English Lecture (10/03/2011)
Shakespeare’s the Tempest (1611)
Considered to be a comedy but some argue it is a tragedy as well.
Last play he wrote before he died.
Meta-theatrical (play within a play).
Globe theatre is where most of Shakespeare’s plays were performed.
Prospero is sort of a stage director. (Shakespeare is really Prospero, speaking
Assumes an authorial intent.
Allegory for England’s colonialism.
The Globe Theatre is a “double entendre” or has double meaning in other
words. It is also referring to the colonialism going on in the world.
Dramatizes how history is written with bias (we see Ariel’s and Caliban’s
point of view and not just Prospero’s).
The Characters of Theatre
Caliban – the body
Miranda – the ideal audience (Miranda means to be admired, “mirror”)
Ariel – the imagination
Stephano/Trinculo – the fools
Functions as the playwright or director
He is a magician and it is through his books and wand (like a quill or a pen)
that he forms the visions and commands of authority.
He orchestrates and guides all the characters towards his own designed
goals, which the virtuosity of which are questionable.
It focuses on man’s unlimited potential, but it does not disregard religious
In MODERN humanism, man is the centre of his world, but in EARLY
MODERN humanism this is not the case.
There is a more secular focus on the limitless possibilities of a man as Gods
greatest creation, which still places heavenly authority as the centre.
Aspects of the Early Modern Humanism
1. Resurgence of the classics (Plato, Virgil, Horace, etc.) in the hopes that their
morals and language etc will influence new works in the early modern world.
2. Knowledge is a way to make people better people, so long as it is for a proper
means (i.e. to better serve and understand God). 3. The Philosopher King: previously, knowledge was learned for his own sake
in solitude. Humanism is about bettering society and leading people toward
a greater understanding of the world. Duty is to the public.
1. Prospero and Sycorax
Establishes a binary of Prospero’s good, heavenly magic as opposed to
Sycorax’s evil magic.
Sycorax’s identity as a witch would reinforce this concept given James I/VI’s
anxiety over witchcraft.
Sycorax is portrayed as a tyrant, while Prospero is a more beneficent ruler of
2. Prospero and Antonio
Antonio as Prospero’s brother establishes a good son/bad son binary.
In which Antonio not only deposes Prospero from the court in order to gain
power, but also instigates the regicide plot in the play with Sebastian.
3. Prospero and Caliban
Prospero values learning, the power of the mind and imagination, language,
Caliban plots to burn Prosperos’ books.
Shakespeare portrays Caliban in highly bodily terms.
Caliban is grateful for the gift of language only so he can curse and repay his
tutor by attempting to rape her and populate the island with Calibans. (This
reading will be problematized by the later postcolonial interpretation.
Prospero as Playwright or Director Through Ariel
3 Kinds of Comedy:
1. Averted Tragedy: the instance of regicide, Calibans plot and the Tempest
itself. This is the highest form of comedy.
2. Domestic comedy: the love story between Ferdinand and Miranda.
While Prospero brings them together, it is they who fall in love, albeit in
quite an unbelievable fashion.
The trials that Prospero makes Ferdinand perform when the dramatic
irony is that we know he will bring them together in the end.
3. Farce: the tricks Ariel plays on Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano. Lowest form
of comedy, bodily. Lowest characters involve themselves in this.
A Series of Repetitions
1. The courtiers must repeat Prospero’s primary suffering: the distress at sea,
the absence of food and sense of powerlessness in a hostile environment. 2. Prospero’ joking grief at the loss of his daughter to Ferdinand both repeats
Alonso’s grief at losing his son while punning on the double meaning of
losing a daughter – both to death or in this case marriage
3. The Caliban sub-plot repeats Prospero’s initial trauma in losing his dukedom
and being exiled with a carefully controlled and orchestrated recasting.
Parallel Narratives of Origins
Central to reading the text as a colonial allegory – and central to some of the
later post-colonial reworkings of Shakespeare’s play
o Is an understanding of the text as representing contestations of true
Island as Interlude
Prospero describes the lisnad as a neutral interlude between his initial
dispossistion and exile and his ultimate redemption ofpower
-yet, as ariel and calibans version suggests, it is anything but a neutral
experience for them
Prospero as Colonial Historian
In the gap Caliban tells his story
not only are Caliban and Prospero archetypes for the colonized and the
Prospero is set up as a colonial historian
A writer who strives to justify his usurpation of native authority by
rewriting history from the perspective of the so called winners (the white
Not simply a benign humanist scholar but a biased historian for the
winning side. The Tempest - Plot Overview
A storm strikes a ship carrying Alonso, Ferdinand, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, Stephano, and Trinculo,
who are on their way to Italy after coming from the wedding of Alonso’s daughter, Claribel, to the prince
of Tunis in Africa. The royal party and the other mariners, with the exception of the unflappable
Boatswain, begin to fear for their lives. Lightning cracks, and the mariners cry that the ship has been hit.
Everyone prepares to sink.
The next scene begins much more quietly. Miranda and Prospero stand on the shore of their island, looking
out to sea at the recent shipwreck. Miranda asks her father to do anything he can to help the poor souls in
the ship. Prospero assures her that everything is all right and then informs her that it is time she learned
more about herself and her past. He reveals to her that he orchestrated the shipwreck and tells her the
lengthy story of her past, a story he has often started to tell her before but never finished. The story goes
that Prospero was the Duke of Milan until his brother Antonio, conspiring with Alonso, the King of Naples,
usurped his position. Kidnapped and left to die on a raft at sea, Prospero and his daughter survive because
Gonzalo leaves them supplies and Prospero’s books, which are the source of his magic and power.
Prospero and his daughter arrived on the island where they remain now and have been for twelve years.
Only now, Prospero says, has Fortune at last sent his enemies his way, and he has raised the tempest in
order to make things right with them once and for all.
After telling this story, Prospero charms Miranda to sleep and then calls forth his familiar spirit Ariel, his
chief magical agent. Prospero and Ariel’s discussion reveals that Ariel brought the tempest upon the ship
and set fire to the mast. He then made sure that everyone got safely to the island, though they are now
separated from each other into small groups. Ariel, who is a captive servant to Prospero, reminds his master
that he has promised Ariel freedom a year early if he performs tasks such as these wit