Many consider "The Tempest" to be the final play that Shakespeare wrote solo, which gives a certain bittersweet flavor to its story -- especially since the main character is a sorcerer who manipulates others to get the ending he desires. Shakespeare juggled a trio of main stories before tying them off in rare style, but it's Prospero and his final speech that are truly intriguing.
For many years, the exiled Duke of Milan Prospero has lived on a remote island with his young daughter Miranda. But when he discovers that his treacherous brother Antonio and his similarly treacherous friends are nearby on a sailing ship, he summons a storm that causes the ship to crash on the island.
And like a puppet-master, Prospero arranges this as he wants -- he sends his servant Ariel to haunt the men who betrayed him, he thwarts the machinations of his evil servant Caliban, and he pretends to treat Alonso's son Ferdinand badly while secretly matchmaking him with Miranda. In the end, everything will be as he desired.
"The Tempest" is a play with two different dimensions. On one hand, we have a simple story about a mage whose power allows him to manipulate everything in his little domain. And on the other, we have the story of a brilliant storyteller who arranges his own little worlds as he sees fit, and bids farewell to his role ("Now my charms are all o'erthrown/And what strength I have's mine own...")
And appreciated on its own, "The Tempest" is a brilliant play -- Shakespeare juggled the three main plotlines nicely, and brought a solid sense of resolution to the story. His rich dialogue is stunning ("But doth suffer a sea-change/Into something rich and strange/Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell..."), especially during Ariel's songs and Prospero's speeches. Even the insults are brilliant -- just try yelling "A pox o' your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!" at someone you don't like.
Prospero is a rather unique character -- he rules over his little island with magical powers, sort of like a local demigod. Everything that happens on the island is because he wants it to be so, but he's a sad, benevolent figure rather than a tyrannical one. And Shakespeare sketches up an intriguing cast of characters, both mortal and immortal -- the ethereal, puckish Ariel and grotesque Caliban, the naive Miranda, and the contemptible trio of onetime conspirators.
"O brave new world, That has such people in't!" cries Miranda at the end of "The Tempest," and while not every character in it deserves a "brave new world," the play itself feels like a weekend trip into a magical world.
on November 7, 2000
I took this play with me out on my morning walks this week, and I feel that at the same time I was excercising my body I was also giving my mind and my imagination a pretty good workout.
Like any form of excercise, reading Shakespeare isn't always easy, especially when you're just getting started. But if you stick with it, you're apt to find that it gets easier and the benefits become more apparent. Shakespeare's metaphorical language forces your mind to stay nimble and alert and his rich imagery gives you no other choice than to reconnect your soul to the world around you.
"The Tempest" is a lot of fun to read and it's not as weighty or ponderous as some of Shakespeare's dramas. It's a good choice to start with if you haven't read Shaksepeare before, or if you haven't read him since high school. The story involves Prospero, a duke who has been banished to a deserted island, along with his young daughter, Miranda. Propsero uses his magic to shipwreck a party of ex-compatriates who were originally responsible for his ousting. The ensuing drama deals with issues of loyalty, treachery, forgiveness, freedom, and the mind and body dichotomy. But the best part of it all is the vivid imagery. In the play's best moments, the words glow on the page.
on February 28, 2002
'The Tempest' was the last of Shakespeare's plays and contains all of the finest elements of his comedies, tragedies and histories. Indeed, one wonders as to the autobiographical makeup of Prospero, 'The Tempest' coming across as a signatory piece.
The play deals with a shipwreck on an island inhabited by three people - the 'sorcerous' Prospero, his daughter Miranda and the 'beast' Caliban.
As such the play is probably the most thematic of all Shakespeare's plays, there being sub-themes of revenge (Prospero was banished from Milan), slavery (Ariel and Caliban), ridiculous material gain (Trinculo and and Stephano) whilst the main themes are those of innocence, baseness of character and intellectual impartment. Each of these comes into contact with 'civilisation' in the form of the princely shipwreckees with the inevitable innocent Miranda being seduced by Ferdinand and Prospero both separating and sending off the various parties around the island to manipulate the desired outcome. He gets it of course, but the primary focus is on his relationsip to his two 'slaves' Ariel the spirit and Caliban, the beast. The relationships are markedly different, the former being ethereal, intangible; the latter earthy and brutal.
This is certainly Shakespeare's finest play, if not the most poular, simply because it is a microcosm of everything that has gone before. It has romance, brutality, comedy, history, tragedy, pyschology, despair, laughter, the sublime, the ridiculous. None of the rest of the plays are as complete and, to echo George Eliot, you could say that 'The Tempest' was 'performed with [his] own best blood'.
Sure, Macbeth, King Lear or Hamlet - greatest tragedy, A Midsummer's Night Dream or Romeo and Juliet - greatest romance, Two Gentlemen of Verona or The Merchant of Venice - greatest comedy, Henry V or Richard III - greatest history ; I am sure there are many arguments for all of his plays to be classed as the greatest in the individual genres.
But, 'The Tempest' was his last play, the one that blends all of the above, and as such, when you really study it, it has to be his finest.
on July 4, 2000
Yes, Henry VIII and the Two Noble Kinsmen came later, but this is the last that has been authenticated as completely written by Shakespeare.
The Tempest was a bittersweet experience for me. Some parts were just wonderful (the finale, in particular) and then some parts just seemed to be there for no reason. For example, the endless dialogues between Alonso, Antonio, Gonzalo and Sebastian. Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban are some of the funniest characters in Shakespeare, though, and their scenes were the best of the play. The love story between Ferdinand and Miranda was lame. It could be understood how Miranda might fall in love with Ferdinand immediately but Ferdinan marrying her after knowing her for less than a day? Ridiculous...
As for Prospero, I didn't like him until the Epilogue of the play. His character seemed too much the doting father rather than the powerful magician he was made out to be. All in all, a little disappointing for the greatest playwright's swan song.
on February 2, 2002
In every Shakespeare play I've read, i always have been depressed...partially because I've read most of the tragedies, but let's not get into that.
The Tempest is called a romance...as if. The romance part belongs to Ferdinand and Miranda, who have maybe, MAYBE twenty lines at most. That's the only romance in this play. No, this is a comedy, and a fairly funny comedy. The group of men who are stranded on Prosperos island are hilarious. While Gonzalo can be that boring old worrywart, Adrian, Sebastian, Alonso are makinf fun of everyone, and it's funny.
Trinculo and Stephano are funny because of how drunk they are, and poor Caliban, even though he tried to rape Miranda...he thought he got himself out of being a servant for Prosepero, and landed a job with a bunch of drunks.
Ariel is the character I liked the most because he...or maybe a she, I never could tell...is the sanest of the lot. he does what he is told, and he enjoys it, and he never complains about it. He speaks with intelligence, and he's not as ditzy or mystical, as his three other faries, Juno, Ceres, and Iris.
The Tempest is a great Shakespeare play (Macbeth still ranks number one on my list) but it gets four stars for how long some of the scenes are. Act four is one scene, if that tells you anything. After a while, you need some funniness from Adrian and Sebastian to save you from prosepero, or maybe you need Devotion and Loyalty from Ferdinand, Miranda, and Ariel.
on November 17, 1999
Book Review For The Tempest, by Shakespeare
The Tempest is a play like no other works of Shakespeare. The play starts out with an array of colorful characters, which are easy to loathe or become friendly with through out the play. Page after page of reading, you find out more about the characters lives and roles in the play. The play has, in the beginning, almost all of the characters trapped on a boat in the middle of a tempest (a storm)-hence the name of the play. This being Shakespeare's last play, he hid some messages in the speeches of Prospero. One of these speeches is in the epilogue. The other is in a speech that Prospero recites from a play which Shakespeare took from the famous Greek playwright, Ovid. Shakespeare shows this by saying that he will, "Drown his book" and, " Break his staff" as well as, " Let your indulgence set me free" to hint of Shakespeare's retirement as a playwright. Prospero was my favorite character in the play. He had shown a large display of trickery, genius, and brainpower, to be able to set up the whole scenario of placing the people on the island in such strategic places. I recommend this play because it is one of my favorites, of all the works of Shakespeare. The Tempest is a wonderful play for people of all ages to read, act out, or to just have some fun.
By Andrew Katz, Grade 9
on April 9, 2000
This is Shakespeare's 2nd last play. Yet, nothing indicates that he was running out of steam. The images are beautiful. Stephano, Caliban, and Trinculo are memorable as the bumbling conspirators. Miranda and Ferdinand are fine as the two young lovers. Ariel is striking as Prospero's loyal servant. Prospero is a magnificent creation. Not only does he offer several beautiful and memorable passages, but he is well drawn as a character who was unfairly forced into exile. He also makes his prison his paradise. In addition, he is a fine representation of Shakespeare himself: "Knowing I loved my books, he furnished me / From mine own library with volumes that / I prize above my dukedom" (1.2.166-168). His speeches in 4.1 and 5.1 also reflect how Shakespeare himself was contemplating the end of his career. The story itself is very well drawn. Shakespeare grabs our attention with a storm at sea. He offers us a reflection of himself, comical touches, beautiful images, profound passages, beautiful language, young lovers, comical villains, and deep messages. If you like this, be sure to read his final play "Henry VIII."
on July 9, 2002
First off, let's clarify one thing: when rating Shakespeare, I'm rating it as opposed to other Shakespeare. Otherwise, the consistent "5 stars" wouldn't tell you much. So when I rate this play five stars, I'm saying it's one of Shakespeare's absolute best.
It's a real shame that the language has changed so much since Shakespeare wrote that his plays are no longer accessable to the masses, because that's who Shakespeare was writing for, largely. (Especially in his comedies.) Granted, there is enough serious philosophizing to satisfy the intelligensia, but the action and bawdy humor would surely satisfy any connouiseur of modern hit movies, if only they understood it. Unfortunately, while the plots are good enough to be lifted and reworked into modern movies (and they frequently are, sometimes more subtly than others) once you change the language, it's no longer Shakespeare, until and unless the rewriter can be found who has as much genius for the modern language as Shakespeare had for his own. So far, that hasn't happened, and I don't expect it to any time soon.
As Shakespearean plays go, "The Tempest" is a fairly easy read. There are a few places where the footnotes are absolutely essential, and a few others where the main thrust can be grasped without them, but a double-entendre might be missed. But by and large, the play is readable for the literate modern reader. Granted, the romance element is as shallow as it usually is in Shakespeare, and there really isn't much drama: there's never any real doubt that Prospero and Ariel have matters well in hand. Still, it's an amusing comic romp, and that's all it was ever really intended to be. Don't try to read too many levels of symbolism and allegory into this play (or any other of Shakespeare's comedies, for that matter). You might as well do serious, in-depth analysis of the deeper meaning of "Men In Black II".
on August 14, 2000
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.
on October 4, 2000
Yes, there is once again murder brewing in the play of Shakespeare but only in a comical way. Not able to claim to be a Shakespeare expert, I have only read four of his other plays. However, it is in my opinion that this be the best one, most likely because it is a comedy and is much lighter that his other plays. This classic play tells the story of the former Duke of Milan who was wrongly dethrowned by his brother. Using his magical power that originally expelled him from Milan, he is able to bring the King (Alonso), Alonso's brother (Sebastian),his own brother (Antonio) and other servants to the his mostly vacant island. Ordering about the spirit Ariel, he manipulates his way into an interesting and funny situation. There is much to gain from reading this wonderful play which is one of Shakespeares last. I recommend this book to Shakespeare lovers and even more so, to variety readers such as myself. You won't be dissapointed by the plays light mood which is much better than Shakespeares serious murder stories.