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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Comedy, in the strictest sense, is concerned with ultimate forgiveness and reconciliation. In Shakespeare's play, "The Tempest," the protagonist, Prospero, must come to terms with his brother Antonio, who conspired to have him driven from his duchy in Milan, and with the world of social interaction in general.
Magic, Power, and Conspiracy are the foundational thematic elements through which Shakespeare effects Prospero's reintegration into human society. Thrown into a boat with his infant daughter Miranda, Prospero comes to live on a nearly deserted island in the Mediterranean Sea. Prospero's concentration on developing his proficiency in Magic caused him to become alienated from his political and social responsibilities in Milan, leading to his expulsion. His brother Antonio conspired with Alonso, king of Naples, and seized the power Prospero forsook for book-learning.
Prospero hears of a sea voyage undertaken by his enemies, and, using his Magic, whips up a storm, a great tempest, which causes his enemies to be shipwrecked on his island. On the island, Prospero exercises total power - over the education of his daughter, his slave, the deformed Caliban, and now over his enemies. He engages Ariel, a sprite, to orchestrate the division of the traveling party, and to put them through various trials to exact vengeance and ultimately, submission from them.
"The Tempest" is a fine effort from Shakespeare, but the power relations in the play are problematic. Prospero's insistent dominance over the action of the play is extremely troubling. Although he is presented as a benevolent character, Prospero's relationships with Miranda, Caliban, and Ferdinand, King Alonso's son, complicate his overall worth as a man and an authority figure. The dynamic between the slave Caliban and the drunks, Trinculo and Stephano, is also very unsettling.
Overall, "The Tempest" remains a whimsical flight of imagination, while exploring intriguing themes of education, political intrigue, and romance. Certainly, it is still a well-constructed and entertaining play after nearly four hundred years.