The Tempest by Shakespeare
The Tempest has a special, unique position among other 37 plays of Shakespeare. This complex and multifaceted work was created ‘behind the curtain’ of the playwright’s activity in 1611. Shakespeare scholars and researchers note its significant role and consider it as Shakespeare’s farewell to the theater and the last of Shakespeare’s masterpieces. After The Tempest, Shakespeare wrote only the chronicle Henry VIII. However, the researchers believe that the creation of this chronicle could probably have co-authors. The Tempest marked the end of Shakespeare’s work in the theater (Cavendish). The playwright left the theater and returned to his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he died on April 23 in 1616 at the age of 52.
The Tempest is one of the most mysterious works of Shakespeare. It has caused a lot of debate among researchers. What is its genre and meaning? Is it a fairy tale for court festivities, an allegorical medieval morality play, a philosophical parable, or a drama of ideas? Is it a caprice of imagination and whimsical fantasy or a constructive mind game?
This semantic ambiguity poses a lot of challenges for both in-depth study and production of the play. As a result, The Tempest has been studied less than other works of Shakespeare, and it is performed less frequently on the stage. Many images and plots created by Shakespeare have been used many times in the world musical culture and are widely known as “eternal” themes (especially Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello). Besides other eternal masterpieces, such as Faust, Don Giovanni, and Carmen, they have been reborn again and again. The Tempest is not as popular as the works mentioned above, but it is no less remarkable. Shakespeare managed to unite different aspects of life in the play. Elements of nature, especially the vast sea, play an important role in the play. Nature provides a backdrop with all its mysterious power of ever-presence, which gives the play an epic character and makes it similar to great works of mythology.
The protagonist of the play is sage and philosopher Prospero who is immersed in the study of the laws and mysteries of the universe; he wants to master nature. Prospero is the driving force behind all events in the drama. The world of fantastic visions is associated with him and his team, fabulous spirit Ariel and a monster named Caliban. The genre of “The Tempest” is quite original; it can be called a musical drama. The play features narrative deployment. Two episodes introduce the events which act as a kind of prologue. It is a scene of the storm and shipwreck and the story of Prospero, the former ruler of Milan, his exile, and his wanderings on the island. The dramatic mood of the opening scene creates a disturbing atmosphere, but the story of Prospero sets the tone for the course of the story.
There are a lot of stories, thoughts and memories in the play. In Act I, Ariel and Caliban appear and Miranda first meets Ferdinand. In Act II, some other characters appear; among them are shipwrecked representatives of the “opposing camp,” who bring all the vices of the society abandoned by Prospero - the struggle for power, conspiracy, attempted murder, drunkenness, and so on. All the events are interwoven in Act III, and they reach the climax. At the end of the play, Prospero disarms his opponents, throwing them into insanity. The resolution of conflicts takes a long time is done in two steps. In Act IV, Prospero’s plans begin to be implemented; he unites Miranda and Ferdinand together. Act V is the final stage of the completion of his plan, after which he leaves the magical island.
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Since all the events are performed by the will of Prospero, the direct confrontation, which is so typical of other plays of Shakespeare, is smoothed in the play. Therefore, the development of the plot happens in a “dispersed” manner, which is obvious when comparing it with the plot of Othello. The plot of the play is rather complex. It develops a kind of multi-level structure in which there are various lines of interaction that are typical of the epic genre. The first plot line is Prospero and the rulers of Naples and Milan; the second plot line is the love story of Miranda and Ferdinand, who are, in fact, children of warring families; and the third plot line is the magic world of the island, the natural world, and fantastic creatures, good and bad ones. The drama is thought-provoking and has inspired a lot of interpretations thanks to its extraordinary multi-dimensional structure.
The Plot of The Tempest
In the plot of The Tempest, a lot of allusions to other plays of Shakespeare can be found. For example, there is a struggle for power, hatred, the seizure of the throne, touching and tender love that is sure to withstand the tests of the magical island, and extremely likable characters.
These allusions point to the general character and content of The Tempest. A lot of researchers have not decided on the genre of the play yet. They have referred to it in different ways. For example, some literary scholars have called The Tempest a poetic fairy tale, while others consider it a tragicomedy (Aisenberg). Neblett assumed that “The Tempest still manages to enchant audiences to this day with its timeless poetry, enduring characters.” All this testifies to the fact that The Tempest is not only eternal, but also an ever-changing story; it changes and transforms together with art.