to Indians was dwarfed by comparison.
64. If he didnt succeed in establishing a settlement, he would lose his patent.
His interest in the patent rather than the colony was shown by his apparent negligence in searching for his lost colony (Quinn, n. 63, above, p. 300). He could hold
onto his patent only so long as there was hope that the colonists were still alive;
clearly the hope was worth more to Raleigh than the colony.
65. Matthew P. Andrews, The Soul of a Nation: The Founding of Virginia and the
Projection of New England (New York: Scribners, 1943), p. 125. An entire popular
literature developed, so much so that the Archbishop of York complained that of
Virginia there be so many tractates, divine, human, historical, political, or call
them as you please, as no further intelligence I dare desire (quoted in Andrews,
p. 125).
66. It is this issue rather than colonialism that stimulated an earlier period
of political commentary on the New World material in The Tempest: Charles M.
Gayley, Shakespeare and the Founders of Liberty in America (New York: Macmillan,
1917); A. A. Ward, Shakespeare and the Makers of Virginia, Proceedings of the
British Academy, 9 (1919); see also E. P. Kuhl, Shakespeare and the Founders of
America: The Tempest, Philological Quarterly, 41 (1962), 12346.


The Tempest

67. Contributing to the welter of contradictory discourses was the Spanish

ambassadors flow of letters to Spain insisting, not irrationally, that the whole
purpose of maintaining a profitless colony like Jamestown was to establish a base
for pirate raids against Spanish colonies.
68. Letter from Southampton to the Earl of Salisbury, 15 December 1609, in
Alexander Brown, Vol. 1, 35657.
69. The quantity and quality of the objections, which have not on the whole
survived, has been judged by the nature of the many defenses thought necessary to
answer them. See notes 58, 60, 61.
70. A practice that Shakespeare did not admire if Stephano and Trinculo are
any indication.
71. As are the two monsters cited as possible prototypes for Caliban by Geoffrey Bullough (Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols. [New York:
Columbia Univ. Press, 1958], Vol. 8, 240). There were exceptions, of course, as in
George Percys Observations . . . Of the Plantation of . . . Virginia (1606), in Purchas,
Vol. XVIII, 40319.
72. See Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Settling with the Indians: The Meeting of
English and Indian Cultures in America, 15801640 (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and
Littlefield, 1980), pp. 12729. The origins of this nearly universal belief in Indian
treachery are of course multiple, ranging from the readiness of the English to project their fears onto any available victim, whether Indians or mariners (who were
also regularly accused of treachery in these narratives), to the prevailing stereotypes of the Other, to specific English acts of provocation, to the general tensions
inherent in the situation. Without arguing for any one of these, I merely wish to
suggest that the notion of colonialist discourse simplifies a complex situation.
73. Even as proto-white men, their skin as tanned rather than naturally black,
etc. See Kupperman, and Orgel, Shakespeare and the Cannibals.
74. Greenblatt, in his study of the ways in which white men verbally colonialized Indians, emphasizes the degree to which whites assumed that the Indians
had no language. Although he notes that there were exceptions, he makes it sound
as if these exceptions were rare and were largely confined to the rough, illiterate
sea dog, bartering for gold trinkets on a faraway beach, rather than to the captains
or lieutenants whose accounts we read (Learning to Curse, pp. 56465). On the
contrary, even the earliest travelers had often included glossaries of Indian terms in
their reports (e.g., the Glossary in the introductory material of Edens translation
of Martyrs Decades [1555], as well as in various later English reports reprinted in
Purchas: His Pilgrimes [1625]); and in reading through Purchass helter-skelter collection, one is struck by the number of writers who grant automatic respect to the
Indians language. A possibly figurative rather than literal force for comments on
the Indians want of language is suggested by Gabriel Archers account of a 1602
voyage. Here it is the English, not the Indians, who are deficient in this respect:
they spake divers Christian words, and seemed to understand much more then we,
for Want of Language, could comprehend (Relation of Captain Gosnolds voyage,
Purchas, Vol. XVIII, 304, italics mine).
75. See R. R. Cawley, Voyagers and Elizabethan Drama, passim, and Unpathed
Waters: Studies in the Influence of the Voyagers on Elizabethan Literature (Princeton,
N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1940), pp. 23441. Neither of R. R. Cawleys two
books about the voyagers influence on contemporary English literature cites any
pre-1611 passage of more than a few lines. It is true that in the 1580s Marlowes

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


plays took off from the general sense of vastness and possibility opened up by voyages to the New as well as to the Old World. In addition Drayton wrote an Ode
to the Virginia Voyage, perhaps expressly for the settlers leaving for Jamestown
in 1606; and one line in Samuel Daniels Musophilis has a colonialist ring: he
speaks of vent[ing] the treasure of our tongue . . . T inrich unknowing Nations
with our stores. True, too, that in a quite different spirit Jonson, Marston, and
Chapman collaborated in Eastward Ho (1605) to make fun of gallants flocking
to Virginia with expectations as great as those bringing foolish victims to Face
and Subtles alchemical chimeras. But while Marlowe participates in the spirit of
romantic adventure associated with voyaging and treasure-hunting, and Eastward
Ho satirizes it, neither deals at all with the New World or with the New World
76. The three brief exceptions are references to Spanish cruelty to Indians, all
published before the truce with Spain. The Stationers Register lists The crueltie
of ye Spaniardes toward th[e] Indians, a ballad (1586) and Spanishe cruelties
(1601), now lost. Robert Greene notes in passing that the Spaniards hunted Indians
with dogs, while by contrast the English treated the natives with such courtesie,
as they thought the English Gods, and the Spaniardes both by rule and conscience
halfe Devils (The Spanish Masquerado [1589], Life and . . . Works, ed. Alexander
B. Grosart, 15 vols. [London and Aylesbury: privately printed, 188186], Vol. V,
28283). See Cawley, Voyagers and Elizabethan Drama, pp. 38586.
77. When Strachey finishes with his account of the Bermuda episode and
turns to a description of Virginia, he does devote one sentence to the Indians
78. See Frey, p. 31.
79. In his edition of The Tempest, Kermode notes this parallel with Bartholomew
Fair (2.6.7677), Looke into any Angle o the towne, (the Streights, or the
Bermudas) . . . (p. 24, n. 223).
80. Letter from Carleton to Chamberlain, August 1607, in Alexander Brown,
Vol. 1, 11113.
81. Many other similarities link The Tempest to the earlier play, including
some which might have been taken to suggest The Tempests focus on the New
World. Thus, for example, Stephano cries out when he first sees Caliban, Do
you put tricks upons with salvages and men of Inde, ha? (2.2.5859). But Berowne, though rooted in the Old World, resorts to similarly exotic analogies to
describe the passion which Rosaline should inspire in his colleagues. Who sees
her, he says,
That, (like a rude and savage man of Inde),
At the first opning of the gorgeous east,
Bows not his vassal head . . . ?
(Loves Labors Lost, 4.3.21820)
See Kermodes note on the line in The Tempest.
82. Specific resemblances between subplots here and the plots of other plays
have been noted (between the plot to murder Alonso and Macbeth, between Ferdinands courtship of Miranda and Romeo and Juliet, etc.). See Alvin B. Kernan, The
Great Fair of the World and the Ocean Island: Bartholomew Fair and The Tempest,
in The Revels History of Drama in English, 8 vols., eds. J. Leeds Barroll, Alexander Leggatt, Richard Hosley, Alvin Kernan (London: Methuen, 1975), Vol. III,


The Tempest

45674. G. Wilson Knight has described the place of The Tempest in Shakespeares
overarching myth of the tempest. Even more suggestive, Leslie Fiedler has traced
the less obvious personal mythology that provides a context for the play. Drawing
on marginal details, he shows the plays concern with themes that pervade the
entire canon, such as the interracial marriage that here, not accidentally, initiates
the action of the play. His work is the starting point for mine.
83. Barker and Hulme, p. 198.
84. Hulme, Colonial Encounters, p. 133.
85. Paul Brown, p. 69.
86. Barker and Hulme, p. 202.
87. The last time Prospero got so angry that Miranda had to apologize was
when Ferdinand began to court Miranda.
88. See A. D. Nuttalls discussion of the blend of colonialist and sexual tensions
in The Tempest, Two Unassimilable Men, in Shakespearian Comedy, Stratfordupon-Avon Studies 14 (London: Edward Arnold, 1972), pp. 21040, esp. p. 216.
89. The incestuous impulse implicit in the situation is even clearer in Shakespeares own earlier romances; both Fiedler and Nuttall, among others, have
explored these in the context of the vast literature of romance that lies behind the
play. See also Mark Taylor, Shakespeares Darker Purpose: A Question of Incest (New
York: AMS Press, 1982).
90. Fiedler, p. 234.
91. Marianne Novy, Loves Argument: Gender Relations in Shakespeare (Chapel
Hill and London: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1984), pp. 6382.
92. All Shakespeare quotations are from The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G.
Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974). The earlier group of critics
who had pointed out the racist assumptions in Antonios behavior made many of
the same points recently made on Calibans behalf. The two cases are indeed similar, and although both can be seen as examples of colonialismwith the word
colonialism used very loosely as it is today for any exploitative appropriationthe
more historically specific colonialist discourse does not seem to be the appropriate context for Shylock.
93. Nuttall (n. 88, above) notes the strangeness of the Dukes explosion and the
fact that Jaquess request for a fools license has shaken Duke Senior (p. 231).
94. See Richard P. Wheelers analysis in Shakespeares Development and the
Problem Comedies: Turn and Counter-Turn (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of
California Press, 1981).
95. Primarily of course in the sonnets, but in the plays as well. See Novys
discussion of self-assertiveness in Shylock.
96. Caliban later joins the two courtly servants in appropriately scatological
double entendres.
97. Norman Holland, Calibans Dream, The Design Within: Psychoanalytic
Approaches to Shakespeare, ed. M. D. Faber (New York: Science House, 1970), pp.
98. Compare Antonios cold calculations as he plans to kill Alonso.
99. Albeit in a My mommy is going to get you fashion.
100. Nuttall, p. 225.
101. So, too, any child might complain that he was taught to speak and now his
profit on t is to be trapped in the prison house of language.

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


102. See Leininger, p. 125, for the most effective presentation of this view; also
Paul Brown, p. 63.
103. Here, too, Shakespeare seems unusual. Not until our child-centered,
post-Freudian age do we find writers so directly representing the aliens on our
galactic frontier as childrenwhether as innocents like Steven Spielbergs E.T.
or as proto-savages like his Gremlins. Others had associated the primitive with
metaphorical childhood: De Brys 1590 edition of Harriots Briefe and True Report
and, later, Purchass version of Strachey associated the primitive Indians with the
childhood of the English nation, and writers spoke of the Indians as younger
brethren (Kupperman, n. 72, above, p. 170). What is unusual in Shakespeare is
the emphasis and the detailed portrayal of emotional as well as cognitive childishness. Leah Marcus argues, in another context, that the English in the chaotic and
disorienting intellectual context of the seventeenth century were especially susceptible to dreams of the golden ageand to sympathetic portrayals of childhood
wholeness (Childhood and Cultural Despair [Pittsburgh, Pa.: Univ. of Pittsburgh
Press, 1978]). Most of the instances of such portrayals did not appear until later in
the century, however.
104. Edward A. Armstrong, Shakespeares Imagination (Lincoln: Univ. of
Nebraska Press, 1963), p. 52.
105. Might the brothers definition by opposition perhaps have influenced
Shakespeares choice of names: Prospero and Antonio?
106. John B. Bender, The Day of The Tempest, English Literary History, 47
(1980), 23558.
107. It also marks Shakespeares return to the pattern of withdrawal from
active life used in Loves Labors Lostbut this time with a difference. The earlier
play had shown young men hoping to conquer death by forswearing the body and
what it represents. The Tempest shows an old man coming to terms with death by
acknowledging the body and what it represents.
108. Elliot Jacques offers a related account, in Kleinian terms, of the role
of infantile demands and emotions in the effort to come to terms with death in
Death and the Mid-life Crisis, International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 46 (1965),
109. John Forrester, Psychoanalysis or Literature? French Studies, 35 (1981),
17079, esp. p. 172.
110. Cited in Levin (n. 9, above), p. 183.
111. See Bender (n. 106, above) on the way dreams are always followed by
violence in the play; the violence is not a cause of the problem on the island but
rather an effect.
112. Andrews (n. 65, above), p. 126.
113. Jameson cites as being very much in the spirit of [his] present work the
concern of Deleuze and Guattari to reassert the specificity of the political content
of everyday life and of individual fantasy-experience and to reclaim it from . . .
reduction to the merely subjective and to the status of psychological projection
(The Political Unconscious, n. 22, above, p. 22).
114. The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in North America (Oxford:
Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), p. 54.
115. The original version of this essay was presented at a session on Psychoanalysis and Renaissance History, chaired by Richard Wheeler at the 1987 MLA


The Tempest

annual meeting. The current version has greatly benefited from careful readings
by Janet Adelman, Anne and Rob Goble, Carol Neely, Marianne Novy, Martin
Wiener, and several anonymous readers.

1992Harold Bloom. Introduction,
from Caliban (Blooms Major Literary Characters)
Harold Bloom (1930 ) is a professor at Yale University. He has
edited dozens of anthologies of literature and literary criticism and is
the author of more than 30 books, including The Western Canon and
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.

We are now in the age of Caliban rather than in the Time of Ariel or the Era of
Prospero. Our archetypal, politically correct article on Shakespeare these days is
likely to be called Caliban and the Discourse of Colonialism, or else Ariel and
the Economy of Exploitation, or even Prospero and Mercantilism. The Tempest
is an uncanny play; nothing much happens after that opening storm that rather
inappropriately gives the drama its title. Try to write a plot summary of The
Tempest and you will begin to grimace almost immediately. The last Tempest I saw
in New York City pretended that there was a plot, with unhappy consequences
for Frank Langella, who acted Prospero with an apologetic air, as if he wanted
us to know how much happier (and better) he would be as Count Dracula. He
was not helped much by an inscrutable Ariel, who seemed to want his freedom
so as to escape from the stage to an appropriate dive, or by a hulking Caliban
who assumed he was the mainstay of Steinbecks Of Mice and Men. Shakespeares
mysterious Orphic drama is never easy to perform, and is more dicult to
understand now than it ever was.
What is the genre of The Tempest? We have agreed to call it a romance,
which is useful enough, since its protagonist is a magus, and his chief aide is a
spirit, perhaps even an angel. Caliban, his slave, probably is not to be thought
of as wholly human. There is something amphibian about him, something that
suggests the sea-world. It is, after all, his island, as even the most politically
incorrect among us would acknowledge. Shakespeare has so capacious an
imagination of justice and of injustice that we scarcely comprehend why he
does not conclude The Tempest with Caliban left alone upon the island, perhaps
to await the female survivor of another shipwreck, with whom he could people
the isle with Calibans. The possibility of Caliban being consigned to his native
place is never entertained by anyone, Caliban included. It is as though the
island, being magical, must cease to exist after Prospero renounces his art and

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


leaves the theatre of his exile. More hurtful is a deeper matter; Prospero and
Caliban have too intimate, too familial a relation for it to be dissolved. They
loathe and fear one another; Caliban has plotted to murder Prospero; they
have, in dierent ways, and from radically dierent perspectives, betrayed one
another. Most profoundly, they have hurt one another intolerably; each suers
from the pride of wounded and abrogated aection. Each sees the other as
having forsaken trust. Yet Prospero nally acknowledges Caliban as being his,
almost as though Caliban was Adam to the maguss Yahweh. The attempted
rape of Miranda was almost an incestuous oense, for in many respects
Prospero and Caliban are father and son. If you are politically correct you
will see this very dierently, and will dismiss the quasi-Oedipal complication
as paternalistic colonialism. But Shakespeare is not politically correct, even
if he is no more Prospero than he is Caliban. The art itself never becomes
nature in The Tempest. Prospero is subdued, almost ruined, by his total victory;
Caliban is merely subdued by his defeat, and is on the verge of a kind of victory
through grace, just beyond the dramas conclusion. Of all Shakespeares plays
that are not tragedies, this one trails o in the subtlest and most intense of
Part of our diculty in absorbing Caliban is his originality, even in
Shakespeares cosmos of characters. He is in the tradition of Shakespeares
displaced spirits, of gures who seem to have wandered in from the wrong
play: Shylock, Barnardine, Lears Fool, Malvolio. Yet to associate Caliban
with displacement is a peculiar irony; only he, in the play, is where he belongs.
A Hermetic sage is an absurd educator for Caliban; it is the education that
constitutes the displacement. Everything that we like best in Caliban precedes
his education. The aesthete in Caliban owes nothing to Prospero, whose music is
never natural. Caliban before Prospero was the wordless poet of his own climate;
after Prospero, Caliban knows language, largely to curse and to proclaim his
suerings, and his resentment But not entirely;
Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That if I then had wakd 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 wakd
I cried to dream again.
The endowment for apprehending natural music is Calibans, and the
pathos is also his own, each by birthright. What is most moving is the opening


The Tempest

signature: Be not afeard, for the deformed Caliban is essentially timid,

and scarcely partakes of the terrible nature of his late mother, the blue-eyed
hag and sorceress, Sycorax. Calibans father is never revealed; we have only
Prosperos angry surmise: got by the devil himself / Upon thy wicked dam.
As a freckled whelp, uniquely born upon an uninhabited island, Caliban is
now a hero of our contemporary School of Resentment, who convert him into
an anti-imperialist allegory. Here is the spokesperson for the New Historicism,
Stephen Greenblatt, raising up Caliban as a beacon for Cultural Criticism:
Caliban, of course, does not triumph: it would take dierent artists
from dierent culturesthe postcolonial Caribbean and African
cultures of our own timesto rewrite Shakespeares play and make
good on Calibans claim. But even within the powerful constraints of
Shakespeares Jacobean culture, the artists imaginative mobility enables
him to display cracks in the glacial front of princely power and to record
a voice, the voice of the displaced and oppressed, that is heard scarcely
anywhere else in his own time. If it is the task of cultural criticism
to decipher the power of Prospero, it is its task to hear the accents of
Confronted by this, I begin by murmuring that we have been hearing the
accents of Caliban for some centuries now, and without the necessity of confusing
them with the accents of Malcolm X. But then, the Cultural Critic Greenblatt
deciphers the power of Prospero by telling us that: As magician Prospero
resembles no one in the play so much as Sycorax, a judgment that might have
mystied Shakespeare himself, not to mention Ariel, or even Caliban.
Caliban, however you historicize him, is not going to turn into a classic object
of the imperialistic drives of all the Dead White European Males, among whom
Shakespeare reigns supreme. The pathos of Caliban centers his dramatic power,
but it is not the pathos of victimage, as conveyed by Stephano-like cultural
It belongs instead to a greater pathos of displacement, which is one of
Shakespeares unique originalities. Like Shylock, Malvolio, and Lears Fool,
Caliban suers an uncanny fate, in which the virtues of one mode of being are
likely to become self-destructive when transferred to another context. Shylock,
for all his dignity, becomes a hideous comic villain, and the devoted Malvolio
becomes a grotesque comic butt. Lears Fool, the damage already being done, does
not rally the old king, but drives him on to madness. Caliban, not a natural man,
but rather the natural child of an unnatural hag, has sustained three shocks before
the play even commences: education by a magus; rejection after his attempted
rape of Miranda; total powerlessness in relation to Prosperos domination over

The Tempest in the Twentieth Century


him. Alone on the island, Caliban would have become the island, without
violating his own nature. Prosperos Hermetic art is white magic, and has nothing
in common with the horrors of Sycorax. Prosperos true resemblance is to his
favorite spirit, Ariel, who shares both Prosperos delighted pride in his art, and
also Prosperos coldness. Caliban and Prospero are antithetical to one another, as
they desperately discover. It is Calibans island, but Prosperos play, and any critic
who tries to displace Prospero will become only another Stephano. Poor Caliban
follows Stephano, and lives to learn that freedom would not have ensued for him,
even had Prospero been murdered.
No one is free in The Tempest, where only time triumphs, victor even over the
Hermetic art of Prospero. Renunciation of his magic does not redeem Prospero
from the harmonies and discords of time. The play does not idealize the magus,
even as it refuses to idealize the only semi-human Caliban, who is a murderous
coward, the most timorous of monsters. Earth and water together are only half of
nature, or of imagination, even as air and re together give us only the other half,
Ariel. Shelley, as extreme a revolutionary as Trotsky, shrewdly identied with
Ariel, a far better candidate for Marxist exaltation than the wretched Caliban can
be. Like our contemporary academic lemmings, Caliban is an inauthentic rebel,
a parody of the exploited, the insulted, the injured. In this again, he curiously
shares with Shylock and with Malvolio. Yet they have no Prospero, who at last
will confront the truth of relationship: this thing of darkness I / Acknowledge
mine. A failed teacher (rather than a cultural imperialist), Prospero asserts
something well beyond ownership. Calibans initial reaction is a hopeless
misunderstanding: I shall be pinched to death. But this is now the Prospero
who will retire into mortality: where / Every third thought shall be my grave.
The rarer surprise comes from Caliban: Ill be wise hereafter, / And seek for
grace. Above all poets, even Ovid, Shakespeares center is the representation
of change. His great topos is changeability. Those who cannot change never can
abide Shakespeare, even as they cannot survive in his scenes. Caliban can change,
and will, though I am not certain that we fully understand how and why this
can be.
I return, as I close, to the mutual bitterness between Caliban and Prospero,
that begins to soften only as the drama ends. Prosperos failure as an educator
takes its force only from the Orphic context of Renaissance Hermeticism: It
is the failure of Ficino, Bruno and Pico della Mirandola, and not the failure of
Shakespeare. Calibans pragmatic refusal to transcend his own nature does not
disturb us, even if we are politically incorrect to the highest degree. But for the
great Hermeticist Prospero, it is the rst intimation of those recalcitrances that at
last will animate his rejection of his own art. As a redeemed Demiurge, Prospero
has been as inadequate as Calibans rst maker. Adding to the pain of defeat is
the poignance of Calibans own sense of loss:


The Tempest

When thou camst rst,

Thou strokst me and made much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries int, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night; and then I lovd thee . . .
I suppose that if you believe ideology is everything, and personal relations
are nothing, then the accents you overhear in this are those of a native victim
of paternalism and colonialism. But what, all too briey, allied Caliban and
Prospero was an absolutely personal relationship. The accents I hear are those of
a mutually failed love, of an adoption slain, as William Blake would have said,
upon the stems of generation.



Much of the response to The Tempest in the late twentieth century and early
twenty-first century was influenced by what can broadly be called postcolonialism. Postcolonial criticism is concerned with European colonization of
other nations and with the colonial relations of domination and submission,
especially with regard to race and gender. Such criticism has tended to approach
The Tempest as a work reflecting the prejudices of its historical period rather than
expressing essential truths. Thus many readings of The Tempest in this period
attempted to reveal imperial or colonial habits of mind and notions of relationship. Critics and theatrical productions often achieved this by deconstructing
earlier readings of The Tempest that had come to be regarded as imperial, racist,
or patriarchal and then reconstructing the text so that it might contribute to a
decolonializing project.
Recent critics, however, have used postcolonial approaches as strategies to
explore The Tempest rather than as absolutes able to discredit and dismantle
the play. Tom McAlindon distanced himself from orthodox postcolonial
readings in 2001, when he thus evaluated the colonization that Prospero and
Miranda undertake: [T]he conception of Prospero as colonist loses much of
its persuasiveness . . . when we perceive that his every word, prayer, and act is
designed to eect the escape of his daughter and himself from a place they never
chose to inhabit.
It is dicult to predict how critical readings and critical theories will shape
The Tempest during the twenty-rst century. The plays past attraction for critics,
however, suggests that scholarly interest in The Tempest will continue as time goes
by and new critical ideas arise.

2001Tom McAlindon. The Discourse of Prayer in

The Tempest, from Studies in English Literature, 15001900
Tom McAlindon (1932 ) is professor emeritus of English at the
University of Hull. He has written critical studies on topics ranging


The Tempest

from Greek and medieval romance to the poetry of Yeats, but his main
interest is in Renaissance drama. He is the author of Shakespeares Tragic

Ferdinand. My language! Heavens! (I.ii. 431)

Caliban. You taught me language, and my prot ont
Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language! (I.ii. 3657)

Few critics today would attach special signicance to Ferdinands mildly pious
little exclamation. For many, however, Calibans outburst is highly signicant,
and its meaning more or less xed. They see it as the most important utterance
in a play whose dominant discourse seeks to euphemize colonialist oppression,
yet fails to suppress contradiction. The protest of reality itself, the curse produces
a moment of absolute moral victory for the enslaved native of the island and is
so potent in its devastating justness that it casts a shadow over the nal scene,
determining, in eect, our overall conception of the play.
In some of the more persuasive colonialist interpretations, Calibans curse
on his language teacher is taken as proof that language functions in the play in
exact accord with the alleged pronouncement of the bishop of Avila in 1492:
Language is the perfect instrument of empire. Such readings, however, do
not consider the plays many other allusions to language and how they might
strengthen or weaken the colonialist interpretation of Calibans curse. These
allusions function as part of a specic discourse: the language of prayer; it is to
this context, I believe, that Calibans curse (like Ferdinands pious exclamation)
belongs, and from which we must derive its signicance. The discourse of prayer,
it must be said, is fairly conspicuous in all the romances: it is inter-involved with
their providentialist ideology, their special fondness for the numinous, and an
idealist mode of characterization that habitually associates noble characters (the
heroines especially) with sainthood and divinity. But, although important in this
context, the discourse of prayer as used in Pericles, Cymbeline, and The Winters
Tale diers considerably from its role in The Tempest, where it is distinguished by
its paradoxical and dialectical character and its central involvement in the plays
meanings. In fact, a more illuminating comparison for The Tempest would be with
the contribution made by the discourse of prayer to the dramatic character and
thematic bias of King Lear.
By analysis of the way in which prayer functions in The Tempest I hope to
challenge not only the claim that language functions on the island as a colonialist
tool but also the notion of an essentially egoistic and tyrannical Prospero and a
nally unreconciled Caliban; no less controversially, I would also hope to show

The Tempest in the Twenty-rst Century


that instead of legitimizing an intrinsically oppressive hierarchical order, the play,

while not dispensing with the hierarchical model of society, advances a leveling,
horizontal ethic of interdependence and reciprocity. Although my method is
primarily one of close reading, it will entail reference to the way in which the text
encodes certain aspects of early modern culture hitherto ignored by critics, and
is, in that sense, rmly historicist. Nevertheless, I shall be implicitly endorsing
humanist conceptions of The Tempest as a work that is intentionally and eectively
of trans-historical as well as contemporary signicance. Moreover, although I
would not deny that it is deeply engaged with problems of power, authority,
and subjectication, my extra-textual move will not be toward political but
rather toward religious, aective, and rhetorical aspects of Tudor and Jacobean
culture. Since politics and religion were so intimately related in the period, this
distinction might seem problematic, but I do not accept the assumption that
religion should be understood solely in terms of power.

I shall begin by noting that the root context of Calibans curse is a conceptual
antithesis that runs throughout The Tempest, an antithesis in which the other
term is blessing. Curse and blessing are intimately related and unstable opposites,
since each is a form of prayer, and since in religious and popular thought, what
begins as a curse often becomes a blessing, and vice versa. Blessing and curse,
however, are not the only forms of prayer in The Tempest. There is petitionary
prayer and the prayer of worship or adoration. Prayerful and prayer-like forms of
expression were classied as gures of speech in rhetorical tradition. In the 1593
edition of Henry Peachams The Garden of Eloquence, the most extensive and
accurate treatment of the gures in English, the curse (ara or imprecatio), the
blessing (eulogia or benedictio), and the petitionary prayer (obtestatto) are grouped
among the so-called Figures of Exclamation, those used most commonly
to utter vehement aections in vehement formes. A gure in the same group
closely related to ara, and one to which Prospero is often inclined, is cataplexis or
comminatto, in which the speaker denounceth a threatening against some person,
people, citie, common wealth or country, declaring the certaintie or likelihood of
plagues, or punishments to fall upon them for their wickednesse (Peacham gives
a biblical example). And a gure closely related to eulogia is paenismus, where the
speaker expresses joy that some good has been obtained or some evil avoided: not
necessarily a prayer, but yet an utterance in which the speaker might feel, or seem
to feel, that he or she is blessed, that something providential has occurred (the
paean was originally a thanksgiving chant for deliverance addressed to Apollo or
Artemis). Peachams example is from the Virgin Marys Magnicat, in which
Mary rejoices beyond a common joy on hearing that she is to be the mother of
the Redeemer: From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed (Luke


The Tempest

In Shakespeares language of prayer, it is undoubtedly the curse that modern

audiences and readers will remember best. Both formal and informal, calculated
and impulsive, curses abound in the histories and tragedies. Shakespeares
curses are the language of fury, hatred, helplessness, and despair wrought to its
uttermost. But the language of prayer continuously, if less audibly, highlights
contrary aspects of human feeling and experience. It is used in expressions of
love, kindness, and gratitude, in outbursts of joy and wonder, and in countless
eloquent pleadings for mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. Although his plays
are essentially secular, Shakespeare drew upon the language of prayer and
religion as a storehouse of emotion and symbol to which his audience was readily
responsive, using it as a mode of intensied expression for the feelings and values
that were of greatest concern to him. The religious symbology of Petrarchan
tradition no doubt contributed to this habit of fusing secular and religious
expression. It came easily, however, in a culture where God buy you (i.e., God
redeem you) was a common variant for God be with you, and neither had yet
been contracted to goodbye.
Of special signicance in The Tempest (as in Lear) is the parental blessing
and its opposite, the parental curse. The parents blessing, for which the child
customarily knelt, was a familiar and cherished ritual in the Tudor and Stuart
period, one which extended into the adulthood of both son and daughter.
Richard Whytforde, an early Tudor authority on child rearing, advised that
chylder [should] use and accustome theme selfe dayly to aske theyr fathers and
mothers blessynges, and he explained that the blessyng of the parents doth
fyrme and make stable the possession and the kynred of the childe. Recalling
how he was brought up to revere his father, Roger North wrote in the later
seventeenth century that the constant reward of blessing, which was observed
as sacred, was a petit regale in his closet. Thus, in the most emotionally charged
moments in the romances, a daughter or son kneels and a parent blesses (Pericles,
V.i.212; Cymbeline, V.vi.2669; Winters Tale, V.iii.1204; Tempest, V.i.1804 ). In
Cymbeline too, the brothers Arviragus and Guiderius beg their father Belariuss
blessing before going to war, feeling that without it they will perish in battle;
at the end Belarius restores them to their true father thus: The benediction of
these covering heavens / Fall on their head like dew (Cymbeline, IV.iv.4450;
But the parental curse was deemed no less powerful than the blessing;
indeed, it seems to have been regarded with special dread and awe: the curse
of the parents doth eradicate and . . . utterly destroy the possessions and the
kindred of the children, asserted Whytforde. Such a curse was thought to have
blighted the House of Percy in the seventeenth century. In 1628, the ninth earl
of Northumberlands eldest son married the granddaughter of Robert Cecil.
Northumberland was bitterly opposed to this union, for Cecil had been largely
responsible for his sixteen years in the Tower of London. But there were no

The Tempest in the Twenty-rst Century


children to the marriage, and superstitious gossip long afterward maintained

that this was due to a curse laid by the angry earl on his sons union. The
childlessness of his beautiful daughter Lucy, who married an untitled favorite of
James I despite his strenuous opposition, was similarly ascribed to the paternal
curse. The tragedy of King Lear and his daughters is comparable, beginning as
it does with the bride-to-be departing from her fathers kingdom stripped of
his benediction and dowered with his curse and moving swiftly to another
terrible crisis in which he puts the curse of barrenness on her sister (King Lear,
I.i.203, 265). As we shall see, too, the possibility of a fathers curse initially
shadows the impending union of Ferdinand and Miranda in The Tempest.

The most oensive curse in The Tempest, however, is arguably neither Prosperos
nor Calibans. In the opening scene, the word plague in the boatswains outburst,
A plague upon this howling (i.e., the cries of the courtiers) is followed in the
Folio by a long dash; this must have replaced a blasphemous oath or string of oaths
which was heard on stage (I.i.35). The boatswain is immediately condemned as a
blasphemous, incharitable dog, an insolent noisemaker (I.i.3943); and when
he reappears in the last scene in a dumbstruck condition he is greeted ironically
as a loud-mouthed blasphemer chastened by experience:
Now, blasphemy,
That swearst grace oerboard: not an oath on shore?
Hast thou no mouth by land?
But the boatswains outburst was forgivable, since he was being obstructed and
distracted by the passengers in his attempts to keep the chain of command
between the master and the men (I pray now, keep below, he had said
politely enough to the courtiers [I.i.10]); and it is clear at the end that he is
well-intentioned, dutiful, and beyond serious reproach. Although blasphemous,
his execrations are comparable to Prosperos cataplectic outbursts against the
rebelliousness of Caliban, Ariel, and Ferdinand. But it should be observed,
too, that in this opening scene the boatswains blasphemies are eclipsed by the
desperate pieties of others: All lost! To prayers, to prayers! shout the Mariners;
Gonzalo cries, The King and Prince at prayers! Lets assist them, / For our case
is as theirs; and Gonzalo brings the scene to an end, as Prospero will end the
play, with an echo of the Lords Prayer: The wills above be done (I.i.4952, 63).
From the start, the discourse of prayer embodies a sense of the interdependence
of human beings as well as of their common dependence on powers they cannot
control. It conspires thus with the emblematic nature of the opening scene to
reinforce the universal implication of the play: the imperiled ship, with its fearful


The Tempest

and fractious passengers, recalls not only the ship of state, any state, but also
human nature, which, says Francis Bacon in his essay Of Adversity, saileth
in the frail bark of the esh through the waves of the world. [13]
The long and complex second scene (I.ii) includes Calibans rst curses and a
wide range of prayers, together with references to unsolicited blessings or graces.
Miranda, one of the plays two main voices of charitable compassion, pleads
on the voyagers behalf with Prospero, the surrogate deity who commands the
storm. Her prayers are answered because she is addressing someone in whom
the very virtue of compassion outweighs the desire for vengeance (I.ii.27):
Tell your piteous heart / Theres no harm done (I.ii.145). Echoing the Rheims
translation of the Bible and its account of St. Pauls miraculous voyage from
Palestine to Rome, Ariel reports that everyone on board, like everyone on Pauls
ship, has survived shipwreck and landed on the island with not a hair perished
(I.ii.218; Acts 27:34).
At the end of the scene, however, Prospero plays the implacable god in
response to Mirandas triple appeal for pity on Ferdinands behalf: Speak not you
for him! (1.11.463; also 1.11.478, 504). The reason for his harshness, however,
is that he has a blessing in store for Miranda; that reason is buried in his cryptic
but noticeably emphatic, if not impassioned, response to her question as to why
he raised the storm: I have done nothing but in care of thee, / Of thee, my dear
one, thee, my daughter (I.ii.167). (I shall return to this important explanation
later.) However, like any powerful ruler, white magician, or saint, Prospero is no
deity but a dependent mortal, and he knows it. As told in this second scene, his
own story of survival duplicates the experience of the rst scene. He was, he tells
Miranda, blessedly helped hither by Providence divine (I.ii.63, 160). And
Providence operated rst through Gonzalo, who out of his charity supplied him
with the material necessities for the journey as well as his books (I.ii.163); and,
secondly, through Miranda herself, who was to her despairing father what the
comforting angel was to the storm-tossed Paul:
O, a cherubin
Thou wast that did preserve me. Thou didst smile,
Infusd with a fortitude from heaven,
When I have deckd the sea with drops full salt
which raised in me
An undergoing stomach, to bear up
Against what should ensue.
Also in the second scene are Ariels angry protest and Prosperos cataplectic
responses. It might reasonably be said that Prosperos outbursts at this point are
hardly distinguishable from Calibans. His angry words, however, are not curses,

The Tempest in the Twenty-rst Century


in the true sense, but threats. And although they undoubtedly suggest furious
severity and a harsh, inammable nature, there are mitigating circumstances here,
which too often are ignored. In the rst place, Prospero is working desperately
against time when his two servants erupt rebelliously (see I.ii.367, 17989).
More important, perhaps, is the way in which Ariel, being reminded that
Prospero freed him from an eternity of pain, acknowledges his own ingratitude,
begs pardon for his outburst, and promises to complete his tasks (I.ii.297).
Caliban, who also stands accused of ingratitude, will require more than threats
before he will ask for pardon and grace, but he will, as will others, his irascible
master included (I.ii.34750).
The second scene also contains the lovers expressions of mutual wonder and
worship. It has long been observed that in Ferdinands rst words to Miranda
there is an echo of Aeneas address to Venus in book 1 of the Aeneid (o dea
certe!). But it was commonplace in Greek romance and its medieval and
Renaissance derivatives for the hero to mistake the heroine for a supernatural
being (goddess, angel, or fairy) at rst encounter. Moreover, this familiar motif
(and the Virgilian echo) is assimilated here to a complex system of religious
metaphor. Each lover is divine to the other, the divine symbolizing humanity
in its ideal form. To Miranda, who carries wonder and admiration in her name,
Ferdinand is a thing divine (I.ii.421). To him she is Most sure, the goddess /
On whom these airs attend, and he prays to her for some good instruction on
how he should conduct himself on the island: Vouchsafe my prayer (I.ii.4248).
Worship is thus the plays metaphor for love and admiration; it is what makes
service acceptable, even desirable. So it is relevant also to Caliban, who gures
as Ferdinands antithesis in one of two juxtaposed, semi-emblematic scenes: the
truculent logman who curses his master (All the infections that the sun sucks
up / From bogs, fens, ats, on Prosper fall [II.ii. 121) is contrasted with the
patient log-man (III.i. 67) who blesses and feels blessed by his mistress in his
menial task:
I do beseech you
Chiey that I might set it in my prayers
What is your name?
(III.i. 346)
Caliban once loved, and is still in awe of, his master; but such now is his hatred
of Prospero that he loses what judgment he has, accepts Stephano as master, and
kneels in idolatrous admiration of a gross fool, his man in the moon: I do adore
thee . . . I prithee, be my god . . . Ill swear myself thy subject (II.ii. 139, 148, 151).
No more maledictions then for the time being: whilst thou livst, keep a good
tongue in thy head is his new masters injunction (III.ii. 113). Also antithetical
to Caliban is holy Gonzalo, as Prospero calls him (V.i. 62). Throughout the


The Tempest

long scene where he is ridiculed by Antonio for being spendthrift . . . of his

tongue, he is motivated in almost everything he says (including his notorious
utopian fantasy) by a compassionate desire to distract his master from despairing
thoughts about his sons possible death (compare with Mirandas role as the
smiling cherubim who saved her father from despair) (II.i. 25). Correspondingly,
Gonzalo criticizes Sebastian for feeding Alonsos gloom by suggesting that he is
responsible for his sons death:
My lord Sebastian,
The truth you speak of doth lack some gentleness
And time to speak it in. You rub the sore
When you should bring the plaster.
(II.i. 1414)
It becomes apparent at this point that speech is being thematized in the
play. Thus, Antonios attempt to seduce Sebastian into a usurpation plot focuses
attention on a courtly perversion of speechs archetypal, rhetorical function. Hes
a spirit of persuasion, only / Professes to persuade the King . . . his sons alive,
comments Antonio sarcastically on Gonzalos benevolent chatter, precisely when
he himself is trying to talk Sebastian into murder (II.i. 2401). Set thus against
Antonios evil persuasions, the naive-sounding speech of garrulous Gonzalo is
rendered doubly positive by its prayerful dimension. His abrupt waking from the
sleep shared by himself and Alonso saves both of them from death, and his rst
words on waking, almost as if the exclamatory words themselves had wakened
him, are: Now good angels / Preserve the King! (II.i. 3112). His last words in
the scene are a prayer for the missing son designed to lift the fathers still sinking
spirits: Heavens keep him from these beasts! / For he is sure i th island (II.
i. 3223). [20] Implicit here is a recognition, conspicuous in King Lear (where
Shakespeare plays on the synonymy of blessing, benediction, and benison),
that to bless is to speak well (bene dicere).

In the mysterious spiritual economy of the island, the fate of the king and his
missing son is wholly dependent on Prosperos prayer for his daughter. Prospero
watches, unobserved, the blossoming relationship between Miranda and
Ferdinand that he appeared to oppose and exclaims: Heavens rain grace / On
that which breeds between em (III.i. 756). With this prayer, I would suggest,
we begin to see much of what the play is centrally about: a fathers blessing for a
daughter who is herself a blessing. This claim might seem as large as it is novel,
but consider Prosperos name in relation to the following anities (all emphases
will be mine). Sebastian comments sardonically on the marriage of Alonsos
daughter in Tunis: Twas a sweet marriage, and we prosper well in our return

The Tempest in the Twenty-rst Century


(II.i. 77)meaning that it was a bitter marriage and that they are cursed on the
return voyage; for he adds accusingly: you . . . would not bless our Europe with
your daughter (II.i. 12930). Then, in Prosperos wedding masque Juno says to
Go with me
To bless this twain, that they may prosperous be,
And honoured in their issue.
(IV.i. 1035)
Reected here is the fact that, in Shakespeares time, the word prosper (and
its derivatives) was so commonly attached to the idea of blessing as to be almost
synonymous with it. To pray for someones well-beingto bless that person
was to ask that he or she would prosper; and to be blessed by heaven or the fairies
was to be prospered by them (like the Latin prosperare, to prosper meant both to
ourish and to cause to ourish). This near synonymy of the two concepts and
terms is commonplace in the Old Testament, where it probably originates, but
numerous examples of it can be found in the Shakespeare canon too: God and
St. George . . . prosper our colours in this dangerous ght! (The First Part of Henry
the Sixth, IV.ii. 556); bless it [the marriage] to all fair prosperity (A Midsummer
Nights Dream, IV.i. 8990); The Lord bless you; God prosper your aairs (The
Second Part of Henry the Fourth, III.ii. 289); leave we him to his events, with a
prayer they may prove prosperous (Measure for Measure, IV.i. 4967); Kind gods,
forgive me that, and prosper him (King Lear, III.vii. 90); Fairies and gods prosper
it with thee . . . O you mighty gods . . . If Edgar live, O bless him! (King Lear,
IV.v. 2940). [21] OED provides pertinent extracanonical instances in Thomas
Nashes God cherrist and prosperd them with all the blessings he could (1598)
and Thomas Cromwells a people so prospered, and blessed (1651). And since
it is close in spirit to the paradoxical temper of The Tempest, this from Bacons
Essays should be noted: Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity
is the blessing of the New; which carrieth the greater benediction, and the clearer
revelation of Gods favour. [22] What I am suggesting, then, is that the name
of Prospero, a name historically associated with the dukedom of Milan, but that
here, on four occasions, becomes Prosper, is so deployed by Shakespeare as
to signify blessing. Above all, it signies the blessing of marriage and children.
And toward the end it seems also to suggest another kind of blessing, one which
is auxiliary to the rst. Prosperos last-act promise of calm seas, auspicious
gales and expeditious sail (V.i. 3179) evokes the conventional description of
favorable winds and trouble-free voyages as prosperous (The Comedy of Errors, I.i.
40; Alls Well That Ends Well, III.iii. 7; The Winters Tale, V.i. 160).
This identication of the name of Prosper with the idea of blessing suggests
that Calibans much discussed name may have been aected by the plays


The Tempest

discourse of prayer and its antithetical and ultimately paradoxical principle (III.
iii. 99). In the most thorough examination to date of the various theories that
have been advanced to account for this name, Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia
Mason Vaughan have cast doubt on the cannibal etymology. They have found
the carib / Caribana etymology quite persuasive, and more persuasive still
the claim of Albert Kluyver (made in 1895) that the name derives from the
gypsy word for blackcauliban or kaliban (they note that the gypsy language
ourished in sixteenth-century England). I, too, nd Kluyvers theory persuasive,
not only because of the structural identity of the name and the adjective but also
because Prospero calls Caliban a thing of darkness and a demi-devil (V.i.278,
275) (we might recall Lears execration, Darkness and devils! [24]). But I would
suggest, too, that the name has another, closely related meaning that is unfolded
to us on the principle of in vino veritas. II.i ends with Gonzalos prayer for his
masters son; II.ii opens with Calibans t of cursing against his master and ends
with his drunken, word-playful song: Ban, ban, Cacaliban / Has a new master
(II.ii. 1834). We are alerted thus to the fact that cursing is part of Calibans
name: pertinent here are Edgars reference [in King Lear] to Bedlam beggars
roaring . . . sometime with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers, and Yorks
response [in Henry VI, Part 1] to Joans curses: Fell banning hag, enchantress,
hold thy tongue. Caliban also prexes the word ban with an appropriate echo
of the Greek word for bad or evil (kakos). A common enough prex in
English, it occurs elsewhere in Shakespeare only in relation to the much cursed
cacodemon of Richard III, another character who is deformed both physically
and spiritually. [26]

Even their names, then, indicate that Prospero and Caliban are involved in a
dialectic of blessing and curse; and at the heart of this relationship is the fate
of Miranda. Looking into the dark backward and abysm of time, Prospero
tells Miranda that her presence on their dangerous voyage turned foul play and
trouble into a blessing. But her future on the island can hardly seem auspicious
to him; he can only assume that after his death her fate will be rape and
motherhood to a brood of little Calibans (I.ii.34953). Hence the shipwreck
and his cryptic but earnest explanation that it was all done in care of thee, /
Of thee, my dear one, thee, my daughter (my emphasis). By his prescience,
Prospero saw who was on the passing ship, saw that the voyage home and
the future for Miranda would be prosperous only if a genuine peace were
established between himself and his old enemy, and saw too that the best way
to such a peace would be to unite the two kingdoms through marriage (I.ii.181).
Everything he does on the island once he has secured the safe landing of the
shipwrecked voyagersseparating the mariners and servants from the royal
party, isolating Ferdinand from the rest of that party and engineering his fair

The Tempest in the Twenty-rst Century


encounter with Miranda, bringing Alonso through despair and remorse to say,
I . . . do entreat thou pardon me my wrongs (V.i.1201): all these fall into
place as being subordinate and auxiliary to the plan for Mirandas salvation.
Thus it is surely as incorrect to say that Mirandas marriage . . . is designed by
Prospero as a way of satisfying himself, a means of preserving [his] authority,
as it is to claim that the storm was part of a revenge plan abandoned only in
a fth-act conversion inspired by Ariel (V.i. 1630). [27]
Perhaps the most important aspect of Prosperos plan is his tacit
acknowledgement that the rst prerequisite for a blessed marriage is mutual
attraction and choice; he knows he cannot enforce this, and he clearly sees
himself blessed when it happens spontaneously as his soul prompts it (I.ii.423).
Another and complementary prerequisite that he has in mind, which he
considers to be necessary to society as a whole, and which he articulates very
explicitly, is restraint, the willed curtailment of freedom, something he himself
has to practice when he has his enemies in his power and could well become
the tyrant Caliban holds him to be. Without evidence of restraint, he believes,
Ferdinands attraction to Miranda will not be a love based on respect, but rather
tyrannous, Calibanesque lust. Hence his insistence that if Ferdinand seeks to
consummate his union before All sanctimonious ceremonies and full and
holy rite are ministered, it will be cursed with sterility and conict: No sweet
aspersion shall the heavens let fall . . . but barren hate, / Sour-eyed disdain, and
discord . . . with weeds so loathly (IV.I.1521).
Given Ferdinands solemn assurance that his passion is under control, almost
all the emphasis in the betrothal masque and its aftermath is on blessing. In
the Solempnizacion of Matrimonye as established in the Elizabethan Prayer
Book, the following blessings (borrowed from the Psalms) are conferred upon
the wedded couple:
Blessed are all they that feare the Lorde, and walke in his waies.
For thou shalt eate the labour of thy handes, O wel is thee, and happy
shalt thou be.
Thy wife shal be as the fruitfull vine vpon the walles of thy house.
Thy children like the Oliue braunches rounde about thy table . . . thou
shalt see . . . prosperitie, al thy life long: Yea . . . thou shalt see thy
childrens children, and peace . . .
Then shall the earthe bryng furthe her encrease, and God . . . shal geue
vs his blessyng.
Prosperos wedding masque translates these blessings into a classical idiom
complicated with suggestions of an English climate and landscape in a
Mediterranean world (IV.i.606, 12838). Passing Cyprus en route, Iris arrives
to inform Ceres, goddess of earths plenty, that she has been called some


The Tempest

donation . . . freely to estate / On the blessed lovers (IV.i.856). Juno, goddess of

marriage, tells Ceres, Go with me to bless this twain, that they may prosperous
be, and sings:
Honour, riches, marriage-blessing,
Long continuance, and increasing,
Hourly joys be still upon you!
Juno sings her blessings on you.
(IV.i. 1069)
Her companion sings of Earths increase and vines with clustring bunches
bowing, and ends her song: Ceres blessing so is on you (IV.i.10317).
In the last scene, Alonso and Gonzalo add their voices to the prosperous
marriage theme and, implicitly, to the ancillary theme of the prosperous voyage.
Believing Ferdinand is dead, and hearing Prospero has lost a daughter, Alonso
exclaims: O heavens, that they were living both in Naples, / The King and Queen
there (V.i. 14950). His discovery that this despairing prayer is to be answered
gives an ecstatic quality to the blessings uttered by himself and Gonzalo, adding
paenismus to benedictio:
Gonzalo. Look down you gods,
And on this couple drop a blessed crown;
For it is you that have chalked forth the way
Which brought us hither.
Alonso. I say amen, Gonzalo.
Gonzalo. 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 nd 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.
Gonzalo here reinforces a paradoxical idea already made explicit in the rst
exchange between the reunited Ferdinand and Alonso: Though the seas
threaten, they are merciful, / I have cursed them without cause, said the son;
to which the father responded antiphonally: Now all the blessings of a glad
father compass thee about! (V.i. 1813). The same paradox was operative earlier
when Alonsos great guilt, provoked by the tempest that followed the vanishing

The Tempest in the Twenty-rst Century


banquet, prompted him to think that he was cursed forever by Prospero when
in fact he had been subjected to an experience designed by Prospero to lead him
through heart sorrow to a clear life ensuing (III.iii.812). Asked by Gonzalo
I th name of something holy why he stood in a strange stare, Alonso
replied (with an acute sense of the sacred and its dierent languages):
O, 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, and
Ill seek him deeper than eer plummet sounded,
And with him there lie mudded.
Symmetrically, the notion of a curse transformed to a blessing rst appeared in
Prosperos account of his own and his childs exposure to the elements in their
terrible voyage; it is manifestly basic to the meaning of the play.
And yet even the blessing celebrated at the end is qualied by Shakespeares
inescapably dialectical sense and by the pressure of the scenes ceremonial and
literary intertexts. The contingent nature of the lovers happiness is acknowledged
within the masque by reference to the myth of Proserpina and Pluto (dusky
Dis) and without by its abrupt termination by the thing of darkness and his
plot (IV.i.89, V.i.278). This recalls the Prayer Books marriage ceremony, in which
the central blessings are followed by reminders of Satan and the Fall in prayers,
shared between minister and congregation, for the Lord to deliuer us from
euil and euermore defende the wedded pair From the face of their enemie
(p. 126); it recalls too the warning motif of epithalamic tradition enumerating
the perils that threaten the marriage being celebrated. Furthermore, Prospero
confesses that the blessed marriage of his daughter is a dear loss which he can
only endureconvert to another resolved paradoxby praying to Patience for
her soft grace and sovereign aid (V.i.14450).
Prosperos concluding speech (my ending is despair / Unless I be relieved by
prayer) extends the discourse of prayer into the life of the audience. An epilogues
conventional appeal for a gracious response blends artfully with a variation on
the Lords Prayer, a humble acknowledgement that Prospero is dependent on
sinful others for pardon and prosperous winds if he is not to remain unredeemed,
accursed, and imprisoned. Prospero has said that he must acknowledge Caliban
as his own, and indeed there is a curious parallelism between the two at the end
(V.i.2789). Caliban admits that he was an ass to worship a dull fool and decides
to seek for grace and pardon from his master (V.i.279, 298301); Prospero


The Tempest

buries the book that he once prized above his dukedom, reduces himself to a
common player, and prays to common mortals like ourselves (I.ii.169). Calibans
curses, we may conclude, are as integral to the dialectical structure and the
discourse of prayer in the play to which they belong as are the cataplectic threats
of Prospero and the execrations of Lear, the dragon king who kneels for pardon.
They are part of a structure of thought that insists on human limitation and
interdependence and on the consequent need for self-restraint, self-knowledge,
repentance, forgiveness, generosity, and cooperation: Lets assist them, / For our
case is as theirs!

There is, then, an abundance of textual evidence in The Tempest to suggest the
presence of a playwright fully in control of his material and to question the
essentially negative accounts of Prospero and his actions that political critique so
often abstracts from the play by means of strategic quotation and deconstructive
allegations of textual self-contradiction. Some perhaps might claim that the
discourse of prayer, elegant and artful though it may be, is simply further evidence
of an attempt to euphemize colonial domination of the island. But this argument,
I believe, would be hard to sustain. Comparable with its deployment in Lear and
in the other romances, the language of prayer in The Tempest is overwhelmingly
focused on the travelers consciousness of their creatural weakness and dependence
and on their desire to overcome misfortuneshipwreck on an island that none
of the nobility wants to colonize: Some heavenly power guide us / Out of this
fearful country! (V.i. 1078). Because it contains undoubted echoes of the New
World in its richly allusive, symbolic, and universalizing design, and because it is
clearly concerned with government and control (as well as self-control), one can
easily understand why the play has been appropriated as a colonialist allegory,
especially by inhabitants of the Caribbean islands. But I would contend that the
conception of Prospero as colonist loses much of its persuasivenesshas to be
located near the periphery of the plays range of semantic possibilitieswhen we
perceive that his every word, prayer, and act is designed to eect the escape of his
daughter and himself from a p