The Tempest Notes

Background Notes for Shakespeare’s play The Tempest (1610-1611)

By most accounts, this is Shakespeare’s final play, although he collaborated on Two Noble Kinsman with John Fletcher, which was published later. Although Shakespeare never made such designations, it is categorized as a Romance play.
Perhaps unusual for Shakespeare, it is a play that is tied historically to the era in which it is written. Like all Shakespeare’s plays it also transcends that era. Thematically, it questions ideals of revenge and forgiveness, power and conquest in a time where Europe came face to face with other civilizations unlike their own.  
The play reflects some historical events of Shakespeare’s time:  In 1610, an eye-witness account of a shipwreck was published by someone who survived it. William Strachey’s, A True Reportory of the Wracke and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight, was an account of the wreck of the Sea Venture in 1609 on the island of Bermuda. The boat was sailing towards the new colony of Jamestown and likely went down in a hurricane. Many critics have made connections between this account and Shakespeare’s play due to some similarities in the way the boat sank and what happened to those who survived.
Shakespeare also may have come upon a diary kept by Antoniao Pigafetta, a sailor with Magellan’s fleet in the first voyage to circumnavigate the world.  (Magellan himself did not make it back. Why name a GPS after him?)  During the voyage, Magellan landed at the southern tip of South America and encountered people the Portuguese sailors called “Patagonians”. (“Big Foot”) Magellan took two of the men from this land on the boat with them so they could make money by displaying them in Europe, but they died in the voyage. Pigafetta had keener interest in their culture and language, and wrote down what he learned about them in his conversations with the men. One of them may have been Shakespeare’s source for the character of Caliban in The Tempest. Setebos, whom Pigafetta reported was one of their gods, appears in The Tempest as the god of Caliban’s mother, Sycorax, who is portrayed negatively as someone who practices witchcraft.  But then again, in the play, Prospero also practices witchcraft. Pigafetta later published a memoir called Relations of the First Round-the-World Trip (1536). This was translated into English and republished in 1555, in a text called Decades of the New World, and Shakespeare could have had access to it, or heard of it.
Shakespeare likely would have had exposure to a recent translation by John Florio (1603) of Michel de Montaigne’s Essays, one of which is titled “Of the Cannibals”.  Montaigne was a noted philosopher who had incredibly prescient insights into human society. You may have read some of his essays on education last year in AP Language and Composition? This essay states:
Now to returne to my purpose I finde (as farre as I have beene informed) there is nothing in that nation that is either barbarous or savage, unless men call that barbarisme which is not common to them. As indeed, we have no other ayme of truth and reason, than the example and Idea of the opinions and customes of the countrie we live in. There is ever perfect religion, perfect policie, perfect and compleat use of all things. They are even savage, as we call those fruits wilde which nature of her selfe a nd of her ordinarie progresse hath produced: whereas indeed, they are those which our selves have altered by our artificiall devices, and diverted from their common order, we should rather terme savage. In those are the true and most profitable vertues, and naturall properties most lively and vigorous, which in these we have bastardized, apphing them to the pleasure of our corrupted taste. And if notwithstanding, in divers fruits of those countries that were never tilled, we shall finde that in respect of ours they are most excellent, and as delicate unto our taste; there is no reason, art should gaine the point of honour of our great and puissant mother Nature. We have so much by our inventions surcharged the beauties and riches of her workes, that we have altogether overchoaked her: yet where ever her puritie shineth, she makes our vaine and frivolous enterprises wonderfully ashamed.

The play expresses universal human themes of coping with loss, forgiveness and redemption, but also touches on more historically timely ones of enslavement and colonization of other lands and other cultures. The European world opened up in 1492 when Columbus found his way to the West Indies. It wasn’t the first time Europeans were in the New World, nor were these the first European steps into the larger world.  It was, however, the beginning of European exploitation of the New World, and the enslavement of Africans to accomplish it. These voyages weren’t meant to improve trade routes and commerce, but for conquest.
The enslavement of African began in the 1500’s after Europeans realized that they would need a formidable force of human labor to farm the crops that would reap great profits in the Old World including tobacco and sugar cane, which was used primarily to make rum. Europeans were susceptible to tropical diseases and in times of economic prosperity, unwilling to leave family and home for brutal conditions in the New World. Columbus originally proposed the enslavement of Native Americans, but this population was particularly susceptible to European diseases to which they had little immunity. Frequently entire villages would succumb to ravages of these diseases. Moreover, Native Americans were on their own soil, and could run off into the wilderness they knew, within which they had skills to survive.
The proximity of Africa to Europe allowed transference of pathogens to ensure some immunity of European diseases to African natives. Africans were also more tolerant of tropical weather and diseases such as malaria. Taken from their homelands, from familiar fauna and flora, Africans were also unlikely to run off to an unknown wilderness where they could not survive.
Enslavement was quite irrationally justified by some Europeans, well into the 19th century, as an improvement for Africans, for Europeans saw their world as one of refined civilization; they saw their Christian faith as the only true way towards eternal life. In effect, however, it was neither concern for the lives of Africans, nor Christian teachings that motivated the slave trade: it was simple avarice. Human chattel would provide a main conduit for the vast increase in wealth and prosperity that fueled the Enlightenment and drove the Industrial Revolution that allowed Europe to become the center of the civilized world and the center of world power for centuries to come.  
In reality, the mindset of the Christian ethic that governed Europe allowed Muslims and Jews to be viewed as heretical—people who followed the teachings of the one God of Abraham, but from the Christian perspective, flawed in the denial of the Christ as redeemer. Indian and Asian societies, although not Christian, were governed by old and powerful civilizations, and provided goods such as teas, silks and spices that Europeans themselves had not the skill to produce but coveted, and could trade and profit from. In contrast, the indigenous populations of Africa and the New World were seen as little more than animals inhabiting the wilderness that was the devil’s domain in the philosophical perspective of Christian Europe.  Thus, while Africa and its people were brutally forced into the story of the European conquest of the New World, it should not be forgotten that the economic power that this conquest engendered in Europe was fueled by the muscles and sinews of African slaves.
Portugal and Spain, the superpowers of 17th century Europe, began the African slave trade in earnest. England imported slaves to Jamestown in the early part of the 17th century, with the understanding that they would be freed after seven years, as were other indentured white servants, who were mostly poverty stricken or societal outcasts such as orphans or petty criminals. Although these first kidnapped Africans were classed as indentured servants and freed after seven years, chattel slavery entered Virginia law in 1656. Irish immigrants brought slaves to Montserrat in 1651, and in 1655, slaves arrived in Belize.
In Shakespeare’s play, both Caliban and Ariel are slaves to Prospero, but cast in different roles. Ariel is also someone who was previously imprisoned by Caliban’s mother, until Prospero frees him. As depicted in this play, his time of slavery is limited as an indentured servant. As you read the play, notice how the character of Caliban is portrayed: Does he seem to view himself as an equal to Prospero? How does Prospero treat him compared to how he treats Ariel? Analyze Prospero’s character: What is his hamartia? Note also motifs of conquest, usurpation and deposition that parallel Prospero’s own history and misuse of power -- magical, spiritual, intellectual or political.  What does Prospero realize he must do to reconcile the conflict he faces in attempting to reconcile with his brother, the civilized world he comes from, the ungovernable forces of nature, and the wilderness world he has attempted to overcome?
The play raises moral questions about civilization and the conquest of the wilderness and the people who inhabit that resonate for us even centuries later. Where lies the savage? Is the darkness of humanity something that the light of civilization cannot conquer?
As with many of Shakespeare’s plays a metaphor is drawn between art and life, in particular, the play and the act of living. Here, as Shakespeare’s final drama is set down, critics have drawn parallels between Prospero the magician and Shakespeare the impresario, both laying down their magic and understanding that “our little lives are rounded with a sleep”.

The Tempest Questions and Thoughts

Act 1.1
  1. What does the tempest symbolize? How does the struggle of the sailors against the storm represent a metaphor for a conflict at the center of the play?
  2. Look at the dialogue for the characters of Alonzo, Sebastian, Gonzalo and Antonio. What can you tell about their personalities from this brief, though dramatic, scene?
  3. If you were the director at the Globe during Shakespeare’s time, how would you stage this scene?

Act 1.2
  1. Exposition: What do you discover about Miranda and Prospero? What is Prospero’s conflict? What is his goal?
  2. Analyze Prospero as a character. What kind of a person is he? Make a character chart of his strengths and flaws.
  3. In his story about how he lost his kingdom, what might be a reason his brother was able to usurp him? Define what might be Prospero’s hamartia.
  4. How old is Miranda? What does Prospero choose this moment to explain to her what happened to them when she was a little child? (Shakespeare often closely depicts family relationships in his plays, another aspect that makes them timeless.)
  5. What are your earliest memories in the “dark backward and abyss of time”? For Miranda, the past that was her father’s life is nothing more than “a dream”. How important is it for families to pass on the history of generations from one to the next?
  6. From their conversation, does Miranda seem consistently interested in what her father has to say? Explain where her attention seems to waver and why.  Provide examples from their dialogue. Analyze her as a character and the relationship between them. (Note the definition of the word “teen” here, something that every parent of one understands well!)
  7. Who is Ariel and what has he done for Prospero? In effect, who has magical powers? Relate this relationship to the larger historical context of the play, in terms of European conquests of the New World and enslavement of Africans. Note: During the time that Shakespeare was writing this play, England used captured Africans as indentured servants, with the promise that they would gain their freedom after seven years.
  8. Explain what happened to Ariel before Prospero arrived on the island.
  9. Who was Sycorax? Why was she exiled from Algiers? (Where is Algiers?) What did she look like? Consider this character to be somewhat symbolic. What might she represent?
  10. Although Prospero seems to have a negative view of her, how in fact are they very similar? Note: The pre-Christian inhabitants of England were Celtic people whose religion believed that gods occupied trees.
  11. Analyze Caliban as a character. In the historical context of the play, what does he represent? Support your statements with evidence of what happened to him, and how his relationship with the newcomers to the island has changed.
  12. Prospero accuses Caliban of trying to rape his daughter. What do you think might have happened?
  13. Consider the idea of language. Where did Caliban learn how to speak the language of Miranda and Prospero? From what text? Relate this to the historical context of the play.
  14. What do you think of the way Shakespeare portrays the character of Caliban? Consider his dialogue from lines 390 to 440. Compare these to Shylock’s famous speech in Act 3, scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice. How does Shakespeare portray these characters, who both are disrespected by the society in which they live?
  15. Consider the wide use of music in this play. How might this been effective on the stage in Shakespeare’s Globe theater? How might it add to the atmosphere of the performance?  (Note: Shakespeare’s songs were set to music or scored by composers of his time. Thomas Morely, for example, wrote songs for Twelfth Night. Robert Johnson wrote for this play, and William Byrd is another composer associated with Shakespeare’s works.)
  16. Note the message of Ariel’s song Full Fathom Five. What are some symbolic qualities of water? How might this song also introduce thematic elements of the play?
  17. Who is Ferdinand? Why would Prospero want him to meet Miranda? Does he seem content that they have “changed eyes” (530)? Why? He seems to think that he empowered their sudden love. What do you think?
  18. Note that Ferdinand notices that Miranda speaks his language. Comment on the significance of language in the play so far. What does Prospero do with Ferdinand? Why?

The Merchant of Venice
Act 3, scene 1
There I have another bad match: a bankrupt, a
prodigal, who dare scarce show his head on the
Rialto; a beggar, that was used to come so smug upon
the mart; let him look to his bond: he was wont to
call me usurer; let him look to his bond: he was
wont to lend money for a Christian courtesy; let him
look to his bond.
Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take
his flesh: what's that good for?
To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,
it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and
hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction.

Act 2.1  
  1. Identify the personalities of each of the characters in this scene.  Use text evidence to support your stand.  
  2. Temperance Prudence Justice and Fortitude are the four cardinal virtues needed to guide against sin. Theological virtues include faith hope and love. Note that Sebastian and Antonio mock “temperance”.
  3. How might the detail regarding the wedding of Claribel in Carthage connect thematically?  Note Shakespeare’s allusions, here to Amphion and Dido. What odd thing do they notice about their clothing?
  4. How does Gonzalo try to fortify Alonso? What does Francisco say? How does his brother, Sebastian treat him?
  5. Examine Gonzalo’s utopian vision: what kind of a state does he describe? What is inherently insupportable, something that Antonio and Sebastian mock? How might it reflect thematic elements of the play?
  6. Aside from the Greek Golden Age, described in Hesiod’s Works and Days, as well as in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which Shakespeare read, what other place does Gonzalo describe that would have been familiar to Shakespeare’s audience, already alluded to by Caliban?
  7. Note comments about sleep. Compare to Macbeth. Why are Sebastian and Antonio not sleeping? Are they awake? Are they dreaming? ☺
  8. Antonio tells Sebastian that “what’s past is prologue” (289).  What does he mean by this, and what figurative comparison does he make? Note: Who is the righteous heir to the throne of Naples?
  9. What metaphor does Antonio use to describe his conscience? How easy was it for his to destroy his brother and niece when power was his prize? Comment on this in a larger historical sense.
  10. What do Antonio and Sebastian decide to do? How are they thwarted in their attempt?
  11. “Heaven keep him from these beasts” says Gonzalo. Which ones? Note: Christians in Europe saw the wilderness as the reign of the devil, while civilization was a place of sanctuary. These motifs, and others regarding language, appear in Genesis.  In this play, however, the evil is not only lurking in the dark forest, but within. By the way, in Genesis, which tree is the source of trouble for Adam and Eve?
  12. What character traits has the storm churned up from inside these characters?

Act 2.2  
  1. Note the meaning of Prospero’s name, as Caliban curses him.
  2. This scene might be straight out of commedia dell’arte, which was a comedy form from the middle ages that relies on elements of low comedy: slapstick, low language, set-ups, and stereotypes.  What kind of character is Trinculo? Note that he speaks in prose rather than verse. Caliban speaks in verse. When explorers returned from sea adventures, they came back with wild tales of all the creatures they had seen, some of them quite imaginary.
  3. What condition is Stefano in? What does he think he has found when he comes across Caliban and Trinculo? Why does he offer this weird creature wine to drink?  Liquor was another disease the Europeans brought to the new world. (When offered whisky during the Lewis and Clark expedition, chiefs of the Arikaras tribe reportedly said that they were surprised that their “father” should present to them a liquor which would make them fools.)
  4. Caliban, who is drunk, thinks these men must be gods. (Hernan Cortes claimed in a letter to the Spanish king, that the Aztec emperor Moctezuma, thought he was the god Quetzalcoatl, a story Shakespeare may have heard. Consider, however, how the arrival of the Europeans might have impacted the indigenous population of the New World.) Note, too how willing he is to give up one cruel master for another kindly one, perhaps another burden of slavery. His cries of “Freedom” at line 196 are sadly ludicrous.
  5. “I’ll show thee the best springs. I’ll pluck thee berries.” (2.2.166) Note the power that Caliban has in knowledge of the environment in which he lives and the labor he can provide.  Without this instruction Europeans received from natives, they would have floundered, and indeed did in failed colonies such as Roanoke and Jamestown.

Act 3.1
  1. Ferdinand is experiencing another kind of enslavement. What do we usually call it?
  2. Follow Miranda’s lines.  Using these as evidence, how is she a woman of the “New” world?  (Cf. Juliet 2.2)
  3. Is their love a result of magic? How is love, as presented here, as transforming?
  4. Note that the two pledge their troth with “handfasting”. This was a legally binding marriage until changes in English law required a priest at the beginning of the 1600’s. Marriage is not formalized as a sacrament by the Catholic Church until 1547, at the Council of Trent, as part of Counter Reformation efforts.
  5. Prospero witnesses this and is glad. Why?

Thou know'st the mask of night is on my face,
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night
Fain would I dwell on form, fain, fain deny
What I have spoke: but farewell compliment!
Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say 'Ay,'
And I will take thy word: yet if thou swear'st,
Thou mayst prove false; at lovers' perjuries
Then say, Jove laughs. O gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully:
Or if thou think'st I am too quickly won,
I'll frown and be perverse an say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo; but else, not for the world.
In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond,
And therefore thou mayst think my 'havior light:
But trust me, gentleman, I'll prove more true
Than those that have more cunning to be strange.
I should have been more strange, I must confess,
But that thou overheard'st, ere I was ware,
My true love's passion: therefore pardon me,
And not impute this yielding to light love,
Which the dark night hath so discovered.

Act 3.2
  1. “Thy eyes are almost set in thy head” (10). What’s up with these three? Why does Caliban want to worship Stefano and not Trinculo? How does the subplot parallel the main plot?
  2. Caliban asks Stefano to make sure to burn the books of Prospero, “for without them / He’s but a sot” (101-102). Consider this in light of the Protestant Reformation and the control the Church still wields in Europe. Note: Many clerics of the past had instituted bonfires of the vanities, where books and other things considered heretical were burned. (see: Girolamo Savronarola; John Wyclif.) By Shakespeare’s time, knowledge was the way to prosperity, although the church still engaged in condemning those who pursued knowledge outside of the bounds of Church teaching, most infamously, Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600 in the Campo de’Fiori in Rome. Here, books are burned, rather than used for power. Compare the denial of knowledge to modern conflicts.
  3. Compare Caliban’s rather profound speech at 3.2.133 with Prospero’s at 4.1.146.  Comment on life, dreams, and reality. (What might Shakespeare be saying about art, beauty, imagination, intelligence, and the life of the spirit, in terms of the significance of our lives?)

Act 3.3
  1. How would you stage this scene? (There is some evidence that this play was written for Blackfriars Theater.)
  2. “Now I will believe / That there are unicorns” (26-27).  See page 104 which pictures a Blemmye.
  3. “[T]hough they are of monstrous shape, yet note/Their manners are more gentle, kind, than of/Our human generation” (38-40). How do Gonzago’s words reflect a motif in this play? Note: Prospero’s next aside. Gonzago’s speech reflects an essay originally titled, Des Cannibales by Michel de Montaigne, translated in Shakespeare’s time by John Florio. (See above.)
  4. In the Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes, Jason and his fleet encounter King Phineas, who was blinded for revealing the future to mankind. He is also said to have chosen blindness to death as punishment for blinding his own sons, and he is tormented by Harpies who steal the banquet that is placed before him as he starves. His brothers, the Boreads, chase the Harpies away and Phineas is forgiven. Phineas gives Jason advice and directions to find the Golden Fleece. Connect this story to the play. “The elements/ Of who your swords are tempered may as well/ Wound the loud winds or with bemocked-at stabs/Kill the still-closing waters as diminish/ One dowl that’s in my plume” (79-83). Comment.
  5. What function does magic and illusion serve in this scene?  What word does Ariel pronounce as their suffering?
  6. How do Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio react to this phantasmagoria? Whose name does Alonso hear called out?
  7. Why does Gonzalo fear for the three men who run off after this spectacle?  Which one might he fear for the most?
Act 4.1
  1. Explain how Miranda might be “a third” of Prospero’s life.  Note his demand that their marriage be blessed with religious ceremony. See previous note on handfasting and marriage rites. Note, too, the reference to Hymen, the Greek god of marriage.
  2. Note: Ferdinand’s reply regarding Phoebus’ horses. Cf. Juliet’s soliloquy 3.2. Note on the philosophy of natural love in Dante’s Purgatorio, Canto 18.
  3. “No tongue. All eyes. Be silent.” (66) A masque is a type of performance that presents a tableau spectacle, usually a mythological or pastoral setting, wherein actors dance, sing, and recite oration. Occasionally these are pantomimes or dumbshows where words are not spoken. Often these were performed ceremoniously in a pageant around a wedding or coronation. The marriage of the daughter of James I, Princess Elizabeth, included a masque and some critics propose that this masque was included in The Tempest to pay homage to their union. Note: The use of Greek goddesses here. Who are Iris, Ceres and Juno? What do they promise the lovers?
  4. Note: There would be, on stage, a rather elaborate dance in the middle of the scene, much as in Romeo and Juliet. It would be quite a theatrical spectacle, and one that would need to be experienced in theater. Prospero doesn’t actually cut in this abruptly! How would you stage this?
  5. Prospero previously referred to his magic as his “art”.  Extend this. How does art instruct life? (Prospero’s magic and Shakespeare’s as well.)  Closely analyze Prospero’s very famous speech from 160-180. (See below)  What does this speech reveal about Prospero’s awareness of temporal life? Has he changed in his need for revenge? Is there a better way, exhibited by the pageeant of the marriage of his daughter and Ferdinand?
  6. Carefully read Ariel’s description of the three drunk men as he compares them to colts. Find the many figurative expressions. (Find a neat example of synesthesia, too!) ☺
  7. “A devil, a born devil, on whose nature / Nurture can never stick” (211-212). Comment on Prospero’s judgment of Caliban, here. What corrupted Caliban? Where are the real devils?
  8. Where did Ariel leave the three? How does he tempt them to follow him? Connect the symbolic idea of water and clothing. What did they lose in the water? “Let it along, thou fool. It is but trash.” (250) Note on sumptuary laws.
  9. Prospero sets dogs on them to chase them to a place of reckoning. He has gathered all his enemies in one place. (For what?)

The Tempest Act 4, scene 1

Enter certain Reapers, properly habited: they join with the Nymphs in a graceful dance; towards the end where of PROSPERO starts suddenly, and speaks; after which, to a strange, hollow, and confused noise, they heavily vanish

  Pros.  [Aside.]  I had forgot that foul conspiracy

Of the beast Caliban and his confederates

Against my life. The minute of their plot

Is almost come. [To the Spirits.] Well done! avoid. No more!
  Fer.  This is strange. Your father’s in some passion 18

That works him strongly.

  Mir.        Never till this day

Saw I him touch’d with anger, so distemper’d. 19
  Pros.  You do look, my son, in a mov’d sort,

As if you were dismay’d. 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-capp’d 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 20 behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex’d,—

Bear with my weakness—my old brain is troubled.

Be not disturb’d with my infirmity.

If you be pleas’d, retire into my cell
And there repose. A turn or two I’ll walk,

To still my beating mind.

  Fer. Mir.        We wish your peace.

  Pros.  Come with a thought. I thank thee, Ariel; come.  Exeunt.

Act 5.1
  1. What has been the time span for the action of the play?  What classical form does this correspond to? Note: Alchemy was considered heretical.
  2. Who is penitent?  Who are not?  What is Prospero’s motive in forgiving them? Ariel says, “if you now beheld them, your affections / Would become tender.” Prospero isn’t so sure, but Ariel declares: “Mine would, sir, were I human.” Comment on the role of Ariel here as a natural but benign spirit.
  3. Consider Prospero’s lines from 22-40, especially “the rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance.”  Summarize what he says, and explain why he decides at this point to break his charms and drown his book?
  4. Think on how giving up power might actually, restore order from chaos. What does it mean to forgive someone? What does it take to do so? Is this needed to restore oneself to peace? (Note again the changing of clothing in this scene.)
  5. Note Ariel’s song about freedom and the natural world. Note personification of Patience.
  6. How has Prospero lost Miranda? How does this reflect a natural progression of life, time? How does the span of the day become symbolic for this life journey in the play? Note the juxtaposition of youth and age, too.
  7. Chess playing in the Middle Ages was used as an allegory for wooing a beloved. The vision, as depicted here, of two lovers playing chess represented one trying to conquer the other. Of course, as seen earlier, love is a game of surrender, not conquest. ☺ Comment on this in relation to Ferdinand and Miranda, and their brief lines at 200-205.
  8. “O wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world / That has such people in’t!” (215-218) Miranda is clearly overwhelmed. Cf. with Hamlet in Act 2 scene 2: “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and movement how express and admirable; in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals – and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?” While Hamlet himself is clearly troubled, the inspired vision of the possibilities of mankind he holds in awe. Shakespeare is expressing, through his characters, ideals that mark the height of Renaissance humanism. Global exploration surely must have brought with it many shocking and marvelous encounters.
  9. Shakespeare’s Romances are plays of reconciliation. Before Alonso can confess what he’s done and beg Miranda’s forgiveness, Prospero stops him and declares that the deed is already forgotten. The transformational love of Ferdinand and Miranda has effectively healed the wound of treachery.
  10. Caliban represents the earth, and Ariel the air.  Prospero commands the water and the fiery thunder.  These are the four elements that were thought to constitute life.  Comment on the release of these at the end of the play. What message is Shakespeare conveying in the end of this play, as Prospero gives up power and releases the natives?
  11. What does Caliban realize? (350-355) What were the Europeans “drunk” on as they conquered the world?
  12. What does Prospero mean when he says “Every third thought shall be my grave” (369)? With what tone do you think he says this?  
  13. Summarize the epilogue.  How do you think this request to the audience by the actor to be freed from the stage might relate to the theme of life, reality and illusion in the play?  (The past is prologue: the play is epilogue.) Explain the complex group of metaphors, here! ☺
  14. Note: Difference between epilogue and envoy.

Various Film Versions of The Tempest:

1911: Very early silent movie version of The Tempest play, d. Edwin Thanhouser
1956:  Forbidden Planet, d. Fred M. Wilcox
1979: The Tempest, d. Derek Jarman
1982: The Tempest, d. Paul Mazursky
2010: The Tempest, d. Julie Taymor

Sources for the visuals of Robert Johnson’s songs and Michel de Montaigne’s essay:

Montaigne, Michel. "Montaigne and the Noble Savage; Trans. John Florio." The Portable Elizabethan Reader. Ed. Hiram Hayden. New York, NY: The Viking Press, 1946. 86-105.Print.

Shakespeare, William. "The Tempest." The Literature of Renaissance England. Eds. John Hollander, and Frank Kermode. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1973. 444-509. Print.