Learn More in these related Britannica articles: Another work, The Two Noble Kinsmen [—14], was written in collaboration with John Fletcher, as perhaps was a play known as Cardenio [, now lost]. In The Tempest perhaps the most original of all his plays in form, theme, language, and setting folk influences may also be traced, together with a newer and more obvious debt to a courtly diversion known as the masque, as developed by Ben Jonson and others….
Major characters in both plays practice a moral artistry—a kind of humanitas compounded of awareness, experience, imagination, compassion, and craft—that enables them to beguile and dominate other…. The romances In William Shakespeare: Feminist criticism and gender studies humanistic literature In humanism: Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Help us improve this article! Contact our editors with your feedback.
You may find it helpful to search within the site to see how similar or related subjects are covered.
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in –, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare. The Tempest, drama in five acts by William Shakespeare, first written and performed about and published in the First Folio of from an edited transcript.
Any text you add should be original, not copied from other sources. At the bottom of the article, feel free to list any sources that support your changes, so that we can fully understand their context. Internet URLs are the best. Thank You for Your Contribution! There was a problem with your submission. Please try again later. Keep Exploring Britannica Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens, English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian era. Lord Byron, British Romantic poet and satirist whose poetry and personality captured the imagination…. Bob Dylan, American folksinger who moved from folk to rock music in the s, infusing the lyrics of….
If you prefer to suggest your own revision of the article, you can go to edit mode requires login. Ariel thwarts them, at Prospero's command. Ariel appears to the "three men of sin" Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian as a harpy , reprimanding them for their betrayal of Prospero. Prospero, who has witnessed this, leaves to visit Ferdinand and Miranda. The three guilty nobles run off, distracted and in a frenzy, and Gonzalo and the attendant lords chase after to prevent them from doing "what this ecstasy may now provoke them to".
Prospero then explains that he tested Ferdinand, and betroths a willing Miranda to him. He then asks Ariel to bring some other spirits and create a masque to entertain the young couple. These spirits present a blessing by Iris, Ceres, and Juno, followed by dancing. Prospero suddenly remembers the plot against his life, dismisses the spirits and Miranda and Ferdinand, and sets a trap for Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano.
They are chased offstage by goblins in the shape of hounds. Prospero, all his enemies in his power, discovers that Ariel would pity them if he were "human", and decides to forgive the people who tried to kill him. He tells Ariel to fetch the nobles while he breaks his charms. In the conclusion, all the main characters are brought together before Prospero, who forgives Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian.
Ariel is charged to prepare the proper sailing weather to guide the King's ship back to the Royal fleet and then to Naples, where Ferdinand and Miranda will be married.
After discharging this task, Ariel will finally be free. Prospero pardons Caliban, who is sent to prepare Prospero's cell, to which Alonso and his party are invited for a final night before their departure. It is, however, not made clear whether, after their departure, Caliban will remain on the island or whether he will be taken to Naples.
Prospero indicates that he intends to entertain them with the story of his life on the island. Prospero has resolved to break and bury his magic staff, and "drown" his book of magic, and in his epilogue, shorn of his magic powers, he invites the audience to set him free from the island with their applause. The Tempest is thought by most scholars to have been written in —11, and is generally accepted as the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone, although some have questioned either or both assertions.
It was one of 16 Shakespearean plays that Blount registered on that date. There is no obvious single origin for the plot of The Tempest ; it seems to have been created out of an amalgamation of sources. Chambers identified the True Reportory as Shakespeare's "main authority" for The Tempest ,  and the modern Arden editors say Shakespeare "surely drew" on Strachey and Montaigne for specific passages in the play.
Kenneth Muir argued that although "[t]here is little doubt that Shakespeare had read William Strachey's True Reportory " and other accounts, "[t]he extent of the verbal echoes of [the Bermuda] pamphlets has, I think, been exaggerated. The Tempest may take its overall structure from traditional Italian commedia dell'arte , which sometimes featured a magus and his daughter, their supernatural attendants, and a number of rustics.
O Ferdinand, Do not smile at me that I boast her off, For thou shalt find she will outstrip all praise And make it halt behind her. Kenneth Muir argued that although "[t]here is little doubt that Shakespeare had read The fault's your own. It is not explicitly clear if Caliban is to stay on the island or leave for Naples. Ann Thompson argues that Miranda, in a manner typical of women in a colonial atmosphere, has completely internalised the patriarchal order of things, thinking of herself as subordinate to her father. As a result, while The Tempest was originally listed as a comedy in the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays, subsequent editors have chosen to give it the more specific label of Shakespearean romance. Like the other romances, the play was influenced by the then-new genre of tragicomedy , introduced by John Fletcher in the first decade of the 17th century and developed in the Beaumont and Fletcher collaborations, as well as by the explosion of development of the courtly masque form by such as Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones at the same time.
The commedia often featured a clown known as Arlecchino or his predecessor, Zanni and his partner Brighella , who bear a striking resemblance to Stephano and Trinculo; a lecherous Neapolitan hunchback who corresponds to Caliban; and the clever and beautiful Isabella, whose wealthy and manipulative father, Pantalone , constantly seeks a suitor for her, thus mirroring the relationship between Miranda and Prospero. Gonzalo's description of his ideal society 2. Montaigne praises the society of the Caribbean natives: The very words that import lying, falsehood, treason, dissimulation, covetousnes, envie, detraction, and pardon, were never heard of amongst them.
The Tempest presents relatively few textual problems in comparison with many of Shakespeare's other plays. First published in the First Folio in December , the play is first in the volume, leading the section of comedies. The play has more stage directions than any of Shakespeare's other plays, though they appear to have been written for readers instead of actors. Scholars infer from this that the editors of the volume, John Heminges and Henry Condell , included the directions to aid readers, and they were not necessarily Shakespeare's. Scholars have also wondered about the masque in Act 4, which some think was an interpolated afterthought, possibly added for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick V in However, other scholars see this as unlikely, arguing that taking the masque out of the play creates more problems than it solves.
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-capped 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 stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep. The Tempest is explicitly concerned with its own nature as a play, frequently drawing links between Prospero's art and theatrical illusion; the shipwreck was a spectacle that Ariel performed, while Antonio and Sebastian are cast in a troop to act. Early critics, such as Thomas Campbell in , saw this constant allusion to the theatre as an indication that Prospero was meant to represent Shakespeare; the character's renunciation of magic thus signalling Shakespeare's farewell to the stage.
This theory persists among later critics, and remains solidly within the critical canon. Not all magic, however, was considered evil. The German Henricus Cornelius Agrippa was one such thinker, who published in De Occulta Philosophia , his observations of "divine" magic. Agrippa's work influenced Dr. John Dee , an Englishman and student of supernatural phenomena. When King James took the throne, Dee found himself under attack for his beliefs, but was able to defend himself successfully by explaining the divine nature of his profession.
However, he died in disgrace in Shakespeare is also careful to make the distinction that Prospero presents himself as a rational, and not an occultist, magician. He does this by providing a contrast to him in Sycorax. Sycorax is said to have worshipped the devil and been full of "earthy and abhored commands".
She was unable to control Ariel, who was "too delicate" for such dark tasks. Prospero's rational goodness enables him to control Ariel where Sycorax can only trap him in a tree. Sycorax's magic is frequently described as destructive and terrible, where Prospero's is said to be wondrous and beautiful. Prospero seeks to set things right in his world through his magic, and once that is done, he renounces it, setting Ariel free. The Tempest can be interpreted as Shakespeare's last treatise on the human soul, in particular the Renaissance conception of the tripartite soul divided into vegetative, sensitive, and rational spheres, as described in Plato's tripartite theory of soul and Christian Philosophy.
The film presents Caliban reinterpreted as the 'monster from the Id', although the theory is dismissed as 'obsolete' in that imagined future, and was also dismissed by James E Phillips in Some productions have seen the same actor play all three roles, making them symbols of the conflict within a fully actualised or awakened Prospero — that between crude selfish physicality and a higher, mystical side. According to this theory—one of many—for as long as Prospero is battling with these qualities and lost in books, he is banished from Milan.
As the play finds its conclusion, he is both able to accept his base, brutal nature "this thing of darkness I acknowledge mine" he says when taking responsibility for Caliban while letting go of his connection with higher, powerful forces "then to the elements be free, and fare thou well" he says, setting Ariel free. Abandoning magic and acknowledging the brutal potential of his nature, he is allowed to return to his rightful place as Duke, subject to agreement from the audience: The story draws heavily on the tradition of the romance , a fictitious narrative set far away from ordinary life.
Romances were typically based around themes such as the supernatural, wandering, exploration and discovery. They were often set in coastal regions, and typically featured exotic, fantastical locations and themes of transgression and redemption, loss and retrieval, exile and reunion. As a result, while The Tempest was originally listed as a comedy in the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays, subsequent editors have chosen to give it the more specific label of Shakespearean romance. Like the other romances, the play was influenced by the then-new genre of tragicomedy , introduced by John Fletcher in the first decade of the 17th century and developed in the Beaumont and Fletcher collaborations, as well as by the explosion of development of the courtly masque form by such as Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones at the same time.
The Tempest differs from Shakespeare's other plays in its observation of a stricter, more organised neoclassical style. The clearest indication of this is Shakespeare's respect for the three unities in the play: Prospero's struggle to regain his dukedom; it is also confined to one place, a fictional island, which many scholars agree is meant to be located in the Mediterranean Sea. In Shakespeare's day, much of the world was still being colonized by European merchants and settlers, and stories were coming back from the Americas, with myths about the Cannibals of the Caribbean, faraway Edens , and distant tropical Utopias.
With the character Caliban whose name is almost an anagram of Cannibal and also resembles " Cariban ", the term then used for natives in the West Indies , Shakespeare may be offering an in-depth discussion into the morality of colonialism. Different views of this are found in the play, with examples including Gonzalo 's Utopia, Prospero 's enslavement of Caliban, and Caliban's subsequent resentment. Caliban is also shown as one of the most natural characters in the play, being very much in touch with the natural world and modern audiences have come to view him as far nobler than his two Old World friends, Stephano and Trinculo, although the original intent of the author may have been different.
There is evidence that Shakespeare drew on Montaigne 's essay Of Cannibals —which discusses the values of societies insulated from European influences—while writing The Tempest. Beginning in about , with the publication of Psychology of Colonization by Octave Mannoni , The Tempest was viewed more and more through the lens of postcolonial theory. This new way of looking at the text explored the effect of the coloniser Prospero on the colonised Ariel and Caliban.
Though Ariel is often overlooked in these debates in favour of the more intriguing Caliban, he is nonetheless an essential component of them. Fernandez Retamar sets his version of the play in Cuba , and portrays Ariel as a wealthy Cuban in comparison to the lower-class Caliban who also must choose between rebellion or negotiation.
For example, Michelle Cliff , a Jamaican author, has said that she tries to combine Caliban and Ariel within herself to create a way of writing that represents her culture better. Such use of Ariel in postcolonial thought is far from uncommon; the spirit is even the namesake of a scholarly journal covering post-colonial criticism. The Tempest has only one female character, Miranda. Other women, such as Caliban's mother Sycorax , Miranda's mother and Alonso's daughter Claribel, are only mentioned. Because of the small role women play in the story in comparison to other Shakespeare plays, The Tempest has attracted much feminist criticism.
Miranda is typically viewed as being completely deprived of freedom by her father. Her only duty in his eyes is to remain chaste. Ann Thompson argues that Miranda, in a manner typical of women in a colonial atmosphere, has completely internalised the patriarchal order of things, thinking of herself as subordinate to her father. The less-prominent women mentioned in the play are subordinated as well, as they are only described through the men of the play. Most of what is said about Sycorax, for example, is said by Prospero.
Further, Stephen Orgel notes that Prospero has never met Sycorax — all he learned about her he learned from Ariel. According to Orgel, Prospero's suspicion of women makes him an unreliable source of information. Orgel suggests that he is sceptical of female virtue in general, citing his ambiguous remark about his wife's fidelity. The play was one of the six Shakespearean plays and eight others for a total of 14 acted at court during the winter of —13 as part of the festivities surrounding the marriage of Princess Elizabeth with Frederick V , the Elector of the Palatinate of the Rhine.
Adaptations of the play, not Shakespeare's original, dominated the performance history of The Tempest from the English Restoration until the midth century.
Upon the restoration of the monarchy in , two patent companies —the King's Company and the Duke's Company —were established, and the existing theatrical repertoire divided between them. They tried to appeal to upper-class audiences by emphasising royalist political and social ideals: Miranda has a sister, named Dorinda; and Caliban a sister, also named Sycorax. In , Thomas Shadwell re-adapted Dryden and Davenant as an opera of the same name, usually meaning a play with sections that were to be sung or danced.
Samuel Pepys , for example, described it as "an old play of Shakespeares"  in his diary. The opera was extremely popular, and "full of so good variety, that I cannot be more pleased almost in a comedy"  according to Pepys. Eckhard Auberlen describes him as "reduced to the status of a Polonius -like overbusy father, intent on protecting the chastity of his two sexually naive daughters while planning advantageous dynastic marriages for them. It opened with what appeared to be a tempest, but turns out to be a riot in a brothel.
Ariel was—with two exceptions—played by a woman, and invariably by a graceful dancer and superb singer.
Caliban was a comedian's role, played by actors "known for their awkward figures". In , David Garrick staged another operatic version, a "three-act extravaganza" with music by John Christopher Smith. The Tempest was one of the staples of the repertoire of Romantic Era theatres. John Philip Kemble produced an acting version which was closer to Shakespeare's original, but nevertheless retained Dorinda and Hippolito. Kemble's Dorinda and Miranda, for example, were played "in white ornamented with spotted furs".
In , a year after the debut of his operatic version, David Garrick produced a heavily cut performance of Shakespeare's script at Drury Lane , and it was revived, profitably, throughout the century.
It was not until William Charles Macready 's influential production in that Shakespeare's text established its primacy over the adapted and operatic versions which had been popular for most of the previous two centuries. The performance was particularly admired for George Bennett 's performance as Caliban; it was described by Patrick MacDonnell—in his An Essay on the Play of The Tempest published in —as "maintaining in his mind, a strong resistance to that tyranny, which held him in the thraldom of slavery".
The Victorian era marked the height of the movement which would later be described as "pictorial": Hans Christian Andersen also saw this production and described Ariel as "isolated by the electric ray", referring to the effect of a carbon arc lamp directed at the actress playing the role. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Caliban, not Prospero, was perceived as the star act of The Tempest , and was the role which the actor-managers chose for themselves. Frank Benson researched the role by viewing monkeys and baboons at the zoo; on stage, he hung upside-down from a tree and gibbered.
Continuing the lateth-century tradition, in Herbert Beerbohm Tree wore fur and seaweed to play Caliban , with waist-length hair and apelike bearing, suggestive of a primitive part-animal part-human stage of evolution. John Gielgud played Prospero numerous times, and is, according to Douglas Brode, "universally heralded as … [the 20th] century's greatest stage Prospero". Peter Brook directed an experimental production at the Round House in , in which the text was "almost wholly abandoned" in favour of mime.
In spite of the existing tradition of a black actor playing Caliban opposite a white Prospero, colonial interpretations of the play did not find their way onto the stage until the s. Miller's production was described, by David Hirst, as depicting "the tragic and inevitable disintegration of a more primitive culture as the result of European invasion and colonisation". This used a mixed cast made up of white actors as the humans and black actors playing the spirits and creatures of the island.
According to Michael Billington , "von Sydow's Prospero became a white overlord manipulating a mutinous black Caliban and a collaborative Ariel keenly mimicking the gestures of the island's invaders. The colonial metaphor was pushed through to its logical conclusion so that finally Ariel gathered up the pieces of Prospero's abandoned staff and, watched by awe-struck tribesmen, fitted them back together to hold his wand of office aloft before an immobilised Caliban.
The Tempest suddenly acquired a new political dimension unforeseen by Shakespeare. Psychoanalytic interpretations have proved more difficult to depict on stage. However neither was regarded as wholly successful: Shakespeare Quarterly , reviewing Freedman's production, commented, "Mr. Freedman did nothing on stage to make such a notion clear to any audience that had not heard of it before.
In , John Wood played Prospero for the RSC , emphasising the character's human complexity, in a performance a reviewer described as "a demented stage manager on a theatrical island suspended between smouldering rage at his usurpation and unbridled glee at his alternative ethereal power". Japanese theatre styles have been applied to The Tempest.
It was staged as a rehearsal of a Noh drama, with a traditional Noh theatre at the back of the stage, but also using elements which were at odds with Noh conventions. Controversially, in the early performances of the run, Ariel spat at Prospero, once granted his freedom. Wolfe in the outdoor New York Shakespeare Festival production of , where the casting of Aunjanue Ellis as Ariel opposite Patrick Stewart 's Prospero charged the production with erotic tensions. The Tempest was performed at the Globe Theatre in with Vanessa Redgrave as Prospero, playing the role as neither male nor female, but with "authority, humanity and humour The performance was in collaboration with The Imaginarium and Intel , and featured "some gorgeous [and] some interesting"  use of light, special effects, and set design.
The Tempest has more music than any other Shakespeare play, and has proved more popular as a subject for composers than most of Shakespeare's plays. Scholar Julie Sanders ascribes this to the "perceived 'musicality' or lyricism" of the play. Two settings of songs from The Tempest which may have been used in performances during Shakespeare's lifetime have survived.
The Tempest has also influenced songs written in the folk and hippie traditions: At least forty-six operas or semi-operas based on The Tempest exist. In Act 3, a psychoanalyst, Mangus, pretends to be Prospero and uses situations from Shakespeare's play in his therapy sessions. This opera is unique in that the three vocalists, a soprano , contralto , and tenor , are voices rather than individual characters, with the tenor just as likely as the soprano to sing Miranda, or all three sing as one character.
There is an instrumental alter ego cello also for Prospero. Ballet sequences have been used in many performances of the play since Restoration times. Ludwig van Beethoven 's Piano Sonata No. But this story comes from his associate Anton Schindler , who is often not trustworthy. Stage musicals derived from The Tempest have been produced.
A production called The Tempest: Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the earliest poets to be influenced by The Tempest. The poem uses simple diction to convey Ariel's closeness to nature and "imitates the straightforward beauty of Shakespeare's original songs". One writer who explored these ideas was Robert Browning , whose poem " Caliban upon Setebos " sets Shakespeare's character pondering theological and philosophical questions.
Sequel to The Tempest , in This features a female Ariel who follows Prospero back to Milan, and a Caliban who leads a coup against Prospero, after the success of which he actively imitates his former master's virtues. Auden 's "long poem" The Sea and the Mirror takes the form of a reflection by each of the supporting characters of The Tempest on their experiences.
The poem takes a Freudian viewpoint, seeing Caliban whose lengthy contribution is a prose poem as Prospero's libido. From the midth century, Shakespeare's plays, including The Tempest , began to appear as the subject of paintings. In the late 19th century, artists tended to depict Caliban as a Darwinian "missing-link", with fish-like or ape-like features, as evidenced in Noel Paton 's Caliban. The work attempted to translate the contents of the plays into pictorial form. This extended not just to the action, but also to images and metaphors: Gonzalo's line about "mountaineers dewlapped like bulls" is illustrated with a picture of a Swiss peasant with a goitre.