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The Tempest

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Series Editors:
Andrew Hiscock
University of Wales, Bangor, UK and Lisa Hopkins,
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Arden Early Modern Drama Guides offers practical and

accessible introductions to the critical and performative
contexts of key Elizabethan and Jacobean plays. Each guide
introduces the text’s critical and performance history but
also provides students with an invaluable insight into the
landscape of current scholarly research through a keynote
essay on the state of the art and newly commissioned essays
of fresh research from different critical perspectives.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream edited by Regina Buccola

Doctor Faustus edited by Sarah Munson Deats
King Lear edited by Andrew Hiscock and Lisa Hopkins
1 Henry IV edited by Stephen Longstaffe
’Tis Pity She’s a Whore edited by Lisa Hopkins
Women Beware Women edited by Andrew Hiscock
Volpone edited by Matthew Steggle
The Duchess of Malfi edited by Christina Luckyj
The Alchemist edited by Erin Julian and Helen Ostovich
The Jew of Malta edited by Robert A Logan
Macbeth edited by John Drakakis and Dale Townshend
Richard III edited by Annaliese Connolly
Twelfth Night edited by Alison Findlay and
Liz Oakley-Brown

Further titles in preparation

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The Tempest
A Critical Reader

Alden T. Vaughan and

Virginia Mason Vaughan

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Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare
An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

50 Bedford Square 1385 Broadway

London New York
WC1B 3DP NY 10018

Bloomsbury is a registered trade mark of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

First published 2014

© Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan and contributors 2014

Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan have asserted their rights
under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as
Author of this work.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or

transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval
system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers.

No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on

or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can
be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author.

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN: ePDF: 978-1-4725-1841-5

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A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

Typeset by Fakenham Prepress Solutions, Fakenham, Norfolk NR21 8NN

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List of Illustrations  vii

Series Introduction  viii
Notes on Contributors  ix
Timeline  xii

Introduction Alden T. Vaughan  1
1 The Critical Backstory: ‘What’s Past is
Prologue’  Virginia Mason Vaughan  13
2 A Theatre of Attraction: Colonialism,
Gender, and The Tempest’s Performance
History  Eckart Voigts  39
3 Recent Perspectives on The Tempest 
Brinda Charry  61
4 New Directions: Sources and Creativity in The
Tempest  Andrew Gurr  93
5 New Directions: Commedia dell’Arte, The
Tempest, and Transnational Criticism 
Helen M. Whall  115
6 New Directions: ‘He needs will be Absolute
Milan’: The Political Thought of The Tempest 
Jeffrey A. Rufo  137

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vi Contents

7 New Directions: Shakespeare’s Revolution –

The Tempest as Scientific Romance 
Scott Maisano  165
8 ‘volumes that / I prize’: Resources for
Studying and Teaching The Tempest 
Nathaniel Amos Rothschild  195

Notes  229
Select Bibliography  265
Index  271

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Figure 2.1  Stefan Pucher’s Der Sturm at the Münchner

Kammerspiele, 8 November 2007. Left to right:
Wolfgang Pregler (Ariel), Hildegard Schmahl (Prospero).
Photograph: Arno Declair  48

Figure 7.1  The Copernican cosmos in De revolvtionibvs

orbium coelestium, libri VI. Norimbergæ, Apud I.
Petreium, 1543. By kind permission of Boston Public
Library, USA  172

Figure 7.2  The Ptolemaic cosmos in Johannes Sacrobosco’s

Spherae tractatvs, Venetia, 1531. By kind permission of
Boston Public Library, USA  173

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The drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries has

remained at the very heart of English curricula internationally
and the pedagogic needs surrounding this body of liter-
ature have grown increasingly complex as more sophisticated
resources become available to scholars, tutors and students.
This series aims to offer a clear picture of the critical and
performative contexts of a range of chosen texts. In addition,
each volume furnishes readers with invaluable insights into
the landscape of current scholarly research as well as including
new pieces of research by leading critics.
This series is designed to respond to the clearly identified
needs of scholars, tutors and students for volumes which will
bridge the gap between accounts of previous critical devel-
opments and performance history and an acquaintance with
new research initiatives related to the chosen plays. Thus,
our ambition is to offer innovative and challenging guides
that will provide practical, accessible and thought-provoking
analyses of early modern drama. Each volume is organized
according to a progressive reading strategy involving intro-
ductory discussion, critical review and cutting-edge scholarly
debate. It has been an enormous pleasure to work with so
many dedicated scholars of early modern drama and we are
sure that this series will encourage you to read 400-year-old
playtexts with fresh eyes.

Andrew Hiscock and Lisa Hopkins

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Brinda Charry is Associate Professor of English at Keene

State College. Her areas of scholarly interest are early modern
globalism and cross-cultural encounter, as well as Indian
adaptations of Shakespearean drama. Apart from numerous
articles, she is co-editor of the essay collection, Emissaries in
Early Modern Literature and Culture – 1550–1700 (Ashgate,
2008), and author of The Tempest – Language and Writing
(Arden, 2013). She has also published two novels and a
collection of short stories.

Andrew Gurr is Professor Emeritus at the University of

Reading and former Director of Research at the Shakespeare
Globe Centre, London, where for twenty years he chaired
the committee that fixed the Globe’s shape and structure. His
academic books include The Shakespearean Stage 1574–1642,
now in its fourth edition, Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London,
now in its third, The Shakespearian Playing Companies,
The Shakespeare Company 1594–1642, and Shakespeare’s
Opposites: The Admiral’s Men 1594–1625. He is now
completing the first New Variorum edition of The Tempest
since 1892.

Scott Maisano is Associate Professor of English at the University

of Massachusetts Boston. His most recent publications include
‘Now’, about Einsteinian spacetime in The Winter’s Tale,
for Early Modern Theatricality; ‘Rise of the Poet of the
Apes’, about intelligent apes and monkeys in plays from the
beginning (The Comedy of Errors) to the end (Two Noble

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x Notes on Contributors

Kinsmen) of Shakespeare’s career, for Shakespeare Studies;

and ‘Seen / Not Seen’, about ‘behind-the-scenes’, ‘offstage’,
and ‘bawdy’ matters in a Midsummer Night’s Dream for iPad.
He is currently writing a new Shakespearean comedy entitled
Enter Nurse, or, Love’s Labours Wonne.

Nathaniel Amos Rothschild is Assistant Professor of English at

St Thomas Aquinas College in Rockland County, New York.
He is particularly interested in early modern educational theory,
and has recently published on The Tempest’s engagement
with Montaignian concepts of learning and imitation. His
current book project – Learned Professions: Representing
Erudition in Early Modern England – will examine the social
ramifications and rewards of laying claim to learnedness in the
Tudor-Stuart period.

Jeffrey A. Rufo is a Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Center for

Cultural Analysis at Rutgers, the State University of New
Jersey. He is the author of ‘Marlowe’s Minions: Sodomitical
Politics in Edward II and The Massacre at Paris’ and ‘La
Tragédie Politique: Antoine de Montchrestien’s La Reine
D’Escosse, Reconsidered’. He is currently writing a book on
Machiavelli and Early Modern English Drama.

Alden T. Vaughan, Professor Emeritus of History at

Columbia University and Affiliate Professor of History at
Clark University, specializes in the racial perceptions and
policies of England’s American colonies in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries. His most recent historical book
is Transatlantic Encounters: American Indians in Britain,
1500–1776 (Cambridge, 2006). He has also written on The
Tempest’s origins and reception in Shakespeare Quarterly and
elsewhere, and with Virginia Mason Vaughan co-authored
Shakespeare’s Caliban: A Cultural History (Cambridge,
1991) and Shakespeare in America (Oxford, 2012), and
co-edited The Tempest in the third Arden series (1999; rev.
edn, 2011).

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Notes on Contributors xi

Virginia Mason Vaughan is Research Professor and Professor

Emerita of English at Clark University in Worcester,
Massachusetts. She is the author of Othello: A Contextual
History (Cambridge, 1994), Performing Blackness on English
Stages, 1500–1800 (Cambridge, 2005), and The Tempest for
Manchester University Press’s ‘Shakespeare in Performance’
series (2011). With Alden T. Vaughan she also co-authored
Shakespeare’s Caliban: A Cultural History (Cambridge, 1991)
and Shakespeare in America (Oxford, 2012) and co-edited
The Tempest for the third Arden series (1999; rev. edn, 2011).

Eckart Voigts is Professor of English Literature at TU

Braunschweig, Germany. He has written, edited and co-edited
numerous books and articles, predominantly on drama,
intermediality, adaptation and neo-Victorianism, such as
Introduction to Media Studies (Klett, 2004), Janespotting and
Beyond: British Heritage Retrovisions since the mid–1990s
(Narr, 2005), Adaptations – Performing across media and
genres (WVT, 2009) and Reflecting on Darwin (Ashgate,

Helen M. Whall is Professor of English at the College

of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. There she
teaches Shakespeare, early modern and modern drama. Her
publications follow that arc, ranging from Didactic Method in
Five Tudor Dramas to essays on Shakespeare, on Brecht, and
on Brecht’s use of Shakespeare. She has been theatre reviews
editor for Theatre Journal and is currently on the editorial
board of Interfaces, the international journal of ‘word and
image’, and edited their volume, Envisioning Shakespeare/
Shakespeare Envisioned (25: 2007).

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19 bce: With Virgil’s death, the text of The Aeneid assumes its
lasting form; many subsequent editions appear in Latin and
other languages, including English in the 1550s. The Aeneid
is a clear source for parts of The Tempest’s plot and for many

1555: Publication of Richard Eden’s collection of explo-

ration narratives, The decades of the New Worlde or West
India, from which Shakespeare probably borrowed the name
Setebos and perhaps other New World echoes. An expanded
posthumous edition (1577), completed by Richard Willes,
contains additional possible sources.

1560: Predominantly Calvinist scholars at Geneva

translate the Bible into English. Most of The Tempest’s
approximately twenty-five biblical allusions are drawn from
this edition.

1567: Publication of Arthur Golding’s translation into

English of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, from which Shakespeare
most notably adapted Prospero’s rejection of his magical

1580: Margaret Tyler’s translation into English of the first part

of The Mirror of Knighthood (additional parts appear subse-
quently) possibly influence The Tempest’s plot.

c. 1583–8: John Dee, the prominent mathematician, astrologer,

alchemist and reputed magician, visited Bohemia’s Emperor
Rudolph II, who, at the expense of his political responsi-
bilities, pursued many of the same interests.

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c. 1588–92: Christopher Marlowe’s play about Dr Faustus,

written at approximately this time but without a known text
until 1604, provides a likely and varied influence on The

1589: Publication of Richard Hakluyt’s The principall naviga-

tions, voyages and discoveries of the English nation and a
greatly enlarged edition of 1598–1600 may have influenced
The Tempest’s plot, characters and language.

1598: The anonymous play Mucedorous (or a subsequent

edition) is a probable source for several specific phrases and
perhaps for Prospero’s role as magician.

1603: John Florio’s translation into English of Michel de

Montaigne’s Essayes, originally published in French in 1580.
‘Of the Caniballes’ is the certain source for Gonzalo’s utopian
speech, while other essays are reflected elsewhere in the play.

1604: John Marston’s The Malcontent has enough plot and

character parallels to The Tempest for it to have been a partial

1606: Ben Jonson’s Hymenaei is a probable influence on the

masque in Shakespeare’s play.

1608–11: King Rudolph II of Bohemia loses control of

Austria, Hungary, Moravia and Bohemia to his brother, which
may have suggested Prospero’s overthrow in Milan.

1609, 28 July: The Sea Venture, flagship of a fleet en route to

the Virginia Colony with recruits and supplies, is dashed by a
hurricane onto Bermuda reefs but all hands survive, including
Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers and William Strachey.

1610: Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s Philaster is

published, and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist is performed at
the Globe. Both may have influenced The Tempest’s plot
and characters. Following the September arrival in London

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of Sir Thomas Gates and many other castaways of the

Bermuda shipwreck, several London publications recount the
Sea Venture’s near-disaster, the survival of all passengers and
crew, and subsequent events in Bermuda and – after the arrival
at Jamestown of all but a few of the original complement – in

1610–11: The publication of the three parts of Anthony

Munday’s translation of Primaleon, Prince of Greece is
completed, providing Shakespeare with another possible

1611, 1 November: The Tempest is performed at London’s

Whitehall Palace, the first documented staging.

1613, 14 February: Festivities surrounding the wedding of

Princess Elizabeth to Frederick, the Elector Palatine, include
a performance of The Tempest, perhaps with added emphasis
on dynastic marriages and the masque.

1616, 23 April: Shakespeare dies. No known version of The

Tempest has appeared in print or manuscript.

1618: Posthumous publication of Jacob Ayrers’s Die Schőne

Sidea (written before 1605) provides a possible partial source
for Shakespeare’s plot.

1623: The Tempest appears as the first play in the First Folio
edition of Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, &
Tragedies. Published according to the True Originall Copies.

1625: William Strachey’s 24,000-word description of the Sea

Venture’s voyage and the survivors’ aftermath in Bermuda and
Virginia appears in Samuel Purchas’s Haklvytvs Posthumus,
or Pvrchas His Pilgrimes. Since 1610 it had circulated to a
limited readership in at least two manuscript versions.

1632: Publication of the Second Folio edition of Shakespeare’s


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1663: Publication of the Third Folio edition of Shakespeare’s


1667–70: Composition and publication of John Dryden and

William Davenant’s The Tempest, or, The Enchanted Island,
which supplants the Folio version on most stages.

1674: Thomas Shadwell’s operatic version of Dryden and

Davenant’s adaptation of The Tempest provides a popular
musical alternative.

1675: Thomas Duffett’s The Mock Tempest, a parody of the

Dryden-Davenant-Shadwell Enchanted Island, launches an
English tradition of Shakespeare parodies.

1684–5: Publication of the Fourth Folio edition of

Shakespeare’s plays.

1709: Nicholas Rowe’s six-volume edition of the plays includes

the first known illustration of The Tempest, a fanciful frontis-
piece depicting the opening scene.

1766: Publication of the first of Samuel Johnson’s several

editions of Shakespeare’s plays, including The Tempest.

1789: Henry Fuseli paints Prospero for the Boydell Shakespeare

Gallery with strong indebtedness to portraits of Leonardo da

1808: Publication of Edmond Malone’s An Account of the

Incidents, from which the Title and Part of the Story of
Shakspeare’s Tempest Were Derived emphasizes the Bermuda
episode and its literature, though he overlooks Strachey’s
(presumed) key role because of the letter’s late publication

1838: William Charles Macready stages a close approxi-

mation of the First Folio’s text, ending the Dryden-Davenant
version’s theatrical dominance.

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1864: Robert Browning’s poem ‘Caliban upon Setebos’ reflects

Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859).

1873: Daniel Wilson’s Caliban: The Missing Link expands the

Darwinian model of Caliban as evolutionary symbol.

1878: The French philosopher Ernest Renan’s Caliban: Suite

de La Tempête inaugurates a new subgenre of Tempest liter-
ature: what happened after the play’s action ended, either on
the island or, in this case, in Milan.

1890: Rubén Darío of Nicaragua’s ‘The Triumph of Caliban’

begins sixty years of Latin American and Caribbean literary
identification of Caliban with United States imperialism and
cultural crudity.

1892: Publication of the Variorum edition of The Tempest,

edited by H. H. Furness.

1898: First edition (of many) of Sidney Lee’s Life of William

Shakespeare emphasizes The Tempest’s colonial context in
which Caliban is Shakespeare’s personification of American

1900: Publication in Spanish of José Enrique Rodó of Uruguay’s

Ariel, identifying The Tempest’s gentle spirit with Latin America’s
essential character, in contrast to North America’s with Caliban.
Many editions follow in English and other languages.

1901: Publication of the first Arden edition of The Tempest,

edited by Morton Luce.

1916: Staging of Percy MacKaye’s ‘Caliban by the Yellow

Sands’ in New York City, with a cast of many hundreds, in
an extravagant memorial masque to Shakespeare and the
prospect of American multiethnic assimilation.

1926: R. R. Cawley’s ‘Shakespeare’s use of the voyagers in

The Tempest’ attempts to document every parallel between

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sixteenth and early seventeenth century travel literature and

Shakespeare’s play.

1944: W. H. Auden’s poem The Sea and the Mirror reflects

wartime pessimism as The Tempest’s characters ponder their
experiences on the island.

1945: Canada Lee performs Caliban at New York’s Theatre

Guild, the first African American in the role in a major

1950: Octave Mannoni’s Psychologie de la Colonisation,

translated into English by Pamela Powesland in 1956 as
Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization,
provides a major stimulus to colonialist readings of the play.

1954: Publication of the second Arden edition of The Tempest,

edited by Frank Kermode; a revised version appears in 1962.

1956: The science-fiction movie The Forbidden Planet, set

on a distant planet in the equally distant future, stars Walter
Pidgeon as Professor Morbius in an explicitly psychoanalytic

1960: George Lamming of Barbados’s autobiographical novel

The Pleasures of Exile identifies the author with Caliban.

1969: Une Tempête: d’après ‘La Tempête’ de Shakespeare by

Aimé Césaire of Martinique portrays Caliban as an African
field hand, Ariel a mulatto house servant in a play that
imagines the colonial ramifications of Shakespeare’s story.

1971: First publication of the Cuban writer Roberto Fernández

Retamar’s essay ‘Caliban: Notes Towards a Discussion of
Culture in America’ reinforces the Caribbean identification
with Caliban.

1978: Giorgio Strehler’s La Tempesta at Milan’s Piccolo

Teatro Lirico allows the audience to see the stage hands at

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work, while Prospero is the play’s director as well as principal


1980: Derek Jarman produces a homoerotic film adaptation

of The Tempest.

1982: In Paul Mazursky’s film adaptation of The Tempest,

set on a small Greek island, Kalibanos’s (Raul Juliá) lust
for Miranda provokes her father’s anger and forces him to
confront her growing sexuality.

1985: First performances of Bob Carlton’s rock musical

Return to the Forbidden Planet.

1991: Peter Greenaway’s film Prospero’s Books, featuring John

Gielgud as Prospero/Shakespeare in a lavish adaptation of The
Tempest, influences many subsequent stagings of the play.

1992: Yukio Ninagawa’s ‘Tempest’: A Rehearsal of a Noh

Play on the Island of Sado, staged at London’s Barbican
Theatre, draws on Japanese Kabuki and Noh traditions.

1999: Publication of the third Arden edition, edited by

Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughan; a revised
version appears in 2011.

2006: The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production is set in

the Arctic, with Prospero as a shipwrecked European explorer,
Caliban as an Inuit native, and a mammoth seal as the disap-
pearing banquet.

2009: The RSC and Baxter Theatre of Cape Town feature a

South African cast, with John Kani as Caliban and Anthony
Sher as Prospero.

2010: Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, a film adaptation shot

mainly in Hawaii and featuring Helen Mirren as ‘Prospera’,
Duchess of Milan, employs a multinational cast and innovative
visual effects.

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Alden T. Vaughan

The Tempest has been widely popular and diversely contro-

versial since the second decade of the seventeenth century.
Although critics have often rebuked the Restoration dramatist
John Dryden for mangling Shakespeare’s text (with major help
from Sir William Davenant), they appreciate his presumably
reliable affirmation that the original Tempest, besides a perfor-
mance at Whitehall in 1611 and another at court in 1613,
flourished at the Blackfriars. Dryden’s testimony, along with
the play’s pride of place in the Folio of 1623, establish The
Tempest as a favourite from the outset, and its ongoing
popularity is well documented. Similarly, we know from Ben
Jonson’s quips of 1614 about a ‘Servant-monster’ and ‘Tales,
Tempests, and such like Drolleries’ that the play has generated
persistent questions about its major characters, its seriocomic
plot, even its fundamental genre.1 How human, if at all, was
the ‘monster’ Caliban? Was the storm a central feature or an
attention-grabber in this multifaceted play? Is The Tempest a
comedy, as the Folio proclaims and Jonson implies, or – as it is
often labelled today – a romance, a tragicomedy, or something
Later critics expanded the range of inquiries into The
Tempest. Was Prospero a deeply wronged ruler in Milan,
as he claimed, or an irresponsible caretaker? On the island,
was he a benevolent patriarch or petty tyrant? Is the story’s
central theme to be found in Prospero’s transformation from
a revengeful to a forgiving magus or in something altogether

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different – in the father-daughter dynastic relationship, for

example, or in the magician’s baneful or benign control of
people and events? And what were Shakespeare’s sources?
Did he draw heavily from William Strachey’s 1610 account
of a real tempest and fortuitous shipwreck off the Bermuda
coast or was it merely a timely incident to open a play
that borrowed eclectically from classical and contemporary
sources? Or, perhaps, did Shakespeare have a more essential
but thus far unheralded literary/historical model? None of
these polarized choices is, of course, necessarily valid. Most
responses resist such simplification and insist instead on
multiple strands, levels, and combinations of influences and
intentions. Seldom is there a lasting consensus.
The variety of plausible interpretations of The Tempest
has prompted not only a wide range of critical commentary
but, perhaps more noticeable, a remarkably disparate range
of stagings, beginning, it seems likely, during Shakespeare’s
lifetime and certainly from the Restoration onward. Often,
as in Dryden and Davenant’s The Tempest, or The Enchanted
Island that dominated performances for more than a century,
Shakespeare’s text suffered so many alterations that the result
was a loose appropriation of the original rather than, as some
viewers apparently assumed, a minor variation on it. Although
Shakespeare’s version was reintroduced to theatres in the
second quarter of the nineteenth century and The Enchanted
Island quickly fell from grace, Dryden and Davenant had
inaugurated a persistent trend (not unique to The Tempest but
especially common to it) of fanciful rewritings of the play in
response to social, political, philosophical or aesthetic fashions.
Hence the performance and/or publication of Tempest reflec-
tions of – to name a few – Darwinism, Freudianism, American
imperialism and worldwide anticolonialism.
The keys to the drama’s popularity on page and stage are its
variety of lively characters, its romantic major plot and poten-
tially lethal minor plots, its geographic and narrative cohesion,
its winsome music, and its graceful poetry. Some viewers also
appreciate the uncluttered brevity of this next-to-the-shortest

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Introduction 3

play in the canon: except for Prospero’s lengthy backstory

monologue in 1.2 and a few briefer passages here and there,
The Tempest moves briskly forward until its several sub-stories
are resolved in the final scene. The few loose ends, such as
Caliban’s fate (sailing with the others to Italy or left alone on
the island?) and Antonio’s uncertain repentance, are rarely
seen as serious problems. More often, these conundrums have
encouraged dramatists and fiction writers to invent epilogues
to The Tempest in drama, poetry, narrative and film.
A major stream of Tempest interpretation that has ebbed
and flowed for more than a century through critical literature
and performance history, and remains relevant today, is the
American hemisphere’s influence on the play’s origin, plot and
language. Prior to the late eighteenth century that possibility
was ignored: The Tempest was assumed to be an eclectic blend
of classical (Ovid, Virgil) and modern (Montaigne, Jonson,
Marlowe and others) influences. But in the early nineteenth
century, Edmond Malone’s redating of the canon disclosed
the simultaneity of the Sea Venture contingent’s ‘Wracke,
and Redemption’ on Bermuda and the newly calculated date
of The Tempest’s composition.2 The real tempest that nearly
sank the flagship of a relief expedition to Virginia from which
all hands ‘miraculously’ survived on a uninhabited, enchanted
island and the strife-filled interim before nearly everyone safely
sailed away has obvious parallels to the play. Yet Shakespeare
does not make the Bermuda refuge his anonymous island: to
the extent that the Folio reveals a geographic locus for his
story, it is indisputably in the Mediterranean.3 Moreover, the
dystopian community’s three meagre waves of immigration
arrived from: (1) Africa (Sycorax, banished from Algiers, and,
in her womb, Caliban): (2) Milan (Prospero and Miranda,
banished from Milan) twelve years later; and (3) Naples and
Milan (the court party, shipwrecked by Prospero’s magic)
after another 12 years. At the end of the play, all leave except
– the text implies – Caliban, the island’s earliest surviving
settler. It is, in short, a play about people and events isolated
from society, much like plays in forests. Shakespeare, it is

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widely agreed, had no specific island in mind and surely not

an American island.4
That does not preclude a palpable American influence.
News since 1493 of European exploration and colonization
in the ‘New World’ had been augmented increasingly with
accounts of English ventures along both the northern and
southern continents. Anglophone travel literature, antholo-
gized by Richard Eden and subsequently by the younger
Richard Hakluyt, was readily available.5 Then in the 1580s
and after, accounts circulated of English settlements in America
and of frequent visits by natives from those sites to England
and especially to London.6 The impact of this incipient
imperialism and cultural interaction on Shakespeare is hard to
measure, but many clues in The Tempest suggest that it was
more significant than the incidental mention of the Patagonian
‘god’ Setebos and Gonzalo’s fairly lengthy paraphrase from
Montaigne’s meditation on Brazilian aborigines. Additionally,
the public rejoicing at the Sea Venture survivors’ happy fate
and the availability of Strachey’s narrative coincide uncannily
with The Tempest’s apparent date of composition.7
Among the broader realities of New World colon­
ization reflected in the play is the seizure of authority by
Europeans over the indigenous population and the eventual
enslavement of many natives, along with an insistence that
others serve specific terms of service. Caliban and Ariel are
hardly unambiguous representatives of those two types of
labourer, but the centrality of the master-servant relationship
in their dealings with Prospero and in Caliban’s with Stephano
and Trinculo could not have been lost on an audience
familiar with coerced labour, as modern appropriators of
The Tempest have often emphasized.8 Still, as critics of the
idea of an American influence have been quick to point out,
neither colonization nor such relationships were unique to
the Western Hemisphere, and Caliban – sometimes touted as
a representative of American natives – owes as much or more
of his pedigree to European prototypes, especially the wild
man legend. In any case, the play ends with the Europeans

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Introduction 5

preparing to leave en masse: there is no long-range territorial

appropriation or any implication that other Europeans will
shortly follow, as in the Bermuda paradigm. The island has
been an involuntary refuge for everyone and temporary for
all save (probably) Caliban, who can hardly be seen as the
personification of Western imperialism.
A rounded interpretation of The Tempest must acknowledge
a strong European influence as well as that ambiguous
American presence. The impending marriages of King James’s
elder son (aborted by Henry’s sudden death) and especially
his daughter Elizabeth, at whose celebrations The Tempest
was performed, are almost certainly reflected in the Miranda-
Ferdinand subplot and the backstory wedding of Claribel and
the King of Tunis. Prospero’s loss of the dukedom of Milan
appears to owe more to the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor
Rudolph II’s forced relinquishing of Bohemia to his brother in
1611 than to any American precedent. The list could go on,
especially regarding magic, music, and other Tempest themes.
As David Scott Kastan proposed more than a decade ago,
‘The shift of focus from Bermuda to Bohemia, from Harriot to
Habsburg is not to evade or dull the political edges of the play;
indeed arguably it is to sharpen them, but it is also to find
them less in the conquest of the New World than in the killing
religious conflicts and territorial ambitions of the Old’.9 A
consensus on that binary perspective may finally be emerging:
that Shakespeare’s island play is a multifaceted blend of influ-
ences from the Old World and the New, of domestic and
foreign politics, of familiar background and current events,
and of episodes based on fact but also, of course, on fable.
The Tempest is Shakespeare’s American play to the extent that
he has one, but it is much more than that. Its sources are also
English, Continental, African and probably Irish; Scottish,
too, if James’s writings before 1603 on monarchy and witch-
craft are included. From the perspective of the twenty-first
century, The Tempest was a richly international drama at the
time of its creation and has become increasingly so in its long
subsequent life.

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Some of the chapters in this volume illustrate, even reinforce,

that conclusion; others examine self-contained topics that are
compatible with the bi-hemispheric argument but are only
tangential to it. In all cases, the authors have enlarged the
discussion of Shakespeare’s play in ways that reflect their own
distinct interests and opinions.
Virginia Vaughan’s discussion of The Tempest’s ‘Critical
Backstory’ fleshes out the play’s career from its inception in
the early seventeenth century to the late twentieth century in
the hands of editors and especially literary commentators. It
was a curious career. Shakespeare’s text flourished on stage for
30 years – at least twice at James’s court, then for an unknown
number of performances at Blackfriars and presumably also
at London’s outdoor theatres. Then for nearly two centuries
after the Restoration, Dryden and Davenant’s French-inspired
corruption monopolized performances. Simultaneously,
readers of the The Tempest such as Nicholas Rowe, Charles
Gildon and, later, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Hazlitt
and others based their critical analyses on the four folios
and, after 1708, on new scholarly editions. These men
of letters avidly searched Shakespeare’s text for clues to
Prospero’s character and often of its possible representation
of Shakespeare himself. They also explored Caliban’s unique
language for evidence of Shakespeare’s genius. That almost all
of the major critics before the middle of the twentieth century
were English gentlemen is unsurprising, but at the dawn of the
nineteenth century the German August Wilhelm Schlegel made
influential contributions to dialogues on The Tempest, and in
the twentieth century, of course, American and other national
voices as well as women’s voices were increasingly heard. New
foci of argument also emerged, such as the role of allegory,
alchemy, magic and music. With each generation, the critical
literature became richer and more diverse.
The Tempest’s stage career has been comparably intense and
diffuse. In a chapter on ‘A Theatre of Attraction: Colonialism,
Gender, and The Tempest’s Performance History’, Eckart
Voigts points to the play’s ‘spatial ambiguity’ as encouraging

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Introduction 7

a wide variety of performance settings for Prospero’s magic,

including the opening storm, the nymphs and spirits, the
masque, and other aspects of the play that are briefly and
often vaguely described in the text. The Tempest thereby
invites special mechanical effects, inventive costumes and
innovative sounds, with parameters imposed only by the
director’s imagination and current technology, which now
includes internet resources such as YouTube.
Although widely disparaged today, the Dryden-Davenant
appropriation – especially in the operatic form introduced in
1674 – was unusually popular in its day, as numerous entries
in Samuel Pepys’s diary and abundant newspaper notices
attest. But the revived Shakespeare version has also been an
audience favourite in Britain and America, while in the past
half-century the drama has gained an enlarged international
following highlighted by three Prospero-centred adapta-
tions: Giorgio Strehler’s La Tempesta, Peter Greenaway’s film
Prospero’s Books, and Stephan Pucher’s outré pop version.
Although in productions of the late twentieth and early
twenty-first centuries Prospero is usually played as the island’s
dominant male, several directors have recently blurred the
gender lines, most notably by assigning the part to Vanessa
Redgrave in a cross-dressing role (2000), and more recently
with Helen Mirren as Prospera, the wronged Duchess of
Milan (2011). Such innovative reimaginings of Prospero
have not, for the most part, lessened interest in Caliban as
the interpretative centre, especially in colonialist or antico-
lonialist interpretations. Voigts’s essay shows how these and
other theatrical approaches to The Tempest have made it
unusually rich and varied in the past several decades, not only
in the Anglophone world but also in Japan, China and several
African nations.
Brinda Charry completes this book’s backstory essays with
an insightful survey of ‘Recent Perspectives on The Tempest’
in which she examines trends in literary criticism since the
1970s that have shed useful light on the play. Foremost
chronologically among those trends were the British emphasis

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on ideological and historical forces under the label Cultural

Materialism and its roughly parallel American counterpart
in New Historicism. Although neither of these intellectual
movements addressed only or even primarily Shakespeare’s
texts, all of his works and notably The Tempest were fair
game. In a number of influential essays, Stephen Greenblatt
and other American and British scholars argued for that
play’s reflection of early Jacobean political culture (especially
the exercise of royal power against disruptive individuals and
groups) or, in other scholarly hands, the era’s social culture
(especially the enforcement of class structure or the use of
magic as an instrument of control). It was perhaps inevi-
table that such perspectives on The Tempest would blend
with the ‘postcolonial’ analysis in which the play is seen to
reflect England’s – indeed, any European power’s – attempts
at domination in the post-Columbian world. This was not
a return to the literal readings of the nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries in which Prospero was the embodiment of
colonialism and Caliban the exploited native; rather, postco-
lonial interpretations were figurative reflections of historical
and social realities to which The Tempest might offer powerful
insights into political and cultural encroachment in the
Americas, Ireland, India and elsewhere.
This volume’s four chapters on ‘New Directions’ concern
topics that to some extent have been addressed before (it
would be hard to think of an entirely new field of inquiry) but
from decidedly new points of view. In the opening chapter of
this section, ‘Sources and Creativity in The Tempest’, Andrew
Gurr reexamines Shakespeare’s unquestionable – but still
debatable – uses of Virgil, Ovid, Montaigne, Richard Eden and
William Strachey, as well as his less transparent borrowings
from the Bible (mostly the Geneva edition), Marlowe’s Dr
Faustus, and several of Ben Jonson’s plays, especially for The
Tempest’s masque. Gurr reassesses Shakespeare’s sources not
only to renew the authority of several traditional texts on
which Shakespeare demonstrably drew for specific passages
– The Aeneid and ‘On the Caniballes’, for example – but to

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Introduction 9

consider the essential place of sources more generally in a

writer’s creative process, sometimes as inspiration, sometimes
as incidental fill-ins. In either case, Gurr cautions, ‘As with
everything else about The Tempest, we should beware of
buying the traditional orthodoxies without quizzing them’.
One of the sources briefly addressed in the Gurr chapter but
warranting further separate development is the Italian comedic
tradition that many critics have casually assumed to have
inspired the roles of Trinculo and Stephano but has hitherto
defied persuasive documentation. Helen Whall’s discussion
of ‘Commedia dell’Arte, The Tempest and Transnational
Criticism’ argues forcefully for seeing the Italian contribution
as part of a persistent trans-European cultural exchange. As
Whall asks at the beginning, ‘how could Shakespeare not have
been influenced by a theatre style that captivated audiences
everywhere, despite language barriers?’ Yet because the impro-
visational commedia dell’arte tradition found expression
almost entirely on stages rather than in critical commentary,
its influence on English drama has been persistently under-
valued. Whall draws on a wide-ranging body of critical
literature to reveal the abundant evidence of the arte’s impact
on Shakespeare in general and The Tempest in particular, not
only in the comical characters but, perhaps more important, in
certain patterns of dialogue (‘theatregrams’), various analogues
of plot and frequent uses of ‘rhythms of improvisation’ – all
prominent features of the Italian comic genre. Some English
playwrights and actors witnessed commedia dell’arte abroad;
others observed travelling Italian troupes in England, where
its influence on performance was pervasive from the late
sixteenth century onward. That twentieth-century directors
like Giorgio Strehler and Peter Brook exploited commedia
dell’arte techniques in their productions demonstrates the
tradition’s enduring legacy.
Turning from comedy to political theory, Jeffrey A. Rufo’s
‘“He needs will be Absolute Milan”: The Political Thought
of The Tempest’ examines how the play variously reflects late
Tudor-early Stuart political culture. In a nation enamoured of

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its long-reigning female ‘prince’, followed by a king who had

ruled Scotland before acceding to the English throne and who
had written extensively about monarchy, Tempest audiences
could not avoid pondering issues of power, authority, retri-
bution and justice. Shakespeare was familiar with many of the
classical and modern works on government, perhaps at first
hand, perhaps less directly, but one way or another they were
part of his broad exposure to the political life and literature
of his time. Yet his injection of political issues into his plays
was rarely uncomplicated. Rufo proposes that ‘the politics
of The Tempest and plays like it are ambiguous, complex,
intriguing, and at times mystifying. Performed in front of a
royal audience, they walked a fine line between seemingly
opposite ways of conceiving royal authority’.
Although Prospero is the irresistible authority on the
island, he is under constant challenge, most blatantly from
Caliban but also, at various times, from Caliban’s inebriated
cohorts, from Ferdinand very briefly, and even, more gently,
from Ariel and Miranda. But issues of authority and resistance
appear elsewhere in the play: in the storm scene where the
Boatswain rejects advice from the king and his counsellor, in
Prospero’s long historical tale to Miranda where her father
is deposed and banished, in the court party’s flirtation with
regicide, and, of course, in the final scene’s resumption of
Prospero’s dukedom, with Antonio’s apparently grudging
acceptance, and the impending dynastic marriage of Ferdinand
and Miranda. Throughout these political manoeuvrings there
hovers the shadow of Niccolò Machiavelli, whose political
views were a staple of the times.
The final New Directions chapter, Scott Maisano’s
‘Shakespeare’s Revolution – The Tempest as Scientific
Romance’, challenges the traditional notion that Shakespeare
predated by a few years the arrival of a ‘scientific revolution’,
that he was a holdover from the medieval era’s belief in magic
and the Ptolemaic view of the universe rather than, like his
oft-praised contemporary John Donne, the herald of a new
philosophy. A host of intellectual heavyweights, including

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Introduction 11

Catherine Wilson, Thomas Kuhn, Marjorie Hope Nicholson

and Stephen Greenblatt, have it wrong. In demonstrating
Shakespeare’s acceptance of emerging scientific ideas, Maisano
also overturns the interpretation advanced by virtually all
editors of The Tempest of Prospero’s ‘the great globe itself’:
he did not, Maisano persuasively argues, mean the earth but
rather the celestial sphere. That reading, in turn, requires a
rethinking of what Prospero meant by ‘all which it inherit’
and ‘such stuff as dreams are made on’. And Maisano goes a
giant step further in Tempest revisionism by proposing a new
understanding of precisely whom Prospero has raised from
the dead when ‘graves at my command / Have waked their
sleepers […] and let ’em forth’. The evidence presented in this
essay should provoke several new discussions while solidifying
the author’s claim that Shakespeare ‘did not write against the
fact of the new science […]’ but ‘with the new science’.
N. Amos Rothschild’s bibliographic discussion of
‘“volumes that I prize”: Resources for Studying and Teaching
The Tempest’ offers thoughtful advice on ways to impart
knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm for the play to
students and teachers – indeed to anyone taking a close look
at The Tempest from either a text-based or performance-based
perspective. Rothschild first assesses the relative merits of the
three major one-volume Shakespeare collections and nearly
a dozen single-volume editions of The Tempest (including
two digital versions) to help readers select the most effective
basic book or format for their own purposes, followed by an
overview of the disparate online resources that are revolution-
izing the field. As Rothschild makes abundantly clear, the
opportunities for readers to view the earliest editions of the
playtext, multiple versions of sources materials, illustrations
from the sixteenth century onward, and extracts as well as
whole productions of The Tempest are immense and rapidly
In the final pages in his chapter, Rothschild annotates
scores of important books and articles on The Tempest,
especially from the twenty-first century. An introductory

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paragraph explains his rationale for dividing the list into

categories which coincide with ‘several established and
emergent critical lenses’ that have dominated recent scholarly
approaches to the play: (1) Social Hierarchies and Politics;
(2) Travel, Geography and Colonialism; (3) Gender, Sexuality
and Marriage; (4) Music and Masque; and (5) Magic and
Education, plus two general categories (Essay Collections,
Performance History and Adaptation). Altogether Rothschild
presents approximately 100 succinct summaries that illustrate
the play’s ongoing intellectual vitality.
The several chapters in this book on The Tempest
approach it from many personal and professional viewpoints.
Unsurprisingly, the authors do not always agree with each
other, as befits a scholarly endeavour with a four-century
backstory. They also overlap from time to time in their
uses of Tempest-appropriate materials, for example quota-
tions from early commentators on The Tempest such as Ben
Jonson’s quips about Shakespeare’s play, or references to
major productions or films like The Forbidden Planet, to
elucidate their arguments. Rather than concede to the first
user in our sequence of chapters a monopoly on such materials
and deny to subsequent authors the same freedom of choice,
the volume editors have let each essayist employ whatever
literary and historical materials most effectively promote the
argument at hand – occasional repetition notwithstanding.
The ultimate goal of this collection is to heighten appreciation
of Shakespeare’s island play, encourage and enable further
study of The Tempest in text and performance, and refresh its
vigorous interpretative career.

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The Critical Backstory:
‘What’s Past is Prologue’

Virginia Mason Vaughan

Since its first performances in the early seventeenth century,

critical responses to The Tempest have run the gamut, from
revisionism in the Restoration to unquestioning adulation in
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to interrogation and
deconstruction in the late twentieth. While Restoration and
eighteenth-century writers believed Shakespeare’s Tempest
rightly belongs to Prospero, a wise man and moral governor,
by the late twentieth century his wisdom and morality were
questioned and his treatment of his island-subjects widely
criticized. In the process, critical discussions of The Tempest
began to focus more on Ariel and Caliban, less on their
master. This chapter will trace changing responses to The
Tempest from its inception to the 1970s, when new critical
and theoretical perspectives spawned even more radical recon-
siderations of Shakespeare’s last non-collaborative play (see
Chapter 3 by Charry, 61–92).
The Tempest was likely written in late 1610 or early 1611.
Records show that it was performed at Whitehall before
King James on 1 November 1611 and that a second royal

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performance took place at court in the winter of 1612–13 as

part of the celebration of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding to the
Elector Palatine.1 The fact of a court performance tells us only
that the play was considered safe and appropriate to perform
before the king, but John Dryden reported in 1670 that
The Tempest had been popular with audiences at London’s
Blackfriars Theatre. The only contemporary judgement by
Shakespeare’s fellow dramatist Ben Jonson was ambiguous. In
the Induction to Bartholomew Fair (1614), Jonson contrasted
his play with Shakespeare’s Tempest: ‘If there bee never a
Servant-monster i’the Fayre; who can helpe it? He sayes; nor
a nest of Antiques? Hee is loth to make Nature afraid in his
Playes, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like
Drolleries’.2 Jonson’s early critique of the ‘servant-monster’
Caliban begins what became a favourite eighteenth-century
pastime, speculation about what kind of ‘monster’ Caliban
was meant to be. With the closing of London’s theatres in
1642, opportunities to see The Tempest on stage temporarily
ceased, but the text was available to readers in the First (1623)
and Second Folio editions of Shakespeare’s collected plays
(1632), where it occupied first place.

Restoration and the

eighteenth century
When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, London’s
theatres, which had been shut during the Civil War and
Interregnum (1641–60), reopened. Two rival acting companies
under royal patronage, the King’s and the Duke’s Companies,
divided Shakespeare’s plays, with The Tempest assigned to the
latter. In 1667, on the assumption that a Restoration audience
would find Shakespeare’s original old-fashioned, William
Davenant and John Dryden adapted it as The Tempest, or
The Enchanted Island. In 1674, this version of The Tempest
incorporated several operatic elements designed by Thomas

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The Critical Backstory 15

Shadwell. From the Restoration well into the nineteenth

century, theatre audiences saw the Dryden-Davenant-Shadwell
operatic Tempest, not Shakespeare’s original. In revising The
Tempest, Dryden and Davenant sought ‘to bring clarity to
Shakespeare’s play by dividing the characters and their actions
along lines of class and decorum’.3 In his Preface to the
published play, Dryden explained that Davenant had designed
a counterpoint to Miranda, a young girl who had never seen
a man, Hippolito, a young man who has been hidden on
Prospero’s island and has never seen a woman. The intention,
he argued, was that ‘by this means those two Characters of
Innocence and Love might the more illustrate and commend
each other’.4 Miranda was provided with a sister, Dorinda,
while the name Sycorax was given to Caliban’s sister instead
of his mother.
These symmetrical pairings allowed for the suggestive
repartee popular in Restoration comedies. Samuel Pepys
found it to be ‘the most innocent play’ that he ever saw, ‘full
of so good variety that [he] couldn’t be more pleased almost
in a comedy’.5 Still, the Dryden-Davenant Tempest embodied
serious concerns. As a monarch who is ‘restored’ to his
throne, Prospero held a special appeal to elite Restoration
audiences, but precisely what political message underlay
this adaptation has been widely debated. Katharine Eisaman
Maus contends that Ariel, who ensures a happy outcome to
the plot when Prospero cannot, suggested the ‘potential for a
creative political order’ that ‘resides not with the benevolent
monarch, but with the loyal, resourceful subject’.6 Matthew
Wikander disagrees, pointing out that by making the corrupt
Alonso a Duke, Dryden and Davenant implied that Dukes do
not prevent political disorder – a king is needed.7 In either
case, argues Eckhard Auberlen, the play is a celebration of the
restored monarchy and an affirmation that monarchy is the
natural form of government.8
Off the stage and on the page, Restoration and eight-
eenth-century editors turned their attention from Prospero
to Caliban, whom they generally admired for his originality

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in genesis and language. In praise of Shakespeare’s ability to

differentiate characters from one another, Dryden chose the
puppy-headed monster as a prime example. In Caliban, he
argued, Shakespeare had ‘created a person which was not in
nature’. He made Caliban ‘a species of himself, begotten by
an incubus on a witch’. In the process, Shakespeare has most
judiciously furnished him with

a person, a language, and a character, which will suit him,

both by father’s and mother’s side: he has all the discontents
and malice of a witch, and of a devil besides a convenient
proportion of the deadly sins; […] the dejectedness of a
slave is also given him, and the ignorance of one bred up
in a desert island. His person is monstrous, as he is the
product of unnatural lust; and his language is as hobgoblin
as his person.9

Nicholas Rowe, the first genuine editor of Shakespeare’s

plays, agreed, asserting in 1709 that Caliban ‘shews a
wonderful Invention in the Author, who could strike out such
a particular wild Image, and is certainly one of the finest and
most uncommon Grotesques that was ever seen’. Rowe also
reported a conversation held by three distinguished jurists
sometime in the first half of the seventeenth century, whose
consensus was ‘That Shakespeare had not only found out
a new Character in his Caliban, but had also devis’d and
adapted a new manner of Language for that Character’.10
The following year Rowe added a seventh volume to his
edition that included Charles Gildon’s ‘Remarks on the Plays
of Shakespear’. Gildon praised Shakespeare’s text (as opposed
to the Dryden-Davenant revision) for its carefully constructed
‘Fable’; in particular, Gildon appreciated Shakespeare’s
attention to the unities of time, place and action. He also
continued Rowe’s focus on characterization, finding as Dryden
did, that each character is ‘perfectly distinct from the other.
Caliban as born of a Witch, shews his Original Malice, ill
Nature, sordidness, and Villany. Antonio is always Ambitious

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The Critical Backstory 17

and Treacherous, and even there promoting and persuading

Sebastian to the committing the same unnatural Act against
his Brother, that he had against Prospero with his Aggravation
of adding Fratricide to Usurpation.’ Shakespeare’s presen-
tation of sentiments, manners and diction is ‘generally just and
elegant’. The only major fault Gildon found with Shakespeare
was his presentation of magic, noting that while a belief in
the occult arts may have been common in the last century, in
1710 ‘scarce a venerable Citizen or Country Squire’ believed
in such chimeras.11
Alexander Pope reiterated Rowe’s admiration for Caliban’s
language in his 1725 edition of Shakespeare’s plays, as did
William Warburton in 1747. John Holt expanded the theme
in 1749, arguing that Caliban demonstrates the greatness of
Shakespeare’s imagination: ‘His Language is finely adapted
nay peculiarized to his Character, as his Character is to the
Fable, his Sentiments to both, and his Manners to all; his
Curiosity, Avidity, Brutality, Cowardice, Vindictiveness, and
Cruelty exactly agreeing with his Ignorance and the Origin
of his Person’.12 Joseph Warton agreed in an essay published
in The Adventurer (1753): ‘our poet has painted the brutal
barbarity and unfeeling savageness of this son of Sycorax, by
making him enumerate with a kind of horrible delight, the
various ways in which it was possible for the drunken sailors
to surprize and kill his master’.The only fault he can find
with Caliban’s characterization is that he shows repentance
at the play’s conclusion, when to be consistent he should
have remained ‘fierce and implacable’.13 But others disagreed.
Benjamin Heath observed in 1765 that there was nothing in
Caliban’s lines to distinguish his language from Prospero’s,
nor was there anything particularly savage about it.14 Samuel
Johnson contended in his 1765 edition that Prospero and
Miranda had taught Caliban to speak; ‘he had no names for
the sun and moon before their arrival, and could not have
invented a language of his own without more understanding
than Shakespeare has thought it proper to bestow upon him.
His diction is indeed somewhat clouded by the gloominess of

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his temper and the malignity of his purposes; but let any other
being entertain the same thoughts and he will find them easily
issue in the same expressions’.15

Prospero as Shakespeare
To many critics in the eighteenth century and beyond, while
Caliban remained the most puzzling character in the play,
Prospero held special interest because of the perceived identi-
fication between his character and the dramatist who created
him. Gildon suggested this connection in 1710 when he
cited what has become an oft-quoted passage from the play
– ‘Our revels now are ended’ – to illustrate Shakespeare’s
poetic genius: ‘His Reflections and Moralizing on the frail
and transitory State of nature is wonderfully fine’.16 Who
does ‘His’ refer to, Shakespeare or Prospero? Many readers
assumed it was Shakespeare.
Over time, The Tempest came to be understood as
Shakespeare’s autobiographical reflection on his art. That
equation soon became a truism, especially when applied to
the ‘cloud-capped towers’ monologue. Thomas Campbell’s
Dramatic Works of Shakespeare summed it up: ‘Here
Shakespeare himself is Prospero, or rather the superior
genius who commands both Prospero and Ariel’.17 The
connection between Prospero and Shakespeare became
literally engraved in stone with the installation of Peter
Scheemaker’s sculpture in ‘Poets’ Corner’ of Westminster
Abbey in 1741, where a thoughtful Shakespeare leans on a
pile of books; a scroll beneath the books was initially left
blank, but later the Dean of Westminster Abbey had the
following words engraved:

The Cloud capt Tow’rs,

The Gorgeous Palaces,
The Solemn Temples,

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The Critical Backstory 19

The Great Globe itself,

Yea all which it Inherit,
Shall Dissolve;
And like the baseles Fabrick of a Vision
Leave not a wreck behind.

Nothing on the statue indicates that these words, however

misquoted, belong to Prospero. Many viewers assume they
come from Shakespeare himself.18
By 1769, when actor-impresario David Garrick celebrated
the bicentennial of Shakespeare’s birth with a Jubilee,
Shakespeare had been apotheosized as England’s national
poet and the embodiment of British genius and morality. The
Shakespeare-Prospero equation reached its own apotheosis
in the work of Edward Dowden. His Shakspere: A Critical
Study of his Mind and Art, first published in 1875 and
repeatedly reprinted, traced Shakespeare’s life through the
plays, with Dowden concluding that we identify Prospero
with Shakespeare because ‘the temper of Prospero, the grave
harmony of his character, his self-mastery, his calm validity
of will, his sensitiveness to wrong, his unfaltering justice, and
with these, a certain abandonment, a remoteness from the
common joys and sorrows of the world, are characteristic of
Shakspere as discovered to us in his latest plays’. By the time
Prospero delivers the famous ‘cloud-capped towers’ speech,
he has reached, contends Dowden, ‘an altitude of thought
from which he can survey the whole of human life, and
see how small and yet how great it is’.19 As Shakespearean
bardolatry transmigrated to the worship of Prospero from the
mid-eighteenth century well into the nineteenth, the magician
was portrayed on stage as a benign grey-bearded magus-
cum-theatre impresario. The identification of Prospero with
Shakespeare would permeate critical readings well into the
twentieth century. As a result of this one-dimensional inter-
pretation, nineteenth-century critics had little to say about
Prospero as a fictive character and turned their attention to
his minions, Ariel and Caliban.

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The nineteenth century

The basic premises of August Wilhelm Schlegel’s nine-volume
Shakespeare’s Dramatische Werke, published in Berlin between
1797 and 1810, became available to English readers in 1815
when John Black’s translation of Schlegel’s survey of dramatic
literature, Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, was
published. Whether England’s leading intellectuals absorbed
his criticism from the original compendious German publi-
cation or from this translation of the lectures, Schlegel’s
influence on England’s early nineteenth-century Shakespeare
criticism is palpable. Schlegel joined the ranks of eighteenth-
century bardolaters, observing that ‘Shakspeare’s knowledge
of mankind has become proverbial: in this his superiority
is so great, that he has justly been called the master of
the human heart’. His characters demonstrate his ability to
transport himself ‘so completely into every situation, even the
most unusual, that he is enabled, as plenipotentiary of the
whole human race […] to act and speak in the name of every
individual’.20 Schlegel stresses Shakespeare’s universality,
particularly in the way his characters, however improbable,
become real through the appeal to the imagination that
Coleridge would later call ‘poetic faith’.
Such views shaped Schlegel’s analysis of The Tempest.
He admires the enchantingly beautiful ‘history of the loves
of Ferdinand and Miranda’, the ‘wisdom of the princely
hermit Prospero’, and the way the ‘disagreeable impression
by the black falsehood of the two usurpers [Antonio and
Sebastian] is softened by the honest gossiping of the old and
faithful Gonzalo’. But most of Schlegel’s attention is directed
to Caliban and Ariel. Caliban, he observes, ‘has become a
by-word as the strange creation of a poetical imagination. […]
In inclination Caliban is malicious, cowardly, false, and base;
and yet he is essentially different from the vulgar knaves of a
civilized world. […] He is rude, but not vulgar; he never falls
into the prosaic and low familiarity of his drunken associates,

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The Critical Backstory 21

for he is, in his way, a poetical being’. Just as Caliban ‘signifies

the heavy element of earth’, Ariel is the ‘image of air’. He
‘hovers sweetly over the whole [play] as the personified genius
of the wonderful fable’.21
On 16 December 1811 Samuel Taylor Coleridge delivered a
lecture on Shakespeare, using The Tempest to illustrate ideas
­– ideas that are strikingly similar to Schlegel’s – at London’s
Philosophical Society. Shakespeare’s Tempest came alive for
Coleridge when apprehended as poetry – in the private study,
not on the stage. (This is hardly surprising, given that the only
stage performances he could have seen in 1811 were versions
of the Dryden-Davenant adaptation.) Coleridge opined that
Shakespeare could ‘in a moment transport himself into the
very being of each character’. Using Gonzalo’s exchange with
the Boatswain in 1.1 as an example, he explained: ‘Here is
the true sailor, proud of his contempt of danger, and the high
feeling of the old man, who, instead of condescending to
reply […], turns off and meditates with himself, and draws
some feeling of comfort to his own mind’ by observing that
the Boatswain is more likely to hang than to drown. Like
Schlegel, Coleridge devoted most of his attention to Caliban
and Ariel. Ariel is a creature of air; ‘In air he lives, and from
the air he derives his being. In air he acts, and all his colours
and properties seem to be derived from the clouds’. Coleridge
speculates that if there is anything in nature that inspired
Ariel, ‘it is from the child to whom supernatural powers are
given: he is neither born of heaven nor of earth, but between
both’. Caliban, on the other hand, is a creature of the earth,
‘partaking of the qualities of the brute and distinguished from
them in two ways: (1) by having mere understanding with
moral reason; (2) by not having the instincts which belong to
mere animals. Still Caliban is a noble being: a man in the sense
of the imagination, all the images he utters are drawn from
nature, and are highly poetical’.22
William Hazlitt’s Characters of Shakespear’s Plays, first
printed in 1817, follows suit, claiming that ‘Shakespear was
the most universal genius that ever lived’. He particularly

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admires Shakespeare’s imaginative word pictures: ‘Prospero’s

enchanted island seems to have risen up out of the sea; the
airy music, the tempest-tost vessel, the turbulent waves, all
have the effect of the landscape background of some fine
picture’. While Prospero is the ‘stately magician’, Miranda ‘the
goddess of the isle’, and Ferdinand ‘princely’, the ‘character of
Caliban is generally thought (and justly so) to be one of the
author’s masterpieces’. After praising the imaginative power
of Caliban’s language, Hazlitt then turns to Ariel, who, he
writes, ‘is […] the swiftness of thought personified’, and
nothing expresses this quality more clearly than his songs.
Hazlitt concludes his essay with Prospero. Noting that the
‘cloud-capped towers’ speech ‘has been so often quoted, that
every school-boy knows it by heart’, Hazlitt offers Prospero’s
abjuration of his magic at the beginning of 5.1 (‘ye elves
of hills’) as the prime example of the striking beauty of the
magus’s language. Hazlitt concludes his essay in a novel
vein, however, by citing Gonzalo’s 2.1 speech (taken from
Montaigne’s ‘Of the canibales’) and Sebastian and Antonio’s
cynical response to it, with the rueful comment: ‘Shakespear
has anticipated nearly all the arguments on the Utopian
schemes of modern philosophy’.23
Unlike Coleridge, Hazlitt was an avid theatregoer. Returning
from a performance of The Tempest in 1815, he wrote that
he had nearly resolved never to attend a Shakespeare perfor-
mance again because Dryden and Davenant had loaded the
play ‘with the common-place, clap-trap sentiments, artificial
contrasts of situation and character, and all the heavy tinsel
and affected formality’ of the French school.24 He changed his
mind, as did many others, in 1838–9 when theatre manager
William Charles Macready abandoned the Dryden-Davenant-
Shadwell operatic Tempest and returned to Shakespeare’s
original text (albeit greatly cut) in a production at London’s
Covent Garden. Among those inspired by the revival was
Patrick MacDonnell, who subsequently delivered a lecture on
The Tempest before the Shakspere Club on 6 September 1839.
MacDonnell opined that it would be no exaggeration ‘to say,

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The Critical Backstory 23

that the play of The Tempest, was never, at any former period,
brought forward, with more advantage, than when it was last
performed upon the boards of Covent Garden Theatre. […]
[L]et not our theatres, in future, be polluted, by those scenes,
that lately disgraced them’.25
In his published lecture, MacDonnell bemoans the ignorance
of Shakespeare’s age, particularly its now-outdated belief in
magic and the supernatural. But even though Prospero is a
magician, ‘in the possession of a mind, enriched by wisdom
and great learning, he is enabled to accomplish those virtuous
ends, which his exalted and generous views so nobly contem-
plated’. That he ‘disdains to seek revenge for the injuries
he had suffered’ demonstrates his ‘great magnanimity of
mind’. Miranda, too, is exemplary; Shakespeare has drawn
her character with ‘all those qualities, mingled with sweet
affection, which give to her sex, that benign and potent
influence, of subduing and controlling the heart of man,
amidst the ruder feelings of his character’.26 Such banalities
were characteristic of the nineteenth century’s impressionistic
criticism, but MacDonnell’s discussion of Caliban – inspired
by the actor George Bennett’s performance in the Macready
production – breaks new ground. To be sure, Caliban is a
savage, ‘yet maintaining in his mind, a strong resistance to that
tyranny, which held him in the thraldom of slavery[,] Caliban
creates our pity, more than our detestation’. MacDonnell
finds excuses for Caliban’s behaviour: rude as he is, ‘with
feelings of strong aversion to slavery’, it is ‘with the view of
destroying the bondage under which he labours, that urges
him […] to form the plot against the life of Prospero’. While
his assault on Miranda cannot be justified, it was partly
caused, argues MacDonnell, by Prospero’s imprudence in
placing the two together. Indeed, ‘the noble and generous
character of Prospero, therefore suffers, by this severe conduct
to Caliban’.27 No longer simply a savage brute, Caliban had
become a sympathetic character.
Poet Robert Browning was also intrigued by Caliban.
In 1859, the year Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species

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was published, he began writing the dramatic monologue,

‘Caliban upon Setebos’. Browning uses Shakespeare’s puppy-
headed monster to ponder the emergence of religious beliefs
in prehistoric man. Caliban’s reflections on and fear of his
god Setebos suggest a theology based not on supernatural
revelation but on the phenomena he observes in nature.28
In 1873, after Darwin’s ideas were widely circulated and
at the height of Britain’s colonial empire, Daniel Wilson,
a professor at the University of Toronto who had written
on the parallels between native Americans and prehistoric
Europeans, published Caliban: The Missing Link. Wilson
describes Caliban as a ‘novel anthropoid of a high type’ who
can be seen as ‘the pre-Darwinian realisation of the interme-
diate link between brute and man’. While on the one hand
Caliban is human, he is also an animal, ‘at home among the
sounds and scenes of living nature’. Like MacDonnell, Wilson
sympathizes with Caliban’s plight. We shouldn’t judge him by
what Prospero says about him because he is like an entrapped
animal. Caliban desires freedom to roam his island and live
in harmony with the wind and the tides, digging pig-nuts and
trapping nimble marmosets. When we think of him as the
‘half-human link between the brute and man’, somewhat like
a baboon who is endowed with speech, we can understand his
desire to plot against his master.29 By the end of the century,
Wilson’s conception of Caliban spread to stage representa-
tions; actor Frank Benson prepared for the role by watching
monkeys at the zoo, and in performance he ate bananas
and climbed trees. In his 1904 stage production, Herbert
Beerbohm Tree also played Caliban as a hairy ape-man fasci-
nated by the magic music of his island.30 Whether Benson
or Tree recognized it, The Tempest’s portrayal in the late
nineteenth century of a wise, white European burdened with
the task of civilizing a native servant-monster who would
remain ineluctably inferior embodied the central ideologies of
social Darwinism and British imperialism.

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The Critical Backstory 25

The twentieth century

Throughout the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth
centuries, critical analysis of Shakespeare’s texts was predomi-
nately the province of gentlemen scholars like MacDonnell.
Cambridge and Oxford universities only began to consider
English an academic discipline in the late nineteenth century,
beginning with its introduction in the women’s colleges.
In the United States English literature was not recognized
as a discipline until the 1880s. After the founding of the
Modern Language Association in 1883, Shakespeare slowly
appeared in college curricula, and by the end of World War
I the study of Shakespeare and his contemporaries was a
recognized research field. Academic scholars soon pushed to
make their analyses more objective and less impressionistic.
In England, I. A. Richards developed what he called ‘practical
criticism’: the application of well-defined aesthetic principles
to individual works through meticulous study of their compo-
nents – what came to be known as ‘close reading’. In the
United States, such ‘close reading’ became the mainstay of
‘New Critics’ who wanted to isolate literature from history
and biography and examine the literary work without regard
to context. But, as Russ McDonald observes in a recent study
of the late plays’ language, New Critics tended to ignore
Shakespeare’s romances, ‘perhaps because their discontinuities
and sprawling structures made them unlike lyric poems and
thus inhospitable to the demonstration of the unity character-
istic of the verbal icon’.31 The founder of Germany’s post-war
English studies, Wolfgang Clemen, devoted Chapter 19 of his
study of Shakespeare’s imagery to The Tempest, arguing that
references to sea-storms and tempests were the play’s main
stream of imagery. For the first three acts, references to the sea
suggest nature as a hostile force, but with the masque of Act
4, they are superseded by images of harmony and fecundity.
Imagery that appeals to the senses – sound, smell, taste and
touch – also creates the audience’s impression of the island

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as a strange, natural world.32 But unless The Tempest was

included in a systematic study of all of Shakespeare’s imagery,
literary critics neglected its style, preferring to discuss the
play’s structure and identify underlying themes that, to their
minds, unified the text’s disparate elements.

Ever since Dryden, commentary on The Tempest had observed
Shakespeare’s careful attention to the play’s structure, particu-
larly his observance of the unities of time, place and action.
As Prospero insists, the action takes four hours, at most. It
is circumscribed to one uncharted island, and even though
it consists of three plots, each culminating in a masque-like
spectacle – Prospero’s plan to regain his dukedom and marry
off his daughter; Antonio and Sebastian’s conspiracy to murder
Alonso; and Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano’s parodic plot to
murder Prospero – events stay under Prospero’s control and
are clearly related to each other. Critics were also content to
describe the play simply as a comedy, in keeping with the First
Folio’s tripartite structure of comedies, histories and tragedies,
in which The Tempest was first among the comedies. It took
until the late nineteenth century for scholars to sketch out a
chronology for the plays, identifying Cymbeline, The Winter’s
Tale and The Tempest as the last works Shakespeare wrote
without a collaborator.
Edward Dowden based his study of the development of
Shakespeare’s mind and art on this chronology and was the first
to note these plays’ common characteristics: each plot involves
the characters’ movement through wide expanses of time and
space (although that movement is narrated rather than acted
in The Tempest); the plots centre on a violent breach within a
royal family; and at the end the perpetrators are forgiven and
the family restored. In these three plays, Dowden opined that
‘while grievous errors of the heart are shown to us, and wrongs

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The Critical Backstory 27

of man to man as cruel as those of the great tragedies, at the

end there is a resolution of the dissonance, a reconciliation’.
He concluded: ‘There is a certain romantic element in each’
that differentiates it from the earlier comedies.33 Subsequent
critics followed Dowden’s lead, and through much of the
twentieth century the late plays (including Pericles) have been
classified as romances, a class apart from Shakespeare’s earlier
plays. But the exact definition of ‘romance’ varies, with some
critics arguing that the plays are derived from Greek romances
like Aethiopica and others looking for antecedents in medieval
quest narratives and moral pageants. Hallett Smith observes
that many narratives from Greek romance were imported into
England by the playwright Robert Greene, whose Pandosto
was a direct source for The Winter’s Tale and whose early
plays Arbasto (1584) and Menaphon (1589) would have been
known to Shakespeare. In The Tempest, he contends, we find
the ‘ancient genre deliberately utilized and lifted to new dimen-
sions, turned from a rather inconsequential literature of escape
to a new vision of reality’.34 Howard Felperin agrees, arguing
that in his final plays Shakespeare shows the older romance
model used in early Elizabethan plays, such as George Peele’s
The Arraignment of Paris, is inadequate. The Tempest, in
particular, suggests ‘that there is a fatal gap between the ideal
world of romance and the ideal world of history, and that
no act of magic can ever make them one’.35 As both Smith
and Felperin admit, the difficulty with calling Shakespeare’s
texts ‘romances’ is that they differ in so many ways from
earlier texts written in that mode. Indeed, Diana T. Childress
contends that even though the romances rely on implausible
narratives and provide happy endings, these events are treated
with a strong dose of irony, and Shakespeare also interjects
devices that alienate the audience from the action. Caliban,
for example, introduces elements of the grotesque that are not
characteristic of ‘romance’, and his contentious interchanges
with Prospero are uncharacteristic of the genre.36
Uncomfortable with a label – ‘romance’ – that relates
more to Elizabethan prose fiction than drama, other critics

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describe Shakespeare’s late plays as ‘tragicomedies’. Gerald

Eades Bentley argued in 1948 that the plays’ mixed mode
resembles the Jacobean tragicomedies written by John Fletcher
and Francis Beaumont for the indoor Blackfriars Theatre.37
Fletcher, who collaborated with Shakespeare on Henry VIII
and The Two Noble Kinsmen, famously described tragi-
comedy using a definition derived from the Italian theorist
Giambattista Guarini: ‘A tragi-comedy is not so called in
respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants deaths,
which is enough to make it no tragedy, yet brings some near
it, which is enough to make it no comedy’.38 But, as Lee Bliss
explains, Beaumont and Fletcher’s tragicomedies differ both
dramaturgically and thematically from Shakespeare’s late
plays. Satire on court manners and corruption are their stock-
in-trade, while Shakespeare’s dramas ‘move through human
cycles toward genuine integration of the individual – with
himself, toward a consensus of values’.39 Joan Hartwig, who
offers the most expansive treatment of Shakespeare’s final plays
as tragi-comedies, also confesses that the Beaumont-Fletcher
paradigm does not fit Shakespeare. Whereas the tragi-comedies
ultimately support the status quo, Shakespeare’s tragi-comic
pattern features dislocation, moving the characters away
from settled positions through adversity toward an expanded
perception of reality. The Tempest‘s storm symbolizes a
dislocated world order, and the characters undergo a form of
madness as part of the transition from loss to restoration. In
the Epilogue, Prospero releases control to the audience, who
become ‘the master[s] of the mage’.40
In his introduction to the second Arden Tempest, the
edition most widely used in the mid- to late-twentieth century,
Frank Kermode used the terms ‘romance’ and ‘tragi-comedy’
interchangeably, underlining his preoccupation with the text’s
representation of nature by adding the descriptor ‘pastoral’:
The Tempest is a ‘romance’ (liv), a ‘pastoral drama’ (xxiv), a
‘pastoral tragi-comedy’ (lix), and a ‘pastoral romance’ (lix).41
Such slippery nomenclature suggests that even this astute
reader of The Tempest was not exactly sure how to describe

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The Critical Backstory 29

its generic properties. Barbara A. Mowat concludes in an

overview of the generic question that Shakespearean plays
like The Tempest do not resemble other types of Jacobean
drama or earlier romantic plays. They can be called romances
or tragi-comedies only in that they share a family resem-
blance to romance narratives or tragi-comedies.42 The issue
is not to force a play like The Tempest into a generic box
but to determine the ways it toys with and often subverts
the audience’s generic expectations. Mowat’s earlier study
of Shakespeare’s dramaturgy does just that. She shows that
The Tempest frequently relies on telling rather than showing,
especially in Prospero’s explanation of past events in 1.2.
The masque, a presentational staging of mythical figures,
is abruptly interrupted by Prospero’s quite human anger
and fear of Caliban’s conspiracy. Metatheatrical moments
abound, as in Prospero’s reference to ‘the great globe itself’
or his address to the audience in the Epilogue. In sum, in The
Tempest Shakespeare perfected a new kind of dramaturgy,
‘open form drama’, that blends narrative and dramatic modes,
breaks cause and effect patterns, and transcends generic
conventions.43 In her title, The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s
Romances, Mowat preserves the most common twentieth-
century way of categorizing these plays, ‘romances’, but her
preferred term as of this writing is ‘dramatic romance’.
More recently critics have taken to referring to Pericles, The
Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline and The Tempest (along with Henry
VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen) as the ‘late plays’, but even
this seemingly innocuous term creates more problems than
it solves. The concept of ‘late style’, as Gordon McMullan
demonstrates, is anachronistic when applied to Shakespeare.
Developed by mid-nineteenth-century musicologists to describe
Beethoven’s final works, the term suggests a burst of creative
energy at the end of a long career, often following a hiatus in
productivity, resulting in transcendent works that express his/
her ultimate view of the human condition. When one labels
The Tempest a ‘late play’, McMullan explains, these widely
circulated preconceptions about ‘late style’ impose onto the

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text an interpretation that goes all the way back to Dowden.44

While ‘romance’ continues to serve as a convenient way of
referencing The Tempest, twenty-first-century critics usually
qualify their use of the label.

Allegorical readings
Edward Dowden’s survey of Shakespeare’s plays as biographical
allegory remained influential well into the twentieth century,
especially in regard to The Tempest. Writing in 1932, John
Dover Wilson contended that a change came over Shakespeare
around 1609, resulting in a shift from tragedy to romance. He
relates the last plays to Shakespeare’s retirement, suggesting
that Prospero is an extension of Lear, a wronged old man, but
in The Tempest he has found his happiness and his Cordelia
in Miranda, much as Shakespeare may have found it in times
spent with daughter Judith in Stratford. At the same time
Prospero is the spirit of dramatic poetry itself, and Ariel
represents the poetic imagination. The Tempest as a whole,
Wilson posits, is profoundly religious, exuding ‘a Christ-like
spirit in its infinite tenderness, its all embracing sense of
pity, its conclusion of joyful atonement and forgiveness’.45
J. Middleton Murry continues this theme in a 1936 essay,
‘Shakespeare’s Dream’, claiming that The Tempest is the most
symbolic of Shakespeare’s plays. Prospero, he contends, ‘is to
some extent an imaginative paradigm of Shakespeare himself
in his function as poet’, and he embodies ‘Shakespeare’s self-
awareness at the conclusion of his poetic career’.46
Other commentators stretched their analysis of The Tempest
beyond biography to argue that the play conveys universal
metaphysical truths. Colin Still’s The Timeless Theme (1921)
makes the most extravagant claims. After comparing the play’s
plots and characters to ancient myths and archetypal themes,
he concludes that ‘The Tempest is an imaginative mystery
which is true to the spiritual experience of all mankind’,

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The Critical Backstory 31

incorporating both Christian and non-Christian beliefs in a

‘dramatic representation of the mystery of redemption’. While
the court party makes its passage through a kind of purgatory,
Ferdinand undergoes an initiation into a celestial paradise.
Miranda is wisdom, Caliban a demon figure, and Prospero the
initiating priest.47 G. Wilson Knight, writing in 1947, praised
Still’s metaphysical overview, adding that Prospero is a kind
of Shakespearean superman, in the position of Shakespeare
himself. He highlights echoes and reiterations of themes and
characters from earlier plays to showcase The Tempest as the
culmination of Shakespeare’s entire career. Indeed, he sees The
Tempest as a kind of autobiography, replete with universal
meaning. And while Prospero has some resemblance to Christ,
Wilson concludes that The Tempest can also be seen as a
reflection of British destiny as a colonizing power that will
‘raise savage peoples from superstition and blood-sacrifice,
taboos and witchcraft and the attendant fears and slaveries,
to a more enlightened existence’.48
Twenty years later D. G. James emphasized the vein of
allegory that runs through The Tempest. The play reveals
Shakespeare’s imbrication in Renaissance neo-Platonic
thought; Prospero can be seen allegorically as a kind of
Christian providence and also as a priestly magician who has
embarked on a dangerous search for godlike perfection. His
decision to relinquish his magic signals his desire to remain
human. The Tempest creates the impression that ‘Prospero
in truth never left Milan and that the island and all we see
happen on it was a dream of Prospero’s only’. But in a larger
context, it also suggests the ‘mind of European civilization
casting off the shackles, and the false hopes, and the terrors
of magical daemonology’.49 Also in 1967 A. D. Nuttall used
The Tempest to speculate on different types of metaphysical
literature. He concludes that while the play is not an explicit
allegory – the figure and its significance remain obscured – the
audience has the impression that the island belongs to the
world of dreams and the play has metaphysical elements. ‘The
simplified characters […] are not ipso facto allegorical, but it

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is no great sin to take them as types’. Caliban and Ariel come

closest ‘to being allegories of the psychic processes, but they
are much more besides’.50
Noel Cobb expanded on the theme of psychological
allegory in Prospero’s Island: The Secret Alchemy at the
Heart of ‘The Tempest’ (1984) by providing a scene-by-scene
reading that draws on the theories of psychoanalyst Carl Jung.
Cobb argues that Caliban and Ariel are part of Prospero’s
own nature: Ariel is an embodiment of the magician’s desire
for reconciliation among the disparate parts of his psyche,
whereas Caliban represents all that Prospero has to come
to terms with – irrationality and passion. The play’s centre-
piece, the union of Ferdinand and Miranda, symbolizes the
synthesis of opposites that Prospero attains only at the play’s
conclusion, when he enters into a new relationship with the
feminine, emotional part of his personality. Like the product
of an alchemical experiment, Prospero’s psyche is transformed
into a new concoction.51

Thematic readings
While Still, James and Cobb’s systematic readings probe the
heart of The Tempest’s mystery, other twentieth-century critics
were less ambitious and less inclined toward metaphysical
readings. They sought instead to identify the play’s major
themes, the animating ideas that unify the drama into an
organic whole. Like Cobb, some framed the entire play as an
alchemical experiment. Harry Levin argued that The Tempest
was Shakespeare’s response to Ben Jonson’s satire on confi-
dence men’s alchemical practices, The Alchemist, performed
by the King’s Company in 1610. Unlike Jonson’s swindling
Subtle, Shakespeare’s magician is legitimate in his aims and
demonstrates his moral purpose when he renounces his art.52
Frances A. Yates, a scholar who worked throughout her career
on early modern explorations of the occult, maintained that

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The Critical Backstory 33

Prospero was akin to Henry Cornelius Agrippa, whose De

occulta Philosophia circulated throughout Renaissance Europe
and was known to Elizabethans such as John Dee, Walter
Ralegh and Christopher Marlowe. Like John Dee, Prospero
embodies the magus as scientist and moral reformer.53 The
most systematic treatment of alchemical elements in The
Tempest came in 1997–8 from Peggy Muñoz Simonds, who
perceived it as a theatrical exercise in transmutation, struc-
tured to demonstrate nine stages of the alchemical process.
Prospero, she claimed, was an alchemist as well as a magician;
his goal was not to turn base metal into gold but to restore
the Golden Age. Ariel was his daemon, playing the role of
Mercurius, the alchemist’s assistant.54
A large cohort of scholars saw magic as The Tempest’s
pervading theme, but they often disagreed as to the character
of that magic. In 1937 Walter Clyde Curry described
Prospero as a theurgist whose magical practices, based on
the Neo-Platonic teachings of Marsilius Ficino, were meant
to raise fallen human nature to a higher, spiritual plane.
Sycorax’s witchcraft, in contrast, is goety – black magic that
disorders nature and is used for wicked purposes. While
Prospero is a theurgist of high rank and his purposes are
moral, his human passions prevent him from attaining his
spiritual goals.55 Decades later D’Orsay Pearson agreed that
Prospero is a theurgist but disagreed with Curry’s claim that
his practices are benevolent. Shakespeare, Pearson contends,
demonstrates that theurgy is a damnable and unlawful art that
Prospero exploits to gain vengeance against his enemies. Ariel,
on the other hand, is an agent of divine providence who works
toward moral ends, and it is only through his admonition in
5.1.17–19 that Prospero ‘foregoes his pretensions to godhead
and assumes his proper role as man’.56 Karol Berger agrees
that Italy’s neo-Platonists were the most important paradigm
for Prospero’s art, but he relates magic to the imagination.
Ficinian magic, he argued, uses spirit as the medium of
its operations, and its methods are primarily artistic. In
particular, such magic relies on music, as does Prospero, to

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draw and transmit influences. The Tempest is based on the

opposition between the imaginary (the island) and the real
(Milan); although Prospero’s magic works wonderfully well
on the island, it will fail in Milan, and for this reason he must
abjure it before resuming his dukedom.57
Two monographs devoted to early modern magic appeared
in the 1980s, each with a chapter on The Tempest. Barbara
Traister’s Heavenly Necromancers sees Prospero as the
ultimate stage magician, except that unlike his predecessors
he totally dominates his play. Shakespeare includes Prospero’s
account in 1.2 of Sycorax’s witchcraft in order to show
Prospero as a good magician. Like other stage magicians,
Prospero is a producer of spectacles. In contrast to Pearson,
Traister argues that from the very beginning Prospero intends
to relinquish his magic when his goals are accomplished;
in so doing, he chooses to remain human.58 Like Heavenly
Necromancers, John S. Mebane’s Renaissance Magic and the
Return of the Golden Age takes a positive view of Prospero’s
magic. Through Prospero’s art Shakespeare affirms ‘the belief
of Ficino and his successors that humans obtain genuine
power by aligning themselves with the order of Providence’.
Prospero’s abjuration of his magic is not a rejection of magic
per se, but a qualification of its ideals.59
Barbara A. Mowat takes a common-sense approach to the
vexed issue of Prospero’s magic in ‘Prospero, Agrippa, and
Hocus Pocus’. Is he the quintessential philosopher-magician of
the Neo-Platonic tradition or is he, like Dr Faustus, a damned
sorcerer? Or, perhaps, she proposes, we take Prospero’s magic
more seriously than we should. In Shakespeare’s usual eclectic
way, The Tempest combines several, sometimes contradictory,
constructions of magical practice. In Prospero’s 1.2 narrative
we can see a theurgic man committed to intellectual study,
but in his 5.1.33–57 monologue, Prospero moves into goety,
the world of witchcraft and black magic. In his abjuration of
magic Prospero is more like the wizard of medieval legend and
stage tradition who gives up his pagan ways and returns to
the Christian community. And yet Prospero is also akin to the

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The Critical Backstory 35

street ‘jugler’ who uses a servant/apprentice (Ariel) to effect

his legerdemain. His art is for the most part the art of stage
spectacle. When all is said and done, Prospero is ‘the magus
who has learned to think of his mortality, the Faustus who
successfully destroyed his book, the illusionist who stands
before us revealing the tricks of his trade’ – all of these, and
Prospero’s magic spells repeatedly take the form of musical
enchantment, so it is not surprising that critics have found
music itself as a theme. Commentators frequently note that
The Tempest is Shakespeare’s most musical play because, in
addition to its many lyrics, it includes song and dance in the
masque of 4.1, and Caliban’s comments and the stage direc-
tions frequently call for musical sound effects. Through much
of the twentieth century, critics related The Tempest’s musical
score to the Neo-Platonists’ belief that musical harmonies
could lead the soul to an apprehension of heavenly harmony,
the music of the spheres. John H. Long shows how music
contributes to the play’s dramatic unity. In 5.1, for example,
while the court party remains spell-stopped, Prospero calls
for heavenly music that ‘underscores the dramatic climax of
the play, provides audible magic, cures the irrational quality
of the noblemen’s minds […] and symbolizes the restored
harmony of human relationships’.61 John P. Cutts outlines
music’s contribution to our sense of the island, ‘where no ill
is ultimately allowed, where strife and friction are allayed and
everything is wrapped in a serene air of celestial harmony’.62
Prospero exploits music to resolve problems; by the final
scene, discords cease and musical harmony restores the court
party’s senses, allowing them to hear the music of the spheres.
Other critics compare Prospero to Orpheus, the Greek god
who used the power of music to charm wind and weather, as
well as his listeners. Peggy Muñoz Simonds asserts that ‘As
Orpheus brings art to nature, so in The Tempest the magus
Prospero brings the arts of civilization to an island once ruled
by nature alone and attempts to endow it with the divine
harmony dramatized in the wedding masque’.63

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But sounds are not always harmonious on Prospero’s

island, and as David Lindley explains, while the play’s music
has often been accepted as representing celestial concord, even
Shakespeare’s lyrics can produce disquiet. The song Ariel sings
to bring Ferdinand to Prospero and Miranda in 1.2 is a good
example. At first glance, the lyric ‘Come unto these yellow
sands’ and Ferdinand’s response to it – ‘This music crept by
me on the waters / Allaying both their fury and my passion’ –
seems to support the Neo-Platonists’ view of music’s powers.
But the song’s refrain, ‘Cockadoodle doo’, also ‘hints at the
capricious, even malevolent side of Prospero’s magic and its
instruments’.64 Prospero’s music can provoke madness and
mayhem, as we see when Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban
follow the celestial music into a swamp. To Lindley, music
and masque are instruments of Prospero’s power, good or bad
depending on his purpose.
Most discussions of music in The Tempest see it as a civilizing
influence; in particular, as Simonds observes, Prospero uses
the island’s harmonies to civilize Caliban, the wild man who
loves its sweet sounds that hurt not. The opposition between
Art, represented by Prospero, the European endowed with a
Renaissance education, and Nature, embodied in Caliban, a
‘salvage’ creature rooted in the island, struck editor Frank
Kermode as the play’s overriding theme. In this view, Caliban
represents nature without the benefit of nurture, and his
function is to illustrate by contrast Prospero’s world of art
and civility. Prospero’s Art requires discipline, and Kermode
frames it in terms of control: ‘As a mage he controls nature;
as a prince he conquers the passions which had excluded
him from his kingdom and overthrown law; as a scholar he
repairs his loss of Eden; as a man he learns to temper his
passions’.65 Magic, music, the masque, and moral education,
all are reflections of Shakespeare’s focus on the power of Art
to shape and control Nature. But as Northrop Frye noted
in his overview of Shakespeare’s comedies and romances,
nature here is not simply the flora and fauna of the island. It
is a power ‘at once supernatural and connatural’.66 Nature

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The Critical Backstory 37

in The Tempest is in this reading benevolent, but not to the

Polish critic Jan Kott, who contends that from the nineteenth
century to the mid-twentieth commentators had romanticized
The Tempest into an operatic fairytale, not recognizing it as
a ‘great Renaissance tragedy of lost illusions’.67 Prospero can
be seen as a disillusioned parallel to Leonardo da Vinci, his
fine aspirations doomed to disappointment because of human
corruption. The opening scene encapsulates the play’s violent
conflict between nature and a corrupt social order when the
Boatswain cries, ‘What care these roarers for the name of
king?’ (1.1.16–17). Except for Ferdinand and Miranda, who
exist outside of real time, the play’s multiple plots are all based
on violent struggles for power, and nature as it exists on the
island is more brutal than benign.
Opposing views of the natural landscape – descriptions of
a mythic golden world, undercut by vivid accounts of brutal
weather and starvation – were characteristic of the New World
narratives that shaped The Tempest. Robert Ralston Cawley
was the first to produce a detailed analysis of the parallels
between early modern English narratives of exploration and
Shakespeare’s text (see Gurr, 107–8),68 but it took Kermode’s
1954 edition to bring them to prominence. In the United
States The Tempest came to be known as an ‘American’ text.
Leo Marx went beyond the parallels Cawley had noticed to
argue that The Tempest was prophetic of what America would
become: ‘Prospero’s island community prefigures Jefferson’s
vision of an ideal Virginia, an imaginary land free both of
European oppression and frontier savagery. The topography
of The Tempest anticipates the moral geography of the
American imagination’.69 Leslie Fiedler followed suit, claiming
that America was on Shakespeare’s mind when he wrote The
Tempest. Fiedler’s conception of Caliban and his troubled
relationship to the European Prospero raised issues of coloni-
alism and race that would dominate Tempest criticism for
decades to come (see Charry).70
From the 1980s to the present, the centuries-old interpre-
tation of The Tempest as a story of forgiveness, reconciliation

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and redemption has been rejected by many academic scholars

who introduced new methodologies and theories into their
discussions. Nevertheless, the view outlined here of Prospero
as an essentially benevolent surrogate for Shakespeare the
dramatist never disappeared entirely, especially in popular
and theatrical representations of The Tempest. To this day,
actors and performance programmes still treat Prospero’s
description of ‘the great globe itself’ as Shakespeare’s allusion
to his theatre and to his art (see chapter by Maisano, 165–94)
and acknowledge his epilogue as Shakespeare’s retirement

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A Theatre of Attraction:
Colonialism, Gender, and
The Tempest’s Performance

Eckart Voigts

The Tempest is arguably the most global play of a truly trans-

national playwright. As Peter Hulme and William Sherman
have shown in a classic reception study,1 the play ‘travels’
internationally and has done so for more than 400 years. It
follows that a number of important reception and performance
histories have already investigated its voyages. Propelled
by issues of generational and colonial conflict, gender, its
dreamlike and magical poetics and metatheatrical resonances,
as well as by its thematic, and possibly also formal negotiation
of the sea, the text has invited a plethora of performances and
readings from all over the world. These readings frequently
focus on Prospero, who has the most lines in the play and is
most present on stage as father, magician, author, or colonizer;
around Prospero, the play summons two antithetical colonized

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subjects (Ariel and Caliban) and, as a prize to be given away

to the shipwrecked Ferdinand, his daughter Miranda.
As the play intervenes in the contested cultural areas
of gender and ethnicity, it is hardly surprising that it has
generated a plethora of outré revisions with added characters,
gender-swap casting choices, radically dissimilar settings and
actors of diverse ethnicity. As Virginia Mason Vaughan
has noted with reference to the Japanese reception of The
Tempest, and as the traditions of German Regietheater (‘direc-
tor’s theatre’) and post-dramatic theatre alluded to in this
chapter also frequently make clear, The Tempest has thus
become increasingly hybrid. Despite reservations articulated
by Vaughan who, with good reason, warns against The
Tempest as a ‘grab bag’ and requires adaptations to follow
a holistic concept,2 it is only through hybrid actualizations,
adaptations and appropriations that Shakespeare will survive.
He is, after all, according to cultural materialist wisdom,
primarily ‘a collage of familiar quotations’. The more wildly
hybrid, the richer the meme pool, and the higher the chance of
the survival of a play that has had a rich cultural presence for
400 years. Germany is a particularly fascinating case study, as
over ‘the past 200 years German Shakespeare has succeeded
in domesticating the “foreign”, denying the fundamental
Englishness of Shakespeare’.3
The Tempest’s colonial scenario can be meaningful in any
spatial framework, all the more so as the play is ‘singular in
its insistent spatial ambiguity’ among Shakespeare’s plays.4
The island, not precisely located in the text (‘The Scene, an
un-inhabited Island’, says the final page of the First Folio
edition), has prompted all sorts of specifications, and any
performance must find solutions for the specifics of spatial
isolation, for the mise-en-scène of the sea and, in particular,
the spectacular initial shipwreck. In fact, Christine Dymkowski
has pointed out the essential paradox of the play’s effects and
the visual poverty for which it was initially written: ‘Although
throughout its performance history The Tempest has proved
to be perhaps the most visually spectacular of Shakespeare’s

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A Theatre of Attraction 41

plays, it was written to be performed on a virtually bare

As one of Shakespeare’s most theatrical texts, The Tempest
invites effects of both sound and imagery. It calls for the
performance of magic trappings: a ship is sunk; a banquet
disappears; nymphs and spirits appear; as do the goddesses
Iris, Ceres and Juno – and the result is frequently the richness
and strangeness alluded to in the text. Its intimate relationship
with the court masque has led to fascinating aesthetic links,
from frequent operatic adaptations to post-digital cinema. To
adapt the title of Tom Gunning’s seminal essay, The Tempest
provides theatre as well as cinema of spectacular attractions.
As Andrew Gurr notes, the play is singular in the Shakespeare
canon as a vehicle for special effects, and Dymkowski records
that the ‘emphasis on visual spectacle’6 dominated the perfor-
mance history of the play at least until the twentieth century.
This chapter reflects these overarching concerns in a tripartite
structure – focusing on the poetics and metapoetics first, and
then discussing the areas of gender and ethnicity.

‘Theatre of attractions’: Poetics,

metatheatre, father-god
The first surviving record of a performance (in the Revels
Accounts) dates the first night on 1 November 1611, when the
King’s Company presented ‘att Whithall before [th]e Kinges
Majestie a play Called the Tempest’. There are records of a
further royal performance in 1613 and the play seems to have
been an instant success that lingered in theatregoers’ minds.7
In 1614, Ben Jonson had to justify that he did not include a
‘Servant-monster’ or ‘Tempests’ in his Bartholomew Fair, and
Dryden and Davenant knew in 1667 that their adaptation
transformed a play that ‘had formerly been acted with success
in the Black-fryers’. Unlike most of Shakespeare’s plays,
The Tempest seems to have been conceived for an indoor

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playhouse, the ‘private theatre’ Blackfriars. From its inception

the play thus afforded the opportunity to add theatrical special
effects that would not have been possible on the outdoor
stage of the Globe. The Tempest as ‘theatre of attractions’
that required a certain amount of relatively elaborate stage
machinery was firmly established even on the Jacobean stage.
There are no extant visual or verbal representations as to
exactly how the ‘magic’ was evoked on the Renaissance stage.
But the Blackfriars could certainly have provided acoustic
effects, 8 and Vaughan suggests that in the predominantly aural
allure of the Renaissance stage most of the effects were ‘sonic’:
drum rolls, dogs barking, organ music, the sound of a ‘sea
machine’ – that is, pebbles revolving in a drum – to suggest
the sea and the initial shipwreck. Much ink has been spilt
on the centrality of music and sound in The Tempest; intri-
cately linked to the magic devised by Prospero and devised
by his plethora of servants and creatures, singing and music
become the aural signs of the mysterious magic located in the
performers’ bodies. It is not at all surprising that the play has
frequently inspired musical compositions and operas.9
In addition, spectacular costumes, such as a Prospero in a
magic robe, a Caliban in animal skins, an Ariel dressed first
as a sprite and subsequently as a harpy, spectacularly dressed
masque nymphs, and then reapers and goddesses such as a
Juno lowered from the ‘heavens’ in a chariot, or maybe even
a pack of dogs, the Renaissance fireworks (‘squibs’) would
have contributed to the visual attraction. Miraculous appear-
ances and disappearances via trap doors would have enhanced
the banquet scene and the betrothal masque, or would have
suggested Caliban’s cave. Did Ariel fly as he often does in
modern acrobatic performances? Virginia and Alden Vaughan
argue that the text does not demand this when Prospero
suggests he become ‘like a nymph o’th’ sea’. Almost certainly
both Ariel and Miranda, and possibly many of the additional
creatures created by Prospero’s island magic would have
been played by boys and, as is usual in the Renaissance court
masque, the stately procession of the betrothal masque would

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A Theatre of Attraction 43

have been accompanied by an antimasque (here, the island

creatures). With William Macready’s 1838 production, Ariel,
now decidedly female (performed by Priscilla Horton), ‘flies’
in fairy costume on a wire, singing enchantingly.
In various ways subsequent performances of The Tempest,
from the Restoration adaptation by William Davenant and
John Dryden to the film versions by Peter Greenaway and
Julie Taymor, explore the theatricality of the court masque
as a staging of heightened spectacularity and special effects.
Probably inspired by the mise-en-scène of an enchanted island
on the occasion of the completion of Versailles Palace in 1664,
in 1667 Davenant and Dryden renamed the play The Tempest,
or, The Enchanted Island. Unlike other Shakespeare plays,
the aural and visual extravaganza and ‘classical’ unity of the
Tempest plot spoke directly to Restoration tastes, but Davenant
and Dryden introduced a set of additional characters, above
all to add topical political satire and to enhance the potential
for erotic innuendo via intensified exploitation of the trope
of sexual innocence: Sycorax becomes Caliban’s sister and is
introduced as part of the (now amorous) Stephano/Trincalo
[sic] subplot; the innocent Miranda is mirrored by an equally
innocent new character, Hippolito, who can fall in love with
another new character, Miranda’s sister Dorinda – resulting in
a mirror narrative to the key romantic union; Ariel appears
accompanied by a female sprite, Milcha – whether this implies
a male Ariel is open to debate.
Davenant and Dryden could rely on earlier re-workings
of The Tempest, and their success at the Duke’s Theatre,
corroborated for example in Samuel Pepys’s diary entries,
prompted a fully operatic adaptation at Lincoln’s Inn Fields
and Dorset Garden Theatre in 1674, which went even further
in turning The Tempest into a special effects vehicle with
elaborate scenery. Its musical interludes, flying spirits, demons,
turbulent skies, and thunder and lightning (contrasted with a
dimmed audience space) proved irresistible as cues to put the
theatre machine in action – and soon generated the parody
of The Mock Tempest set in the London prison of Bridewell

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that makes fun of the aural and visual outrageousness.

Hogarth’s sketch of Davenant/Dryden prepared around 1735,
one of the earliest visual representations of a Shakespeare
play, does little to convey its theatricality and spectacular
visuality.10 Interestingly, Jeremy Sams revived the concept
of The Enchanted Island in his 2011 production for the
New York Metropolitan Opera, described by the New York
Times as a ‘gleeful baroque mashup’ and ‘a Franken-opera’:
‘Essentially “The Enchanted Island” is Shakespearean fan
fiction’.11 As this Baroque extravaganza informed above all
by assorted music from Handel suggests, irreverent, impure
appropriations of The Tempest, here including a part for
Neptune written for Met star tenor Plácido Domingo and
objets trouvés from YouTube, are back in fashion.
The Davenant/Dryden adaptation ruled the London stages
almost until the onset of Romanticism in the eighteenth
century, when its frippery and licentiousness fell out of
favour and the search for origins and for Shakespeare as a
national poet suggested a rediscovery of the original Tempest.
William Macready’s restored version, which promised both
Shakespeare’s genuine language and a plot disentangled from
the amorous Restoration complications, was a phenomenal
success on the Covent Garden stage. One decisive aspect that
Macready did not redress, however, was The Tempest as a
vehicle for an ever more elaborate theatre machinery – with
the lifelike shipwreck inspired by the preceding pantomime
Sinbad the Sailor and columns miraculously emerging from
underground for the banquet.
For Macready, the restored, authentic Shakespeare repre-
sented the national theatre tradition, and, shortly afterwards,
Charles Kean, in particular, sought to claim Shakespeare
as the key representative of a national poetry. This did not
prevent Kean from expressing the Romantic penchant for faux
medievalism by dressing the characters in thirteenth-century
Italian gowns in his 1857 production. Nor did Kean refrain
from mining the play for spectacular lighting effects, which
were produced with the help of the new gaslight technologies.

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A Theatre of Attraction 45

Increasingly, panoramas and painted canvases enhanced the

stagecraft of a thoroughly industrialized Britain.
Frequently, the play has come to be seen as a metaphor of
the theatre, with Prospero a stage manager who dominates
the proceedings. This is evident in two of the most influential
recent performances, the stage production by Giorgio Strehler
(La Tempesta, Piccolo Teatro di Milano, 1978, a perfor-
mance filmed for Italian TV RAI and currently available on
DVD and on YouTube in full length) and Peter Greenaway’s
movie Prospero’s Books. In Strehler’s production, which
toured globally in the 1980s and thus became a reference
point for subsequent stagings, the curtain opens as stage-
hands preparing blue sheets to represent the sea, sound and
light effects are exposed as precisely ‘effects’ of the stage
machinery. The influence of Bertolt Brecht is palpable, but
the magic impact of a floundering ship or the aerial Ariel
(Giulia Lazzerini, a Pierrot visibly suspended from the flies
by a wire) is enhanced rather than diminished by the laying
bare of the apparatus, particularly in the filmed version,
which includes various glimpses into backstage technology.
While the stage is bare and gradually assembles to spectacular
effects produced by clever lighting and hypnotic sounds, the
comic scenes involving Trinculo and Stephano clearly evoke
commedia dell’arte traditions. The contortions of the crab-like
Caliban (Massimo Fosch) respond to the cues by the powerful
Prospero (Tino Carrara), the theatre magician who has the
stagehand Ariel at his side. Eventually, the visible clipping of
the wire frees Ariel from his role as stagehand for Prospero.12
Whereas Strehler focuses on theatre magic, Greenaway
takes The Tempest as his starting point to illustrate how
powerfully creatures, buildings and the like can be evoked
from world-building words and books. In one of the first
of many narrative passages in the text, Prospero relates to
Miranda how Gonzalo eased his banishment decreed by
Antonio: ‘Knowing I loved my books, he furnished me /
From my own library with volumes that / I prized above my
dukedom’. The 120 minutes of digital (the then-revolutionary

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Quantel Paintbox) and high-definition video display follow

this logic. Various devices highlight Prospero as originator
of the narrative: John Gielgud’s commanding sixth and final
performance as a Prospero who speaks all the lines in the play;
the foregrounding of his calligraphic writing, his 24 books
on science and magic that are paraded (and, as we eventually
learn, of which the Folio itself is the last); his characterization
as a Renaissance magus in tableaux suggest the St Augustine
paintings by da Messina. Greenaway, who had a history in
structural filmmaking, divides the film into 91 sections (it
was released in 1991) and three parts: the Past (invoking his
expulsion by Antonio from Milan), the Present (his perfor-
mance of magic on the island) and the Future (his abrogation
of power and return).13 Greenaway’s multi-artistry (writing,
speaking, theatre, architecture, painting, filmmaking) merges
metatheatre (stage machinery of the Jacobean court masque)
with the metafilmic visual power of a digital theatre of attrac-
tions. Painterly static shots and painfully slow travelling shots
(supported by the insistent loops of Michael Nyman’s music)
exhibit an exuberant procession of creatures and spaces. As
I have argued elsewhere, the proliferating Prospero becomes
filmmaker and writer, as well as actor and character, while
Gielgud and Shakespeare are just big enough to fit Greenaway’s
aspirations. As his purpose was to explore metaphor and
symbol, Greenaway ‘tried to find as many characters as
[he] could that had an allegorical reference to water’.14 The
result of this über-allegory, which comes in multiple frames,
digitally overlaid to suggest theatrical framing, is an excess
of meaning that renders The Tempest an allegory of the rich
vacuity of human creativity. As Paula Willoquet-Maricondi
notes, Prospero, the master of writing, represents Western
modernity, and he fails:

Prospero is the modern visionary subject, holder of the

assertoric gaze, creator and master-manipulator of a fiction-
become-reality; he is the Cartesian cogito who negates the
visible – the organic, dynamic and unpredictable reality of

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A Theatre of Attraction 47

the island and its inhabitants – only to construct the visible

according to a ‘model-in-thought’.15

When Stefan Pucher picked up the metatheatrical dimension

for a celebrated pop version of Shakespeare’s play (Münchener
Kammerspiele, 2007), he took the ironies further, and
Prospero’s sinking, his increasing unsuitability to represent
the (suspect) Cartesian cogito, was clearly in evidence. Just as
in Greenaway, the performance highlighted the literariness of
the magic: the stage became an open book whose pages were
(significantly) filled with eclectic videos cut from old films by
video artist Chris Kondek, who had previously worked with
the Wooster Group, Laurie Anderson, Michael Nyman and
Robert Wilson. The video screens were a receptacle of the
many stories in The Tempest, and its water. The pages were
turned by a dark-clad Prospero (Hildegard Schmahl) and
an Ariel who seemed a tired, slightly younger version of his
mistress. This time, however, Prospero does not conjure up
Western culture (Greenaway: Renaissance humanism) but,
seated in a silly tiger-headed armchair, represents the excesses
of pop culture: Ferdinand and Miranda sport long-haired
wigs and satin shirts and their romance is deliberately cheesy,
the goddesses appear as disco bunnies, and Caliban is an
unruly teenager-turned-punk singer. The post-dramatic team
presented a pop-cultural trash-Tempest in which Caliban
accosted Prospero as a ‘humanist asshole’ (‘Humanisten­
arsch’): we have come a long way from the learned Gielgud
Prospero, who is a deeply suspicious character to Pucher.
While this pop Prospero seems almost sinister, Gonzalo is a
pop dreamer, singing John Lennon’s ‘Watching the Wheels’. It
is doubtful if even his vision of Utopianism has to be thought
of outside of pop culture.16

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9781472518439_txt_print.indd 48

Figure 2.1 Stefan Pucher’s Der Sturm at the Münchner Kammerspiele, 8 November 2007. Left to right:
Wolfgang Pregler (Ariel), Hildegard Schmahl (Prospero). Photograph: Arno Declair
02/05/2014 14:46
A Theatre of Attraction 49

Gender: Prospero in crisis, enter

For all their differences, Strehler, Greenaway and Pucher
focus on strong Prosperos as theatrical, filmmaking and
pop culture magicians. In fact, Amy Lawrence’s gender
critique of Prospero’s Books points out that the film, which
came into being at actor John Gielgud’s bidding, reinforces
the patriarchal, phallocentric and logocentric authority of
wordmaker Prospero/Gielgud/Shakespeare.17 These readings
recall The Tempest as a play on poiesis and the rich theat-
ricals of a long tradition and, in particular, the Jacobean era.
In the nineteenth century, while productions rich in theatre
technology continued to wield their magic on the spectators,
Prospero’s status as the source of miracles dwindled. The
frequently bearded traditional sage, his costumes variously
derived from Greek Antiquity, the Old Testament or Celtic
tradition, was deconstructed at the onset of psychoanalysis:
with Descartes’s cogito, the overpowering magician was
also subjected to a rigorous analysis that seemed to destroy
Prospero’s untouchable status as a demi-god who metes out
justice in his microcosmic world. Instead, Prospero became
the Oedipal player in a Freudian family scenario, who
jealously guards Miranda against a Caliban who comes to
represent Prospero’s repressed carnal desires. This inter-
pretation reaches an extreme variant in Paul Mazursky’s
1982 film adaptation, which transforms Prospero into Phillip
Dimitrious, an architect disenchanted with his wife, who
escapes with his daughter and mistress to a Greek island
to face Kalibanos, a local goatherd. This 1980s Prospero
gives his incestuous turmoil free vent so that it is easy to see
that the storm scene is predominantly a metaphor for his
tormented state of mind. Contemporary performances tend to
deconstruct Prospero and cast grave doubts on his authority,
either by demonizing or by belittling him. We have already
noted that Hildegard Schmahl turned him into a zero-grade

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pop version of Gielgud’s Renaissance sage. The tormented,

powerful Prospero of the twentieth century is represented well
in John Gielgud’s angry, hurt and impassioned version of an
outcast in Peter Brook’s 1957 production – and Dymkowski
praises John Wood for his nuanced portrayal of a torn identity
in 1988. At 53, this was already the third time Gielgud had
performed the role. More radically, in Derek Jarman’s film
Tempest in 1979, Prospero, played with brooding energy by
the relatively young Heathcote Williams, seemed to perversely
enjoy his enslavement of Ariel, but here Prospero is too
introspective and melancholic (inspired by the Renaissance
master of the occult, John Dee) to be a domineering father.
In 1982, Derek Jacobi portrayed a less radically melancholic
Prospero who, nevertheless, also casts doubt on his role as
master of ceremonies. Several recent German productions18
(Pucher, Munich, also David Bösch, Bochum 2007; Corinna
von Rad, Weimar 2008; Christoph Frick, Berne 2004; Stefan
Bachmann, Basel 2000) have portrayed a dictatorial Prospero.
In 2012, at Theater Oberhausen, he was even turned into
an Arab-world terrorist bent on reclaiming Naples from an
imperialist power: there is a machine-gun toting Ariel, and
Stephano and Trinculo are executed at the end. In Bochum,
he draconically enchained the entourage, and Ariel lost his
capacity to fly. In Weimar he failed to release Ariel.
Ariel, in turn, has become increasingly aware of his
‘slave’ status and reacts aggressively towards Prospero,
infamously spitting in his face in Sam Mendes’s 1993 Stratford
production.19 To turn Prospero into a restaurant owner,
as Irina Brook’s production did in 2012, is to take away
or ridicule the authority derived from his books and his
Renaissance magician’s art. As I am writing this, Daniela
Löffner’s production at the local Braunschweiger Staatstheater
(March 2013) shows a balding, bespectacled, clumsy clerk
(echoing John Wood’s performance in Nicholas Hytner’s
1988 RSC production) rather than a powerful magician.
At the RSC in 2009, Antony Sher seemed disorientated on
the plausibly African island, which included a tree and a

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A Theatre of Attraction 51

snake – a Zulu image for nature. Rather than shooting his

enemies (an option, as Sher aimed his gun at the entourage),
the production ended on the colonizer’s plea for forgiveness,
resonating, of course, with the South African post-apartheid
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Most radically, the
SF film adaptation Forbidden Planet (1956) has the Prospero
character Dr Morbius sacrifice himself.
There are other solutions for the conundrum of the decon-
structed father-magician-colonizer who has fallen prey to the
gender revisions of the twentieth century. One way out is
to make Miranda – the sole female character who appears
on stage – stronger and more assertive than she usually is in
traditional performances.20 In Marina Warner’s novel Indigo
(1992), she is a Creole herself, rivalling with her white and
blonde young aunt Xanthe. Jarman (1979) counters the John
Dee-inspired occultist with Toyah Willcox, who is supposed
to embody the Punk iconography of the late 1970s and early
1980s. With the credentials of her punk persona, her unkempt
hair and her rebelliousness, Willcox subverted Prospero’s
authority. Jarman’s most daring innovation, however, was
Elisabeth Welch’s rendering of ‘Stormy Weather’ to a chorus
of sailor boys. Unlike Stefan Pucher, Jarman took the power of
pop culture to undermine Shakespearean authority seriously.
In a perceptive comparison of Jarman and Greenaway,
Douglas Lanier has argued that, as avant-garde ‘resolutely
auteurist’ Tempests, both ‘productions share, as a reflex
of their anti-realist cinematic aesthetics, an interest in the
imagery of Renaissance hermeticism and a fascination with
masque-like styles’. However, Lanier concludes, ‘Jarman inter-
rogates content, Greenaway form’.21 In Jarman’s Tempest,
neo-Baroque gay campiness replaces the spectacularity of the
court masque, and, by implication, nationalist and bourgeois
Shakespeares, with an artificial performance that at the same
time subverts essentialist gender norms as the heterosexual
union of Ferdinand and Miranda is undercut with gay icono-
graphies. In fact, Dymkowski notes increasingly tomboyish
Mirandas, for instance, in the productions by Sam Mendes,

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RSC 1993, and Wolfe. The powerful female ‘Prospera’

performed by Helen Mirren in Julie Taymor’s 2011 movie was
a culmination of earlier attempts at laying the powerful wand
in female hands, notably the stage performances by Vanessa
Redgrave in the New Globe (2000), Demetra Pittman (2001)
or Hildegard Schmahl (2007). Schmahl, however, seemed
sinister and androgynous and Redgrave, equally androgynous,
portrayed a ‘soft-spoken country squire’ that resembled a
transvestite rather than a female Prospera.22 In 2001, Demetra
Pittman highlighted her role of mother (rather than father) to
Miranda in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production.
Taymor returned to The Tempest after her first small-scale
stage production in 1986 (Theatre for a New Audience,
New York), which starts from the idea of Prospero as master
puppeteer. Uniquely, Mirren does not ‘androgenize’ Prospero
but makes her deliberately female, with a text adapted accord-
ingly (via, for instance, an interpolated Naples backstory by
Glen Berger, 1.2). Whether or not one thinks the merging
maternal relationship with Miranda as convincing, clearly
Caliban’s rebellion and designs on Miranda intensify the
reading of an unruly masculinity provoking female rule. In
fact, Mirren’s Prospera is remarkable for her physical strength
and authority displayed in spectacular computer-generated
Ariel-harpy, its fiery black mastiffs, and the authority of
a classic Shakespearean actress and strong female figures
of authority in prior roles (The Queen, Elizabeth I, Prime
Suspect). In this reading, Taymor’s The Tempest continues a
right-wing feminist position, which links the masculine sexual-
ization of the female body with moral corruption – a charge
that both Burt (2000) and Walker (2009) bring against her.23
In Jarg Pataki’s Freiburg production, Uta Krause’s gender-
swapping, however, is not limited to Prospero/Prospera or
the hybrid genders of Ariel. In an interesting alternative twist
in the 1988 Cheek by Jowl production of the play, director
Declan Donnellan turned the King of Naples into a Queen of
Naples, with clearly identifiable references to the then British
prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

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A Theatre of Attraction 53

Space and ethnicity

The fact that the location of the island is left unspecified has
been attributed to the contexts of emerging capitalism in early
seventeenth-century London as a metropolis of European
colonialist expansion and globalization.24 Productions are
thus free to invent a space, and put it in the Mediterranean
(increasingly elaborate and illusionist, Macready, 1838), on a
contemporary Greek island (Mazursky, 1982), in the Balkans
(Lenke Udovicki, Globe, 2000), in the American civil war
(Jack Bender, TV, 1998), in a circus ring (Glen Walford,
1984), in a theatre (Donnellan, 1988; Lepage, 1992), in Africa
(RSC, 2009), in Cardiff (Michael Bogdanov, BBC2 Wales,
1997), at Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire (Jarman, 1979),
in the Italian restaurant Da Prospero (Irina Brook, Paris,
2012), on the planet Altair–4 (Forbidden Planet, 1956), or on
Hawaii (location filming, Taymor’s movie, 2011). Famously,
in 1987 Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa set the play on the
island of Sado, whereto the Noh theatre doyen, Zeami, was
exiled in 1432. Lemi Ponifasio’s Tempest: Without a Body
(Vienna, 2007) uses Shakespeare to address Samoa’s colonial
history, adapting the Maori dance fa’ataupati. Lee Beagley’s
2011 adaptation for the Bremer Shakespeare Company mixes
it with contemporary genetics into a site-specific variety-
show spectacle on the eponymous Shakespeare’s Pleasure
Island, located on a disused water tower. In a 1997 Cologne
production, Karin Beier suggested a multilingual Europe,
having her 12 actors speak nine different languages. In 2011,
the site-specific Jericho House production at St Giles Church,
East London, travelled to the Israeli West Bank, performing
in a Bethlehem refugee camp and thus inviting comparison to
a very different conflict of territories. The thrust of twentieth-
century productions, however, takes the play to resonate with
the Americas rather than with Europe, so that Vaughan and
Vaughan speak about the ‘Americanization’ of The Tempest.25
The ‘Americanized’ Tempest inevitably highlights its ethnic

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and imperialist dimensions. Arguably, ethnicity has been the

most contested and defining category in the play’s reception
from the first production onwards. Even if the Bermudas are
only mentioned in the play as the ‘still-vexed’ place whence
Ariel is to fetch ‘midnight dew’ for a magical potion (1.2.233),
the New World is lurking in its lines, for instance in Caliban’s
reference to the Patagonian god Setebos.26 The play is in all
likelihood influenced by the narratives by William Strachey of
the shipwreck of the Sea Venture off the Bermudas in 1609
and, as more recent research suggests, Sir Thomas Gates’s oral
account that surfaced in 1614, and in Captain John Smith’s
report (1624) of two Powhatan men named Namuntack and
Matchumps returning from England on Gates’s ship. With
two Powhatan men among several Indians present in England
in 1609, two years before The Tempest emerged, one may
conjecture a direct link between Shakespeare’s play and subse-
quent Pocahontas narratives – a line of reception that informs
contemporary performances and rewritings, from Charlotte
Barnes’s ‘Americanized’ The Forest Princess (UK 1844/USA
1848, which remixes The Tempest and Pocahontas) to Philip
Osment’s 1987 play This Island’s Mine.27
Since the 1970s, Caliban has appeared quite regularly
in African literature, including poetry by Taban Lo Liyong
(Uganda), Lemuel Johnson’s poetry collection Highlife for
Caliban (Sierra Leone), Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Homecoming
(Kenya), and David Wallace’s play Do You Love Me, Master?
(Zambia).28 Dev Virahsawmy has supplied an appropriation of
The Tempest (Toufann, 1991) in Mauritian Creole, but Thomas
Cartelli has criticized these writings-back as ‘questionable’.29
In the postcolonial response to The Tempest, he distinguishes
a first phase, in which the Prospero-Caliban relationship is
subverted and criticized in an attempt at postcolonial national
articulation, from a second phase marked by a Shakespearean
shorthand for postcolonial repositioning. To radicalize
Cartelli’s point, it might indeed seem as if appropriations
of Caliban (defiant aggression), Miranda (not-yet-liberated
cultural dependency) and Ariel (idealized postcolonial subject)

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A Theatre of Attraction 55

have served to stereotype, to some degree, the attitudes

of ‘writing back’ to the centre. Indeed, Virginia Mason
Vaughan suggests that postcolonial readings of The Tempest
may deteriorate towards a pro forma, ‘obligatory gesture to
political correctness’.30 Attempts to ‘equalize’ the central text
of The Tempest, to rewrite or perform a Caliban as good as
Prospero, tend to reinforce its cultural status and thus the
colonizer’s perspective. Cartelli, interestingly, has also noted
a diminishing importance of Shakespeare as a reference point,
as the colonizer’s cultural icons have become at least partially
superseded by a cultural iconicity ‘of one’s own’.
Stephen Greenblatt’s New Historicist interventions in
Shakespearean studies have rested most prominently on
Caliban and a postcolonial reading of The Tempest. Authors
such as Greenblatt and Bill Ashcroft have taken Caliban’s
‘you taught me language and my profit on’t / Is I know how
to curse’ (1.2.364, p. 198) to be emblematic of the postco-
lonial situation.31 As early as in the 1950s, Geoffrey Bullough
was provoked to dismiss a line of reception that compared
Pocahontas to Miranda as a ‘tempting fancy that must be
sternly repressed’, but the fact that Shakespeare’s play was
first performed in November of 1611, 13 years before Smith’s
Generall Historie made the account of Pocahontas widely
available to the public, works against this reading.32 Even if
one dismisses any unmitigated ‘New World’ link between the
Smith/Pocahontas narrative and Shakespeare’s plays, source
studies have shown that The Tempest is clearly aware of the
discourses which emerged from the Early Modern European
encounter with the new world, such as Florio’s translation of
Montaigne’s essay ‘Of the Caniballes’ or Antonio Pigafetta’s
accounts of Patagonia.
Inevitably, theatrical interpretations vary and readings
that see the play as a narrative of decolonization focus on the
dualism of Prospero the colonizer and Caliban his subject.
The most influential early articulation of this idea appeared in
Octave Mannoni’s Prospero et Caliban in 1950. The French
psychologist analyzed how a sex-starved colonizer such as

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Prospero might come to exert a hard-handed rule by displacing

his guilt onto Caliban. Mannoni’s argument spawned criticism
from Frantz Fanon, as well as Aimé Césaire’s adaptation
Une Tempête, in which Caliban is black and Ariel a mulatto
slave. These debates intensified in the early 1970s and, since
Roberto Fernández Retamar’s 1971 Cuban essay ‘Calibán’
in particular, an entire research field (‘Calibanology’) has
The Ubu Repertory Theatre’s New York production
of Césaire’s 1969 adaptation in 1992 reversed traditional
European stagings with an all-black cast that performed
European characters in white masks and an ending that has a
withering Prospero remain on the island. In Jonathan Miller’s
1970 production, another influential postcolonial Tempest,
not only Caliban (Rudolph Walker), but also Ariel (Norman
Beaton) were played by black actors, and Ariel appeared
as a nearly assimilated hybrid of colonizer and colonized
culture, a precarious position highlighted again by Cyril Nri’s
performance in Jonathan Miller’s 1988 reprise of his earlier
production. At the 2007 Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Libby
Appel cast African-American Derrick Lee Weeden as Prospero.
Weeden had rejected the role of Caliban five times before
playing Prospero. In 2009, John Kani’s black Caliban seemed
justifiably enraged in Janice Honeyman’s co-production by the
RSC and Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre.
Thus the interpretation of Caliban crucially determines
the position of the performance in the postcolonialist
debates about The Tempest. This is true even in the case of
the very first representation of Caliban. When (in plausible
conjecture) the scrivener Ralph Crane inserted his cast
list after the Epilogue in the First Folio in 1623, he called
Caliban ‘a salvage and deformed slave’, inviting more
polysemy, as he suggests references to a Renaissance type
of man beyond social control, as well as to an Irish type
or a New World ‘cannibal’.34 Caliban first became a crucial
character in this discussion when the Romantics inaugu-
rated his reading as a ‘noble savage’. The emerging respect

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A Theatre of Attraction 57

for ‘indigenous’ culture and the increasing distrust of civili-

zation epitomized by Rousseau paved the way for Coleridge
to grant Caliban ‘a noble being’ and full humanity;
consequently William Macready’s 1838 restoration of the
Shakespearean Ur-Tempest had a simian, anthropoid object
of sympathy. Since the publication of Daniel Wilson’s
Darwin-inflected Caliban: The Missing Link in 1873, and
the general craze for evolutionary anthropology, Caliban
turned from fish-monster into athletic hairy ape, and the
fact that both Herbert Beerbohm Tree and F. R. Benson
played Caliban, rather than Prospero, testifies to the
character’s centrality in the evolutionary paradigm. Both
performances, but particularly the simian, hairy Caliban in
Beerbohm Tree’s production enhanced by visual tableaux,
exhibit a strong aesthetic sensibility (transfixed by beauty
and music), increasing psychological depth (visualized
suffering after the departure of the Europeans) as well as a
strong attachment to the sea (suggested by eating fish and
The problems of ‘ennobling’ Caliban can be witnessed
in David Suchet’s 1978 interpretation of the role in the
production by Clifford Williams for the RSC: by ennobling
Caliban as a proud native ethnically undetermined by
pewter-coloured body spray, he rendered Prospero’s wrath
futile. Caliban cannot evade the almost crystallized, clichéd
dimension of representing a colonized native, even if the
postcolonial Tempest is not highlighted, as in the case of
Yukio Ninagawa’s late 1980s Japanese production (where he
turns into a dragon) or Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books.35
Intended as monstrous and deformed, Michael Clark’s naked,
freckled body suggests a sleek, mobile aquatic creature
that resonates neither with deformed monstrosity nor with
subaltern colonized suppression.36 Jasper Britton’s Caliban
eats fish at the London Globe in 2010, while he is attractive
enough for Miranda (Anya Khalilulina) to come back and give
him (Alexander Feklistov) a farewell kiss before leaving in the
Russian-language Cheek by Jowl production at the Barbican

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in 2011. In complete reversal to The Tempest’s structure,

Caliban (Thomas Mehlhorn) is a scruffy, degenerate banker
in Jarg Pataki’s 2009 production.
In the character of Sycorax, who appears only in narrated
form in Shakespeare’s play but is frequently performed in
contemporary productions, both the re-gendered and
de-colonized versions of The Tempest can take hold.
Traditionally, when Sycorax does appear, as in Peter Brook’s
1968 production or, in flashback, in Derek Jarman’s 1979
and Peter Greenaway’s 1991 films, she tends to darken
Prospero’s role with a harrowing backstory of a struggle
against evil or id. In Otra Tempestad, a Cuban adaptation
devised by Raquel Carrió and Flora Lauten, Sycorax becomes
a significant character. In a prequel to Prospero’s rule, she is a
goddess who rules the island and is the mother of additional
characters, called ‘orishas’, taken from Afro-Cuban ritual. In
Otra Tempestad, the orishas (gods who accompanied African
slaves transported to the new world and syncretically merged
with Catholic saints) are the daughters of Sycorax’s daughters
who are able to take on old-world, Shakespearean characters’
identities. In Marina Warner’s novel Indigo (1992), a feminist
and postcolonial revision of The Tempest, Sycorax is a wise
woman reigning over an idyllic island with her foster-daughter
Ariel, only to be ‘colonized’ by the Englishman Everard.
Clearly, stage performances have been influenced by this kind
of postcolonial ‘writing back’.
The tradition of East-Asian Tempests began with a rich
reception in Japan, where Shakespeare was first introduced in
the mid-nineteenth century during the Meiji Era (1868–1912),
which opened Japan to Western cultural influences. Links
to Kabuki and Noh theatre have emerged, notably in the
hybrid Tempest productions of Yukio Ninagawa. In fact,
the influential Shakespearean films of Akira Kurosawa point
to the successful hybrid reception of Shakespeare in Japan.
Rather than performing Shakespeare in Western style and
Japanese translation, as in the so-called Shinpa (New Wave)
Theatre, Ninagawa and other theatremakers such as Ninoru

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A Theatre of Attraction 59

Fujita map Shakespeare onto Japanese history and Japanese

dramatic traditions – in Fujita’s case on Bunraku theatre, a
puppet theatre narrated by a chanter.
More recently, the play has been picked up in China,
with a spoken drama production in Beijing (1982), a
Taiwanese song-music adaptation (2004), and a Chinese/
Danish co-production, a circus theatre version, highlighting
Ariel’s acrobatics (Giacomo Ravicchio, 2010). Productions
of The Tempest by Sam Mendes (Singapore, 2010), Declan
Donnellan (China, 2012) and Northern Broadsides/Barrie
Rutter (China, 2013) have toured in Asian countries and
there now is a Chinese Universities Shakespeare Festival.
The Korean version, adapted and directed by Tae-Suk for
Seoul’s Mokwha Repertory Company, also followed the
pattern of East-West hybridity, reminding critic Michael
Billington of the director Peter Brook, Korean dance and fifth-
century history.37 Meanwhile, in the US, the play was banned
from Tucson, Arizona, classrooms in 2011, on the evidence
that ‘the likelihood of avoiding discussions of colonization,
enslavement, and racism were remote’, according to teacher
Curtis Acosta.38
In England, we may see trends towards a re-conventional-
ization of The Tempest, although one may doubt the prefix
‘re’: the two adventurous movie versions of The Tempest,
by Jarman and Greenaway, have proved more influential in
Europe than in Britain.39 Trevor Nunn’s West End production
(Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 2011) seemed to shun any explicit
references or obvious ‘readings’ and seemed above all a star
vehicle for Ralph Fiennes as Prospero. Equally conventional,
if clever at its special effects, seemed Des McAnuff’s version
for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2011, which is also
available on DVD. Jeremy Herrin’s London Globe production
in 2013, on the other hand, employed Jacobean dresses and
relied less on theatrical effects and more on the simplicity
of a father-daughter relationship between Prospero (Roger
Allam) and Miranda (Jessie Buckley). Jonathan Holmes claims
that he restored the music of Robert Johnson to its rightful

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co-authorial status in his 2012 production of The Tempest as

a musical at St Giles, Cripplegate – although there seems to
be no record of Shakespeare’s music beyond the two surviving
Maybe the future will be an eclectic merger of text and
performance via an enhanced version of The Tempest for
iPad (Elliott Visconsi and Katherine Rowe, Luminary Digital
Media 2012): while reading the play and mining annota-
tions for meaning, one could sample a selection of significant
audio and video performances. The experience would be
fragmentary rather than holistic, but intriguing nevertheless.

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Recent Perspectives on
The Tempest

Brinda Charry

Like the play’s magic island, The Tempest offers a myriad

of interpretative possibilities. Building on the scholarship
outlined in the opening chapter, contemporary critics have
continued to read and re-read the play in new ways and have
used it to substantiate waves of literary and cultural ‘theory’.
Even a brief survey of the recent critical history will give us
a fairly complete sense of the shifts and trends in critical
theory and its application to Shakespearean drama. Criticism,
like literature, has a history that responds to changing socio-
economic and institutional factors. While this has doubtless
always been the case, the shifts have been quite dramatic and
radical in the last 30 years or so, with scholars challenging
traditional understandings of the place and role of literature,
as well as conventional ways of reading literary texts. In
the 1980s, the increasing appeal of these new approaches
prompted discussion of a perceived ‘crisis’ in English studies.
Crisis or not, the fact remains that the revisions in cultural
and literary theory have inspired exciting new readings of The
Tempest. This chapter does not attempt an exhaustive survey

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of recent trends in literary criticism; instead it organizes the

best-known of scholarship on the play in terms of the critical
school they belong to, with the understanding that these
critical traditions spawned each other, overlap, and are in
dialogue. Together they have helped enrich our understanding
and appreciation of The Tempest.

Cultural materialism and new

historicist readings
The major changes in the nature of English studies in the
1980s were largely prompted by Cultural Materialism, a
movement that came out of British universities in the 1970s
and 1980s. It was at least partially prompted by the social and
political upheavals of the 1960s and thereafter, the renewed
interest in Marxist ideology that emphasized the economic
forces impacting cultural production, as well as by explo-
sions in European theory. Cultural Materialism posited that
literature should not be privileged as superior to or even
somehow different from other social artefacts (as Raymond
Williams wrote, we cannot ‘separate literature and art from
other kinds of social practice’),1 nor was literature seen as
transcending time and place. Poems, stories and plays were
best understood in their historical context, and above all they
were ideological – i.e. influenced by, and, in their turn, influ-
encing thoughts and belief-systems, albeit unintentionally.
That called for a convergence of literary study and the study
of history and society. While cultural materialists pushed for
the study of hitherto marginalized texts, the first substantial
piece of criticism that came out of this movement was Political
Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism (1985) – the
cultural materialists were actually taking on the Bard!2 This is
significant because Shakespeare, perhaps more than any other
writer, has been seen as a repository of eternal and universal
wisdom and above the limitations of time and place. This

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traditional approach to Shakespeare was termed ‘idealist’ by

the cultural materialists who, along with the other critical
schools they inspired, came to be described as ‘revisionists’.
The volume Political Shakespeare, along with Alternative
Shakespeares (1985), which also privileged historical and
political readings of Shakespeare, contained landmark essays
on The Tempest (discussed in more detail under ‘postcolonial’
readings of the play).3 For now, it will suffice to state that
these essays are good examples of the ‘revisionist’ trend in
criticism in that they were based on the premise that The
Tempest is best understood within its historical contexts,
with sensitivity to its era’s politics. In fact, the most enduring
legacy of Cultural Materialism is that it has inspired a number
of politically informed approaches to literature, including
postcolonialism, Marxism and feminism (among others), all
of which have produced sophisticated and contentious, and
therefore very stimulating, readings of The Tempest.
New Historicism emerged in the United States almost in
parallel with Cultural Materialism, even as it was influenced
by the British movement’s emphasis on the inevitably political
and historical nature of literary texts. Very simply, the new
historicists, too, insisted that literary texts were historical
utterances and what was needed, in the words of Stephen
Greenblatt, ‘founder’ of New Historicism, was ‘a shift away
from criticism centered on “verbal icons” toward a criticism
centered on cultural artifacts’.4 History was not simply a
backdrop to the literary text which is somehow unique
or superior to its context. The literary text is in dynamic
conversation with history, participates in it, is marked by and
influences it. Historical documents that are studied alongside
the literary text are not considered ‘sources’ in any sense. On
the other hand, all texts belong to the same ‘discursive field’,
i.e. they come out of the same historical conditions and do
similar political work. To the New Historicist it is irrelevant
if Shakespeare had access to or knew of these other historical
texts. In his essay ‘Martial Law in the Land of Cockaigne’,
Greenblatt places The Tempest alongside other documents that

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demonstrate how the Renaissance church and state aroused

anxiety and fear (of hunger, punishment, death, the hereafter)
in order to control the public. Threat and punishment, as well
as pardon, were strategies of control, designed to reinforce
the idea of the monarch as an all-powerful figure who could
dispense both justice and mercy at will. Similar strategies were
deployed by the Virginia Company’s officers when they were
shipwrecked in the Bermudas to keep the rebelling under-
class in their place. Once the survivors reached Virginia, the
governor passed what Greenblatt calls the ‘first martial code
in America’, which led to the affirmation of absolute control.5
Greenblatt then offers a reading of The Tempest emphasizing
the means used by Prospero to exercise and maintain power.
Like the Renaissance documents that Greenblatt considers,
Prospero arouses and manipulates his opponents’ fears and
anxieties. The play begins with Miranda’s anxiety, which is an
important prelude to the revelation of her life story and even
to shaping her identity. Prospero uses similar (though harsher)
strategies with Alonso and the other aristocrats, and although
he finally forgives them, the pardon itself is an expression of
power, just as in the case of the royal pardons of the period.
Anxiety is thus aroused and then transformed by Prospero into
love, gratitude and, most importantly, obedience. Greenblatt
also concedes that the play raises troubling questions about
authority, partly by making magic (which was viewed with
some suspicion by Renaissance readers and viewers) the main
instrument of power and by having Prospero experience some
self-doubt, a doubt that perhaps prompts the undertone of
guilt in the line ‘this thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine’
New Historicism (with some variations) soon became the
dominant mode of Shakespeare criticism. The examination of
political power and its discursive strategies were central to the
New Historicists’ method. Gary Schmidgall argues that The
Tempest was written in accord with the ‘courtly aesthetic’
of the time – a mode that was spectacularly grand and
centred on court rituals. The play is thus structured around

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the eminence of royal power and social hierarchy, which are

both challenged by Caliban, who symbolizes rebellion and
disorder. Schmidgall places Caliban amid Tudor sermons on
the evils of rebellion and argues that the play reinforces the
lesson that obedience to authority is natural and god-willed.6
Curt Breight’s essay examines texts dealing with treason that
circulated widely in the Renaissance. Furthermore, treason
was not just condemned but ‘produced’ in these texts, i.e. even
innocent activities were framed as treason and punished when
it suited the authorities to do so. Breight places The Tempest
alongside these documents. Prospero evokes the language of
treason against Caliban, the upper- and lower-class conspir-
ators and even Ferdinand, in order to legitimize his own
power. Oppositional discourses which counter Prospero’s do
exist – Caliban, for example, has his own story of treason
and usurpation of the island – but these are delegitimized
and suppressed by Prospero, although the audience can see
Prospero’s control for what it is and is not duped by him.
Prospero displays a strategic mixture of power and vulner-
ability by letting Caliban have his way for a while in order
to reinforce his position. Breight argues that at the end of the
play Prospero does not concede power but rather switches
magic for a more straightforward version of political control.7
While the workings of power and the role that theatre
played in its maintenance are central to the New Historicist
approach, other critics have adopted the method without neces-
sarily resorting to the ‘absolute power’ paradigm. Significant
examples of such work include Mark Thornton Burnett’s
essay, which locates Caliban in the midst of numerous tales
of monstrosity and prodigious birth in England and reads
Prospero as a kind of showman who exhibits ‘strange’ objects.8
Similarly, Trinculo’s desire to exhibit Caliban in England
prompts Steven Mullaney’s examination of Renaissance
‘wonder cabinets’ or collections of foreign objects that were
viewed as exotic, spectacular, or simply curious, but usually
stripped of their human or cultural context.9 In ‘Prospero’s
Books’, Barbara A. Mowat tries to understand the volumes

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that Gonzalo sent with Prospero into exile, which are often
evoked but never presented. She studies Renaissance books of
magic and argues that it is not possible to construct his magic
simply in terms of either ‘black’ or ‘white’ magic. She also
finds links to the English voyages to America in the similarities
between the language used in the ‘magical’ books to summon
spirits and the language of explorers of foreign lands.10

Postcolonial readings
Postcolonialism developed after the dissolution of Europe’s
colonial empires as a literary approach based on the premise
that every branch of knowledge and cultural production is
part and parcel of the European conquest and colonization
of much of the world. It has thus clearly been influenced
by Cultural Materialism’s insistence on literary texts as
participating in ideological systems. One cannot overlook the
‘worldiness’ of texts, as pioneer postcolonial critic Edward
Said wrote.11 Renaissance criticism has benefited from the
healthy marriage of New Historicism and postcolonialism,
and The Tempest is among the first of the plays that was
studied using this dual approach. Postcolonial critics argue
that Shakespeare’s work especially needs to be subject to
postcolonial study as, in the context of the British Empire, he
was the author most associated with English culture and his
work was actually used to establish colonial authority and
cultural superiority to colonized cultures. Early postcolonial
criticism focused on The Tempest’s American connection. As
discussed in the previous chapter, the American theme has
been persistent in the play’s criticism since the nineteenth
century. Critics have continued to ponder the connection.
Alden Vaughan’s essay ‘Trinculo’s Indians – American Natives
in Shakespeare’s England’, for example, offers instances of
Native Americans who were transported to Shakespeare’s
London, whether by force or voluntarily, in order to provide

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a context for Trinculo’s statement that Englishmen would ‘lay

out ten [coins] to see a dead Indian’ (2.2.32). Vaughan clarifies
that the intent is not to prove that Caliban is an American
Indian, but to reflect on the topicality of American Indians
in Shakespeare’s England.12 While the ‘American connection’
has clearly prompted postcolonial readings of the play,
postcolonial criticism does not insist on the American setting
as such. Instead it argues that what really matters is that
the Prospero-Caliban relationship is marked by the inequal-
ities and struggles that informed the colonizer-colonized
relationship in many parts of the globe. Caliban is constructed
as monster, brute and savage, all reminiscent of the ways in
which many Europeans represented natives across the world.
Moreover, postcolonial scholars would argue, The Tempest
does not simply reflect early European attempts to colonize
the world; the play itself functions as a colonial text, i.e. in
its plot and language the play reenacts colonial discourse,
and because of its canonical position it has helped perpetuate
colonial ideology. In 1950 the psychologist Octave Mannoni
saw The Tempest as offering a model that would serve to
explain the psychological causes and effects of colonization.
For Mannoni, behind colonialism is Prospero’s inferiority
complex, which makes him feel the need to overcompensate
and establish himself as aggressor, while the colonized are the
Calibans of the world – victims of a ‘dependence complex’
who almost welcome dominance.13 Shakespeare’s play offered
Mannoni the means to articulate his ideas, and although
they were widely criticized by subsequent postcolonial intel-
lectuals, his book spurred others to turn to The Tempest to
explore their own experiences of colonization. In 1960 the
Caribbean writer George Lamming attempted a postcol­
onial reading of The Tempest decades before postcolonialism
became institutionalized as a field of study. His Pleasures
of Exile is also significant in that it was written when little
criticism was produced outside Anglo-American circles and
few critics drew attention to their own sociocultural position.
Lamming wrote that as a native of Barbados he could not

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read the play without recalling the travel narratives of the


[…] when I remember the voyages and that particular

period in African history, I see The Tempest against the
background of England’s experiments in colonization […]
The Tempest was also prophetic of a political future which
is our present. Moreover, the circumstances of my life,
both as a colonial and exiled descendant of Caliban, is an
example of that prophecy.14

Lamming sees Caliban as a native whose humanity has been

reduced by imperialism and who has simply become an
occasion to be exploited for Prospero’s own development.
While he identifies with Caliban, Lamming also realizes that
he is unalterably marked by the colonial experience and
colonial education. The most significant parallel between the
Caribbean experience and Shakespeare’s play is the education
of Caliban and the teaching and learning of the colonial
tongue. Lamming’s book, which is a personal essay, a colonial
history, as well as a critical reading of The Tempest, doubtless
foreshadows future readings of the play.
Terence Hawkes’s essay ‘Swisser Swatter: Making a Man
of English Letters’ is not a specifically postcolonial reading
but gestures towards one. Hawkes writes that Trinculo’s
question upon stumbling upon Caliban, ‘What have us here,
a man or a fish?” (2.2.24–5) raises the interesting question
of what defines the human. A category that is taken for
granted is thus subject to slippage and fluctuation, especially
in colonial contexts where the other’s humanity is persistently
questioned.15 In Shakespeare’s Talking Animals, Hawkes
suggests that a colonist is like a dramatist in that he ‘imposes
the “shape” of his own culture, embodied in his speech, on
the new world, and makes that world recognizable, habitable,
“natural[ly]” able to speak his language’. Conversely, the
dramatist is metaphorically a colonist, for he too explores
new areas of human experience and ‘makes the territory

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over in his own image. He […] opens up new worlds for the
The connection between writing and colonizing has been
taken up by other critics. Greenblatt’s ‘Learning to Curse –
Aspects of Linguistic Colonialism in the Sixteenth Century’
focuses on language in The Tempest to understand power
relations between the colonizer and the colonized. Language,
says Greenblatt, has been perceived as the perfect instrument
and partner of empire. He studies Spanish and English
documents on the New World and concludes that the settlers
had two attitudes toward native language: either the natives
had no language but, like Caliban, gabbled ‘like / A thing
most brutish’ (1.2.357–8), or there were no linguistic barriers
between conquerors and natives, and the natives were forced
to adopt the conquerors’ language. Both attitudes, writes
Greenblatt, reveal the conquerors’ inability to ‘sustain the
simultaneous perception of likeness and difference’. Prospero
refuses to recognize Caliban’s language as legitimate and hence
denies his humanity, but Prospero also feels the need to teach
Caliban his language and refashion him. It is this ‘startling
encounter between a lettered and unlettered culture’ that the
play illustrates in its conflict between the erudite magician and
the ‘barbarian’ who wishes to ‘Burn but his books’ (3.2.95).
Caliban might have lost his native language, but he has a
moment of victory when he learns how to curse, albeit in his
master’s language. Greenblatt’s landmark essay inaugurated a
number of postcolonial readings of The Tempest. ‘Learning
to Curse’ anticipates and refutes charges of ‘presentism’ (the
idea that present-day concerns – such as colonialism – are
being imposed on a Renaissance text) by insisting that the play
invites political readings and that these readings are historical
– they simply discover something that has been obscured or
ignored for years.17
Postcolonial readings also typically place Caliban at the
centre of the play; he has come to signify the colonized native,
the complex villain-victim, political rebel, poet and dreamer.
Paul Brown’s essay argues that the play is not just a reflection

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or representation of colonialist practices and discourses but

is in itself an example of colonial discourse. Because it is also
a literary text, it operates in interesting ways. Written in the
romance genre that is characterized by the movement towards
harmony and order, the aesthetics and pleasing structure of
the play serve to obscure or at best ’mystify’ the harshness
and brutality of the politics of colonization. Although the
play attempts to celebrate Prospero’s power and obscure or
contain dissonance and the ethical and political problems
that are part of the colonial enterprise, it ultimately fails to
do so. The contradictions in the text (Prospero as usurped
and usurper, Caliban as rapist and victim) serve to produce a
rebellious and unhappy native who serves to justify Prospero’s
rule but also challenges it. In a sense colonialism’s struc-
tures of domination actually (and paradoxically) produce
opposition. The Tempest, then, ‘declares no all-embracing
triumph for colonialism. Rather it serves as a limit text in
which the characteristic operations of colonialist discourse
may be discerned – as an instrument of exploitation, a register
of beleagurement and a site of radical ambivalence’.18
Peter Hulme has also published a considerable body of
work based on the premise that English colonialism made
significant advances in the first half of the seventeenth century,
with an increasing need to establish an ideological discourse to
justify and further the enterprise. He argues that an emerging
discourse of the ‘Caribbees’ constitutes an important context
for The Tempest, as England became increasingly interested in
the Caribbean islands. His essay ‘Hurricanes in the Caribbees:
The Constitution of the Discourse of English Colonialism’
traces the evolution of this discourse of the ‘Caribbees’. It was
first influenced by biblical and classical influences, indicating
that Europeans used the language of the familiar and known
to deal with the novelty of the Americas. So, for example,
the Mediterranean word ‘tempest’ was preferred to the New
World ‘hurricane’ at first, implying that Europeans sought to
justify the enterprise as willed by God and providence. The
emergence of the word ‘hurricane’ indicates an increasing

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awareness of the threats posed by the New World and came

to stand for native savagery and treachery. Similarly, Caliban
is a ‘compromise formation’ constituted by and also trapped
between Old and New World discourses. Oddly enough this
dual perception served to justify European control over the
natives. The natives also began to be described as ‘cannibals’
(in preference to the classical ‘anthropophagites’), a word
which carried connotations of savagery. In Hulme’s reading,
Prospero’s magic is equated with the colonizers’ technology
(it occupies ‘the space really inhabited in colonial history by
gunpowder’),19 Caliban talks back to Prospero but is also
trapped in a double bind as both ‘slave’ and ‘conspirator’
and is left with no choice but to ‘seek for grace’ at the end.
Hulme also locates the ‘internal contradictions’ of colonial
discourse – the fact that Caliban was hospitable but later
treated badly by Prospero, that the European working-class
characters allied themselves with the native figure. However,
these contradictions are suppressed and rebellion is contained
at the end. Another of Peter Hulme’s essays, co-authored with
Francis Barker, is a major intervention in Tempest studies.
Barker and Hulme use the word ‘con-texts’ to draw attention
to the world of texts the play needs to be placed amid in
order to be best understood. The hyphen, they explain,
signifies a ‘break from the inequality of the usual text/context
relationship. Con-texts are themselves texts and must be read
with: they do not simply make up a background’. Hulme
and Barker further argue that ‘the ensemble of fictional and
lived practices, which for convenience we will simply refer
to here as “English colonialism”, provides The Tempest’s
dominant discursive contexts’. The native Caliban’s view of
things is declared untrue and therefore Prospero’s claim over
the land and his account of his settlement of the island is
rendered valid. Because Prospero engineers all events, the play
is essentially his plot, with Caliban reduced to the status of
subplot. However, for Barker and Hulme the mysterious and
abrupt interruption of the masque that Prospero stages for his
daughter’s betrothal indicates Prospero’s anxiety regarding the

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legitimacy of his own power and the contradiction between

his roles as usurped (he lost his Dukedom to his brother) and
usurper (he took away Caliban’s island). This is the climax of
the play, the moment when the carefully set up relationship
between main and subplot is reversed and Caliban takes on
an important – and potentially threatening – position. It is
true that Prospero prevails at the end, but the comic closure of
the play is symptomatic of the play’s anxiety about the threat
posed to its ‘decorum’ (the beauty and harmony of romance)
by the colonial texts that surround it to tell a story of conquest
and control that is certainly not harmonious or beautiful.20
Dozens of other essays also focus on the ways in which
the play functions as colonial discourse. John Gillies’s work
argues that colonial writings on Virginia as well as court
masques or royal entertainments that staged the figure of
Virginia gave the savage and alien landscape a moral meaning.
It came to be associated with ‘fruitfulness’ – abundance,
fertility and the plentiful riches of the new land – as well as
‘temperance’ – modesty, self-control and moderation, which
was a much-needed narrative since the Virginia settlers were
often lazy, quarrelsome and rebellious. The play represents
both discourses in Miranda, whose lush beauty and youth
is a figure of the fruitfulness of the New World, even as her
modesty and chastity signify ‘temperance’. On the other hand,
Caliban’s monstrosity, ignorance, lust and violence constantly
pose a threat to the discourse of temperance and indicate how
fragile it is.21
Other critics have approached the theme of servitude in
the play as a commentary on slavery, which is, after all, an
extension of the colonial project. Caliban has been inter-
preted by Derek Cohen as the rebellious slave, whose very
anger and resentment serve to justify his enslavement, while
Ariel has been read as a slave whose consciousness of self
has paradoxically been blunted by the promise of freedom.22
Andrew Gurr reads Ariel as an indentured servant whose
term of service is limited.23 Other critics have focused on the
issue of race and racial difference, both integral to the colonial

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enterprise. Kim Hall points out that commercial exchange

often fostered sexual contact between the races, which in
turn led to the fear of miscegenation – hence the tension
between the need to engage with other races for trade and
commerce and still somehow establish boundaries between
‘us’ and ‘them’. Miranda’s role in the play is informed by this
tension. Prospero’s anxiety about her chastity and the need to
maintain the racial purity of his bloodline is in contest with
Caliban’s need to revenge himself on Prospero through her.24
Joyce MacDonald further points to Claribel’s marriage to the
African king as an example of how political alliances with
Africa can rupture much-desired racial purity.25 Both critics
also remind us of the African presence in the play in the figure
of Sycorax, the Algerian witch.
Ania Loomba’s book chapter is an example of criticism
that combines colonial, racial and gender issues. Her reading
of Caliban links him to Renaissance and later discourses of
black male rapacity. Caliban’s character is then limited, even
trapped, by colonialist and racist discourse. Loomba also
points out that postcolonial criticism is often gender-blind,
even as gender is a significant aspect of racial discrimination.
Sycorax is constructed in the play as the licentious witch-whore
figure, in contrast to Miranda’s purity. Prospero consolidates
his power by delegitimizing her, and validates his magic as
good ‘white’ magic by constructing hers as evil and ‘black’.
The position of Miranda, the most solitary of Shakespeare’s
heroines, demonstrates that ‘in the colonial situation, patriar-
chalism makes specific and often contradictory demands on
its own women’. Prospero’s concern for Miranda serves to
justify his treatment of Caliban, and his teachings call upon
her to participate in his colonial venture. She conforms to ‘the
dual requirements of femininity within the master-culture’
and takes on the colonial project, but in doing so ‘only
confirmed her own subordination’. Loomba’s essay also looks
at the contexts within which Shakespeare’s plays, including
The Tempest, are read the world over, specifically in India,
where Shakespeare is central to the colonial-influenced English

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curriculum. Because ‘in reality Prospero rarely simply sails

away’, Indian culture and education has been irretrievably
changed, and it is important to recognize how this postcolonial
reality has impacted on Indian readers’ understanding of the
play.26 She also points out that colonized people from different
parts of the world are likely to respond differently to the play.
Thomas Cartelli’s discussion also examines the colonial
contexts in which the play has been received. In Africa it has
served as a reference point and even a model for colonial
rulers, and contradictorily, has inspired anti-colonial intel-
lectuals. It thus has served ‘the competing ideologies’ of both
sides.27 A reluctance to homogenize the postcolonial world has
led critics to focus on the English colonization of parts of the
world other than America as constituting relevant contexts for
The Tempest. Paul Brown’s essay (discussed earlier) suggested
the importance of English colonization of Ireland to under-
standing the play, a suggestion taken up by several subsequent
critics. Dympna Callaghan has demonstrated that Ireland is
indeed ‘the sublimated context’ for the play in spite of the
fact that the play never directly mentions it.28 She links the
English perceptions of the Irish bards’ music as politically
threatening to Ariel’s and Caliban’s music; reads Ariel as the
more Anglicized, upper-class Irish as opposed to Caliban,
who stands for the rebellious classes; sees the dismissal of
Caliban’s earlier speech as gabbling in English attitudes to
Gaelic; and likens Sycorax to the supposedly disorderly Irish
women. Callaghan especially dwells on Prospero’s constant
recollection of Sycorax (though she is dead) as a manifestation
of ‘colonial desire’. Early colonizers did have sexual relations
with Irish women, but later generations emphasized the need
to maintain English racial purity. In the colonial context,
sexual desire is thus simultaneously prohibited and provoked.
One can see this in Prospero’s obsessive recollections of
Sycorax, where repressed desire for her lies just beneath the
hostility he professes towards her.
Barbara Fuchs argues that the island encompasses and
encapsulates different parts of the world. While she agrees

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‘that placing New World colonialism at the center of the

play has made it a fundamentally more interesting, and at
least for twentieth-century readers, a more relevant text’,
highlighting other contexts and locations help to grasp the
fact that colonial ideology was multilayered and condensed.
It is certainly important to consider Ireland because there
the devastation of native people, culture and land was more
deliberate and vicious than in Virginia and the colonization
of Ireland was, in fact, a laboratory for plantations in
America. English attitudes to the Islamic world also need to
be taken into account. The Ottoman Empire with its centre
in Turkey was larger and more powerful than any European
empire. Europeans went to war but also engaged in trade and
diplomatic relations with the Ottomans. The Muslim world
makes its way into The Tempest – Sycorax is from Algiers
and Claribel marries the King of Tunis. These two figures,
distant yet threatening, recall English fears of the mighty
Ottomans. The play tries to contain these fears by dispensing
with Sycorax and constructing Tunis as immeasurably distant
from Europe, but Europe’s experience of being the object of
Turkey’s imperial ambitions ‘was closely bound up … with its
burgeoning experience of empire-building’.29
Of late several other critics have emphasized the play’s
Mediterranean setting. While these critics do not focus on
colonialism as such (indeed they cannot, because the Islamic
East was not a colony of any European power in the early
modern period), they still raise issues of racial and religious
difference and draw attention to the complexity of international
politics and commercial exchange, all of which are relevant to
understanding the subsequent colonization of the East. Jerry
Brotton writes that ‘The Tempest is much more of a politically
and geographically bifurcated play in the negotiation between
its Mediterranean and Atlantic contexts than critics have
recently been prepared to concede’.30 He recovers the complex
and contradictory story of Europe’s engagement with the
Islamic world and points out the numerous Mediterranean/
Muslim references in the play: Tunis, Algiers, and the fact that

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the classical Carthage has become Muslim-controlled Tunis,

as suggested by Gonzalo’s line ‘this Tunis, sir, was Carthage’
(2.1.84). Fuchs argues that the play’s distancing of Tunis
and the disapproval of Claribel’s marriage (in contrast to the
inter-European alliance of Ferdinand and Miranda) indicates
that Europe needed to distance itself from the Muslim world,
while Brotton makes the argument that England, which
under Elizabeth I had especially close trade relations with the
Turks, was unsure of and even embarrassed by its dealings
with the ‘infidel’ Muslims, even as it was insecure about its
place in Mediterranean politics. The play deals with this by
eventually referring to the classical Mediterranean rather than
the contemporary Muslim-controlled one. Richard Wilson
links the themes of bondage and slavery in the play to the
North Africans’ enslavement of white Europeans: ‘… to
sail to the Ottoman regencies of Algiers, Tripoli and Tunis,
was to traffic in an entire economy driven by the […] slave
market and regulate […] for the lucrative turnout of capture
and ransom. Prospero’s exacting negotiations to free Ariel,
Caliban, Ferdinand, and his aristocratic hostages, belongs
precisely to this trade in redemption’.31
Postcolonial readings of The Tempest came to dominate the
play’s critical landscape for several decades. They have been
refuted and contested but have overall enriched our under-
standing of the play. In spite of accusations to the contrary,
the best postcolonial readings have been rooted in the text,
i.e. they are based on the play’s language and structure, and
take into account the complexity and ambiguity of the play.
Equally important, not all postcolonial readings are identical.
They emphasize different contexts and locations and vary in
their perceptions of power. Some of them demonstrate that
Prospero’s colonial power is simple, brutal and all-encom-
passing, while others argue that it is marked by self-doubt,
ambivalence and even guilt. Or, as Loomba points out, the
colonizer-colonized configuration is stark and brutal, but this
does not mean that the characters of Prospero and Caliban are
simplistic and uncomplicated. Conversely, the characters are

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admittedly complex and ambivalent, but that doesn’t neces-

sarily make the Prospero-Caliban relationship any less brutal
or unjust.

Refuting postcolonial readings

It is only to be expected that any approach that came to
dominate the critical scene would be opposed and contested.
This is certainly true of postcolonial readings of The Tempest.
Numerous critics have found it to be unhistorical (there is
no evidence that Shakespeare’s audience ever saw the play as
‘about’ the New World; in fact, one cannot even accurately
describe England as a colonial power in the early seventeenth
century), short-sighted, or quite simply incorrect (postcolonial
readings are accused of ignoring the fact that Caliban is not a
cannibal, and that Sycorax herself was a settler on the island).
These critics put forward their own readings which lay out
contexts and histories that are, so the writers claim, more
accurate and relevant to understanding the play. Deborah
Willis finds postcolonial readings reductive because they
ignore the complexities of the text, and if they do point them
out, explain them away simply by stating that complexity and
contradiction are features of all colonial materials. She argues
that unlike typical colonial discourse (if there is anything like
that, which is unlikely in the time period) the play does not
endorse Prospero but actually provokes us to critique him.
Caliban is also ‘by turns sympathetic and ridiculous’ and
more ‘grotesquely comic than devilish’.32 Willis contends
that European politics are more important to the play than
colonial politics. Prospero’s exile is prompted by a political
crisis in Italy. He has to seek refuge on the island, but once
he contains his Italian enemies he is quite ready to give
it back. In fact, Antonio rather than Caliban is the main
villain of the play, and he is the one who remains impenitent
till the end. David Kastan adds that it is worth reminding

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ourselves that the play’s references to the Americas are few

and far between (a single reference to the Caribbean deity
Setebos and another to the Bermudas) and while there is no
need to reject post­colonial readings outright, it is probably
the fact that we live in a world which is experiencing the
often ravaging consequences of colonization that has made
us project our concerns (and in some cases guilt) onto the
play. The Europeans in the play, he writes, have no interest
in colonizing it (Prospero leaves the island at the end). If we
desire a truly historicist reading we must recognize that the
play is more obviously about European dynastic concerns. It
was acted at the marriage of King James’s daughter Princess
Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine. This was a political marriage
meant to further James’s wish to establish closer ties with the
Protestant princes of Europe and to further his political dream
of European unity. Similarly, the play’s action is more about
rescuing Milan from vassalage to Naples and yet allowing the
interests of both powers to merge, a vision that is made real
through the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand.33

Feminist readings
Although interest in Shakespeare’s female characters certainly
predates the twentieth century, criticism that adopts an
overtly feminist approach is relatively recent. A feminist
approach argues that misogyny is inherent in language and
that women have traditionally been marginalized in literature
both as authors and as characters. Jyotsna Singh comments
on how even radical postcolonial readings and rewritings of
the play which privilege Caliban often do so at the cost of
Miranda. These readings are ‘oddly oblivious to the disso-
nances between race and gender struggles’, and it seems that
the postcolonial subject can become free only through the
erasure of the woman’s identity and freedom.34 Singh combines
postcolonial and feminist approaches, drawing our attention

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to how patriarchal and imperial oppression work alongside

and feed into each other. She turns to anthropologist Claude
Lévi-Strauss’s ideas regarding the exchange of women between
groups to solidify male-male socio-political bonds to comment
on how Miranda is superior to Caliban in the island hierarchy
but still plays an inferior role in the play’s ‘kinship system’
in which three males ( Prospero, Caliban and Ferdinand) are
strangely bonded through competing claims on her.
Other feminist critics have commented on the relative
absence of women in the play (Sycorax is dead, Miranda’s
mother is only mentioned, and Claribel’s distance is repeatedly
emphasized) and ask what a feminist reading can do with the
text in the light of such an absence. Lori Leininger reminds
us of the occasion of the first performance of the play –
the marriage of Princess Elizabeth. Just as the princess fell
dutifully in love with a groom chosen by her father for political
reasons, so Miranda and Ferdinand’s marriage is orchestrated
by Prospero for his own political ends. Miranda is represented
as submissive and condemned to perpetual obedience to men
and her role is primarily to produce legitimate heirs. While her
fertility is of great importance in the play, it is also important
that she remain chaste until the marriage to Ferdinand.
Indeed, her chastity acquires major symbolic significance in
the play, as protecting it is both Prospero’s duty and a sign
of his power over her.35 Ann Thompson posits that reading
as a feminist makes it more possible to refuse to identify with
Prospero as protagonist, but also adds that a white feminist
critic must also realize that white women too played a role
in and benefited from colonialism. She asks two interesting
questions: is it possible for a staging of the play to convey a
feminist reading (without rewriting the play)? And what kind
of pleasure can a feminist take from the play apart from ‘the
rather grim one’ of mapping its patterns of the exploitation
and control of women? In other words: ‘Must a feminist
reading necessarily be a negative one?’36 Later critics whose
readings have at least partially been informed by feminism
respond that this need not be the case. Barbara Sebek argues

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that Miranda does not submit to the circuits of exchange

where women simply become commodities; instead she is the
active desiring subject who violates paternal orders and gives
herself away on her own to Ferdinand without really gaining
Prospero’s consent.37 Similarly, Melissa Sanchez too argues for
Miranda’s agency. Her outburst against Caliban in Act I is not
a result of being brainwashed by her father, but is a sign of her
asserting her right not to be sexually subjugated. Her dealings
with Ferdinand not only suggest her independence, but in
contrast to the relationships in the play, the young couple
adopts a romantic language of mutual love and bondage
that defies mastery and subjection. Ferdinand gladly works
to win her hand and she proposes marriage to him. This
model of marriage based on consent is radical and modern,
and although Sanchez concedes that Prospero is directing the
affair from the start, ‘the extent to which Miranda directs her
betrothal to Ferdinand is nonetheless quite prominent’.38
Denise Albanese’s chapter on The Tempest in her book
New Science, New World makes interesting connections
between gender, sexuality, race and science. The boundaries
of scientific discourse were still blurred in the Renaissance,
but one can argue for the emergence of a kind of ‘proto-
science’ or early science. Albanese makes the connection
between the ‘New Science’ and the ‘New World’. Science
and colonialism not only emerged at the same time but were
mutually constitutive and similarly interested in discovering
the unknown. Both also managed, marked and controlled
the bodies of women and non-white peoples. For Albanese,
the ‘utopian island precipitates a fantasy, not of the library,
but of the laboratory’.39 It demonstrates that colonial space
became important for the making of modern epistemologies,
especially science. While nature is what is studied by the
protoscientist, Miranda’s ambiguous role in the nature-culture
divide makes her an interesting figure. Albanese argues that
Miranda ultimately becomes ‘naturalized’, i.e. like nature (and
the New World). She is to be wondered at and admired but
ultimately used and exploited.

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Other feminist critics have drawn attention to Sycorax.

Evoked repeatedly by both Prospero and Caliban, she is a
powerful but absent figure. As Marina Warner writes, ‘Her
story is evoked in a few scant lines that do not flesh out a
full character or even tell a coherent tale; in fragments, like
the sifting of an archaeological dig, her past is glimpsed,
only to fade again’. Sycorax’s supposed lasciviousness (she
came to the island pregnant and there gave birth to a child
that was possibly half-devil) serves to highlight Miranda’s
chastity. Many critics have argued that the contrast between
Sycorax and Prospero highlights the polarities between
white and black magic, but Warner argues that the contrast
between Sycorax and Prospero is between metamorphosis and
stasis, ‘unruly mutation and steady-state identity’.40 She links
Sycorax with classical figures such as Circe and Medea, who
are both associated with mutation, and discusses Christians’
attitudes to change as the work of the Devil perverting God’s
handiwork. Leah Marcus also reminds us that almost every-
thing we know about Sycorax is through Prospero, who is
clearly not an unbiased narrator. Marcus focuses on Sycorax’s
mysterious blue eyes which do not fit commonly held ideas
regarding the appearance and colouring of North Africans
and suggests that the blue-eyed witch thus has the potential
to disturb the rigid self/other binary. Departing from readings
that connect Sycorax (and her blue eyes) to unruly sexuality
and the pregnancy that followed, she associates her myste-
rious eye colour ‘with the uncanny power and attributes of a
goddess’, thus suggesting that it is possible to have an entirely
different perspective on her.41

Reading class relations

Cultural Materialism and New Historicism are themselves
clearly Marxist-influenced modes. Following Marx’s dictum
that human history is best understood as the history of class

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struggle, a number of critics have focused on class relations in

The Tempest. Given the presence of working-class characters
(the boatswain, the master, Stephano, Trinculo, Caliban, and
perhaps Ariel) amid the aristocrats, questions regarding class
tensions and relationships are bound to arise.
Mark Netzloff considers The Tempest in his book-length
discussion of the connections between colonialism abroad
and changing economic conditions within England. The two
histories are mutually constitutive and further each other.
Using the New Historicist method, he reads The Tempest
alongside other historical documents on the ‘venting’ or the
more-or-less forced ejection of the labouring poor abroad due
to overpopulation in England, but more significantly because
of changing class relations and conditions of production.
The idea was to transform idle workers into productive
forces overseas. Netzloff’s reading of the play argues for
the tension between the fact that the working classes were
indispensable to the success of the colonial project and the
ever-present threat of working-class rebellion (the cockiness
of the Boatswain in the opening scene indicates that the
rebelliousness of labourers intensifies in the colony because
they were aware that they were indispensable there). Caliban
embodies this tension. The play also dismisses idle nobility
such as Antonio and chooses to celebrate Ferdinand’s aristo-
cratic but honest labour. Ultimately, similar to the historical
Virginia, regulations on the working classes are tightened, and
social equilibrium and traditional class relations are restored at
the end of the play.42 Annabel Patterson and David Norbrook
disagree with Netzloff’s concluding argument. Patterson’s
essay resists the idea of the play as complicit with oppressive
class ideologies. On the other hand, it does not let us
demonize the servant Caliban and reads much like discourses
of popular rebellion in the period.43 This point is echoed by
David Norbrook, who rejects the ‘absolute power’ readings
put forward by New Historicists. ‘There is no need’, he writes,
‘for twentieth century readings to be more royalist than
the King’s Men’.44 Instead, the discourse of social rebellion

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and libertarianism pervades the play, a discourse Norbrook

broadly terms ‘utopic’. The roaring of the sea of the play’s
opening connotes defiance and rebellion and the scene plays
up the opposition between the boundless voice of the sea and
the name of the king, which denotes absolute and inherited
power. Similar tensions are enacted in the play between Ariel’s
and Caliban’s desire for freedom and their subordination.
The disruption of the stately masque ‘to a strange hollow and
confused noise’ (4.1) echoes the opening and indicates that
social revolution is always a possibility. This does not mean,
however, that the play is naively utopian; utopian discourses
(including Gonzalo’s ‘commonwealth’ speech) are held up to
scrutiny. Ultimately however, the play itself does not reject
all possibility of revolutionary change. Norbrook further
locates such utopic impulses in Renaissance humanism as
well as in theatre: drama was increasingly, though subtly,
critical of royal power because players were no longer just
royal servants, relying more on ticket sales than patronage,
with its added autonomy. Walter Cohen also contends that
the romance tradition (which was fundamentally optimistic),
along with the discovery of the New World, accounts for
the play’s ‘inherent utopian tendency’. The opening scene
celebrates working-class labour and the last scene in which
the boatswain and ship’s master join the group projects a
vision of class unity (though this unity is, of course, at the
expense of Caliban revealing ‘the racist and imperialist basis
of English nationalism’). The freeing of Ariel and Gonzalo’s
vision of a society with no hierarchy hints at the ‘the antithesis
of capitalism and the abolition of class society’.45
While Breight’s essay (discussed earlier) reads The Tempest
in the context of political treason, Frances Dolan sees the
Prospero-Caliban relation as primarily domestic, in which
the threat posed by Caliban the servant was an act of ‘petty
treason’ against the master. She traces the discourse of master-
servant relations in the play in which servants were perceived
as part-child and part-subhuman. Caliban’s insider position
in Prospero’s household also reminds us that servants in the

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Renaissance were clearly subordinate to their masters but also

oddly familiar with them and consequently aware of their
vulnerabilities. However Caliban, argues Dolan, does not look
for real freedom – only for a more just master. The limited
scope of his ambitions makes us take him less seriously, and
the play’s conclusion has much in common with dramatic
conventions of the period in which working-class rebellions
were rendered comic.46 Class-focused readings such as those
outlined above complement the postcolonial and race readings
of the play. They also draw attention to how power struggles
are central to understanding the play’s dramatic conflicts, and
remind us that colonial and race relations are perhaps funda-
mentally struggles for economic power and resources.

Psychoanalytic readings
Early in the play Prospero wants to tell his daughter the
story of her arrival at the island, and the play ends with him
promising to narrate the events of the past 12 years to the
court party. Narratives are the obvious link between psycho­
analysis and literature. Psychoanalytic methods involve the
production and analysis of stories in the form of dreams, folk
tales, case histories and patient narratives. It is no surprise
then that critics who engage with psychoanalytic theory are
drawn to The Tempest. These readings testify to the play’s
ambivalences and complexity.
Stephen Orgel’s ‘Prospero’s Wife’ dismisses the idea of plays
as case histories of either the author or the audience but treats
them instead as ‘collaborative fantasies’.47 Given the absence
of women in the play, Prospero conceives himself as a mother
figure and so works through the trauma of having his younger
brother usurp the role of parent/authority figure. Orgel also
links family structures and sexual relations in the play to
the political structures of Jacobean England and doubts and
anxieties regarding both. This approach, combining Freudian

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and historical methods, is evident in Janet Adelman’s work. She

discusses how the mother’s influence was seen as debilitating
to the male child. She extends this history to contemporary
psychoanalysis which locates differentiation from the mother
as the site of anxiety for the boy who grows into manhood
against her overwhelming femaleness. Renaissance cultural
practice only furthered this notion. This is enacted in the play
by banishing the maternal body in the figure of Sycorax as
it is ‘dangerous and needs the father’s benign management’.
Prospero then takes on the role of the ‘idealized father’ who
can shape the world as he wants to, now that the maternal
has been subsumed. The psychological cost of banishing the
maternal is however felt most by Prospero, who is isolated
and who also has to distance himself from all emotion in
order to maintain his position of power. Unlike other psycho-
analytic readings which focus on Prospero, Adelman also uses
her model to discuss the complexities of Caliban. Violently
separated from the memory of his mother by Prospero,
Caliban is left alone on her island which now bears the names
given to it by the father’s language. He is however estranged
from it and from the patriarchal world at large. Adelman
writes that ‘Caliban – in his violent love, his sexuality, and his
unassuagable longing – is the final register of Shakespeare’s
ambivalence toward what it means […] to be a mother’s
son’.48 Coppélia Kahn deftly connects the romance motif of a
storm-struck journey to the traumas of an individual growing
into adulthood. In coming from Milan to the island Prospero
moved from ‘childlike, self-absorbed dependency to paternal
omnipotence, skipping the steps of maturation in-between’.
In Milan it was Antonio who, in spite of being the younger
brother, became the dominant father figure. In the empty
space of the island Prospero has the chance to become this
‘father’s’ equal. Unlike other Shakespearean heroes caught in
fraternal rivalry, Prospero does not fight his brother to death
but instead plays out the rivalries of the court on the island.
He takes revenge on his wrongdoers (since not doing so would
be a sign of passivity) but falls short of taking real revenge on

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them, since that would mean getting mired in the traumas of

the past. Like the other critics discussed in this section, Kahn,
too, comments on Prospero’s isolation which is the price he
pays for coming into his own on the island. Although his
new identity is based largely on his role and power as father,
he has no romantic/sexual relationships and the family unit
is ‘never united or complete’.49 David Sundelson’s reading is
similar to Kahn’s in its focus on Prospero as father. Sundelson
however argues that the play is fraught with anxieties that
derive from Prospero’s incestuous desire for his daughter,
anxieties that are only partially resolved by projecting himself
as a father par excellence. Prospero then stands for ‘paternal
narcissism’, and Miranda’s reverence and the slaves’ subordi-
nation all make him feel ‘there is no worthiness like a father’s,
no accomplishment or power’.50 Sundelson also discusses
Prospero’s complex relationship with Ferdinand, whose desire
for Miranda the older man contests and identifies with.
Meredith Skura’s essay emerges from her disagreement
with postcolonial readings of the play which, she says,
privilege political structures at the cost of understanding
personal psychology. Instead, it is important to recognize that
psychological motives intersect with political ones. She reads
the play as a narrative of inner psychological conflict. Caliban
is Prospero’s ego, childlike and narcissistic, lustful and ruled
by the desire for power and revenge. Prospero’s hatred and
fear of Caliban derives from his fear that his darker, more
primal self will overwhelm his being, a fear that comes to the
surface when he abruptly recalls the ‘beast Caliban’ (4.1.140)
at the end of the masque.51

Because the New Historicist method is based on the premise
that texts do not derive their meaning in singularity but in
their relationship to other texts, much of the criticism that

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has already been considered in this chapter is ‘intertextual’.

The work surveyed in this section only differs in that it does
not focus as much on the play’s power dynamics. Though The
Tempest has no single source, it is, in Barbara Mowat’s words
(in ‘“Knowing I Loved My Books”: Reading The Tempest
Intertextually’), an ‘intertextual mélange’ that echoes and
bears traces of other texts which obtrude on the informed
reader’s consciousness.52 Mowat points out that the Virgilian
and biblical references in the play, along with its connections
to the Virginia chronicles, trigger multiple cultural refer-
ences that give us a sense of the narratives and histories of
expansion and conquest that Europeans drew upon as models
for their colonization of the Americas. This is a point also
made by Donna Hamilton’s book, which focuses entirely on
the Virgilian presence in the play. One simply cannot fully
understand the play’s connections to colonial discourse if one
does not acknowledge the influence of the Roman author
Virgil’s epic poem Aeneid that describes the founding of Rome
and which is ‘the archetypal colonizing text of all time’.53
The Aeneid gave Europeans the narrative of imperialism as a
glorious epic enterprise and as part of their natural destiny, and
what’s more, Hamilton points out, Virgil’s epic was alluded
to in correspondence from English colonists in Ireland and
Virginia. While Hamilton’s book goes on to examine the play’s
Virgilian connection in order to understand The Tempest’s
engagement with the theme of absolute political power, David
Wilson-Okamura focuses on Aeneas’s settlement of Carthage
(which is mentioned in the play). The Aeneid describes how
this settlement was accompanied by sloth and internal dissent
on the part of the conquerors, not unlike the seventeenth-
century English experience in Virginia.54
Jonathan Bate goes so far as to say that the play is a ‘kind
of collaboration with Ovid’.55 The Tempest is a romance
reworking of epic material and the precedent for this manner
of reworking was Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Bate also sees
Caliban as an Ovidian character in that the Metamorphosis
is a veritable depository of monstrosities and deformities. The

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theme of change, so central to Ovid, is also important to The

Tempest: Prospero’s magic becomes an agent of change that
is conceived and executed by a human rather than the gods.
Of course, Prospero, echoing the Ovidian witch Medea in the
‘Ye elves […]’ speech (5.1.33–50), casts doubt on the virtue of
Prospero’s knowledge.
Shakespeare’s Caliban by Alden and Virginia Mason
Vaughan can be described as intertextual scholarship that
recognizes that culture and history are intertwined. Both the
book and the authors’ introduction to the third Arden edition of
the play emphasize the importance of recovering the historical
and literary contexts that might have influenced the creation
and reception of Caliban who, of all the play’s characters, is
‘the most enigmatic and the most susceptible to drastic fluctu-
ations in interpretation’.56 The Vaughans posit that Caliban
could be an anagram for ‘carib’, though this might simply
imply that Caliban is native of the Caribbean rather than a
man-eater as such, and suggest other possible sources for his
name, ranging from Arabic to gypsy words, and also point
out the possibility of linking Caliban to sites ranging from
the Americas to Africa and Ireland. Shakespeare may have
drawn him from a wealth of contemporaneous sources on
natives which ran the gamut from near-beast to noble savage
with more complex portrayals in between. The Vaughans
also describe the literary contexts for Caliban, including
Virgil, Ovid, the ‘wildman’ figure of medieval literature and
folklore who was revived in Renaissance civic pageants,
Spenserian monsters, travellers’ tales of the deformed beings
who inhabited foreign lands, figures of Jacobean antimasques
and a stock commedia dell’arte figure, the harlequin. They
also point out how texts that came after The Tempest,
including literary criticism (especially the nineteenth-century
readings of Caliban as American native that were influenced
by the newly established cordial relations between England
the United States), and postcolonial appropriations and stage
interpretations of Shakespeare’s ‘monster’ have impacted on
modern readers’ and audiences’ understanding of him.

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Theatre history, masques and The

Tempest as a metaliterary text
It could be argued that all literature is essentially about
itself. In other words, a literary text’s fundamental themes
are authorship, the process of composition, and the purpose
and intent of literature itself. This self-reflexive nature of
The Tempest has long been picked up by critics who have
written about the play as Shakespeare’s meditation on his art
and career as playwright. Many recent commentators have
continued the trend. In Shakespeare’s Literary Authorship,
Patrick Cheney writes of how Shakespeare in his works
projects himself as a man of the theatre engaged in the
paradoxical art of print-poetry. This was unusual in an
age when a theatrical career was quite distinct from the
penning of ‘literature’. Cheney argues that all the plays can
be studied to illuminate the kind of author that Shakespeare
was (as opposed to a personality-centred criticism that tries
to understand ‘Shakespeare the man’) as well as ‘the form
of authorship that he penned in response to the pressures of
his cultural system’.57 For Cheney, The Tempest (along with
other plays) indicates that Shakespeare fashioned himself in
opposition to the poet-laureate mode of authorship favoured
by Edmund Spenser in which writing was aligned with
the national project. The play as a whole emerges from
a deliberate shift from Spenserian epic romance to stage
romance, and the speech in which Prospero abjures magic
is seen as countering the poet-laureate mode of writing by
deliberately signalling a turn away from politics and grand
projects as Prospero most contentedly gives up his power.
Theatre criticism continues to have a place in modern
scholarship on The Tempest, with scholars such as Andrew
Gurr demonstrating that the play was written for an indoor
upmarket theatre, most likely the Blackfriars, rather than
the Globe.58 Stephen Orgel posits that while the play is not
a masque, the Jacobean court masque still influenced its

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structure and theme. Like the masque, the play is educative

and celebratory of the monarch and enacts the movement
from conflict to harmony. However, it is unclear if Prospero
is the ideal ruler required by the harmonious vision of the
masque. The play thus becomes a reflection on the meaning
and purposes of masques.59 This point is also made by James
Knowles who, however, links the play to non-royal masques
which were less erudite and more accessible and incorporated
criticism of absolute royal power.60 Studies such as these allow
for a more political reading of masques both in the play and
within masquing culture in general.
Douglas Bruster, however, writes that the play is about the
theatre – more specifically about authority and work in certain
early modern playhouses. He argues that the character Caliban
is Shakespeare’s reflection on the star actor William Kempe,
who continually challenged the authority of the playscript and
violated theatrical decorum. He also sees the conflict between
the actors and the attention-seeking aristocratic section of
the audience playing itself out in the play, while Ariel is
the obedient and eager boy actor. The playhouse is thus
Shakespeare’s most immediate and compelling context and
The Tempest is thus ‘among the deepest of his [Shakespeare’s]
meditations on laboring in the theater’.61

This critical survey is by no means exhaustive. Other
approaches have been applied to the play. Martin Orkin’s
work has prompted a new way of reading Shakespeare that
he describes as ‘local’, in which local knowledge and attitudes
that audiences and readers bring is privileged, rather than
the archival and historical knowledge that only critics in the
Western world still have access to. He points out that for a
South African readership, the island of the play would suggest
Robben Island, on which anti-apartheid activists were jailed,

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and also that South African attitudes to sexuality and gender

do inform the understanding of the play in that country.62
James Kearney extends history of the book studies and
constructs his essay around the idea that literacy and mater­
iality are important to study self/other contacts. Fetishized
objects (like Prospero’s book) were seen as marks of the
barbarous, but the characters in the play, including Prospero,
reenact this fetishization.63 Of late, ‘new formalists’ have
called for restoring the study of form to historical readings
as well as for political readings of formal values. While the
best ‘revisionist’ criticism outlined above has always recog-
nized that a reading of politics and ideology does not simply
derive from one’s own ideological preferences but is located
in the play’s formal structures, more work that recognizes the
historical conditions that influence the play’s formal elements
could well be forthcoming. In any case, The Tempest will
doubtless continue to inspire new readings. It is a complex
play and the best essays on it are equally sophisticated.
Although they emerge from a particular critical position,
they are not reducible to that position alone; they continue to
inspire and provoke debate and discussion as new generations
of readers explore the subtleties of that unnamed magic island.

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New Directions: Sources
and Creativity in The

Andrew Gurr

At what point does the idea of a play coalesce in its author’s

mind? When does a source become the inspiration, and when
is it merely a follow-up consulted to augment the original
inspiration? When does the borrowing process include not
inspiration but a convenient and perhaps hasty in-fill? The
Tempest is rare in the Shakespeare canon in having no obvious
single main source of the kind that Holinshed provided for
the English history plays and Macbeth, and Plutarch for the
Roman plays. It is easy to identify the inspiration that led to
the writing of plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King
Lear, Measure for Measure and even King John from their
chief source books or plays. But the question about which
came first, the original concept or the inspiring sources, is less
easy to answer for The Tempest than for almost any play, even
the other ‘late’ plays or romances such as The Winter’s Tale. It
is unique, both in the originality of its plot and in the way it
exploits its main classical sources, Virgil and Ovid.1

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A short play by comparison with all those that used major

source-books, The Tempest’s plot is more tightly integrated,
the parodic elements more neatly interlocked with their
models, in ways that make it much less obviously dependent
on any one source than the other plays. To what extent its
sources were no more than items remembered and utilized
only as they became appropriate to the self-generated plot
is a key issue in making sense of it. The other main question
is how far the remembered elements from the recognizable
sources might have augmented or modified the original core
of the plot.
Even in its dynastic elements The Tempest’s plot is original.
The marriage of the two heirs of Milan and Naples sets up a
firmer and simpler union than that in Richard III, when Henry
of Richmond, heir to the Lancastrian line, announces that he
will marry Elizabeth, the heir of the York line, so that ‘the true
succeeders of each royal house’ will create a new lineage that
will be single and uncontested. Union of Naples with Milan,
with its heirs possessing both realms, is uncontestable. The
Tempest’s subplots burlesque this happy prospect with their
own dynastic and other games, including the parodic version
of Prospero’s book whose power draws Caliban to Stephano’s
alternative ‘book’ of liquor.2

Widely accepted sources

Ovid and Virgil both make their contributions to The Tempest’s
story, but very largely just for individual features, not the whole
account or even many of its particular features. Shakespeare
obviously copied Ovid (in Golding’s English version) for
Prospero’s renunciation of his magic.3 Equally, Jonathan Bate
has claimed that Claribel arriving in Tunis was like Dido in
Carthage and that Shakespeare was ‘vigorously waving a
flag marked Aeneid’ in Gonzalo’s explicit comment,4 just as
Francisco’s account of Ferdinand swimming vigorously to shore

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Sources and Creativity 95

echoes Aeneid 2.203–8.5 Ariel’s spectacular arrival to halt the

feast in Act 3 dressed in a harpy’s costume is an equally overt
echo of Virgil, whose Aeneid III has a trio of harpies remove the
food from the tables where the crew is starting to eat.
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton has a chapter on the inter-
action of Shakespeare with Virgil in The Tempest that, in a
remarkably detailed analysis, tries to measure the distinctively
different positions of the two authors.6 Over the responses by
Ferdinand and Miranda to Prospero’s injunction to steer clear
of premature sex, for instance, she notes that Ferdinand’s
allusion to ‘the murkiest den’ (4.1.25) has a link with Virgil’s
‘speluncam’, his word for the shelter in which Dido and Aeneas
consummate their desires. This, she argues, is an intertextual
allusion by contraries.7 More challengingly, Tudeau-Clayton
and others have linked Virgil with Ceres’s reference to ‘dusky
Dis’, the god of the underworld who stole Ceres’s daughter.
Tudeau-Clayton even links the allusion with all the references
in the play to the prefix ‘dis-’, as in disproportioned Caliban
and ‘dis-tempered’ Prospero, and the many other dis-orders
of the natural state that the play shows. In a rather similarly
localized way, we can see Shakespeare picking out an essay by
Montaigne from Florio’s translation of 1603 as his model for
Gonzalo’s speech about his ideal plantation.
Beyond such hints of fairly private authorial games being
played in the play’s composition, we should also give some
consideration to the far less quotable sources for the idle and
industrious apprentices, Caliban and Ariel. At the end of the
play Ariel is freed, like an apprentice graduating after his full
term of service, whereas Caliban reverts to his former role as
house-servant to Prospero, the common fate of failed (because
idle) apprentices. In the finale, after reminding everyone
that the three servants still wear the ‘badges’ of their official
allegiance, Prospero sends Caliban off into his cell with the
King’s house-servants Stephano and Trinculo. The third rebel-
lious servant accompanies the others. He returns to his former
role as bringer of wood and water, with no chance, such as
Ariel is given, of freedom from his servitude.8

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The link of this London element in the Tempest story with

Eastward Ho’s pair of apprentices, one idle and one indus-
trious, suggests that we should pursue that source with a
side-glance at the functions and the characters of Prospero’s
two servants. But was Shakespeare deeply and deliberately
alluding to the recent and notorious Blackfriars play? Was
the Blackfriars play a source? The concept of the fates that
awaited the young in their opposed activities had become a
moralistic feature of London life a long while before Hogarth
came to create his engravings of it. Eastward Ho can hardly
be counted a substantial source for the play, any more than
can its details relating specific incidents to Ovid or Virgil. The
invention of Caliban can be found in Montaigne’s essay on
the cannibals, but it can equally be found in London’s daily
life and other more distant associations. Douglas Bruster even
argues that Caliban was inspired by the clown Will Kempe,
despite the gap in the play’s composition of ten years after
Kempe left the company, and six since he died.9 Such minimal
and quite far-fetched links may have truth in them. They seem
typical of a play composed in the author’s mind when long-
forgotten incidents appear to fit, however fortuitously, into
the new creation.
The use of Montaigne in Gonzalo’s plantation speech is
a case of borrowing where we can see that the author knew
exactly what he was doing, but has still left us uncertain
about just what his design was. Gonzalo gives voice to an
ideal society, in what he evidently thinks is a wild state of
nature that may possess some of the legendary values of the
golden world. Florio’s translation of Montaigne’s Essayes, or
Morall, Politike and Militarie Discourses came out in 1603,
and was familiar to Shakespeare before that, since he parodied
phrases from it for Polonius’s much-quoted advice to his son
in Hamlet. Two copies in the British Library of Florio’s trans-
lation have their first owner’s signature. One is Ben Jonson’s,
the other (much more unlikely) the signature of Shakespeare
himself. In the essay ‘Of the Caniballes’ Florio translated this
version of Montaigne’s account of the society usually called

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Sources and Creativity 97

(by the ancient Greeks) barbaric, or savage: ‘It is a nation

[…] that hath no kinde of traffike, no knowledge of Letters,
no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of
politike superioritie; no use of service, of riches, or of poverty;
no contracts, no successions, no dividences, no occupation
but idle; no respect of kinred, but common, no apparell but
naturall, no manuring of lands, no use of wine, corne, or
mettle’.10 Giving Gonzalo such an exact echo of Montaigne
raises the same questions as the use of Ovid for Prospero’s
speech renouncing magic, or Virgil for Dido and Aeneas’s den.
Was it meant as a joke to be picked up by the cognoscenti,
was it a plain parody, or does it resonate as a parallel with
pregnant implications for hearers and readers? Or indeed,
were these echoes just the lazy effort of a writer so used to
picking gems out of his longstanding collection of riches that
he calmly lifted whatever seemed to fit the occasion?
Other sources seem to have been employed more casually,
such as the perhaps fortuitous origin of the name Setebos. It
came from Richard Eden, The Decades of the New World,
1555.11 In his account of ‘The vyage rounde about the
worlde’ by Magellan, Eden’s marginal note specifies ‘The
devyll Setebos’. His main account describes two giants who
were said to dance about the bodies of their dead. The bigger
giant was called Setebos, the smaller Cheleule. This perhaps
random choice seems to give the name the sole value of being
A much stronger case is the likelihood that the idea of
writing the play came from the famous Strachey letter, or
earlier sources about shipwrecks, and not merely for infor-
mation about the Bermudas and the storm that wrecked the
Gates voyage. This possible precedent is equally unclear as
evidence for anything very specific, either as a borrowing
or as a stimulus in writing the play. Like the other cases
of borrowing, it seems to apply mainly to the storm of the
opening scene and the subsequent reminders of it in 1.2 and
elsewhere. Whether the Strachey echoes help to date the play’s
composition is a related but quite separate question.

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The author’s gamesome use of Strachey, along with his

uses of Virgil and Ovid, does resemble very closely his tricks
in The Winter’s Tale, the play which Ben Jonson linked with
The Tempest in his derisory comment on ‘Tales, Tempests and
such like Drolleries’. This last allusive word must be Jonson’s
reminder of Sebastian’s comment on the apparition that
Prospero shows the courtiers at 3.3.21: ‘A living Drolerie’.
These two plays of Shakespeare are remarkably alike, or rather
strikingly opposed in Jonsonian terms. The one stretches itself
over 16 years and from Sicily to the non-existent sea-coast
of Bohemia, while the other meets the requirements of the
three unities with, for Shakespeare, a unique degree of
precision. Its events last only three hours, the time needed
to stage a play, on the one small island. In The Winter’s
Tale Shakespeare used Robert Greene’s Pandosto with, for
whatever reason, deliberate perversity, reversing the place
in the story of Greene’s two states of Sicily and Bohemia, so
that Bohemia acquired a sea-coast for Perdita to be left on,
much to the literal-minded scorn of Jonson, who registered his
contempt for such geographical inaccuracies to Drummond
of Hawthornden in 1619, and took care in Bartholomew
Fair (1614) to uphold incidental realism with his question:
‘If there be never a Servant-Monster i’ the Fayre; who can
help it? He (the Author) sayes; nor a nest of Antiques? Hee is
loth to make Nature afraid in his Playes, like those that beget
Tales, Tempests and such like Drolleries’. I suspect that it was
largely to tease the vulnerable Jonson in The Winter’s Tale that
Shakespeare slipped in not just the sea-coast of Bohemia but
the attribution of Hermione’s painted statue, and her ‘natural
posture’ when she is first unveiled, with its claim to be work
by the artist Giulio Romano. Giulio was the first source of that
most notorious of sixteenth-century erotic books that came to
be known as Aretino’s Postures, of which Jonson flaunted his
own familiarity, most likely alluding to what Shakespeare, for
one, knew was his personal copy. References to it appear in
both Volpone and The Alchemist, two of the plays he wrote
for Shakespeare’s company.12

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Sources and Creativity 99

Shakespeare wrote Hermione’s story, its 16 years and

its Bohemian sea-coast as a pair with or a parody of The
Tempest’s perfect unities of time and place, while Jonson was
writing The Alchemist with its immaculate observance of the
unities. This makes the two plays another necessarily remote
factor in the dating game for The Tempest. It would make
them another tease in the endless task of working out just
where Shakespeare’s tongue lay in his cheek, especially when
he was writing alongside Jonson.13
To conclude this overview of the play’s sources, whether
we are talking about the old tradition of source-hunting or
invoking the newer intertextuality, the value of identifying
such origins has at some point to become judgemental, and
we all have our doubts about value judgement as a critical
principle. Worse than that, we need to be very cautious about
deciding just when a source is an overt borrowing. Sometimes
the use of sources merely suggests that the writer lacks
invention and is evidently weary of the tale. That seems hardly
to be the case with The Tempest.

Contested influences
The issue of what might have been in Shakespeare’s mind
when he composed his text leaves many other issues open,
if only because so many of the likely influences have disap-
peared, let alone those where his access to a particular text is
questionable. In 1995 Arthur F. Kinney issued a challenge to
current critics who were seeking to establish the play’s possible
links with the major concerns of Shakespeare’s own time, such
as ‘absolutist rule, white magic, discovery of the New World,
colonialism, imperialism, racism’.14 In particular he chose to
focus on the two possible sources that describe the shipwreck
of the Sea Venture on the shore of Bermuda in 1609, written
in 1609–10 by Silvester Jourdain and William Strachey.15
Starting from Bullough’s and Muir’s divergent views on their

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value as a means either to identify sources or to date the

play, Kinney picked out first the arrival in 1605 in England
of five native Americans brought from northern Virginia by
George Waymouth, and then the account of what the title
page called a ‘prosperous voyage’ by James Rosier, published
in the same year. He emphasized a reference to anchoring in
‘five fathoms’, as in Ariel’s song, and the crew’s dealings with
a troop of ‘savages’, of which Strachey’s own account, Kinney
declared, says nothing. Adding other stories of storms at sea,
such as Jonah’s biblical struggle, he concluded, like many
other commentators, that the cultural moment when the text
was conceived is both crucial to our understanding and almost
Kinney clearly does value the play’s sources for the evidence
they provide of its author’s mind. His article, however, contains
too many errors to give us much comfort over the sources he
evokes. It misrepresents what Strachey and Rosier wrote,
along with several other details. Rosier, for instance, did not
specify five fathoms, nor such a dangerous storm. Strachey
did write extensively about the ‘Indians’ in Virginia, but there
were more Indians in the London of Shakespeare’s time than
Kinney admits, and the examples he identifies mostly stayed in
Plymouth, not London. From other sources, it is known that
two Indians from Virginia, one of whom murdered the other
on Bermuda, were on the Sea Venture when it was wrecked.16
It does matter that we identify both the likely use of the
sources, and their cogency for the composition of the play.
Perhaps the clearest instances where the deliberate use
of sources is quite accessible yet becomes debatable occur
from particular verbal echoes. In his monumentally thorough
Biblical References in Shakespeare’s Plays, Naseeb Shaheen
registers 25 possible echoes in the play, from either the Geneva
Bible or from other Tudor translations.17 The likelihood
that these echoes were deliberate varies quite substantially.
Doublet phrases such as 2.1.44’s ‘tender and delicate’, which
is Adrian’s description of the ‘temperance’ of the island, may
echo both the Geneva Bible’s account of Babylon in Isaiah

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Sources and Creativity 101

47.1 and the Bishops’ Bible version of Deuteronomy 28.56,

which has a ‘woman that is so tender and delicate’. But
Shaheen takes care to note that ‘the expression may have been
common’, citing Hamlet 4.4.48, ‘a delicate and tender prince’.
Most of the other biblical phrases he cites, such as 1.1.10’s
‘Play the men’, or 1.2.14’s ‘Woe the day’, were sufficiently
commonplace at the time to make any deliberate allusion
Other instances are even more debatable. Gonzalo’s listing
of what his ideal commonwealth will omit, ‘metal, corn, or
wine or oil’ (2.1.154), does echo the Geneva Bible, which
has ten references to corn, wine and oil in that order. On
the other hand, the sequence in Florio’s Montaigne, which
Shakespeare was quite overtly imitating in this famous
passage, is ‘wine, corne, or mettle’. Here Shaheen questions
whether this change from Montaigne to the Bible was delib-
erate. We cannot really be sure which was being echoed, nor
if there was any specific reason for it. Again, where Caliban
says that Prospero taught him how to name the two lights of
the sky (1.2.336), Shaheen notes that in Genesis all versions
of the Bible make the first identifying adjective ‘greater’
rather than Caliban’s ‘bigger’. This is possibly a deliberate
alteration to make Caliban sound more clumsy. Another
explicit echo is Trinculo’s terrified exclamation ‘O, forgive
me my sins!’ (3.2.130), which echoes the Lord’s Prayer, but
there seems little likelihood here that the phrase was designed
to be read allusively. A more likely deliberate allusion is
Sebastian’s ‘legions’ whom he says he will fight in 3.3. That
was the word for the unclean spirit of Mark 5.9 who says
‘My name is Legion: for we are many’. Modern readers might
find rather more significance in words such as Prospero’s
‘dissolve’, his term for what the great Globe itself will
eventually do. Besides its possible link with Tudeau-Clayton’s
‘Dis’, this word echoes 2 Peter 3.10–12, where the end of
the world is predicted, ‘by which the heavens being on fire,
shalbe dissolved’. As Shaheen noted, William Alexander used
a similar image in his play Darius (1603), though he did not

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employ the precise biblical term. Almost any of Shaheen’s 25

cases might be read as standing somewhere inside the wide
range from automatic familiar usage to calculated allusion.
A more remote and yet much more obviously pervasive
influence behind The Tempest is Dr Faustus. The name of the
notorious necromancer could be translated as Prospero. One
quite obvious verbal echo of Marlowe’s play in The Tempest
is 5.1.57, when Prospero at the end of his speech renouncing
his magic declares that he will not burn but drown his book.
That is a precise echo, meant for audiences to recognize.
It emphasizes not only the precedent but the new version’s
difference. The essential idea of Faustus selling his soul for the
power that magic gives him is often thought to underlie the
vital concept of Prospero’s magic, whether it is either good
or bad, black or white, blessed or doomed. That was argued
by, for instance, Robert A. Logan.18 He identified not only
the familiar contrast between black and white magic, and
such parallelisms between the two stories as the incident of
the disappearing food at the banquet, but more substantially
(and perhaps more debatably) a shared linkage between magic
and the human imagination, so that Prospero’s magic equates
with Shakespeare’s theatrical art. Logan’s argument concludes
with the familiar reading of the play’s protagonist being the
playwright himself. He finds the chief contrast in this between
the two different endings; unlike Faustus, Prospero returns to
the realism of governing Milan, where, between every third
thought of his grave, his imagination would at the last be
confined. In this Logan paid his respects to the appallingly
durable biographical approach that finds Prospero a theatrical
magician, the image of his author and speaker of his own
epilogue. Such speculations ignore the theology of Faustus’s
damnation. As with everything else about The Tempest, we
should beware of buying the traditional orthodoxies without
quizzing them.
One of the many issues that has bedevilled study of the
sources and the date of composition for The Tempest is
marginal to every other likely source for the play: the Strachey

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Sources and Creativity 103

letter. In its detail, of course, the letter can only relate to

the opening storm scene. Critics have noted that many of
the ‘romances’ that generated the new fashion found in
several of the ‘late’ plays, starting with Pericles, begin with
a shipwreck. Which came first, the idea of a romance started
by a shipwreck, or the Strachey letter? The vexed questions
of what might be the most possible sources and what is the
most likely date for Shakespeare composing The Tempest run
together over the Strachey letter.
Here a little contextual evidence might be of use. It is
known that Strachey was resident in the Blackfriars in 1606
and after, when Jonson was also living in the same parish,
and that Strachey was a colleague of John Marston, who was
a shareholder in the boy companies while he still wrote for
them. In 1605 or so Strachey became likewise a shareholder in
the boy companies at Blackfriars along with Marston, and in
a later deposition testified that he used to attend plays at the
Blackfriars ‘sometymes once, twyce, and thrice in a weeke’.
Subsequently he wrote a commendatory sonnet to accompany
the publication of Jonson’s Sejanus. In that company, it seems
highly likely that Shakespeare came into contact with Strachey
personally, in the years immediately before he wrote The
The much-debated Strachey letter, addressed to a ‘noble
lady’, perhaps Dame Sara Smith, wife of Sir Thomas Smith,
Treasurer of the Virginia Company, prompted Richard Martin,
its secretary, to ask Strachey on 14 December 1610 for a full
‘Historie’ of the new colony. This was completed, in three
scribal copies, by 1612. Its comments clearly did not please
the company, which is probably why it was not published.
Strachey’s dedication to the laws of the colony, seven pages
published early in 1612, said he was then ‘lodging in the
blacke Friers’. Both Jonson’s The Alchemist, set and staged
in a house in the Blackfriars, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest
were composed in 1610 for the King’s Men’s playhouse in
that same precinct. Strachey’s title for his Historie suggests
he knew both Richard Eden’s book of 1555 and Richard

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Willes’s 1577 expansion of it. It is at least conceivable that

Shakespeare got to know Strachey via Jonson, who was also
living in Blackfriars at that time, and that he borrowed copies
of Eden and Willes from Strachey, while he also read his letter
to the lady about the Bermuda wreck.19

Shakespeare’s use of the sources

By some way the single most discussed idea about the sources,
a question first raised by William Hazlitt in the early nineteenth
century, is who we should take to be the play’s hero, Prospero
or Caliban. Strachey’s essay about the Sea Venture is at the
heart of the division that still exists among the play’s readers,
between the defenders of Prospero’s authoritarianism and
of Caliban’s victimization through colonization. An issue
widely utilized in recent years, chiefly to exhibit the political
bias of particular commentators, this suffuses and in all too
many ways distracts from the question of what Shakespeare
thought he could do with the sources that were fermenting in
his mind when writing this late ‘romance’. The danger of such
subjective readings should bring us back to the question that I
posed at the outset: just what was in Shakespeare’s mind when
he assembled the source materials for this play?
The classic assembler of the most likely source materials
is Geoffrey Bullough, who gathered and quoted them in
extenso in his epic-scale Narrative and Dramatic Sources
of Shakespeare. He wrote that ‘No specific source has been
found, so we must content ourselves with analogues to the
setting, plot and personages of the play’.20 His main claim is
that ‘approval of the Virginian Company’s aims, and recog-
nition of its difficulties seem to be implied in [Shakespeare’s]
depiction of Prospero, Caliban, and the intruders into the
island. Prospero is the good, authoritarian Governor; more,
he is like the Providence which in the Bermudan shipwreck
brought the ship near to the shore that its people might

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Sources and Creativity 105

escape, and gave them the means to live and to escape from
their predicament. Hence was derived the conception of
Prospero as an all-wise controller of events, plaguing sinners
for their own good, and both testing and advising Ferdinand’.
Later he writes of Prospero as ‘always the Good Governor (a
sublimated Sir Thomas Gates)’.21
Bullough very sensibly concluded that ‘behind The
Tempest there was a large international body of folk-lore
and romantic tradition’.22 Having outlined all the more
obvious instances of such sources, he went on to consider
possible precedents for some of the names that turn up in the
play. These include a Prosper and Stephano in the original
version of Every Man in his Humour, in which Shakespeare
performed. Similar instances of earlier usage appeared in
surviving German and Italian texts. In 1920 H. D. Gray
argued that the idea of stealing the magician’s books must
have come from an Italian commedia dell’arte play, one
of Li Tre Satiri.23 The manuscript containing these plays,
however, is dated 1622, and shows no sign of priority over
The Tempest. It stands with other analogous stories such
as Die Schöne Sidea as one element out of the multitude
of folklore stories that Bullough registered as possible
background sources.24
What becomes most obvious and most challenging from
Bullough’s lengthy assemblage is that the play was self-
evidently Shakespeare’s own composition. His use of sources
was too diverse, and too exceptionally complex, to fit easily
into the concept of sources that led Bullough to compose his
great study. Against this, Donna B. Hamilton, writing about
the use of the two major classical poets in the design and
detailing of the play, disavowed the simpler forms of source-
hunting and argued for a complex process of ‘rhetorical
imitation’. She claimed that ‘imitatio is more descriptive of
Shakespeare’s craftsmanship than saying that the Aeneid is
his “source”, and it explains some of the various systems by
which the play imitates the Aeneid’.25 Those systems, roughly
outlined above, included similar use of Ovid and Montaigne,

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but give little sense of what initiated the idea of the play in the
writer’s mind. For that, the best source probably is Strachey.
Edmond Malone at the very beginning of the nineteenth
century was the first to draw attention to Strachey’s account
of the shipwreck of Thomas Gates and his ship off Bermuda
in 1609. He did so in an essay seeking to place the plays in
their chronological order of composition. Published in 1808,
it was called An account of the incidents from which the title
and part of the story of Shakspeare’s ‘Tempest’ were derived
and its true date determined. Morton Luce, editing the first
Arden edition of 1901, was the most notable of the many
who confirmed this as the basis for the dating. He argued that
the wreck of the Sea Venture must have ‘suggested the leading
incidents of The Tempest’.26 Luce also developed the idea of
Shakespeare’s likely association with the Virginia Company,
one of whose directors was the Earl of Southampton, the
lord for whom Shakespeare wrote his first published poems.
This idea of the play’s chief origin continues to be debated,
although the main objectors to the Strachey letter as a
source are those who want to date the play much earlier in
Shakespeare’s writing career.
From Strachey’s account of the shipwreck, if Shakespeare
read it, he took only certain limited elements. What he
selected from Strachey’s lengthy non-fictional narrative about
the four-day hurricane the ship struggled through before it
could be beached on an island in the Bermudas is thoroughly
economical. Unlike the play’s version, in Strachey’s account
the crew and the passengers all together helped to bail out the
ship and to cast away the surplus baggage and other items that
weighed the ship down while she lay awash with her ‘mighty
leake’. By contrast, Shakespeare uses the Boatswain to keep
the crew from the passengers, though he had the courtiers
going below and coming up on deck again, as Admiral George
Somers did. Shakespeare’s account has the topmast brought
down, while Strachey says they tried to cut down the main
mast, and he makes everyone cry ‘all lost!’ and think the
ship was splitting. He has luggage thrown overboard, butts

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Sources and Creativity 107

of beer staved open along with butts of wine such as the

one Stephano swam to shore with. Shakespeare uses Ariel to
simulate the light of St Elmo’s fire that Somers observed. Ariel
‘flam’d amazement’ with it (1.2.198), where Strachey says it
might have ‘strucken amazement’. Shakespeare may also have
picked up the term ‘hoodwinked’ from Strachey, for re-use by
Caliban at 4.1.206 (although he also used the same word in
earlier plays, All’s Well and Macbeth).
The chief resemblances between Strachey and the play are
fairly clear. In 1926 Robert Ralston Cawley set down three
primary examples of its verbal resemblances to the letter, where
it was finally reproduced in Purchas’s Purchas his Pilgrims as
‘A True Reportory’.27 They are: (a) Stephano’s ‘But of Sacke,
which the Saylors heaved o’reboord’, and his ‘hogshead of
wine’, which echo Strachey’s ‘threw over-boord much luggage.
[…] and staved many a Butt of Beere, Hogsheads of Oyle,
Syder, Wine and Vinegar, and heaved away all our Ordnance’;
(b) Prospero’s story about how Ariel could ‘run upon the
sharp wind of the north’ (1.2.254), matching Strachey’s ‘the
sharpe windes blowing Northerly’; (c) Gonzalo’s ‘’Tis best we
stand upon our guard, / Or that we quit this place. Let’s draw
our weapons’ (2.1.322–3), and Strachey’s ‘Every man from
thenceforth commanded to weare his weapon […] and […]
stand upon his guard’.
Cawley found other echoes under seven categories: (1)
contest between sea and sky; (2) desperation of crew and
passengers; (3) condition of ship; (4) relations between classes
on board; (5) Ariel and St Elmo’s fire; (6) Prospero and the safe
landing; (7) the harbour. He also found a few miscellaneous
links, including Strachey’s words ‘trim’ for the ship, and ‘glut’,
a term Shakespeare only ever uses the once, at 1.1.59. To these
he added several references to Virginia as an earthly paradise,
matching Gonzalo’s use of Montaigne’s essay, which he called
‘only […] a convenient and succinct phrasing of that idea’.28
In addition he noted the references to thunder and lightning,
and Caliban’s account of the ‘fresh springs, brine pits, barren
place and fertile’, along with his curse invoking ‘toads, beetles,

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bats’ (1.2.339–41), which Cawley found four pages apart in

Strachey. Eden, he notes, also cites ‘Marmasettes’. Equally,
Cawley was careful to record the play’s names that do not
appear in Strachey, Eden or other ‘voyager’ sources, such as
jays (other than Eden’s ‘Popingjayes’) and of course especially
the much-disputed ‘scamels’ (2.2.169). He found Strachey’s
account a good source for Ferdinand’s log-bearing, citing his
statement that ‘The Governour dispensed with no travaile of
his body, nor forbare […] to fell, carry, and sawe Cedar’.
Of the two sets of conspiracies in the play, Cawley asserts
that ‘for ten pages, Strachey is electric with conspiracy and
confederates’. Other parallels are identified in a range of
verbal and other similarities, including the references to dead
Indians and monsters, although very few of these parallels
come from the ‘Voyager’ narratives.

The masque
Strachey is far from being the only contentious source for
the play. The abbreviated masque in Act 4 has generated the
most intense and sometimes the most aberrant theories. These
include everything from the absence of masques elsewhere in
Shakespeare to his assumed interchanges with Ben Jonson,
the dominant writer of masques in King James’s early years.
What dictated the precise shape of the play’s masque has been
less studied, though Jonson’s own distinctive innovation in the
forms of masque, the antimasque, has made scholars identify
a wide range of possible features in the nearby sections of
the play as versions of antimasque. Some critics find it in the
dance of the reapers and nymphs that Prospero brings to a
halt, others in Ariel’s appearance as the Harpy, and yet others
in the dogs that chase away the three comic conspirators after
the masque.
I think it safe to assume that Shakespeare knew several of
Jonson’s masques, probably at first hand if he served as one

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Sources and Creativity 109

of the King’s players who took the speaking parts in them. He

must have known the notion of the antimasque, an acknow­
ledgement of the disorder that the masque itself replaces with
royal order. As Stephen Orgel puts it, ‘This ordering of misrule
was to become the central action of the masque in Ben Jonson’s
hands’.29 The pattern of Jonson’s masques, following quite
closely a pattern familiar in Shakespeare’s earlier comedies,
shows disorder being resolved by the harmony of weddings
or their equivalent. In Chapter 5 of Shakespeare & Jonson /
Jonson & Shakespeare, Russ McDonald demonstrated how
both writers shared this pattern, Jonson in his masques and
Shakespeare in his late romances.30
Although Jonson’s Masques of Blackness and Beauty and
the Haddington Masque went into print in 1608, and the
Masque of Queens in 1609, his Hymenaei, published in 1606,
seems to have been the most accessible to Shakespeare when
he wrote The Tempest. Most pointedly, Jonson’s introductory
notes to his 1606 masque must have stimulated Shakespeare’s
thinking about such shows. Whatever his reason for creating
the abrupt truncation to The Tempest’s masque, the evidence
seems to indicate that Shakespeare had his own peculiar view
of the new art, altogether more modest, or at least more
modulated, than Jonson’s.
Hymenaei has several features that must have registered
in Shakespeare’s mind. Not the least of the apparent echoes
of Jonson’s masque in The Tempest is the great orb of silver
and gilt, the giant ‘microcosme, or Globe, (figuring Man)’
that Inigo Jones designed for Jonson’s show. It concealed the
eight dancers of the antimasque, four dressed as the Humours
and four as the Affections, who emerged from it to disrupt
Hymen’s harmonious opening song and speech. Whether
or not Prospero alludes to it directly when he specifies ‘the
great globe itself’ while declaring that ‘Our revels now are
ended’ (4.1.148), he might have expected a few of the people
in the audience at the Blackfriars, not least Jonson himself,
to recognize the connection. If Shakespeare’s play truly was
written for performance at the Blackfriars rather than the

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Globe, as I have contended before, this allusion would

have done double service. Moreover, that Jonson’s Hymenaei
should make Reason, who was the one to restore order, sit
on top of Hymenaei’s globe and descend from it to quell the
disruptive Humours and Affections, seems to be nicely echoed
in Prospero’s own subsequent dismissal of his disordered
Another feature of Hymenaei that may have sat in
Shakespeare’s mind includes its printed direction about Juno
enthroned with Iris. Both goddesses, of course, reappear in
Shakespeare’s masque. In the printed book of Hymenaei a
statue of Jupiter is said to be present above the pair, positioned
‘standing in the toppe (figuring the heaven) brandishing his
thunder’. Cymbeline’s Jupiter, suspended from the Globe’s
heavens with his thunderbolts smelling of sulphur, might have
been a deliberate echo of this visual image. Prospero is said in
the play’s stage direction to be similarly positioned to watch the
banquet, in a superior position specified by the stage direction
only as ‘on the top’, a distinctive location not cited in any other
play.31 Catherine M. Shaw, who identified the play’s antimasque
as being Ariel’s previous maddening of Alonso, Sebastian and
Antonio at the end of Act 3 while Prospero is standing to view
it ‘on the top’ (3.3.18), argues that Alonso and Antonio have
both rebelled against Reason by ‘violating the unity of family
and state’, making them draw their swords just as the masquers
do in Hymenaei.32 This would make a neat parallel.
Perhaps even more reflective of Jonson’s masque is the first
speech that Reason delivers, printed in the masque. Reason

She that makes soules, with bodies, mixe in love,

Contracts the world in one, and therein JOVE;
Is spring, and end of all things: yet, most strange!
Her selfe nor suffers spring, nor end, nor change.33

The Tempest seems to be recalling this speech when it cites

the season-free spring that comes at the end of harvest. This

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Sources and Creativity 111

paradoxical idea may well have prompted other echoes that

appear in Shakespeare’s masque, in the speeches of Proserpine
and Ceres, involuntary creators of the seasons.
Critics have tried in a variety of ways to account for why
Prospero sets out his show for Ferdinand and Miranda. The
most obvious thread has been the persistent idea that it must
have been inserted into the play late, either because it was
designed as a contribution to help celebrate the Princess
Elizabeth’s wedding of 1613, or perhaps more obviously for
its staging at the court celebrations that saw the play appear
before the royal court at Whitehall on 1 November 1611.
On a plane rather obliquely inclined towards that theory,
Ian Wiles emphasizes the negative or inverted aspects of the
masque, which he sees as appropriate for the wedding of
1611.34 He outlines its unconventional features, ‘caught in a
limbo between betrothal and marriage, […] a wedding masque
performed at the wrong time and the wrong place’. Noting
that, unlike the royal masques, the play staged at Blackfriars
performs its version in the afternoon, not at night, and out of
doors on the island rather than at home in Milan, he calls it
‘an inverted or perverted wedding masque’. Venus is excluded,
as is Hymen, and Ceres even alters the seasons when she tells
the lovers ‘Spring come to you at the farthest, / In the very end
of harvest’ (4.1.114–15). Wiles argues that the denial of night,
winter and Venus makes it a deliberately unorthodox masque,
removing sexuality and procreation from the marriage. This is
a view that seems equally able to support the idea that it was
written to celebrate the royal wedding, or the contrary.
More to the point, perhaps, is the observation which
many other critics have made, that Caliban is a character-
istic Jonsonian antimasque figure of disorder, and that what
halts Prospero’s presentation is his remembering Caliban’s
conspiracy.35 This, of course, would make it an inversion of
the usual sequence, where the antimasquers are brought to
order by the figures of the masque proper.
Wherever we might find the antimasque in the play, there
can be no doubt that Shakespeare took great care in designing

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the main masque. John Orrell, after identifying and elabo-

rating the emphasis on symmetry that Jonson applied to
Hymenaei, supplies a succinct comment on the comparable
symmetry evinced in Shakespeare’s rhyming version.36 In an
aside, a footnote to his analysis of Hymenaei, he points out
how carefully Shakespeare copied Jonson’s design.

The betrothal masque in The Tempest is constructed to

the ratio of the diapason, 1:2. Iris introduces it with a
speech of sixteen lines, to which Ceres responds with eight
lines, so that the two speeches are in the ratio 2:1. There
follows a dialogue between the goddesses concluded by
Juno’s arrival: twenty-two lines in all, the last one short.
After the intervention of the song and Ferdinand’s inter-
ruption, Iris calls the Naiads and Reapers to the dance in
a speech of eleven lines, the last one short, which stands in
relation to the earlier dialogue in the ratio 1:2. The song
itself is in two parts marked by the pseudo-refrains ‘Juno
sings her blessings on you’ and ‘Ceres’ blessing so is on
you’: the two parts are of four and eight lines respectively.
Thus the entire masque, up to the point where Prospero
breaks it off, is organized like Hymenaei in numerical
proportion, though it is shorter and simpler than Jonson’s
work. Ferdinand correctly characterizes it as ‘Harmonious

Such precision in Shakespeare’s design argues that he closely

studied the text of Jonson’s earlier masque and exploited at
least some of the principles lying behind his practice. It is with
some such design in mind that Alison Thorne declares: ‘The
masque itself represents the purest expression of Prospero’s
utopian ideals, the high-water mark of his faith in the power
of a sublime illusion to redeem humanity and institute a
beneficent new moral and social order. As befits the occasion,
its “majestic vision” projects a multi-levelled concord like that
celebrated in Jonson’s marriage masque, Hymenaei’.38 While
the means of its abrupt curtailing might call that into question,

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Sources and Creativity 113

it might equally be seen as locating the ideal in its context of

the current reality.
One witness to the performance of Hymenaei, John Pory,
wrote a letter to Sir Robert Cotton on 7 January 1606
describing what he saw on the two nights of its performance
at court. Taking note of it both on Sunday 5 January and the
night following, he reported that, for instance, in the main

Ben Jonson turned the globe of the earth standing behind

the altar, and within the Concave sate the 8. men-maskers
representing the 4. humours and the fower affections who
leapt forth to disturb the sacrifice to union: but amidst their
fiery reason that sate above them all, crowned with burning
tapers, came down and silenced them […] Above the globe
of earth hovered a middle region of cloudes in the centre
whereof stood a grand consert of musicians, and upon the
Cantons or hornes sate the ladies, 4. at one corner, and 4 at
another, who descended upon the stage, not after the stale
downright perpendicular fashion, like a bucket into a well,
but came gently sloping down.39

This describes a far more grandiose scene than anything that

could have been performed by the King’s Men at Blackfriars.
Pory’s comments on the dresses and decorations of the ladies
and others led him to suggest that the city must have been
sacked in order to supply the brightest pearls and other
jewels attiring the ladies and gallants. As so often in our
hopeful readings of the play’s sources and staging, whether
Shakespeare expected his Juno would have to descend like a
bucket into a well over the thirty lines of text he wrote for it
in his own play’s masque we just cannot know.

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New Directions: Commedia
dell’Arte, The Tempest, and
Transnational Criticism

Helen M. Whall

Taking a transnational approach to the modern and contem-

porary novel has revitalized narrative studies; taking the same
approach to early modern drama may yet reinvent the field.
Commedia dell’arte in particular, by virtue of its emphasis
on performance more than text, provides the perfect site
for demonstrating how a transnational approach can better
locate dramatic method as itself a ‘kind’ of textual source.
Robert Henke and Richard Andrews most notably bring
to fruition the work of scholars who across the arc of the
twentieth century made reasonable, often compelling cases for
Shakespeare’s knowledge of Italian comedy.1 In adding up and
adding to their predecessors’ discoveries, Andrews and Henke
implicitly make two foundational claims: the improvisational
wing of sixteenth-century Italian theatre crossed national
boundaries, including the ocean surrounding England. As a
corollary to that assumption, they make clear that travellers
from many countries, including England, having crossed into

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Italy, attended arte performances and brought reports home.

In other words, Shakespeare and his contemporaries had many
opportunities to learn from and about commedia dell’arte.2
Pamphlets, diaries, royal court records and comments by
other playwrights justify such claims. The logical question
is: how could Shakespeare not have known about commedia
dell’arte? Given his ‘magpie’ virtues, moreover, how could
Shakespeare not have been influenced by a theatre style that
captivated audiences everywhere, despite language barriers?
Yet, proving the case for commedia dell’arte as a source
for The Tempest or any part of any Shakespearean play has
proved difficult. The very fact that commedia dell’arte, known
for its actors’ improvisational skills, emphasized the perform-
ative rather than the textual nature of drama assured that
its success would be paradoxical: long-lasting yet transient.
The influence of commedia dell’arte on theatre practitioners,
both inside and outside of Italy, could not have been greater
or survived longer on stage. Even today, commedia dell’arte
technique forms the base for much actor training. For the
same reason, the accessibility of arte plays to future literary
scholars could not have been more limited. Scholars look for
that which arte seemed to lack: a textual presence.
Fortunately, a new school of critics has begun to reassess
the very nature of dramatic literary evidence. Transnational
criticism rebuts the critic’s exclusive reliance on empirical,
printed evidence as the only way to prove that one play has
influenced another. Critics like Henke and Andrews systematize
and then locate the non-verbal presence of Italian commedia
dell’arte in foreign plays. They invite us to consider the trace
evidence, to assess the spirit of performance that haunts every
dramatic text. The transnational critic also makes one more
critical adjustment to what the critic should assume when
evaluating Shakespeare’s artistry: we must foreground the fact
that Shakespeare was primarily a playwright. That concession
has not always been granted. Enthralled by Shakespeare’s
language, often unconsciously hostile to theatre, academics
have often emphasized Shakespeare’s language as the sole

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source of his greatness. Shakespeare’s words, moreover, implied

a particular kind of performance, a language of performative
style used on stages other than his own. Understanding an
audience’s theatrical experience allows the playwright to antic-
ipate response to a gesture, an action, a line. Such knowledge
is encoded into his dramatic texts. In some sense, every good
playtext is self-aware of playing. As a result, the metatheat-
rical nature of The Tempest makes that tragicomic, pastoral
romance an ideal workshop for illustrating Shakespeare’s debt
to commedia dell’arte.
The elusive genealogy of that play also makes it a perfect
experimental space for testing the merits of transnational

Sources and influences

The plethora of texts advanced as sources for The Tempest is
perhaps matched only by the paucity of scholarly agreement
about the validity of those texts as sources. Virgil and
Ovid, Strachey and Montaigne, Ben Jonson and Christopher
Marlowe have all been invoked as sources. Is an ‘influence’ the
same as a source? What about an ‘inspiration’? Are verbatim
texts the only true sources? Historically, the verbatim text,
the ‘word for word’ parallel text, has dominated discussions
of Shakespearean sources. Holinshed’s Chronicles are clear
sources for the history plays; English translations of Plutarch
and Ovid and Italian novellas stream into the tragedies and
comedies with reassuring force. The Tempest, however, refuses
to follow words back to words in any way that would comfort
the traditional scholar.
Andrew Gurr effectively reminds us in this volume that we
can find verbatim parallels to certain ‘features’ of The Tempest
but not to Shakespeare’s actual words. Gurr notes that even
Gonzalo’s meditation on an ideal society (2.1.148–68), though
clearly related to Montaigne’s ‘Of the Caniballes’, does not

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enter The Tempest ‘word for word’ but rather as transmuted

first by John Florio’s translation, then by Shakespeare’s own
parody. But it is precisely the hunt for what Gurr calls a
‘quotable’ source that may point by indirection to commedia
dell’arte as the single greatest source for Shakespeare’s short
text. Given the very nature of drama as more than textual – as
performed ideas as well as words performed – verbatim texts
can account for only some of the play’s origins. The connec-
tions that transnationalists have made between The Tempest
and commedia dell’arte make a strong case for reassessing the
tyranny of the quotable source.
Commedia dell’arte, the theatre of improvisation, is
more about manner than matter, more about creating than
composing. In many ways, the same can be said of The
Tempest. It is a written text that dramatizes both the power
and the limits of language, whether spoken in spells or set
to music or enacted for an onstage audience who see, hear,
and experience various kinds of theatre within one play. The
manner of The Tempest also veers away from the logical
progression of time found elsewhere in the canon, even in
those plays that contain inner plays. Instead, Shakespeare
asserts a totally formalistic control over time: he invokes the
classical unities he applied only once before, in The Comedy
of Errors. But The Comedy of Errors, his first play about a
shipwreck, owes an unimpeachable debt to The Menaechmi;
like its source, The Comedy of Errors makes dramatic action
fill out the hours toward rescue sequentially. In The Tempest,
though, we are frequently reminded of the time of the day,
time and action are synchronized. The ship is sinking as
Miranda and Prospero watch; Ferdinand serves his time with
Prospero as the other shipwrecked royals pass their time in
talk; Caliban and Stephano and Trinculo begin their plot
against Prospero as Prospero hears about it and ends his
revels. It is this masterful sense of simultaneity that makes
The Tempest so difficult to summarize. And it is this represen-
tation of simultaneity that commedia dell’arte relied on when
constructing scenarios, the building blocks of action that a

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company of players could arrange and rearrange, depending

upon the circumstances of performance, without losing the
sense of a coherent story being told each time.
Characterization in The Tempest also resembles more the
transposable ‘Masks’ of arte rather than the fully developed
characters we find in most of Shakespeare’s plays, even the
comedies. Prospero, in particular, talks oddly. He constantly
halts his long lecture to Miranda (1.2.22–168) to make her
attend to him, although Miranda repeatedly makes clear
that his talk would ‘cure deafness’ (1.2.107).3 A. Lynne
Magnusson, commenting on the way in which Prospero’s
long speech, as well as Gonzalo’s ‘plantation’ speech and
other extended monologues, are often internally disrupted,
associates this pattern with the improvisational techniques
central to commedia dell’arte.4 Hers is a smart insight, one that
implicitly argues that a non-textual performative technique is
a source for The Tempest. If so, then it is equally important
to note that Shakespeare generates a text that simulates
the rhythms of improvisation. In doing so, he breaks up an
otherwise tedious speech that would also be familiar in kind
to arte players who often won disruptive laughter when old
men delivered long lectures to the young. Performances, like
texts by other playwrights, inspire and influence playwrights;
clearly performances of the living texts put on by commedia
dell’arte players should be evaluated as a source even for
words that might otherwise seem totally – or perhaps we
should say only – original in The Tempest. Can that evidence
be accessed? Recent scholarship says ‘yes’, if pre-suppositions
are suspended.
Generations of scholars, international playwrights and
even the theatre-going public have acquired a casual famil­
iarity with commedia dell’arte that has, to some extent,
kept the tradition alive and influential straight into the
twenty-first century. But that knowledge comes at a cost.
We emphasize some hallmarks of commedia dell’arte while
forgetting – or perhaps never having known – the totality
of the commedia dell’arte that influenced the very rise of

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early modern drama across Europe and in England. We are

familiar with the characters known as Masks and expect the
actors to improvise. We recognize their distinctive costumes.
Arlecchino wears a patched suit and is given to slapstick; his
mask is dark. Pantalone is a greedy or possessive old man in
a long cloak: his mask has a long nose. And so on down the
list of arte characters, even English names. The mean-spirited
Pulcinella’s immortality as the abusive Punch amply displays
how audiences still respond with delight to the repetitive,
recognizable aspects of entertainment, sometimes to the point
of losing the depth conveyed by such emphatic signifiers.

The arte of commedia

The vibrantly gestural nature of commedia dell’arte perfor-
mance style and the improvisational licence granted to the
zannis (the clownish servants) distinguished the arte players
from the amateurs of ‘commedia erudita’, the ‘serious’ theatre of
the Italian universities. It is also true that the comici, the profes-
sional actors of commedia dell’arte, aligned themselves with the
craftsmen and working people of their audiences rather than the
elitists of the universities. Doing so assured that the commedia
dell’arte troupes enjoyed commercial success for more than a
hundred years without a permanent playhouse.5 The plays of
commedia erudita, on the other hand, were scripted by writers
like Ariosto and Tasso. There is some irony rather than necessity
to the fact that the greatness of Italian drama would eventually
be linked to the greatness of named playwrights rather than
to the great performance of plays. Playwrights, not players,
provided the concrete evidence post-enlightenment historians
would value. We assume no familiarity with the work of early
modern playwrights. We study them. With the exception of
Shakespeare, however, we seldom perform their plays.
In her comprehensive Italian Drama in Shakespeare’s
Time, Louise George Clubb traces how Italian theatre fell

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into such a false division even as she reunites commedia

erudita and commedia dell’arte. Her work makes clear that
commedia dell’arte was both more substantive and more
scripted than academic memories would come to recollect.6
Scholars now acknowledge, for example, that a number of
arte actors performed roles written for the amateurs. That
is a concession with consequences. The comici had such
professionally trained memories that what we used to call
the ‘memorial reconstruction’ of a pirated play would have
been a practised performance skill. The matter of those
serious plays, Clubb and others argue, found its way into
seemingly improvised street theatre. The comici carried scripts
in their heads, just as surely as the amateurs of commedia
erudita borrowed acting techniques from the public profes-
sionals.7 Clubb condemns the binary thinking and academic
stuffiness that divided Italian theatre into ‘high’ and ‘low’,
‘elite’ and ‘popular’, to the detriment of both. She traces out
instead the ‘interchange and transformation of units, figures,
relationships, topoi and framing patterns’ between the better
preserved academic theatre and that of arte performance.8 As
Clubb has shown, these are the crucial building blocks used
by commedia dell’arte and commedia erudita alike, though
in different proportions. She calls such movable structures
‘theatregrams’.9 That term has proved to be so apt that trans-
nationalist critics, even while testing out terms like ‘modules’
and ‘narremes’, shift to British spelling and identify the
‘theatregrams’ of commedia dell’arte as evidence of how arte
plays functioned as art.10
Invented long after commedia dell’arte had waned and now
replaced by email, the telegram is a perfect analogue to the
way the comici, by the very nature of their craft, sent word
across Europe, showing rather than telling others how to
make a play. Though transmitted through the air, their ideas
could also be caught on paper. Clubb and her successors locate
theatregrams in the long-neglected and often lengthy accounts
of commedia dell’arte performances written by professional
actors like Francesco Andreini, Flaminio Scala and Basilio

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Locatelli. The scholarship of retrieval begun by Ferdinando

Neri and continued by others may seem to reopen the gap
between kinds of Italian Renaissance drama, but that is not
so. While a renewed understanding of commedia dell’arte
plays in relation to their performance once again segregates
commedia dell’arte, it does so for reasons of focused analysis,
not dismissal. Transnational criticism actually unifies that
which has been too long divided by literary scholarship: the
evidence of text and the evidence of performance.
The aim of transnationalism is largely unification. Robert
Henke, for example, restores the relationship of orality and
literacy in commedia dell’arte. In order to do so, Henke turns
to the culture of early modern theatre and to printed texts
provided by men like Andreini (1548–1624) and Scala (1552–
1624). Like other actors of commedia dell’arte productions,
Andreini and Scala ‘used print to memorialize their ephemeral
art and to present a vision of complementarity between perfor-
mance and literature, between improvised stage composition
and written composition’.11 Henke and Richard Andrews
persistently illustrate the difference between an emphasis and
an exclusion. Commedia dell’arte, they agree, emphasized the
physical, the gestural and the improvisational, but it did not
do so to the exclusion of the verbal. Clubb made the same
point about academic comedy when she observed that the
commedia grave (a phrase she prefers to commedia erudita)
also ‘made use of the “masks and mannerisms” we think of
as the property of commedia dell’arte’.12 Henke, however,
explains that the live performances of commedia dell’arte,
accessible to the non-lettered through the use of masks and
mannerisms, reached larger audiences than printed plays.
They also travelled more quickly, regularly crossing national
borders and ‘geo-linguistic barriers’.13
Documenting the importance of arte companies across the
borders of France and Spain is quite straightforward. Paintings
and other visual depictions of the travelling Italian enter-
tainers abound, especially in France. Italian stock characters
were outright assimilated into French and Spanish variants of

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their names. Most reassuringly, historical records show that in

1574 an accomplished arte company named Zan Gassa played
in Spain to such success that they made Madrid a base from
which they could travel. Royal court records also document
the travels of Italian companies in France. Henri III summoned
the famous Gelosi troupe to Blois in 1577; under Louis XIV,
the French ‘Comédie-Italienne’ opened a theatre. Though the
record is thinner, there is also – and most importantly for our
purposes – historically sound evidence that commedia troupes
travelled to England. Turning to E. K. Chambers and Kathleen
Lea, as well as to the works of early modern English writers
for support, Henke provides the best overview of commedia
dell’arte actors in early modern England. He notes especially
that an Italian company was asked to perform a pastoral
play for Queen Elizabeth in 1574 and that the internationally
known arte actor Drusiano Marinelli performed ‘in the Citie
and Liberties of London’ in 1578. Just as Shakespeare was
beginning his career, Thomas Kyd praised Italian actors in The
Spanish Tragedy. Then in 1590 Thomas Nashe spoke with an
Italian Arlechino. Henke finds ‘most striking’ the discovery
of stage plats in Edward Alleyn’s papers. Because they were
remarkably similar to known Italian scenarios both in form
and content, Henke argues the plats (or ‘plots’) would have
been used by actors in 1590–2. Some of these same actors
would join the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in 1594.14
Henke is more cautious than many in accepting Louis
B. Wright’s argument that Will Kempe, Shakespeare’s first
great clown, spent time in Italy and actually performed with
an arte company.15 Given Kempe’s penchant for travel, his
documented trip over the Alps, and the ubiquitous presence
of commedia dell’arte throughout Europe, he may well have
encountered commedia dell’arte. But perhaps with tongue in
cheek, Henke does not accept mere literary evidence as proof
of performance. In 1590, Nashe, the assumed author of the
pamphlet ‘An Almond for a Parrat’, writes that during his
travels he met some commedia dell’arte players, one of whom
‘inquired of me if I knew any such Parabolano here as Signor

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Chiarlatano Kempio. Very well (quoth I) […] He hearing me

say so, began to embrace me anew’. Though the actor claims
not to know Kempe personally, he has heard of his skill and so
‘for the report he had of his Pleasance, he colde not bee in love
with his perfections being absent’.16 Wright, a strong advocate
for evidence that Kempe personally experienced commedia
dell’arte, draws attention to a 1607 play, The Travailes of the
Three English Brothers, attributed to John Day. In that play a
character named Kempe performs an inner play in arte style,
entering into an exchange with a character called Harlequin.
The Kempe character, according to Wright, knows arte style as
well as Harlequin does.17 Day’s script survives for us to assess.

Clowns and fools

Henke and other transnationalists find more compelling, if
more elusive, evidence for English knowledge of arte perfor-
mances in the many analogues within, rather than around,
Shakespeare’s plays. Once again, this time with regard to
Shakespeare’s use of clowns and fools, emphasis may have
been taken as exclusion, blurring the record. Theatre histo-
rians have long sensed some arte influence in the roles
Shakespeare assigned his clowns.18 The earliest of them speak
set speeches and perform routines similar to comic lazzi –
the patter routines, humorous monologues and orchestrated
pratfalls that constitute many arte theatregrams – and are
cast, like the zanni, as servants. External parallels are also
easy to draw. The title ‘clown’ in English theatre, like that
of zanni in Italian arte, was a professional one, an offstage
as well as onstage designation.19 Too much attention to that
seemingly shared genealogy, however, has led commentators
to see the clowns as the best (and therefore insufficient)
evidence of arte influence on Shakespeare’s plays. In England,
the only actors always identified by their offstage role were
the professional clowns like Richard Tarlton, Will Kempe and

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Robert Armin. They, like all professional clowns, were listed

as such in dramatis personae even if the role played within a
play seemed from a historical perspective to be more that of
a ‘witty fool’ than a foolish clown. For example, a ‘clown’
is listed as acting both the role of Launcelot Gobbo in The
Merchant of Venice and Feste in Twelfth Night. It is possible
that the modern critic senses too great a distinction between
the comic clown and the satiric fool. The dramatis personae
to King Lear lists no clown actor, only a ‘Fool, to Lear’. Here,
the distinction seems linked more to genre than to performer,
giving the playwright leeway to make an internal distinction
between the kinds of characters he might label ‘fool’. The
distinctions of clown from fool within Shakespeare’s dramas
seem variously dictated by convention, by guild practice and
by genre. Commedia dell’arte, on the other hand, distributes
both foolish and clownish characteristics across the spectrum
of Masks. Placing too great an emphasis on English clowns as
‘like zannis’ and the reverse neglects the politics of theatre and
the subtleties of Shakespeare’s comic characterization while
reducing arte influence to one character. Yet the record shows
that all Italian stock characters, not just the zannis, were
capable of ‘clownish’ behaviour.
Criticism has tended to oversimplify the importance of the
professional clowns associated with the Lord Chamberlain’s
Men, a tendency that limits our understanding of Shakespeare’s
response to native as well as foreign influence. We need to pay
more attention to the nuanced distinctions he would draw
between medieval clowns and early modern fools, as well as
his interest in crossing genres, relocating professional fools
‘allowed’ their satire into tragedy, as well as granting less
privileged characters the fool’s wit. The published tales of jigs
and jests circulated by Kempe and Armin in particular have
provided modern critics too much reassuring print evidence.
In effect, having managed to locate important non-textual
contact between Shakespeare’s plays and commedia dell’arte,
between clowns and zanni, critics have too often ignored
internal evidence pointing toward thematic distinctions rather

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than professional credentials. Because of his notorious jigs,

Kempe is assigned responsibility for Shakespeare’s interest
in the less verbal and assumedly more acrobatic clowns
of his early comedies; because of Armin’s proficiency as
a singer, he is seen as the source of Shakespeare’s sweet-
voiced fools who are nonetheless assumed to derive from
the same zany source.20 It makes sense that a playwright
who did not audition actors might, when writing a new
play, emphasize the known talents of his company. But to
assume Shakespeare completely limited his development of
fools and clowns to Kempe and Armin’s talents is to risk
overemphasis on performance evidence external to the plays!
Inside Shakespeare’s scripts, clowns are all called fools. Some
clowns and some fools are called ‘jesters’. Most seem to derive
at least partially from native tradition, whether the Vice of
medieval theatre or the fool of actual courts or the folly figure
made famous by Erasmus and the humanists. If we weigh
all aspects of Shakespeare’s plays as plays, it seems apparent
that clowns and fools are present early and late in the canon
with differing emphases. Something, in other words, beyond
Kempe’s acrobatic skills and Armin’s voice may have influ-
enced Shakespeare’s movement away from a Launcelot Gobbo
toward a Feste, then back to a Trinculo.
Arte actors not called zanni have their own set comic
routines and display a wide range of what the stage would
consider comic activity. Arlechinno and Pantalone and the
Dottore, in other words, may well have inspired Shakespeare’s
development of variant clowns as well as his growing interest
in how the comic and the comedic skew apart when crossing
genre lines. Launcelot Gobbo resembles many a zanni, the
much-abused servant of commedia dell’arte. He is funny more
than witty and, like the zanni, tends to play his part solo
or in two-person scenes; the drunken Porter in post-Kempe
Macbeth (identified in the list of actors only as ‘Porter’) is
more like Gobbo than Feste, who is more like Lear’s Fool
than Gobbo. The Porter chills an audience when his displaced
comic antics accentuate rather than relieve the horror of

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tragedy.21 Such genre-crossing is itself more typical of Italian

commedia dell’arte than English theatre, though English
speakers tend to hear only the ‘comedy’ within ‘commedia’.
Accounts of performance make clear, however, that commedia
dell’arte took on serious matters while retaining its profes-
sional clowns. Peter in Romeo and Juliet and the gravediggers
of Hamlet, like the Porter in Macbeth, illustrate the concept of
‘theatregrams’ doubly at work across national boundaries and
within Shakespeare’s career.
English stage clowns and Italian zanni do share at least
one common influence; both owe a debt to Roman comedy
and that theatre’s regulated stock types. Commedia dell’arte,
however, brought those Roman characters into the European
sixteenth century; arte playwrights assigned the contemporary
words and actions. The living theatre of commedia dell’arte
made it easier for Shakespeare to move beyond the classical
world of the Dromios and into the life of Windsor and its merry
wives. Commedia dell’arte kept other stock characters up to
date as well. Falstaff is far more recognizable in the Capitano
than in the Plautine Braggart. The greedy old Pantalone, a
Venetian figure, offers a new framework for comprehending
Shylock as well as for seeing Shylock’s kinship with that other
possessive old Venetian, the Christian Brabantio of Othello.
The modernized Masks of commedia dell’arte are not firmly
fixed roles but rather ways of playing those roles. They signal
how their probable Roman ancestors might have been acted
had they continued to evolve.
The most intriguing of all theatregrams are in fact those
that Andrews and Henke trace to the performance art of
arte theatre. As an illustration of a performance theatregram,
Andrews discusses how Shakespeare uses an arte formula
to open Act 5 of The Merchant of Venice. He notes that
the comici would have had in their repertoire speeches that
dramatize two lovers attempting to top each other’s trope or
best each other’s reference to classical gods.22 This is exactly
the manner in which Jessica and Lorenzo mark the time ‘on
such a night’ in Belmont as they await Portia’s return. The

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exchange in 5.1 recollects abandoned lovers and sets an

elegiac tone that complicates Portia’s ensuing confrontation
of Bassanio. Shakespeare here turns to an arte construction,
then does what he wants with it. Similarly, in A Midsummer
Night’s Dream, after the union of Helen and Lysander is
forbidden by Egeus, the lovers attempt to top each other in
examples of woe, luring the audience into comic pathos. Egeus
may be more a senex figure than a developed Pantalone, but
the exchange between Hermia and Lysander marks them as
the ‘inamorati’. The nature of their exchange comes straight
from commedia dell’arte:

Lys: Ay me! For aught that I could ever read,

Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth;
But either it was different in blood –
Her: O cross too high to be enthrall’d to [low].
Lys: Or else misgrafted in respect of years –
Her: O spite! Too old to be engag’d to young.
Lys: Or else it stood upon the choice of friends –
Her: O hell to choose love by another’s eyes. (1.1.132–40)23

Exchanges between Katherina and Petrucchio (The Taming

of the Shrew) and Beatrice and Benedict (Much Ado About
Nothing) make use of the same kind of theatregram, though
again to different ends. These exchanges assume that an
audience takes pleasure in wordplay, and when it is performed
well, the language underscores something deeply matched in
these mixed couples.
‘Technique’ rather than script provides the most textually
generative contact between Shakespeare and the Italian stage.
Theatregrams become modular units into which Shakespeare
could ‘improvise’ his own words – like the theatregram in
which a father lectures his son at length, as does King Henry
IV his son Hal or Polonius his son Laertes.24 Few, if any, are
tempted to compare Henry IV and Polonius. But such father/
son speeches are common in commedia dell’arte, and each

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speech type, not each character, can be found there. Sometimes

Shakespeare even uses the arte technique of modularity itself.
In an Italian fashion, for example, he transfers Shylock’s most
famous monologue on Jews to Emilia’s reflection of wives in
Othello. Shylock asks: ‘Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew
hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections passions …?’
(3.1.59–73). Emilia says: ‘Let husbands know / Their wives
have sense like them; they see and smell / And have their
palates both for sweet and sour, / As husbands have […] and
have not we affections, / Desires for sport, and frailty, as men
have?’ (4.3.93–101). Shakespeare is not self-plagiarizing. He
is borrowing a technique from his Italian colleagues, copying
the art of copying even while altering his own theatregram
from prose to verse. Playwrights learn from each other that
certain stage actions call for words and certain words call
for stage action. Advancing plots call for both. Dramatic
formulae like the speech talking down or the lovers locked in a
rhetorical competition or the monologue of complaint ‘belong
specifically to no individual play, but generically to many […]
[T]hey are theatregrams frequently and regularly repeated in
Italy, both in scripts and in scenarios’.25
Despite the evidence of performance, we literary critics
remain more comfortable finding literary influence in printed
words. The aesthetic arrangement of those words matters
greatly to our assessment, as well it should. But with the
genre of drama, a number of crucial aesthetic decisions can
also be conveyed by purely functional language. Scholarly
investment in the ‘scenari’ has steadily risen. Written by some
of commedia dell’arte’s most successful actors, the scenari are
not what an English ear hears as ‘scenes’; they are the polished
records of actual performances. Though the scenarios are
also not ‘scripts’ in our usual understanding of that playtext,
they are also more than ‘plot summaries’. Scenari describe
performative methods and performed plot moments. Within
or between both kinds of activity reside numerous analogues
to Shakespearean plays with contact points as different as are
such complete scripts as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and

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Othello. Approached with an understanding of non-textual

theatregrams, some scenario collections even bring to bear
what transnationalists argue is the weight of a source.
This is especially true of various scenarios brought together
in the twentieth century by Ferdinando Neri. Neri chose
five scenarios from five different early modern manuscripts.
These he published in 1913. His selection principle for what
he called Scenari delle Maschere in Arcadia appears, from
his introductory notes, to have been his knowledge of The
Tempest. A few of the scenarios were originally published by
their author, Basilio Locatelli, in 1618 and 1622. Those dates
might seem to undermine Neri’s suggestion that the Locatelli
scenarios provide a source for The Tempest – a play seldom
dated later than 1611 – but not if we understand the genre
‘scenari’. Scenari are the recollections prepared by actors of
parts they have played and the productions they have come
from. As both Andrews and Henke have pointed out, as a
reconstruction of undated and ongoing performances the
scenari, by genre, convey ideas long in circulation. The great
scenario collections like those of Scala or Locatelli record
what had been said and done by commedia dell’arte troupes
over and over again.26 Word of such performances, moreover,
could travel faster than printed materials; the impact of those
plays or reports of those plays on an Englishman who began
writing only twenty years after the opening of a professional
English theatre would be profound.

Commedia and The Tempest

Based on a fairly nuanced understanding of the Neri scenarios,
in 1926 Henry David Gray advanced the argument for
commedia dell’arte as a primary source for The Tempest.
Gray was sympathetic to earlier claims that the Scala scenarios
contained analogues to Shakespeare’s work. He writes of his
surprise, however, when he discovered that German scholar

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Max J. Wolff, the man who had written what seemed to

be a definitive list of analogues between Shakespeare and
commedia dell’arte in 1910, had not listed The Tempest.
Realizing that Wolff could not have seen the 1913 Neri
collection, Gray set about completing Wolff’s list. Especially
struck by the plot overlaps, he focused on The Tempest: in
one Arcadia scenario ‘the magician says at the end that he will
not exercise his art any longer, and throws away his staff and
book’. In another, the magician who rules the island conjures
up a storm. A storm opens three of the five scenarios. He
quotes from another: ‘Gratiano talks about Zanni; he says
he does not know whether he is a man or beast. He says
he has a head and legs, but that the ass has just the same’.
This description eerily matches up with the odd and always
humorous business between Stephano, Trinculo, Caliban and
a cloak in The Tempest, 2.2. But Shakespeare uses 116 lines
of comic verse to dramatize that very funny stage figure. He
continues the scene once Trinculo is pulled from the monster,
an action that corresponds to another scenario’s description of
a man delivered from a whale.
Gray pleads with his readers to excuse the ‘crudity and
unliterary character’ of the scenarios and reminds us that
‘one must constantly visualize the action’. Here we see a
critic striving to achieve gravitas. It also takes time, practice
and a critical community to see the importance of what Gray
himself dismisses as ‘minor analogies’. He observes how a
magician (the Arcadian scenarios all have magicians) changes
one character into a tree while another cuts the tree to free
her. In the same scenario, Zanni ‘comes from a rock and says
he was transformed into it because he would not do what the
old magician wanted him to do’.27 Shakespeare’s version of the
same action is set in potent verse. Asked to do more service by
Prospero, Ariel complains that he has been promised freedom.
The lengthy exchange that follows calls for both actors to
move quickly up and down emotional registers, arte style.
Prospero recalls Ariel’s punishment by a bad magician, the
witch Sycorax:

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       Thou my slave,
As thou report’st thyself, was then her servant,
And – for thou were a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and abhorred commands,
Refusing her grand hests – she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers
And in her most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine, within which rift
Imprisoned thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years […]
    It was mine art,
When I arrived and heard thee, that made gape
The pine and let thee out. (1.2.270–93)

Gray dryly assures his reader that he does not ‘doubt

Shakespeare’s having heard both of Jonah and of Daphne’.28
In referring to the Bible and Ovid, however, Gray anticipates
later discussions of commedia dell’arte and Shakespeare. Both
are omnivorous when it comes to sources.
Like his Italian colleagues, Shakespeare also loves not
only to mix but also to create genres. Louise George Clubb,
as part of her sustained efforts to reintegrate erudite and
popular drama of the Italian Renaissance, traces out most
effectively the origins of pastoral drama in Italy. She discusses
the emergence of the form and its relation to literary
experiments as well as theoretical tracts written by Italian
dramatists debating Aristotle. These experiments eventually
led to scripted masterpieces like Guarini’s Il Pastor Fido,
the clear, indisputable literary sources for John Fletcher’s
The Faithful Shepherdess. Clubb also remarks that Fletcher’s
work is not itself a likely source for The Tempest because it
displays so little of Shakespeare’s ‘theatrically vital and savvy
representations of love and providence in action’. According
to Clubb, Shakespeare’s late romances seem more in keeping
with Italian theatre’s rush toward ‘the invention of a third
genre and the critical justification of a range of tragi-comic

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On the academic stage, Battistia Leoni’s Roselmina models

the third genre, the hybrid mode. That play’s Prologue
describes Roselmina as a ‘composite of joking and seriousness,
of the grave and the gamesome; a mixture of princes with folk
of low and middle rank, happy, despairing, mad and wise;
an intertwining of high affairs and most jocund jests; and of
lovers; so arranged that in their discordant coming together
they make a noble and harmonious unity’.30 Leoni’s play was
printed first in 1595, then reprinted many times. There is no
evidence it was translated into English, nor do we have any
indication that the Italian text reached England. But as Clubb
points out, arte troupes were quick to adapt the new tragi-
comedies to their less verbal, more portable theatre. In her
mind, the Neri scenarios make clear the continuity between
academic experiments in hybridity and popular theatre already
quite used to mixing matters. She also supports arguments like
Gray’s that the Arcadian scenarios show striking correspond-
ences with The Tempest.31
Robert Henke asks us to attend carefully to how commedia
dell’arte ‘transported’ elements of Italian theatre like pastoral
drama to England. In his Performance and Literature in
the Commedia Dell’Arte, Henke makes his own careful
argument for the proximity of orality and literacy in the
work of commedia dell’arte. In the book he co-edited with
Eric Nicholson, Theatre Crossing Borders: Transnational
and Transcultural Exchanges in Early Modern Theatre, he
and his contributors map out the territory of transnational
criticism. Against that backdrop, Henke’s essay, ‘Transporting
Tragicomedy: Shakespeare and the Magical Pastoral’ makes
the most compelling argument that commedia dell’arte should
be accepted as a source for The Tempest. Implicitly, he shows
how that play serves as a paradigm for the ways commedia
dell’arte influenced Shakespeare throughout his career.
Henke’s explication of the Neri scenarios is more detailed
than that provided by others and it is smartly selective. Rather
than look for all analogous ‘theatregrams’ in one scenario,
he notes how certain modules repeat and expand across the

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collection, leaving the reader with a shipwreck, a magician

who is fixated on control, island visitors obsessed by hunger
and thirst, rebellious clowns and a set of young lovers.
Henke separates the accrued evidence into three categories:
‘Dramatic content, both on a macro and a micro scale […]
Dramaturgy […] [and] Genre’.32 The specifics that align
with these criteria are many: plot affinities and comic lazzi;
characters who readily match up with the Dottore, Pantalone
and Zanni; aristocratic young lovers who contrast with ridic-
ulous characters from a lower class; attention to the dramatic
unities; use of the supernatural; frequent magical transforma-
tions of people into objects and objects into other objects;
regular alteration of emotional registers between high and
low, utopian fantasies and the pastoral mode. Like all who
have read the Arcadian scenarios, Henke cannot help but zero
in on the Caliban plot. It is hard to shake off lines so strikingly
parallel to Shakespeare’s plot as those of Gratiano when he
exclaims that he does not know whether the zany he discovers
is a man or a beast because, though he has a head and legs,
‘the ass has just the same’.
There are a myriad possible sources for Caliban, including
‘poetry, drama, civil pageantry and folklore’ as well as
Spenser, Homer, Virgil, Babylonia, Greece and Rome, the
Wild Man tradition and travel reports.33 But there is only
one known analogue to the clowns with the cloak and the
four-legged monster. All that stands in the way of seeing the
arte source for the Caliban lazzi is Shakespeare’s habit of
displacement and replacement. In commedia dell’arte, Masks
usually come in twos. That includes a first and second zanni,
as in the Stephano-Trinculo scene. Trinculo is identified in the
List of Roles as a jester; Stephano, in second zanni tradition, is
listed only as a servant, a ‘drunken butler’. Caliban is neither
a zanni nor a clown by either English or Italian convention;
he is ‘a savage and deformed slave’. Even if Shakespeare did
not author the Folio list of actors, these are the parts the
three men play within the script. It is simply in keeping with
Shakespeare’s Italian mode of construction that he alters as he

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adapts. He keeps the hysterically funny stage business of the

cloak while making it serve larger thematic ends; he blends
into this theatregram another from the Arcadian scenarios in
which the clowns plot to steal the magician’s book.
Caliban more resembles Brighella, the most violent of the
arte characters, than he does Buratino, the figure who joins
Pantalone and Gratiano (the Dottore) in the parallel cloak
scenarios; the Italian actor’s grotesque mask might even
have suggested Caliban’s appearance. Caliban, whatever his
source or sources, is clearly Shakespeare’s most powerful
creation through amalgamation. Like the play, he has multiple
progenitors but is an original. Caliban, however, ends the
theatregram of the cloak and the monster with four legs by
emerging as more a fool than a clown, though a bit of each.
Dancing, he sings out ‘Ban’ ban’ Ca-caliban, / Has a new
master, get a new man’ (2.2.179–80). If tragi-comedy were
reduced to two lines, these might be the ones.
Although no analogue from the commedia dell’arte tradi-
tions, techniques and scenari sums up all that is The Tempest,
the nature and number of the analogues make commedia
dell’arte both walk and quack like that which we should call
it: a source. As Richard Andrews writes and Robert Henke
quotes: ‘an accumulation of “analogies” can arguably take
on the character of a “source”, particularly in a theatrical
culture where performance ideas were constantly being trans-
mitted orally and by direct experience from one practitioner
to another’.34 How, then, might accepting commedia dell’arte
(rather than any one commedia scenario) as a source for The
Tempest inform our understanding of it? First and foremost
by sensitizing readers of that playtext to the very fact that it
is a text about playing, as well as a text meant to be played;
The Tempest often implies rather than states elements of
plot, not just ‘accompanying gestures’. Transnational critics,
moreover, are not asking that commedia dell’arte be seen as
the only source for The Tempest. There is a liberating gener-
osity to that method which mirrors the spirit we sense in the
closing moments of the play itself. Transnational insights leave

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room for Homer and Virgil and Montaigne, for Mucedorus

and tales of shipwrecks and the outlandish tales of travellers.
Most importantly, if transnational arguments can lead to
a general critical acceptance of commedia dell’arte as an
important source for The Tempest, literary critics will have
begun to contend with Shakespeare as a man of the living
theatre. Such an understanding of commedia dell’arte also
brings into sharper focus a Shakespeare who invents worlds,
then peoples them with creatures and plots he finds in books,
in his experience, in his memory, in his imagination and on
the stages of other playwrights. He then turns to actors to
translate his vision, the way those Italians did. But into words.
English words.

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New Directions: ‘He needs
will be Absolute Milan’:
The Political Thought of
The Tempest

Jeffrey A. Rufo

This chapter highlights Shakespeare’s contributions to an

early modern conversation about authority and its limits by
examining what The Tempest says about power, legitimacy,
resistance, freedom, and ultimately, justice. In doing so, I hope
to elucidate the play’s political thought – how it poses open-
ended questions and suggests complex problems about human
behaviour that lack simple answers and solutions. Although
Shakespeare alludes to multiple ideas and discourses about
power and governance in The Tempest, the text is ultimately
more interested in prompting provocative political thought
experiments in the mind of its audience than in resolving
them. Is sovereignty always benign and beneficent? When,
if ever, do subjects have the right to be sceptical of, or even
challenge, sovereignty? Must resistance inevitably lead to

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chaos? And if so, can it ever be good? The play’s unwillingness

to answer such questions does not signal Shakespeare’s lack
of political commitment. Rather, the freedom that the play
grants an audience to make up its own mind about whether or
not justice is done performs what it considers a philosophical
truth: liberty is a universal human demand, and although
literature commonly depicts it as a divine or natural gift
accorded to every human being, in reality it is not. Rather,
like power and authority, freedom is a commodity that is best
earned through the consent of other human beings but which
therefore can be taken away.

The humanist background of

Jacobean political thought:
Absolutism and republicanism
The Tempest is a distinctly Jacobean play. Written in or just
before 1611, it was a product of the King’s Men and was
performed at court at least once early in its life, probably
in front of the King himself.1 The succession of James
Stuart to the throne of England in 1603 transformed the
political conversation between government officials, citizens,
academics, jurists and writers of all kinds. Controversies
created by an unmarried and childless female monarch disap-
peared, and although James’s private romantic life and sexual
activities often served as grist for the gossip mill, the myth
of royal virginity was displaced. Speculation and national
hand-wringing over the Queen’s potential husbands and, later,
successors, ended – James was married and had two male
heirs by 1603. In the years following the long and successful
reign of Elizabeth, the Jacobean era breathed new life into a
continuing conversation about political constitutions, royal
prerogative and resistance. Some of the most prominent
debates concerned monarchical authority and its limits.2 It

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 139

was generally agreed that the monarch ruled as sovereign

through his or her authority as king or queen in consultation
with Parliament, but different emphases could be given to this
constitutional position: did a prince have to rule in accordance
with conclusions reached in Parliament and popular opinion?
Or, as early modern European monarchs, including Elizabeth
and James, tended to argue, was a prince merely obliged to
listen to his people rather than heed their wishes and demands?
Philosophers and poets of the early modern era turned
to the Ancient Greeks and Romans in order to understand
their own politics. The foundation of Renaissance political
thought consisted not only of canonical works of philosophy
such as Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics and Cicero’s On
Obligations, but also the works of historians who wrote about
the political life of antiquity. Polybius, Thucydides, Livy,
Lucan, Sallust and Tacitus (among others) had an incalculable
impact on Renaissance humanist thought.3 The humanists
(derived from the Italian and Latin humanitas), a broad
category of people that included Shakespeare, were above
all students of human nature. At the core of Renaissance
humanism was the belief that the studia humanitatis, loosely
translated as the ‘liberal arts’, could inspire what Henry
Peacham called a ‘love of humanity and politic government’.4
The French philosopher Pierre Charron summed up an
axiomatic principle of humanist thought when he wrote: ‘The
first lesson and instruction unto wisdom is the knowledge of
our selves and our human condition’.5 Humanists believed
that before one can consider what constitutes a just society,
one must establish the facts of human nature, which is why
Renaissance political treatises often begin with a preamble
on the subject. From fourteenth-century Italy to early seven-
teenth-century England, Renaissance humanists debated the
merits and weaknesses of the three forms of government:
monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, and meditated upon
two schools of thought concerning the distribution of power
in successful states – absolutism (with its emphasis on royal
prerogative and divine right) and republicanism.6

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Jacobean royal prerogative was the body of customary

authority, privilege and immunity recognized by law as
belonging only to a monarch.7 It served as the legitimized
means by which the executive powers of monarchical
government were carried out. As King of Scotland and then
England, James took a position on prerogative that had
become normative by the dawn of the seventeenth century in
England. He believed, as did many citizens, that monarchy
was a divinely ordained institution and that subjects were
to obey the King’s laws and decrees without question. James
was a political philosopher in his own right, having authored
two lengthy political treatises as King of Scotland, The
True Law of Free Monarchies (1598) and Basilikon Doron
(1599). His speech to Parliament regarding monarchy (1610)
illustrates the key tenets of Jacobean absolutism at nearly the
exact moment that Shakespeare was writing The Tempest:

There be three principal similitudes that illustrate the state of

monarchy: one taken out of the word of God; and the two
other out of the grounds of policy and philosophy. In the
Scriptures kings are called the gods, and so their power after
a certain relation compared to the divine power. Kings are
also compared to fathers of families; for a king is truly parens
patriae, the politic father of his people. And lastly, kings are
compared to the head of this microcosm of the body of man.
Kings are justly called gods, for that they exercise a
manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth […]
God hath power to create or destroy, make war or unmake
at his pleasure, to give life or send death, to judge all and
to be judged nor accountable to none […] And the like
power have kings: they make and unmake their subjects,
they have power of raising and casting down, of life and of
death, judges over all their subjects and in all causes and yet
accountable to none but God only.8

In works of literature, poetic conceits were used to ground this

theological argument in the language of so-called natural law.

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 141

In publicizing the merits of monarchy, royalists (apologists for

the Crown) frequently appealed to a commonplace analogy:
just as one god ruled the universe, so it followed that one man
should rule the state; and, as reason should control humanity’s
lower faculties, so the inferior members of society should be
governed by a single authority. Natural law held that a set
of identical laws operated throughout the universe: bodies,
families, states, and the cosmos itself were all subject to the
same universal ontological laws. In his speech, James invoked
two metaphorical discourses to naturalize his own absolute
authority, those of patriam potestatem (patriarchal power)
and the ‘body politic’:

Now a father may dispose of his inheritance to his children

at his pleasure: yea, even disinherit the eldest upon just
such occasions, and prefer the youngest according to his
liking; make them beggars or rich at his pleasure; restrain,
or banish out of his presence, as he finds them give cause of
offence, or restore them in favour again with the penitent
sinner. So may the king deal with his subjects.
And lastly, as for the head of the natural body, the head
has the power of directing all the members of the body
to that use which the judgement in the head thinks most
convenient. It may apply sharp cures, or cut off corrupt
members, let blood in what proportion it thinks fit, and as
the body may spare, but yet is all this power ordained by

The body politic is a biological metaphor for a state, which,

when healthy, is a functional monarchy. Multiple Jacobean
texts made use of such analogies, demonstrating just how
normative this conception of absolute monarchy had become.
For example, in A Comparative Discourse of the Bodies
Natural and Politique (1606), Edward Forset compares the
commonwealth to a hive or ship, but eventually decides that
comparing the state to the human body is more accurate,
because the monarch (acting as the body’s head and heart)

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regulates the entire commonwealth. James concludes his

speech by representing himself as the patriarch of a single-
parent family, insinuating that Parliament exists on a par with
the rest of the citizen body, beneath the king in power and
Absolutism aside, James was nonetheless sensitive to
the value of civic humanist and republican rhetoric as it
was revived by Renaissance humanists across Europe but
especially the Italians of the quattrocento. These ‘repub-
lican authors’ emphasized the virtues of patriotic sentiment
and civic involvement through counsel. James acknowledged
the need for a monarch to obey the law and to serve as an
example to his people. Moreover, he declared that a good king
should always listen to recognizably wise counsel and must
not surround himself with flatterers. James was prepared – at
least in theory – to consider the options of not only lesser
magistrates but the citizen body as well. In an attempt to
appropriate republican rhetoric towards monarchic ends,
James’s outward political persona advertised inclusivity and
explicitly stated that there was room for vigorous discussion
and negotiation among and within his relationship with his
subjects. He recognized the need for public places in which
political conversations among citizens could occur, such as
the theatre. For this reason, the politics of The Tempest
and plays like it are ambiguous, complex, intriguing and, at
times, mystifying. Performed in front of a royal audience,
they walked a fine line between seemingly opposite ways of
conceiving royal authority.
While orthodox theorists of the European Renaissance
claimed that monarchy was the only natural form of
government, proponents of limited monarchy argued in
support of a mixed constitution incorporating elements of
monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. There existed a tradi-
tional line of thought tracing back to the ancients in this regard.
Aristotle and Polybius (among others) considered monarchy
the most effective, least corruptible form of government, yet
they defended the ideal of a mixed constitution. Natural law

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 143

theorists, influenced by English-language texts such as John

Fortescue’s A Learned Commendation of the Politique Lawes
of England (published English translation 1567) and Thomas
Smith’s De Republica Anglorum (1583), argued that the prince’s
authority was and should be limited in significant ways. This
was not solely an English way of thinking. Independent of
nationality, religion or ideology, sixteenth-century French and
Italian writers such as Jean Bodin, François Hotman, Michel
de Montaigne, Niccolò Machiavelli, Baldassare Castiglione,
Pietro Aretino and Francesco Guicciardini articulated the
principles of limited monarchy by making distinctions
between tyranny and good governance by a legitimate and
benevolent monarch. Instead of insisting on the virtues of
democracy to oppose the defenders of absolutism (critics and
supporters of monarchy agreed that the democratic rule was
dangerous), Reformation-era writers on both sides of the
religious divide developed their own theories of resistance
in the face of hypothetical tyranny. Militant Catholics (for
instance, William Allen, Robert Persons and other Jesuits) and
Protestants (the monarchomachs Christopher Goodman, John
Knox, John Ponet, but also their more radical descendants
George Buchanan and Peter Wentworth) defended a subject’s
right to overthrow and perhaps even execute a monarch
who persecuted English citizens for their religious beliefs
and practices.10 Drawing largely from works like Tacitus’s
Histories and Annals, Lucan’s Pharsalia and Livy’s History
of Rome, these authors recovered and in some cases extended
a powerful rhetoric against absolute monarchy, which they
equated with tyranny. Classical texts that described the ways
improperly balanced constitutions spawned the horrors of
civil war informed Renaissance political theorists’ devel-
opment of a language of natural rights. They argued that
citizens were born with a right to autonomy and freedom in
cases of illegitimate or otherwise corrupt monarchies.
Although resistance theory was a central feature of many
early modern political and historical texts, not all writers inter-
ested in republicanism were opposed to monarchy. Historian

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Patrick Collinson has argued convincingly that the Elizabethan

polity inherited by James was a ‘monarchical republic’.11 It
was possible in the early modern period to be a royalist and
to identify oneself as a republican ‘commonwealth man’ – and
this may have been true nowhere more than in Elizabethan
and Jacobean England. Even if there were few writers who
outwardly advocated overthrowing the monarchy, many
aspired to a state liberty under the protection of a benign yet
functional government. A literature that looks enviously at
Ancient Greece and Rome, but also quattrocento Florence,
Milan and Naples, reflects this sense of early modern English
republican longing, even if such sentiment was couched in
idealization and a misbegotten sense of nostalgia.
Before the advent of a political thought centred on the
Italian conception of Reason of State (ragion di stato),12 the
language of politics in Renaissance Europe was predomi-
nantly ethical, with a focus on the principles of governance
rather than their pragmatic means of redress. Consistent
with this kind of understanding of political philosophy as
an investigation into ethics, Shakespeare’s drama largely
avoids a black-and-white view of politics.13 He was a political
philoso­pher, not a propagandist, meaning he was less inter-
ested in being an advocate or critic of governmental policies
than he was in analysing complex matters of national concern
and observing the human causes of social and political conflict.
How closely he read specific works of political philosophy is
a matter (mostly) of conjecture. Nonetheless, he was almost
certainly familiar with the most widely read works of classical
and contemporary political literature, and he probably read
a few major texts carefully.14 His tendency to make frequent
allusions to classical sources, combined with his reliance on
imaginative literature from various historical moments and
cultures for his plots, indicate that he had a wealth of material
on which to draw for his political themes and language. Virgil,
Plutarch, Ovid, Plautus, Terence and Livy were some of his
favourite authors; their work underlies many of his plays,
including Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, Antony

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 145

and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

and Timon of Athens, among others.
Classics aside, Shakespeare also seems to have read a
fair amount of contemporary political, philosophical and
historical literature. His interest in British history is known
from his close reading of Holinshed’s Chronicles (first edition
1577) and Edward Hall’s Union of the Two Noble and
Illustrious Families of Lancaster and York (first edition 1542),
the main sources of his English history plays of the 1590s.
Shakespeare’s career seems, in a broad sense, to have taken
him away from admiration for republican ideas and towards
an acceptance of absolutist ones.15 Whereas republican themes
receive mostly favourable treatment in earlier plays and
poems like Titus Andronicus and The Rape of Lucrece, works
like Julius Caesar, Measure for Measure, King Lear and
Coriolanus are more suspicious of republican government
and express a growing sense of comfort with the notion of
absolute sovereignty. Literary critics have speculated that
prior to 1603 Shakespeare was opposed to Stuart claims in the
succession debate.16 Once James proved himself a competent
king, according to this reading, Shakespeare moved past
resistant impulses that would have caused more harm than
good. Consistent with this position, the later plays concentrate
less on the problem of legitimacy than do his earlier works
and more on the ethical behaviour of the ruling authority. A
second way of explaining Shakespeare’s tendency to write plays
later in his career that discourage pro-republican readings is
that it would be surprising to find a successful Elizabethan or
early Jacobean playwright, especially a leading member of a
company supported by the Crown, explicitly calling for the
end of monarchy.
Despite this apparent drift towards the absolutist side of
the spectrum, Shakespeare’s drama demonstrates his and his
audience’s interest in the themes and problems described by
republican theorists.17 Specifically, this fascination with consti-
tutional questions is evident in the plays’ exploration of ethical
problems related to the issue of resistance and rebellion. His

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later plays persist in posing questions about royal prerogative

by experimenting with performances of tyranny (the abuse
of monarchical power), its controls and its remedies. The
Tempest is exactly this sort of play, despite, or perhaps because
of, the fact that it is fundamentally romantic, especially in its
ending. I wish to argue that the play’s all-too-tidy resolution
problematizes the traditional reading of the play as an essen-
tially absolutist work of literature, one that advocates for
sovereignty without boundaries in the form of a supreme,
quasi-divine ruler. A sceptical approach, one attentive to irony,
requires that we reconsider Prospero and his relationships with
others (his ‘subjects’) through the lens of political thought in
general and early modern discourses of utopia in particular.

Artistic productions of power

and authority
Prospero continues to be a controversial and confounding
character; it is difficult to know what to make of him
as a Renaissance ‘prince of power’ (1.2.55). A growing
ambivalence towards him has emerged from changes in the
relationships between audiences and the play’s supporting
characters, especially Caliban and Miranda, but also from a
shift in focus on the part of theatre companies and literary
critics. Prospero is the embodiment of the Platonic political
ideal, a ‘philosopher king’;18 he represents human striving
toward the divine through theatrical illusion, magic and
science;19 finally, he is a colonial dictator who embodies the
very worst of early modern British imperialism.20 A common
feature of these approaches is the notion that Prospero’s
identity is inextricably linked to his self-produced authority.
In Aimé Césaire’s postcolonial rewriting of the play, Prospero
offers his own testimonial: ‘I am power’.21
The Tempest famously explores issues of authority from
the start, with its sensational portrayal of a royal vessel

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 147

foundering at sea. The Italian courtiers accost the Boatswain

when he refuses to defer to them. In the face of their claims to
superiority, he orders them below deck because they impede
his efforts to overcome the storm, claiming that expertise is all
that matters in a crisis and authority is useless. Short of divine
intervention, it will be the only thing to save them:

Antonio Where is the master, boatswain?

Boatswain Do you not hear him? You mar our labour.
Keep your cabins! You do assist the storm.
Gonzalo Nay, good, be patient,
Boatswain When the sea is. Hence. What cares these
roarers for the name of king? To cabin!
Silence! Trouble us not.
Gonzalo Good, yet remember whom thou has aboard.
Boatswain None that I love more than myself. You
are a councillor; if you can command these
elements to silence, and work the peace of the
present, we will not hand a rope more. Use
your authority! (1.1.12–23)22

The Boatswain’s exasperated question, ‘What cares these

roarers for the name of the king?’, suggests the dominant
political motif of the play: the Italian state, represented
jointly by the allied regimes of Naples and Milan, is in
crisis, where monarchical authority and social hierarchy
have been rendered meaningless. In the Boatswain’s analogy,
the waves are like rebellious subjects who will not obey
legitimate sovereignty. Disorder – madness and ‘hell’ in
Ariel’s report (1.2.209, 15) – is a monarchy transformed into
something else. At first glance, the tempest promises that the
ensuing drama will explore the possibility of republican (if
not anarchic) remedies to monarchic inadequacy. How can
Aristotelian man, the political animal, survive in a world
without sovereignty?23
King Alonso’s vessel resonates with the metaphorical image
of the ‘ship of state’ depicted in Plato’s Republic, in which

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Socrates reveals a fundamental disparity between political

authority and agency:

Conceive the sailors to be wrangling with one another for

control of the helm, each claiming that it is his right to steer
though he has never learned the art and cannot point out his
teacher or any time when he studied it. […] After binding
and stupefying the worthy shipmaster with mandragora or
intoxication or otherwise, they take command of the ship
[and] […] make such a voyage of it as is to be expected
from such, and as if that were not enough, they praise and
celebrate as a navigator, a pilot, a master of shipcraft, the
man who is most cunning to lend a hand in persuading or
constraining the shipmaster to let them rule, while the man
who lacks this craft they censure as useless. They have no
suspicion that the true pilot must give his attention to the
time of year, the seasons, the sky, the winds, the stars, and
all that pertains to his art if he is to be a true ruler of a ship.
[…] With such goings-on aboard ship do you not think that
the real pilot would in very deed be called a star-gazer, an
idle babbler, a useless fellow?24

In Plato’s account of the pragmatics of a worldly politics it is

the sophists and flatterers, not the wise and the skilled, who
rule. In criticizing the political pretenders, Socrates’s prudential
outlook on political rule supposes that ‘art’ initially functions
independently from popular recognition and consent. The
‘true pilot’ of the ship steers a course by means of his own
learned expertise, as opposed to a fallible titular authority.
In the presence of true expertise, patience emerges as the
preeminent virtue. Socrates is saying that the ‘art’ of rule
anticipates power, which in turn produces true authority.
However, the play’s second scene invites reconsideration of
the superficial meaning of the tempest. Upon closer inspection,
Shakespeare’s invocation of the familiar ship of state topos
only seems on the surface to place monarchical authority in
question. In actuality, the tempest is not so much reflective

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 149

of a state of nature as it is a fabrication, a fiction, a work

of art. Prospero informs Miranda and the audience that he
has created the storm through his ‘strong bidding’ (1.2.192)
in order to restore himself as the rightful Duke of Milan.
Appearances aside, the storm is not a natural phenomenon
or an inexplicable event (an act of God or Fortune), a force
without a discernible cause. Rather, it is a human artefact,
and therefore something that can be rationally explained,
which Prospero takes pains to do. The Boatswain’s radical
stance, which resonates with Socrates’s account of expertise,
loses force when we realize that the tempest is the product
of Ariel’s labour, in service of his master. Prospero’s power
over Ariel is at once synonymous with and the product of
human art. It has been acquired through his prior indifference
to governance, not despite it. This is important because
Prospero demonstrates his supremacy in a technical sense:
he seizes an opportunity brought about by good fortune and
thus capitalizes on the virtue of patience. Authority can be
misrecognized, whereas true power is always perfectly cogent.
As we learn in Prospero’s lengthy exposition in Act 1 Scene
2, it was not always thus for the displaced Duke. In Milan he
was indifferent to the active life of politics (in Ancient Roman
parlance, negotium) and preferred a more scholarly, contem-
plative life (otium).25 His abdication benefitted neither him
nor his subjects and left the city vulnerable to a coup:

Prospero My brother, and thy uncle, called Antonio […]

[…] he whom next thyself
Of all the world I loved, and to him put
The manage of my state, as at that time
Through all the signories it was the first,
And Prospero the prime Duke, being so reputed
In dignity, and for the liberal arts
Without a parallel; those being all my study,
The government I cast upon my brother,
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies […]

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I thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated

To close and the bettering of my mind
With that which, but by being so retired,
O’er-prized all popular rate, in my false brother
Awaked an evil nature. (1.2.66–93)

The play’s central action, with Prospero as its executor, is

not simply revenge. The Tempest foregrounds the theme of
restoration against a backdrop of political disorder – although
‘disorder’ tends to be defined differently by different people.
Prospero’s studies seem to pay off in the sense that in the
present moment of the plot they inform his ‘potent art’.
This significant contrast between past and present must be
explored: why is the contemplative life, as opposed to the
active life of politics, useful on the island when before it
was not? What precisely has changed? Is it Prospero, the
world he inhabits, or perhaps both? In order to address these
questions, it is useful to turn to the text’s orientation to the
aforementioned discourses about absolute power vis-à-vis the
desire for liberty. In the readings that follow, I propose that
it is worth considering Prospero as a Machiavellian ‘prince
of power’ as opposed to merely an avatar of Plato’s utopian
philosopher king.

True Machiavellism: Utopia/dystopia

The Florentine writer Niccolò Machiavelli’s major political
work was a commentary on Roman historian Titus Livius
(Discourses on Livy) – even if The Prince (c. 1513), osten-
sibly a work of absolutist political philosophy, earned him
notoriety.26 Machiavelli embodies the ambiguities attached
to sovereignty, in the sense that his work seems to oscillate
between the competing values of republicanism and absolutism.
Elizabethan and Jacobean readers knew Machiavelli through
the French writer Innocent Gentillet, author of Contre

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 151

Machiavel (1576), which circulated widely in French from

the late 1570s onward. It is both a translation and a direct
refutation of Il Principe, even as it contains key passages from
The Discourses. Gentillet’s text, like Machiavelli’s reception in
a broad sense, is a hybrid, one that often betrays an uncom-
fortable sense of self-contradiction and paradox.27
Although The Prince’s general orientation is autocratic,
largely because it is a ‘mirror for princes’,28 the Machiavelli of
the Discourses is an advocate of oligarchical government that
often takes the form of a republic, which he argued was the
best and most stable form of political existence, even if it was
not necessarily sustainable.29 Whereas Gentillet’s refutation
in Contre Machiavel is more traditional in its adherence
to Christian humanist norms, Machiavellian realpolitik
maintains that the right thing to do is not always right for a
prince. His conception of human nature and his account of
the kinds of social interactions that characterize the world
are sceptical, pessimistic, and perhaps even amoral (according
to his critics). Gentillet’s conservative impulse is to return
to the familiar terrain mapped out by Cicero in De Officiis
(‘On Obligations’), with its core idea that moral virtue is the
dominant requirement for a ruler of any kind.30 In this sense,
The Prince is Machiavelli’s attempt, through his redefinition
of virtue as virtù, to correct the Ciceronian definition of
princely virtue.31
Despite Machiavelli’s negative description of human nature,
The Prince harbours a sense of political optimism, even if it is
often occluded by the text’s more shocking theatrical demon-
strations. First, if human nature is corrupt, the prince can
still bring order and glory to the nation (and himself) if he
is willing to accept some fundamental truths. For instance, a
prince ‘ought not to trust in the amitie of men’ because they
are ‘full of ingratitude, variable, dissemblers […] and covetous
of gain’.32 Any prince who ignores this fact is likely to be
victimized. For Machiavelli, a man of true virtù will never
be dominated by fortune. Virtù, when possessed by a ruler,
can permit a prince to attain the greatest glory regardless of

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circumstances and fortune. Machiavelli’s position is much less

providential in nature than the sometimes-fatalistic works
of antiquity. Second, the promise of a balanced or mixed
polity always remains on the horizon. The Prince is also a
republican text because in it Machiavelli conceives the state
in instrumental and practical terms amenable to dispassionate
or ‘scientific’ analysis. Every state must be able to change and
adapt, and all successful states need laws that will outlive
their makers. Moreover, key passages of The Prince convey
one of the central tenants of The Discourses: civic unrest and
political conflict are signs of health in a state. A certain amount
of tension between the popular desire for a distribution of
power across the states and autocratically imposed order and
individual expressions of the human libido dominandi (will
to power) is productive and good. Thus, autocratic rule can
serve to counterbalance the bureaucratic problems invited
by republican approaches to governance. In his own way,
Machiavelli’s ideal polity may have been organized around a
mixed constitution, one resembling a ‘monarchical republic’
or a ‘republican monarchy’.
A dialogue between Machiavelli and The Tempest emerges
when reading the play as an allegory about power in an
imperfect world. For Machiavelli, as for Plato, the ruler
of a polity must not only learn hard lessons about human
corruption, he must also put wisdom to use. The English
word tempest (derived from the Latin tempestas, the equiv-
alent of the Italian tempesta) means not only a storm marked
by great wind and rain but also a time, period or occasion.
For Machiavelli, this double meaning, although obscure in
English, opens up an array of intriguing hermeneutic and
poetic possibilities. Chapter 24 of The Prince, entitled ‘Why
the Princes of Italy Have Lost Their Kingdom’, is particu-
larly illustrative. Playing on the dual meanings of tempest by
setting up a parallel structure between fortune and tempest
(here synonymous with storm), he scolds all Italian rulers who
have lost possession of their respective kingdoms in recent

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 153

Therefore these princes of ours, who have been many

years in their princedoms, and then have lost them, should
not blame Fortune, but their own laziness. Never in good
weather having imagined there could be a change (it is a
common defect in men not to reckon, during a calm, on a
storm), when at last bad weather came, they thought only
of running away and not of defending themselves. (1:89)

Downward turns in fortune are inevitable for every prince.

The wise prince will recognize this inevitability and make the
necessary preparations for weathering the storm. In ‘Fortune’s
Power in Human Affairs and How She Can Be Forestalled’,
Machiavelli compares fortune to a raging river that can only
be overcome by a man of virtù. Virtù emerges as a term
synonymous with prudence or the ability to suit one’s actions
according to necessity and to adapt to contingency. A prince
of virtù must be morally flexible (adaptive) in order to weather
the storm of fickle fortune:

If, for one whose policy is caution and patience, times and
affairs circle about in such a way that his policy is good, he
continues to succeed; if times and affairs change, he falls,
because he does not change his way of proceeding. […]
Yet if he could change his nature with times and affairs,
Fortune would not change. (1:91)

Thus, to be a happy, secure Machiavellian prince is to be

fortunate, which is not at all an arbitrary condition but rather
an amalgamation of skill, will and luck.
As the ‘head’ of his own body politic, Prospero asserts
himself in Machiavellian ways when he deploys a specific tool of
self-legitimization: the art of rhetoric.33 The language Prospero
uses to describe the providential origins of his authority –
‘Fortune’ and ‘Destiny’ – indexes his own ability to reinforce
and propagate a sense of authority over others. Power is the
art used to control the world, but it is Machiavellian rhetoric
that enables the performance of divine ordination, a pillar in

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the edifice of absolute authority. The rules of ‘Machiavellian’

realpolitik are at work in the play’s conception of sovereignty
in that Prospero makes a dually pragmatic and theological
argument in defence of his authority on the island. His
expertise at rule is demonstrated primarily through power-
as-techne, whereas election (his ostensibly legitimate claim to
sovereignty) is manifested by the art of rhetorical description.
We need not be persuaded by Prospero’s attempts at
absolutist self-fashioning. The play invites us to wonder
whether or not Prospero (not Antonio, Alonso, or anyone
else) has the right to claim the title adopted by Antonio:
‘Absolute Milan’ (1.2.109). It is plausible to see Prospero as
at least an illegitimate ruler of the island, if not a usurper.
His rule on the island is legitimate only if one is inclined to
believe that political authority is garnered according to merit
(i.e. something to be earned) or else that ‘might makes right’.
Resistance against Prospero is performed in various ways
during the play by Antonio, Ferdinand (initially), but most of
all by Caliban, whose act of rebellion is informed by his own
claim of legitimacy as the rightful ‘king’ of the island. (Ariel,
for his part, betrays inklings of resistance but hesitates because
he senses that obedience is the better strategy.) Caliban derives
his claim to authority and ownership over the island from
his deceased mother, the witch Sycorax – as political inher-
itance by way of blood alone. The themes of resistance and
legitimacy began in a political dispute that started before the
action depicted in the play.

Caliban This island’s mine by Sycorax, my mother,

Which thou tak’st from me […]
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king; and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o’th’ island. (1.2.332–3, 342–5)

Caliban’s accusations of usurpation and enslavement are

potent, despite the fact that few Renaissance theorists

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 155

considered the claims of native populations seriously. Prospero

does not undertake to refute Caliban’s charges. He assumes
his authority and rules by virtue of his ability to do so. But
precisely for that reason the question of authority – on the
island or in any state – remains open. The play prompts the
audience to consider whose claim to the island is stronger,
Prospero’s or Caliban’s.
To be sceptical of Prospero is to acknowledge that his
authority is complicated by what the play itself depicts as his
suspect legitimacy. The play can be read as withholding its
full endorsement of Prospero as the rightful ruler of the island
through its sympathetic depiction of Caliban. Ironically, it is
Caliban’s stated desire to ‘people’ the island with Calibans
that offers the best solution to this problem of legitimacy, in
the sense that his and Miranda’s offspring would be products
of a dynastic union, an amalgamation of the native and the
European. This possibility is negated by Caliban’s attempt
to rape Miranda, if we believe the account of this moment
in history provided in the play’s second scene. The arrival of
Ferdinand on the island replaces this possibility of a more
legitimate state on the island, and in doing so, represents
an altogether different promise for the future. Miranda and
Ferdinand together have the potential to produce legitimate
heirs that would instead unify Italy – yet another theme
yoking the interests of the play to the Machiavellian world of
The Prince and the Discourses – and possibly leave Caliban
to rule over the island. The problem for Caliban is that even
if he remains on the island – which is not a given – he will
have no hope for an heir. The play’s silence on the topic of
Caliban’s fate, besides his declaration that he will seek wisdom
and ‘grace’ (5.1.296), reflects the possibility that the audience
might feel conflicted about Prospero’s power and sceptical
of his claim to authority. Caliban may well be a ‘villain’
(1.2.310) but his claim to the island through inheritance via
his mother Sycorax seems legitimate in a Jacobean context.
(James’s claim to the succession was made via not one but
two ‘mothers’: Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth.)

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Throughout the play, Prospero’s treatment of Caliban, which

includes torturous pinches and cramps, invites comparison
with the techniques used to extract confessions from those
accused of treason in early modern England. Moreover, it
is not out of the question to envision Caliban becoming the
kind of object of European fascination described by Trinculo
Caliban’s rebellion, which is supported by the drunken
fools Trinculo and Stephano, provides a counterbalance to
Prospero’s autocratic regime and offers room for specu-
lation that Prospero’s authority remains challengeable, even
if that project is portrayed as ridiculous. The rebels not
only recall the foolish sailors on Plato’s ship of state, they
also mirror Antonio and Sebastian’s attempts at usurpation,
albeit on a base level. The play’s setting on an unidentified
island of the imagination with competing elements of utopia
and dystopia further complicates Prospero’s legitimacy and
benevolence. The action unfolds on an island located on the
edge of the world as known to English audiences in 1610.
Shakespeare probably used William Strachey’s account of
a shipwreck in the Bermuda islands for his depiction of the
tempest itself. Extending the initial New World conceit,
Shakespeare integrates Renaissance thought about the relation
of Europeans to newly discovered lands and their native
populations. Utopia was supposedly a defining element of
New World societies, a standard item in European accounts
of native life in the Americas. If Shakespeare were looking
for accounts of New World natives, a useful source would
have been a book describing not only cannibals (Caliban’s
name, anagrammatized), but also primitive utopian politics.
Montaigne’s essay ‘Of the Caniballes’ (c. 1578–80) is exactly
this kind of literary source. In it, utopia is commensurate
with edenic innocence.34 For Montaigne, the New World
vision was a glimpse at Europe in embryo. Yet Caliban has
little in common with Montaigne’s natives. In Montaigne,
the Europeans are predatory and savage, not the natives.
Montaigne cites Plato’s Republic when he claims that if

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 157

European philosophers could see savage societies, they would

have to abandon their utopian fantasies, because the natives’
society outdoes Plato’s imagined one.
In a scene that quotes directly from John Florio’s trans-
lation of Montaigne’s essay (Act 2, Scene 1), Alonso’s advisor
Gonzalo speculates on the possibilities of establishing a
perfect, unspoiled government. His reflections, which attempt
to convey the conditions discoverable in an ideal society, are
consistent with early modern rehearsals of utopian motifs.
According to Gonzalo, all the imperfections of Renaissance
European civilization – from inequalities in wealth and the
grind of manual labour to the confusions of the law, land
inheritance, the falsehood of women, and most significantly,
given his own role, the layers of government – will disappear:

Gonzalo I’ th’ commonwealth I would by contraries

Execute all things: for no kind of traffic
Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard – none.
No use of metal, corn, or wine or oil.
No occupation, all men idle, all;
And women, too, but innocent and pure;
No sovereignty –
Sebastian Yet he would be king on’t.
Antonio The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the
Gonzalo All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavour; treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine
Would I not have; but nature should bring forth
Of it own kind all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people. (2.1.148–65)

Sebastian and Antonio point out a contradiction in Gonzalo’s

logic: he wants to impose a state of nature, meaning that he

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would ‘govern’ without the authority to do so, and without

the coercive force that would permit it. The paradox is that a
king would abolish sovereignty and yet still be able to maintain
order in his kingdom. Is there such a thing as sovereignty
without the practical application of power? Antonio and
Sebastian seem not to believe so. In the scene’s binary
opposition between cynics and idealist, the villains punctuate
(and thus puncture) the daydream with their sarcasm, which
is played for comedic effect. But there is deep truth in their
cynicism. Antonio correctly points out that power is always
quick to fill a vacuum, just as history shows that one should
never take the word of a man who declares that he does not
want to be king. Antonio and Sebastian provide a necessary
counterbalance to Gonzalo’s impractical political philosophy.
Their objections, grounded in their experience of the world,
point to the regressive nature of Gonzalo’s fantasy, just as they
demonstrate the naiveté of anyone who believes that we might
return to the Golden Age.
Given that Shakespeare places Montaigne’s words (as
translated by Florio) in Gonzalo’s mouth in this scene, it
resembles a debate between Montaigne and Machiavelli,
whose pragmatic cynicism in advice to the Medici in The
Prince informs Antonio and Sebastian’s worldview. Prospero’s
earlier account of Antonio’s usurpation indicates that he
sees, or wants others to see, his brother as a stereotypical
Machiavel who uses deception as a weapon in the quest for
power. Antonio, whose ‘falsehood in its contrary [was] as
great / As [Prospero’s] trust’ (1.2.95–6), is the type of person
that Gonzalo must expect to govern alongside as equals in his
utopia. The fact that Antonio is about to unleash a plot to
murder him is a hint that we should be attending to the irony
of this exchange. Thus Gonzalo emerges as something of a
satirical figure. The notion of Gonzalo as a utopian philos-
opher-king is highly amusing to the ‘Machiavellian’ cynics.
His aspiration of perfection as a ruler over such a rustic
island is a ridiculous pipe dream. Even worse, he is about to
make precisely the same sort of mistake that cost Prospero

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 159

his dukedom and nearly his life through crimes committed by

these same individuals. But the juxtaposition of political ideol-
ogies does not reflect entirely well on Sebastian and Antonio.
Whereas Gonzalo is naive and unrealistic, the wicked brothers
are ambitious and power-hungry. It is ironic that they fail to
realize the problematic aspects of the political philosophy
that they themselves represent. Sebastian and Antonio’s ideal
state resembles tyranny, a corrupt or illegitimate monarchy in
which power is invested in the hands of the unjust, and often
to the discontentment of the citizen body.
The island is also distinctly Mediterranean, and this builds
on the play’s simultaneously dystopian and utopian thematics.
Its Italian coordinates in particular signal that the political
thought of the play, which is simultaneously idealistic and
pragmatic (or romantic and realistic), feeds on antithetical
tension. All of the play’s named human characters, besides
Caliban, come from Italy; Prospero’s enemies are returning
home from a wedding in Tunisia; and the Mediterranean
topos resurfaces in multiple references to the ancient African
city of Carthage and Virgil’s Aeneid. Shakespeare may have
been influenced by works such as William Thomas’s Historie
of Italie (1549) and Geoffrey Fenton’s English translation of
Guicciardini’s Storia d’Italia (The Historie of Guicciardini
containing the warres of Italie and Other Partes [1579]). The
former includes an account of Prospero Adorno, a Milanese
officer who became Duke of Genoa, forged an alliance with
King Ferdinand of Naples, and was eventually banished.
Thomas describes republican Venice as the ideal common-
wealth, whereas Genoa, Florence and Milan oscillate between
states of tyranny and liberty, while Naples is the epitome of
tyranny, in contrast to the stability and freedom of Venice.
Thomas’s account of Naples describes civil wars, sedition
and tyranny in the reign of King Alfonso, in which Alfonso’s
own bastard son Ferdinand was involved. The themes of
political instability, tyranny and usurpation are central to
Guicciardini’s version of this history, as well. Although nomen-
clature provides good evidence that these texts should be

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considered possible sources of the play, more intriguing is the

probability that Shakespeare was attentive to Italian historical
texts in ways that stretch beyond Machiavellian intrigue and
dynastic melodrama. Rather, in reading such books, he would
have been able to contemplate, absorb, or formulate rebuttals
against a good deal of the political philosophy contained
within them.
Through Gonzalo, Shakespeare explicitly invokes the
idealist theme that is absent from Machiavelli’s political
science. Shakespeare is thus able to critique utopian political
philosophies for their incommensurability with the modern
world, even as he demonstrates the limits of the hyper-
Machiavellian form of self-interested cynicism represented
by Antonio and Sebastian. Like Prospero, whose life he once
saved, Gonzalo aspires to live up to the Christian virtues
that are dismissed (sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly,
through irony) by Machiavelli in The Prince. Gonzalo
embodies loyalty; on multiple occasions he gives voice to the
traditional belief in the importance of duty to one’s superiors.
Moreover, Prospero’s exposition shows Gonzalo to be a man
of compassion and mercy. Of course, compassion is not only
an empathy for others who feel pain, but the desire to actively
relieve that pain – in other words, to be a servant of justice.
By the end of the play Prospero seeks to create a regime as just
as possible in an effort to alleviate in some small way the sin
and human suffering that is a product of man’s depravity. But
in order to establish such a regime, he must first become the
Machiavellian prince. And so, Prospero must learn to govern
the men on the island, he supposes, in accordance with their
natures. Caliban, the slave, is not a figure that Gonzalo or
Montaigne would willingly acknowledge is necessary in the
ideal society. This is not the case for Prospero when he says of
Caliban, ‘But as ‘tis, we cannot miss him’ (1.2.310–11).
At first glance it might seem that Prospero’s Ciceronian
and Christian princely virtues – his compassion, his mercy,
and his desire to create a more just regime – disqualify him as
a Machiavellian prince of virtù. But it is important to realize

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 161

that it is precisely in this way that Prospero will earn glory.

In the Discourses, Machiavelli writes: ‘And truly, if a prince
seeks the glory of the world, he ought to desire to possess
a corrupt city – not to spoil it entirely as did Caesar but to
reorder it as did Romulus. And truly, the heavens cannot give
to men a greater opportunity for glory, nor can men desire any
greater’ (1:223). Prospero will acquire glory by establishing
a more just regime, by reforming an illegitimate Milanese
regime. He orders the government so that a just regime might
be possible, placing Miranda and Ferdinand as joint rulers,
enlightening the royal party to their own corruption, and
causing Stephano and Trinculo to see that they are not to be
trusted with rule. And so, even though Prospero promises to
forfeit his rule, he will have established himself as a glorious
prince of virtù – a great ruler who understood the opportunity
brought about by fortune and converted that opportunity not
only into the reestablishment of his rule but the establishment
of a new and virtuous order. At least, this is what he would
have his auditors believe.

‘Our revels now are ended’:

Scepticism and the end(s) of romance
If the tempest represents the destructive capacity of Prospero’s
art, then the Masque of Ceres in Act 4 – the play’s third
expansive illustration of his art (the second is the banquet
scene in Act 3) – epitomizes the beneficent, though no less
coercive, side of that power. Just as royal weddings were
Jacobean ‘matters of state’, the masque form is immersed in
princely power. With its movement from conflict to harmony,
the masque was as much the king’s form as the poet’s: it was
a celebration of his authority, an assertion of his private
will, and a theatrical realization of his sense of place in the
universe. The ceremony enacts and reinforces his ability
to direct Miranda, Ferdinand and the audience through

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exquisitely lifelike illusions. The power to bring Miranda and

Ferdinand together in a dynastic marriage is also what enables
Prospero to subject his enemies to his own personal sense of
mercy and justice. Only here in the calm of Act 4, the art that
raised the tempest and sent ominous apparitions to its victims
– enemies of the state, rebels, invaders, usurpers – adopts a
celebratory mode, despite the seriousness of its underlying
message. The masque invokes a myth in which the crucial act
of destruction is the rape of a daughter; it finds in the preser-
vation of virginity the promise of civilization and fecundity,
and it presents as its patroness of marriage not Hymen but
Juno, who symbolizes royal power. Miranda thus embodies
the extension of Prospero’s authority but only if, by remaining
a virgin, she serves as a suitable bride for the husband of his
choice. This is a deeply paternalistic vision, one that echoes
James’s own self-conception as a father figure. In the masque,
eros is exclusive of lust, which is reflected in the masque’s
omission of the natural cycle of winter. Ceres makes this one
of her gifts to the lovers: ‘Spring come to you at the farthest, /
In the very end of harvest’ (4.1.14–15). After autumn, spring
will return at once. At this point Prospero interrupts the
masque as he suddenly recognizes what is missing from the
‘revels’: violence, lust, death, and the director’s own sense of
the importance of the moment – time as a series of potential
crises to be negotiated. His imaginative creation makes him
forgetful of the realities of the world of action – everything
the masque excludes is now impending in the conspiracy
of Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo. The threat is less in the
conspiracy itself than in Prospero’s forgetfulness of it: this is
the first time he loses his awareness (but not control) of what
is happening. Just as in Act 2 Scene 1, utopian revelry proves
to be something beyond fanciful – it is dangerous.
Act 5 brings the political plot initiated by the tempest to
an entirely orderly, somewhat anticlimactic, and rather unset-
tling conclusion. Prospero hopes to rule (for an undetermined
amount of time) securely in Milan, insured by a legacy in
dynastic heirs, and looks forward to a life of otium. For

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He needs will be Absolute Milan 163

Prospero, the ending optimistically asserts that he can have his

cake and eat it too. It is nonetheless curious that he makes no
concrete arrangements to relinquish power – this is not a scene
of succession or a transition of power in the present moment.
There is room for doubt concerning whether Prospero’s sense
of restoration is plausible or even possible in the world of the
play. For, if Milanese politics are the same as they were when
he was deposed, his assumptions and intentions are naively
optimistic. If history is any indication, Milan and Italy will
remain constant in their inconsistency and susceptibility to
political crisis and civil unrest. Prospero seems to have learned
very little about human nature. It would be risky to try and
live by the virtues he espouses in the play’s final moments.
Forgiveness, mercy, and a willingness to relinquish the source
of one’s own coercive powers are noble qualities – the kinds
of qualities one hopes to find in any benevolent sovereign.
But such fine ideals have no place in quattrocento Italian,
English Jacobean, or twenty-first-century politics. Montaigne’s
contrast between the benign and limited evils of American
savages to the horrors of the French wars of religion is a
reminder that this is can be a dangerous way of thinking, and
not only for those who mean to rule. Prospero’s own ironic,
problematic anticipation of a ‘brave new world’ (5.1.183) is
itself a warning. For those who desire the freedom to give
up their art, there is nothing but fortune (or providence) to
protect them and their children (or subjects) from harm.
And so, despite its outwardly happy conclusion, the play
anxiously acknowledges that Prospero’s hopes may be dashed
in the not-too-distant future. Of course, there is another way
to interpret the ending while remaining sceptical of the play’s
superficial endorsement of Prospero’s romantic heroism: one
need not believe that Prospero himself fully subscribes to
what he is saying. Shakespeare provides multiple hints that
Prospero has achieved expertise in a Machiavellian brand of
rhetoric that seeks to cash in on the fact that people always
will be prone to believing that a prince is something he is not.
Sebastian and Antonio are still present at the end of the play,

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and there is nothing to indicate that they have been reformed.

They should not be and are not new to him, like to Miranda.
Prospero’s words of forgiveness suggest that his gesture is
rhetorical more than it is material. Given his silence, Antonio
may well recognize this. The play ends with a sense that the
world does indeed contain ‘goodly creatures’ like Alonso,
Gonzalo and Ferdinand, indicating that human nature is
in some ways ‘beauteous’ (5.1.183). But the same world is
also home to the likes of Antonio, Sebastian, Stephano and
Trinculo. Utopia can be a thing of beauty, and inventing one
can be a useful exercise that invites an author and her audience
to imagine a better world. But in the end, as Shakespeare, like
Machiavelli, knew, we must be willing to tell the truth about
power and politics – human nature is also a ‘thing of darkness’
(5.1.275) that we must acknowledge ours.
Prospero’s epilogue demonstrates that even the most
powerful people are forced to appeal to a higher authority
for freedom. We, the audience, are given the power to send
Prospero back to Milan, where he will (he hopes) found a
new Italian dynasty, like Aeneas and Machiavelli’s idealized
prince. The notion that liberty is unhappily but forever
married to power and authority in their various manifesta-
tions or constitutions was not necessarily a new idea in the age
of Machiavelli and Shakespeare. What was new and shocking
to many was the fact that this inconvenient truth might be
acknowledged and accepted by poets and political philoso-
phers alike.35 This development in the history of ideas, one
that predicted the advent of liberalism with its emphasis upon
the supreme virtue of individual freedom in the context of the
just state, is inextricably linked to the world portrayed in The
Tempest. Power and the authority it produces can function as
a means to this end of the just state but will never suffice as the
end itself. Without acknowledging that their value is limited,
how can we ever hope for the kind of liberty and freedom that
necessarily inhabits a just world?

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New Directions:
Shakespeare’s Revolution
– The Tempest as Scientific

Scott Maisano

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a scientific romance in

which The Complete Works of Shakespeare are simultane-
ously relegated to a ‘savage reservation’ and kept locked in a
vault in the World Controller’s office, took more than just its
title from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The seemingly futuristic
technique of subliminal sleep-teaching, or hypnopedia, comes
directly from Prospero, who makes his daughter fall asleep at
the snap of his fingers and pre-programmes her behaviour down
to the very moments when Miranda thinks she is rebelling.
Likewise the Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning of Huxley’s World
State, in which Delta children receive an electric shock and
hear a loud alarm as they attempt to touch a display of books
and flowers, only updates Shakespeare’s ‘banquet scene’ where
the shipwrecked crew are repelled from a sumptuous feast

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by the alarming sound of thunder and the electrical shock of

lightning as Ariel appears and the banquet vanishes. Huxley’s
book-hoarding dictator and the ‘Savage’ who protests this
tyrant’s denials of history derive from Shakespeare’s Prospero
supposedly far-future world is merely the analogue version of
– and lags light years behind – Prospero’s digital home enter-
tainment system, where flickering images or ‘spirits’, powered
purely by mental energy, dance, sing, and interact with the
audience before dissolving into thin air when Prospero’s
concentration is broken.1 The ultimate irony of Huxley’s
novel, then, is that Shakespeare has been excluded from the
very future he originally invented and engineered.
I claim that Shakespeare’s The Tempest is among the
earliest works of scientific romance. ‘Scientific romance’ is
what we call works of science fiction produced before the
term ‘science fiction’ became standard in the 1920s. Brian
Aldiss, Carl Freedman and other historians and theorists of
science fiction assert that the genre was born at the start of
the ‘industrial revolution’ when Mary Shelley imagined an
overreaching scientist – not a magician – fashioning a creature
with the capacity for human thought and feeling.2 Freedman
has observed that Frankenstein is ‘the first important work
of fiction to engage modern science seriously’.3 Freedman’s
emphasis on the centrality of ‘modern’ science in the novel
echoes the familiar refrain that science, not magic or devilry,
resulted in the creation of Frankenstein’s monster. But this
oft-rehearsed claim will not bear close scrutiny. What distin-
guishes Victor Frankenstein from his classmates, and makes
him superior even to his teachers, is not his serious engagement
with ‘modern science’, but his dangerous obsession with the
occult magic of the Renaissance: namely that of Cornelius
Agrippa and Paracelsus. Victor even describes himself as a
‘disciple’ to Agrippa and Paracelsus, knowing full well that
it ‘may appear strange that such should arise in the eight-
eenth century’, a century championed, by his least favourite

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 167

professor, as ‘this enlightened and scientific age’.4 Thus, what

Freedman calls ‘the first important work of fiction to engage
modern science seriously’ takes place not in the nineteenth
century, the time of its composition, but in the eighteenth; its
hero, moreover, regards Isaac Newton and his successors as
mere ‘tyros’ when compared to the pre-Baconian alchemists
and occultists who knew nothing about infinitesimal calculus
or universal gravitation but a great deal about laboratory
procedures, transmutation of matter, and even raising the
The simultaneous appearance of both magic and science
in the Shelley’s novel suggests that it is not the wholesale
replacement of the former by the latter but rather the interplay
and tension between these two ostensibly incompatible episte-
mologies that produces the characteristic frisson of the science
fiction genre.6 Even so, it might seem impossible to make the
case for Shakespeare’s The Tempest as a work of science fiction
if the genre requires the simultaneous presence of modern
science and some residual magic. After all, the Royal Society
and modern science did not exist when Shakespeare penned
his play; these things were, at the time, only a gleam in the eye
of King James’s future Solicitor General, Francis Bacon. John
the Savage in Huxley’s novel assumes that Shakespeare was
ignorant of the new science of his day. Indeed for the Savage,
Shakespeare is synonymous with magic:

The strange words rolled through his mind; rumbled, like

talking thunder; like the drums at the summer dances, if the
drums could have spoken; like the men singing the Corn
Song […] like old Mitsima saying magic over his feathers
and his carved sticks and his bits of bone and stone –
kiathla tsilu silokwe silokwe silokwe. Kiai silu silu, tsithl
– but better than Mitsima’s magic, because it meant more,
because it talked to him.7

When Mustapha Mond, the Controller of the World State,

mentions the word ‘science’, he only confuses John the Savage:

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‘Science? The Savage frowned. He knew the word. But what

it exactly signified he could not say. Shakespeare and the old
men of the pueblo had never mentioned science’.8 Where did
Aldous Huxley get the idea that Shakespeare, who was writing
at the exact same time as Galileo, Kepler and Francis Bacon,
knew nothing about science? The answer is from Shakespeare
scholars themselves who, from the time of Samuel Coleridge,
have identified Prospero, ‘a mighty wizard, whose potent art
could [conjure] […] spirits from the deep’, as ‘a portrait of
the bard [that is, Shakespeare] himself’.9 What can a wizard
know of science?

The great globe and our little life

On or about March 1610, human character, as much as the
heavens above it, changed. At least that is how John Donne’s
‘An Anatomy of the World: The First Anniversary’, published
in 1611, presents the situation. According to Donne, this
moment marked the extinction of an ancient and orderly
cosmos, in which the earth sat motionless at the core of a
series of concentric spheres, and the eruption of a mobbishly
modern universe, where the earth joined an ever-increasing
multitude of planets all jostling in an infinite homogeneous
space deprived of its erstwhile umbilical centre:

And new philosophy calls all in doubt,

The element of fire is quite put out;
The sun is lost, and the earth, and no man’s wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.
And freely men confess that this world’s spent,
When in the planets and the firmament
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.10

Literary historians, especially Shakespeare scholars, have

tended to take Donne at his word in making 1610 an epochal

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 169

year – the site of a ‘scientific revolution’ or ‘epistemic rupture’

– wherein the venerable and ancient Aristotelian-Ptolemaic
cosmology was dethroned by its Copernican-Galilean rival.
Copernicus himself had been dead for more than half a
century before his abstract, mathematical fictions became
a reality with the publication of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius
(The Starry Messenger) and its announcement that the new
technology of the telescope had revealed not only that the
surface of the Earth’s moon was rough and irregular, thus
overturning the Aristotelian tenet that the heavens consisted
of perfect and immutable spheres, but more importantly that
Jupiter also had a moon, or four, of its own. The discovery of
moving bodies or ‘planets’ in orbit about Jupiter implied that
Earth was not the fixed centre of Creation.
The ‘new philosophy’ of 1610, which called into question
both Aristotelian physics and Judeo-Christian metaphysics,
appears to have arrived a bit too late for Shakespeare’s
purposes. For better or worse, the story goes, Shakespeare
was on the eve of retirement in 1610 – indeed, he was already
spending more time on minor property disputes in Stratford
than on plays for the London stage – and so, despite being
born just two months after Galileo in 1564, none of his works
show any awareness of the ‘paradigm shift’ heralded by his
scientific contemporary.11 Thus our world, the modern world,
is believed to be separated from Shakespeare’s by a scientific
revolution. Marjorie Hope Nicolson’s study of seventeenth-
century literature and science, The Breaking of the Circle,
drew a hard line between Donne, who became a ‘modern’,
and his contemporary Shakespeare, who remained ‘medieval’,
in terms of scientific thinking:

Whether to Aristotle, to Augustine and Dante, or to

Shakespeare, change and decay had always been limited
to matter lying beneath the orb of the moon. The heavens,
the handiwork of God, were eternal and immutable. As
God had placed the stars in their constellations, so they
had remained, an abiding proof to man that there was

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something unchangeable and permanent in the universe.

[…] Man decays; that had long been a tenet of Christian
faith. The world decays: that too was orthodox enough.
But beyond the orb of the moon, there had been no decay,
no change, no alteration.12

In Nicolson’s literary history, Shakespeare’s philosophical

contemporaries were Aristotle, Augustine and Dante – all
of whom found in the perfectly spherical heavens an image
of God and eternity, the perfect circle that would endure
forever – but not John Donne, because Donne ‘was the first
to realize that’, even as he wrote his momentous poem in
1611, ‘the circle was breaking’.13 Nicolson goes on to note
how ‘Shakespeare ceased writing at the very time the “new
philosophy” called all in doubt to his contemporary poet’,
in 1610–11, before asking: ‘Was that […] mere coincidence,
or did Shakespeare […] deliberately retire to a simpler
life [away] from a world and universe that were growing
Admittedly, at first glance, Prospero – conjuring spirits,
attired with his cloak and staff – appears to be a relic, a
stage magician out of place amid what Donne hails as ‘new
philosophy’. But Prospero’s ‘revels speech’, the most famous
passage in the play and the source of so many readings of
Prospero as Shakespeare’s alter ego, turns out to say not
quite what we had thought and actually something almost
identical to John Donne’s 1611 ‘First Anniversary’ poem. In
what Stephen Greenblatt describes as ‘the air of a farewell, a
valediction to theatrical magic, a retirement’, I hear instead
an alchemist-cum-atomist’s theory of everything in which the
audience (both onstage and off) discovers that all perceptible
entities, from the outermost celestial sphere to our inmost
mental images, are composed of subtle, imperceptible, but
nonetheless physical ‘stuff’.15 Prospero’s vision of universal
decay or dissolution reaches, like Donne’s, far beyond the
orb of the moon and presents the heavens as anything but

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 171

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 [w]rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. (4.1.148–58)

The Arden edition glosses ‘the great globe itself’ as ‘the world,
though probably with a simultaneous reference to the Globe
playhouse for which Shakespeare wrote plays after 1599’; the
editors then explain the phrase ‘all which it inherit’ as ‘all
people who will subsequently live on earth and, perhaps also,
all who will perform in or attend (and possibly own) the Globe
[theatre]’.16 While there is no quarrelling with the secondary or
autobiographical significance of ‘the great globe itself’ – that
is, the metatheatrical allusion to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
– the editors, I suspect, have mistaken Prospero’s primary
referent. In the context of what Thomas Kuhn has described
as ‘the two-sphere universe’ – both Ptolemaic and Copernican
cosmologies represented the earth as a ‘tiny’ terrestrial sphere
around which rotated, or appeared to rotate, the ‘much larger’
celestial sphere of the fixed stars – Prospero’s ‘great globe’
does not refer to the ‘tiny’ earth but to the immense globe of
the heavens.17
As a self-proclaimed scholar of ‘the liberal arts’ – including
the quadrivial arts of geometry, astronomy, music and arith-
metic – Prospero, if he had not read Ptolemy or Copernicus
directly, could not have avoided studying Johannes de
Sacrobosco’s De Sphaera (c. 1230), the most widely used
textbook for astronomy courses at European universities for
more than 400 years, published in more than 200 editions
in the sixteenth century alone. Sacrobosco’s first chapter

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Figure 7.1 The Copernican cosmos in De revolvtionibvs orbium

coelestium, libri VI. Norimbergæ, Apud I. Petreium, 1543. By kind
permission of Boston Public Library, USA.

commences with a discussion of the geometrical properties

of spheres, describing both the earth and the universe as
spherical, and differentiating the lesser earthly sphere from its
greater ethereal counterpart. In Sacrobosco’s illustration of the
medieval cosmos, the earth appears as the smallest and most
irregular globe at the centre of a series of larger globes, or
spheres, of water, air, and fire, followed by the spheres of the
known planets, and finally the sphere of the fixed stars and the
primum mobile, or first cause of motion, the sphere of God.
It is impossible, while looking at Sacrobosco’s illustration, to
identify the earth as the ‘great globe itself’ when it is the not

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 173

Figure 7.2  The Ptolemaic cosmos in Johannes Sacrobosco’s Spherae

tractatvs, Venetia, 1531. By kind permission of Boston Public
Library, USA.

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only the smallest sphere but also the farthest from God; the
celestial sphere of fixed stars, by contrast, touches the primum
mobile at every point on its circumference.
Even astronomers who doubted the material reality of a
celestial sphere realized its necessity, as an imaginary geomet-
rical projection, for describing the position of visible planets
and stars in the night sky; in this capacity, the celestial sphere
as well as its materialization in the form of a celestial globe
proved essential for timekeeping as well as navigation at sea.
The most basic coordinate on an imaginary celestial sphere is
the ‘zenith’, the point in the sky directly above the head of an
earthbound observer. Prospero’s familiarity with the concept
of a celestial sphere, if not the construct of a celestial globe, is
evident from the moment he announces in the opening act: ‘by
my prescience / I find my zenith doth depend upon / A most
auspicious star’ (1.2.180–2).18 That ‘auspicious star’, I think,
is the planet (or wandering star) Jupiter, which moves through
the circuit of the zodiac and returns to its zenith over the
course of twelve years. Nandini Das, in notes to her edition of
Robert Greene’s 1585 astrological pamphlet Planetomachia,
explains how ‘In [early modern] astrology, Jupiter and the
Sun are frequently perceived as having similar effects and
signification […] Both celestial bodies are considered to be
temperately hot; however, Jupiter is considered the most
beneficial of the planets due to its moist nature, while the Sun
is hot and dry, therefore liable to have more negative effects’.
After keeping a close eye on the clockwork sky for 12 years,
Prospero informs Miranda: ‘the hour’s now come / The very
minute bids thee ope thine ear’ (1.2.36–7). An observational
astronomer like Prospero, who coordinates his political coup
with Jupiter’s orbital period, would not confuse or conflate the
tiny earth with the ‘great globe’ of heaven.
But interpreting Prospero’s ‘great globe itself’ as the earth
rather than the firmament is not exclusive to the Arden
edition – the Riverside, Norton, Signet Classic, Bedford/
St Martin’s, New Folger Library, and the New Cambridge
Shakespeare editions all concur with the Arden – nor is it a

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 175

minor or insignificant detail.19 In the first decade of the seven-

teenth century, there was no more innovative or controversial
approach to astronomy than the application of sublunary
physics to objects in the superlunary spheres, a method which
violated Aristotle’s age-old distinction between the muddy
non-luminous earth, where things die every second of every
day, and the heavens themselves, the image of eternity, where
the same bright stars return in the same constellations night
after night, for eons and eons.20 According to Aristotle, no
star had ever appeared or disappeared in the past nor would
any do so in the future. The only exception to this timeless
rule, according to Aristotle’s medieval interpreters, had been
the miraculous Star of Bethlehem.21 But the appearance of
two ‘new stars’ (what we now know as supernovae) in the
heavens in 1572 and 1604 respectively made it difficult
for contemporary astronomers to continue to believe in
an ontological distinction separating the four elements of
the ever-changing terrestrial sphere from a fifth element, a
‘quintessence’ of ‘aether’, that formed the eternal superlunary
celestial spheres. Contrary to the physics of Aristotle and the
metaphysics of Augustine and Dante, Prospero avers (after the
fashion of Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler and Galileo) that the
outermost sphere of the heavens is made of the same ‘stuff’
and subject to the same physical processes of generation,
mutation, corruption and decay as earthly matter.
My interpretation of ‘the great globe itself’ as heaven,
not earth, requires rethinking the verb ‘inherit’ in the same
passage. Again, however, the Arden footnote referring to
‘all people who will subsequently live on earth’ is consistent
with other editions of the play. The Riverside edition
paraphrases ‘which it inherit’ as ‘who occupy it’.22 In the
New Cambridge edition, David Lindley mentions ‘all those
who subsequently inhabit the earth’, as well as ‘the frequent
reference in the Old Testament to the Jews “inheriting” the
land of Israel, and Matthew 5.5. where “the meek shall
inherit the earth”’.23 These glosses might make more sense
if Prospero had referred to ‘all which shall inherit it’, thus

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indicating the futurity of said inheritance. Yet even if that

were the case, why should Prospero solemnly invoke the
future of a chosen people when they are destined, along
with everyone else, to ‘dissolve’ in the fullness of time? To
understand what it would mean for things to ‘inherit’ the
celestial globe, instead of people inheriting the terrestrial
globe, requires restoring the verb to the context of Prospero’s
speech. The Oxford English Dictionary cites this speech as
an early instance of the use of ‘stuff’ to mean ‘the substance
or “material” (whether corporeal or incorporeal) of which
a thing is formed or consists, or out of which a thing may
be fashioned’.24 With this sense of ‘stuff’ in mind, the most
consistent and plausible way to construe ‘inherit’ is not the
familiar interpersonal connotation – to receive property
from a parent or predecessor – but the more obscure,
contemporary sense of: ‘(a) to take possession, take up an
abode, dwell (obs); (b) to derive its being, or some quality,
from’.25 Indeed, the phrase ‘inherit heaven’ in the sense of
the first definition – ‘to take up an abode, dwell’ – appears
in a confirmed Shakespearean source, the anonymous Timon
comedy performed at the Inns of Court between 1601 and
1605, when Timon standing alone onstage pleads: ‘O holy
justice, / If thou inherit heaven, descend at once’.26
What undoubtedly ‘inherits’ the celestial globe are the
fixed stars and constellations: the same things that inhabit the
‘heavens’, the projecting roof, with painted signs of the zodiac
on its underside, visible to characters on the platform stage
and to spectators in the pit at the Globe Theatre. Prospero’s
‘the great globe itself / Yea, all which it inherits, shall dissolve’
could easily be delivered, if performed at the Globe, with
Prospero directing his gaze up to the ‘heavens’, just as Hamlet
does when speaking of ‘this brave o’erhanging firmament’.27
A better paraphrase of the speech, in this case, would be ‘the
celestial sphere’, the realm of the fixed stars, which Aristotle
held to be eternal and immutable, and everything dwelling
there will ‘dissolve’ in time – go into a solution, break apart,
cease to function as a coherent unit – just as the earth and all

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 177

its edifices will ‘crumble’, in the words of John Donne, to their

By ‘atomies’ Donne means ‘atoms’ and his lament calls
attention to the way in which the ‘new philosophy’ of the
seventeenth century threatened to resurrect an ancient, godless
theory of atomism whose earliest proponents, Leucippus
and Democritus, lived prior to Aristotle. Atomism, the idea
that everything on earth and in heaven comes into existence
through – and can be explained in terms of – the random
motion of tiny, invisible, physical particles of matter called
‘atoms’, was further developed in antiquity first by Epicurus,
a Greek philosopher contemporary with Aristotle, and then
by Lucretius, a Roman poet whose De Rerum Natura (‘On
the Nature of Things’) offered the most cogent and coherent
account of the philosophy. Epicurus’s extremely parsimonious
ontology reduced the four sublunary elements of Aristotle
– and, for good measure, the extraterrestrial quintessence
of aether – to differently shaped minimal particles called
atoms. These atoms are eternal but not ‘alive’ in any sense
of the word: they move through unoccupied space (void
or nothingness) without perception; they collide without
sensation; and they cohere in elaborate, albeit always tempo-
rally limited, configurations without any intention of doing
so. Those mortal configurations, unlike the eternal atoms
themselves, were often living, perceiving, sensing, willing and
dreaming beings of the most complex variety. Lucretius’s
poem was rediscovered in the late fifteenth century and then
increasingly printed, circulated and cited in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. In recent years a number of books,
including Catherine Wilson’s Epicureanism at the Origins of
Modernity and Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the
World Became Modern, have explored the paradox of how
ancient atomism’s revival made possible the ‘new philosophy’
of modernity. According to Wilson, ‘[the] material corpuscle
played a starring role in the scientific revolution of the
mid-seventeenth century. […] Yet, as the chemist Daniel
Sennert wonderingly pointed out in 1618, the doctrine of

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subdivisible particles was not new in his own time, and was
indeed older than Aristotle’.28 According to Greenblatt:

Like Lucretius, Galileo defended the oneness of the celestial

and terrestrial world: there was no essential difference, he
claimed, between the nature of the sun and the planets
and the nature of the earth and its inhabitants. […] Like
Lucretius, he sought […] a rational comprehension of the
hidden structures of all things. And like Lucretius, he was
convinced that these structures were by nature constituted
by what he called ‘minims’ or minimal particles, that is,
constituted by a limited repertory of atoms combined in
innumerable ways.29

For the speaker of Donne’s poem, ‘new philosophy’ made it

possible to remove Providence from the cosmos and to reduce
the heavens from an eternal empyrean (‘the element of fire’)
to mutable matter. Nothing was sacred and nothing, except
atoms, would last forever.
In the context of early modern atomism, Prospero’s speech
acquires added significance. Like Hamlet’s most famous
soliloquy, Prospero equates death with sleep; unlike the
Prince of Denmark, however, the Duke of Milan never worries
about what tortures await us in the afterlife, ‘what dreams
may come’ to disturb our peaceful slumber. Why not? The
answer, I think, lies partly in Prospero’s pronouncement that
‘We are such stuff / As dreams are made on’. Again ‘stuff’ is
the operative – and odd – word here. Common sense tells
us that dreams are exclusively mental phenomena; as such,
they are immaterial. But Lucretius, in the fourth book of
De Rerum Natura, teaches that dreams, like every other
sensation and perception we experience, are in fact the result
of aleatory atomic particles. In a metaphysics consisting only
of hyperkinetic atoms and nothingness, even the most rarefied
entities – mental images troubling our sleep – must arise from
and ultimately return to something thinner than air: invisible
and imperceptible particles of matter. The fact that all life

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 179

emerges from lifeless and infinitesimal atoms swirling through

an infinite void of space becomes the basis for ethical reform
in Lucretius’s Epicurean epic. No one should fear the prospect
of ‘eternal death’ because the eternity that follows from the
end of our life is no different from the eternity that preceded
it: in both cases, the transient atomic configurations that make
possible the sensitive, perceptive and rational creatures that
we are simply do not exist. The endless afterlife is merely a
return to endless pre-life; death, likewise, is ‘a return to sleep
and repose’.30 Prospero’s characterizations of ‘life’ as ‘little’
and death (or non-existence) as ‘sleep’ are so close to what we
find in Lucretius’s epic that his vision of the heavens dissolving
does not sound apocalyptic, à la Donne, but merely inevitable.
Even his description of the pageant as ‘insubstantial’ resonates
with ‘a complaint brought by one Brother Ximenes’, according
to Catherine Wilson, against Galileo: Ximenes accused Galileo
of teaching his students that ‘there is no such thing as the
substance of things, nor is there continuous quantity, but
everything is a discrete quantity and contains empty space’.31
Prospero’s revels speech carries the atomistic argument
even farther than Francis Bacon, whom Wilson calls the
‘first well-known English philosopher to defend the atomic
philosophy […] and to link it to the old alchemical ambition
of controlling natural processes’.32 Bacon concludes the third
and final edition of his Essays, published in 1625, with a short
Lucretian offering entitled ‘Of Vicissitude of Things’.33 In it,
Bacon proclaims that ‘matter is in perpetual flux, and never at
a stay’, before extending this doctrine of material mutability
from the natural world – which, according to Bacon, is remade
continually by earthquakes, floods and fires – to the realm of
spirit itself: ‘The greatest vicissitude of things amongst men,
is the vicissitude of sects and religions’. Just as lakes dry up,
and forests burn to ash, so, too, do faiths, metaphysics, and
visions of the afterlife eventually grow old and give way to
new ideas that thrive on their decay. Bacon, however, holds up
the celestial sphere as a singular image of constancy: ‘the fixed
stars ever stand at a like distance from one another, and never

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come nearer, together, nor go further asunder’. Elsewhere

Bacon acknowledges that the superlunary spheres had begun
to show signs of alteration in his lifetime, but knowing that
he could not pursue the implications of ‘new stars’ suddenly
appearing in the hitherto unchanging heavens in the confines
of a brief essay, he notes ‘[the] vicissitude of mutations in the
Superior Globe are no fit matter for this present argument’.
There is no question that by the ‘Superior Globe’ Bacon means
the universe – the heavens or, as the Oxford editor notes, ‘the
concentric spheres surrounding the earth’ – and there should
be little doubt that by ‘the great globe itself’ Prospero means
the same thing.34
Shakespeare’s contemporaries made a clear distinction
between the two globes: the lesser terrestrial globe and the
greater celestial globe. In 1576, for example, Thomas Digges,
the English Copernican, argued for an infinite universe in A
Perfit Description of the Celestial Orbs but still retained the
concept of a ‘great globe’ by insisting that ‘this orbe of stares
fixed infinitely up extendeth itself in altitude spherically’. In
fact, Digges uses the very same phrase as Prospero, only 35
years earlier, when he explains: ‘the Earth it self to be one of
the Planets, hauing his peculiar and strange courses turning
euery 24 houres round vpon his owne Centre: whereby the
Sun and great Globe of fixed starres seeme to sway about and
turne, albeit indeede they remaine fixed’.35 If Prospero has in
mind the infinite expansion of the celestial sphere in Digges’s
‘great Globe of fixed starres’, then his alliterative contrasting
of the ‘great globe’ with our ‘little life’ – both of which are
‘rounded’ and thus spherical – becomes almost incomprehen-
sibly sublime as the heavens become immeasurably ‘greater’
and our human dramas ever ‘littler’, tending asymptotically
toward atoms, in comparison.

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 181

Experimenting with spirits, or, atomic

‘It is comforting when winds are whipping up the waters of
the vast sea, to watch from land the severe trials of another
– Lucretius, De Rerum Natura36

‘Neither is that pleasure of small efficacy and contentment

to the mind of man, which the poet Lucretius describeth
elegantly. […] “It is a view of delight” (saith he) “to stand
or walk on the shore side, and to see a ship tossed with
tempest upon the sea”’.
– Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning,
Book One37

It is no accident that The Tempest begins with a dramatization

of what both Lucretius and Francis Bacon present as the ideal
of comfort and contentment – standing on solid ground and
observing others struggling at sea – nor that Prospero uses
the occasion to instruct his daughter to ‘Be collected’ and
‘have comfort’ (1.2.13, 25). The goal of atomistic philosophy,
according to both Epicurus and Lucretius, is to attain the
state of ataraxia or tranquillity of mind. Although Lucretius’s
Epicurean epic devotes most of its six books to explanations of
natural philosophy – ‘lest’, the poet counsels Memmius, ‘you
should suppose that earth and sun and sky, sea, stars, and
moon, by virtue of their divine body must endure eternally’38
– the point is not scientific knowledge per se but peace of
mind and the restoration of reason as a result of overcoming
both the fear of death and the belief that inscrutable gods
are responsible for meteorological phenomena, including
planetary motions, eclipses, thunderstorms and lightning.39
Prospero seems to have grasped the lesson: his conviction that
the ‘great globe’ will ‘melt’, ‘dissolve’ and ‘fade’ (4.1.153–5)
in no way diminishes the importance he ascribes to family

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(Miranda and Ferdinand), friendship (Gonzalo), or justice

(Caliban, Alonso, et alii).40 But why doesn’t Prospero spiral
into an existential dilemma or at the very least lose some sleep
over the notion that everything is destined, in the fullness of
time, to revert to nothing?
The answer to that question requires focusing not on
Lucretius’s most famous axiom (made even more famous by
Shakespeare’s King Lear) – ‘Nothing comes from nothing’
– but rather on its corollary: no being is ever completely
annihilated or reduced to utter nothingness. Yes, everything
eventually dissolves to its physical minima, atoms; but these
indestructible particles will ultimately recombine with others
to create new things and generate new lives. Indeed, after
the masque has ended and Prospero has announced that its
actors have ‘melted […] into thin air’, Shakespeare permits
the offstage spectators to see one of those spirit-actors, Ariel,
who tells Prospero (and us) that he ‘presented Ceres’ just
moments ago, still going about his business (4.1.167). When
actual beings ‘melt into air, into thin air’, they do not simply
cease to be; instead, they assume the potential to become.
For example, Prospero’s prime spirit, Ariel, has the ability
to ‘dive into the fire’, ‘tread the ooze of the salt deep’, ‘run
upon the sharp wind’ and undertake ‘business in the veins
of the earth’ (1.2.191, 253–5); in other words, Ariel mixes
indiscriminately with – and moves effortlessly across – the
four elements.
The verb ‘to fade’ appears twice in The Tempest, once in
Prospero’s ‘revels’ speech and once in the song Ariel sings to
Ferdinand about the supposedly drowned Alonso:

Full fathom five thy father lies.

Of his bones are coral made. [His bones ‘inherit’ coral]
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea nymphs hourly ring his bell. (1.2.397–403)

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 183

Bit by bit and piece by piece, the newly dead composite being
returns to its atomic constituents and, from there, gradually
rejoins the visible world in the form of countless new beings.41
These infinitesimal bits and invisible pieces, or corpuscles,
are what is real and eternal – like Ariel. In ‘Ariel and all his
quality’, Prospero has harnessed the power of the atom. Ariel’s
artificial imitation of ‘Jove’s lightning, the precursors / O’th’
dreadful thunderclaps’ (1.2.201–2) drives the King and Prince
to prayers, with the latter exclaiming, ‘Hell is empty, / And
all the devils are here’ (1.2.214–5). But Prospero’s subsequent
explanation – it is his own godlike command of the elements,
not divine displeasure, which has caused the storm – enables
Miranda, as well as the audience offstage, to recognize the
error involved in attributing supernatural significance to
atmospheric outbreaks.
Ariel’s name is, as the Arden editors point out, strikingly
similar to Uriel, ‘the name of an angel in the Jewish cabala
[… and] John Dee’s spirit communicant during his ill-fated
experiments with magic’.42 But Dee’s ‘spirit communicant’,
Uriel, was an archangel, from whom Dee’s ‘scryers’ took
dictation and for whom the magus himself exhibited, in
Deborah Harkness’s words, a ‘complete willingness to perform
any task [Uriel] set before him’.43 Thus, the relationship
between Dee and Uriel, a divine messenger sent from God, is
a complete reversal of the relationship between Prospero and
Ariel. When spoken ‘Ariel’ sounds like ‘aerial’, a word which
means ‘Dwelling, flying, or moving in the air’ and ‘Consisting
or composed of air […] associated with or having the nature
of air’.44 At the outset of De Rerum Natura, Lucretius, antici-
pating his readers’ scepticism of the claim that all perceptible
change is actually the result of invisible matter, makes an
analogy to the nature of air: ‘the wild wind [though unseen]
[…] whips the waves of the sea, capsizes huge ships, and sends
the clouds scudding; sometimes it swoops and sweeps across
the plains in tearing tornado, strewing them with great trees,
and hammers the heights of mountains with forest-splitting
blasts’.45 Lucretius’s account of the wind calls to mind not

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only Prospero’s curriculum vitae but his final command to

Ariel: ‘Then to the elements / Be free, and fare thou well!’
Atoms, not angels, properly inhabit the ‘elements’.
Elementa, the Latin root of ‘elements’, is the key word in
Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura. A Latin word Lucretius uses
as a synonym for the Greek ‘atom’, elementa also means ‘a
letter of the alphabet’. Lucretius takes great care in his epic
poem to explain how atoms are to the physical world as
individual letters are to the intellectual world: even though
individual letters (for example ‘L’, ‘M’, or ‘N’) are meaningless
in isolation, they nonetheless combine with other intrinsically
meaningless letters to form the words, sentences, paragraphs,
books, names, conversations and ideas that give our lives
meaning.46 Likewise, the atoms or physical elementa of the
natural world are invisible and imperceptible in isolation and
yet they combine to create every visible and perceptible entity
in the universe – from the ‘great globe itself’ to the involuntary
succession of mental images in a dream. ‘Elements’, Ariel’s
final destination at the end of the play, is also a keyword in
The Tempest. The Boatswain, for example, invites Gonzalo to
‘command these elements’ – the winds and waters – ‘to silence’
(1.1.21–2). Gonzalo cannot command the elements; Prospero,
however, can. Ariel later informs the shipwrecked crew that
‘the elements, / Of whom your swords are tempered […] are
now too massy for your strengths’ (3.3.60–7). It is as if Ariel
and his ‘fellow ministers’, at Prospero’s command, could
manipulate the atomic weights of iron, carbon, copper and
zinc which combine to make up the blades of steel and brass.
The Lucretian refusal to acknowledge anything but elementa
as eternal results in an almost Buddhist detachment from the
impermanence of things and the suffering they impart. This
same philosophical detachment, I submit, has been mistaken
by Stephen Greenblatt and others for ‘the air of a farewell […]
a retirement’ in Prospero’s ‘revels speech’. To talk of Prospero’s
‘farewell’ and ‘retirement’ here is premature. Far from retiring
in Act 4, Prospero is just gearing up for the most exciting parts
of his project, the quelling of Caliban’s insurrection and the

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 185

confrontation with his usurpers. Prospero does propose that

Miranda and Ferdinand ‘retire into my cell / And there repose’
(4.1.161–2), but he does not plan to lie down himself. As soon
as the two lovebirds are out of earshot Prospero springs into
action, commanding: ‘Come with a thought, I thank thee,
Ariel. Come!’ (4.1.164). If it is not a farewell, what kind of
speech act is this sketch of ‘our little life’ against the immense
backdrop of ‘the great globe itself’? What does Prospero hope
to accomplish by voicing these words to this couple at this
juncture? The Arden ‘Introduction’ explains how ‘Prospero
pretends to block Ferdinand’s courtship of Miranda’ but
in fact plans their betrothal ‘before they even meet’ (9–10).
What if Prospero, a proven master of reverse psychology,
similarly pretends to discourage the newly engaged couple
from indulging in premarital sex? Excusing himself on the
pretext of ‘weakness’ and ‘infirmity’, Prospero invites the
young lovers, who have just watched a masque about the
birds and the bees, to make use of his bed while he walks
once or twice around the island. Prospero is neither infirm nor
taking a leisurely stroll to clear his head. He is multitasking
like mad. Following the unceremonious ending to the wedding
masque, Prospero has improvised an epicurean epithalamium,
a Renaissance carpe diem lyric, for his daughter and soon-to-
be son-in-law. If Miranda and Ferdinand do have sex when
they ‘retire’ and ‘repose’, that would explain why Prospero
chooses to reveal the couple playing a game of chess. The
object of chess is to ‘mate’ one’s opponent: in the space of a
few hours, the Duke of Milan has effectively ‘mated’ the King
of Naples and made their two families into one.
All very provocative, some might say, but Ariel is not an
atom; he is ‘an airy spirit’. Interestingly, in England in 1610
the most vocal proponent of particle physics, Francis Bacon,
posited as the basic building blocks for all visible phenomena
neither ‘atoms’ nor ‘elements’ but ‘spirits’. Yes, spirits.
Graham Rees, who chastises other historians of science for
claiming that Bacon professed a belief in atomism, acknowl-
edges that Bacon ‘helped to make atomism palatable to the

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seventeenth-century virtuosi’ but only adopted the rhetoric

of atomism to advance his own ‘chemical philosophy’ and
‘pneumatic theory of matter’.47 Rather than atom and void,
Bacon divided the universe, as Rees explains, into ‘two
types of mutually convertible matter: the tangible and the
pneumatic’, the latter of which is ‘thoroughly corporeal [and
yet] weightless, invisible, and incorrigibly restless’.48 Sounds
like Ariel to me. Bacon’s seemingly idiosyncratic idea of spirits
as analogous, if not identical, to Lucretian atoms is actually
in keeping with a long line of natural philosophers, magicians
and alchemists, including but not limited to Marsilio Ficino,
Giovanni Battista della Porta, Giordano Bruno, and the
aforementioned favourites of Victor Frankenstein, Cornelius
Agrippa and Paracelsus.49

Miranda’s father, Frankenstein’s

Prospero is an experimental atomist who not only sees but
reaches into and manipulates the most miniscule, invisible
‘elements’ of nature in ways that are ahead of his time. And
ours. In his New Organon Bacon wrote: ‘Every natural action
depends on things infinitely small or at least too small to strike
the sense, [and] no one can hope to govern or change nature
until he has duly comprehended and observed them’.50 During
the first onstage conversation between Prospero and Caliban
in The Tempest, the magus threatens his slave: ‘For this, be
sure, tonight thou shalt have cramps, / […] thou shalt be
pinched / As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging /
Than bees that made ’em’ (1.2.326–31). The ‘honeycomb’ had
been an image of sweetness as far back as Proverbs and Psalms
and a term of endearment for English writers since Chaucer,
but Prospero’s usage emphasizes not sweetness but thickness.
What does it mean to be ‘pinched / As thick as honeycomb’?
The problem of how to squeeze the greatest number of

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 187

spheres, like cannonballs, into a limited space, such as the hold

of a ship, had led a couple of Shakespeare’s most mathemati-
cally minded contemporaries, Thomas Harriot and Johannes
Kepler, to speculate that bees’ honeycomb structures offer the
tightest possible configuration; it also led Harriot, though
not Kepler, to develop an atomic theory of matter in which
every visible being consisted of countless invisible particles.
Harriot never published his work on hexagonal close-packing
and Kepler only discussed the matter in a light-hearted,
albeit Latin, essay on ‘The Six-Cornered Snowflake’ printed
in Frankfurt am Main in 1611, the same year Shakespeare’s
The Tempest debuted on the English stage. But Prospero
recognizes and utilizes this principle of tessellation or discrete
geometry nonetheless. His ‘honeycomb’ is a model of mathe-
matical efficiency and physical compactness – its hexagonal
lattice allows for the highest density of sphere-packing within
a three-dimensional space – and, as such, it threatens Caliban
with the prospect of maximal pain: Prospero contrives to
torture his slave on a ‘cellular’ level. Although Shakespeare
did not live long enough to read Robert Hooke’s Micrografia,
published in 1665, in which Hooke announced his discovery
of biological cells, the smallest living units of an organism, the
playwright knew that the smallest unit of the ‘honeycomb’
is the closely compacted six-sided cell. This not-so-sweet
usage of the ‘honeycomb’, coupled with Caliban’s claim that
‘The spirit torments me!’ (2.2.63), gives new and menacing
meaning to the diminutive Ariel’s song: ‘Where the bee sucks,
there suck I’ (5.1.188).
Over the past quarter of a century Prospero has undergone
an interpretative sea-change. The magus whom a previous
generation of critics had identified with the soon-to-be-retired
Shakespeare has increasingly drawn comparisons to Francis
Bacon. Several examples will illustrate this trend. Stephen
Orgel, in his introduction to the 1987 Oxford edition, stressed
the presence of the ‘new science’ in the play: ‘Bacon promised,
as benefits deriving from the new philosophy, the power
to raise storms at will, to control the seasons, to accelerate

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germination and harvest: in this context, both the opening

scene and Prospero’s masque constitute a scientific fantasy,
marvellous, but not at all inconsistent with reason and virtue’.51
In 1996, Denise Albanese suggested that ‘The Tempest sketches
a problematic that comes to fulfillment [more than a decade
later] with Bacon’s New Atlantis’.52 In 2006, Gabriel Egan
argued that ‘although critics have tended to treat him as a
sorcerer, there is little shown to the audience that has to be
understood as magic’, adding that ‘Prospero’s apparent magic
represents human ingenuity at its peak, not supernature at
all’.53 In 2007, Jonathan Sawday suggested that ‘if any play by
Shakespeare should have been written by Francis Bacon it is,
surely, The Tempest, so Baconian are its concerns’.54 Finally, in
2009, Elizabeth Spiller concluded that through ‘his own shifting
attitudes toward the relationship between art and science,
nature and man, and power and knowledge, Prospero gives us
a history in small of the larger cultural transformation by which
Aristotelian philosophy would become Baconian science’.55
The present essay contributes to the trend toward a
Prospero engaged with ‘new science’. But what gives me pause
about this recent shift toward identifying Prospero’s agenda
with that of Bacon is that it too often results in a wholesale
disenchantment of the play. Egan, for example, deflates
Prospero’s abjuration speech – ‘Impressive as this catalogue
of tricks is, there seems little possibility that an audience will
take it seriously’ – and mocks his claim of raising the dead by
asking rhetorically: ‘Whose graves might Prospero be referring
to on this island?’56 Spiller, likewise, manages to write nearly
20 pages about ‘Prospero’s Art’ without a single mention of
Ariel. The assumption appears to be that linking the drama
to ‘early modern science’ means downplaying its allusions to
witchcraft and necromancy. But The Tempest is weird. Just
as ‘new world’ and ‘old world’ – Virginia and Virgil – make
strange bedfellows on Prospero’s island, so too do experi-
mental atomism and old-fashioned raising of the dead.
Just prior to renouncing his magic, Prospero lists all of the
accomplishments in which he has been abetted by the magical

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 189

creatures of the island, and he concludes with the provocative

announcement that ‘graves at my command / Have waked
their sleepers, oped, and let ’em forth’ (5.1.48–9). Prospero’s
claim to have raised the dead usually fails to raise so much
as an eyebrow among Shakespearean scholars, who quickly
point out that the ‘abjuration’ speech is a set piece borrowed
from Ovid’s Medea and should not be read too literally.
Besides, The Tempest, unlike Shakespeare’s other ‘Romances’,
observes the neo-classical unities of time and space: there is
no ‘unaccounted-for’ or ‘missing’ time in this play as there is
in The Winter’s Tale, where a gap of 16 years divides Acts 3
and 4, or in Cymbeline, where 1,600 years separates the two
locales of Roman Britain and Renaissance Rome. If graves
had opened and let their sleepers forth, we would have seen
it. Any attempt to integrate Prospero’s boast of black magic
into the narrative of the play, therefore, runs into an apparent
dead end. Where is the creature whom Prospero brought back
from the dead?
When Prospero first tells Miranda, his daughter, that he is
more than just her father, and ‘master’ of more than just this
‘full poor cell’ where they have lived together for 12 years,
her response is simply: ‘More to know / Did never meddle
with my thoughts’ (1.2.21–2). Translation: ‘I’ve never given it
a second thought because it never occurred to me that there
might be more to our story, father’. And yet Miranda’s very
next lines in the play – after Prospero has commanded her to
‘Sit down, / For thou must now know further’ (1.2.32–3) – are
directly at odds with her previous statement. Now she says:

You have often

Begun to tell me what I am, but stopped
And left me to a bootless inquisition,
Concluding, ‘Stay, not yet’. (1.2.33–6)

Translation: ‘We’re always having this conversation, dad,

and I’m always begging you to tell me more about who we
are and where we come from but you always insist that this

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isn’t the right time’. How might we explain or reconcile these

two consecutive statements by Miranda which appear to
contradict each other? The solution, I believe, lies in one other
command Prospero gives to his daughter, just before he orders
her to sit down. ‘Lend thy hand’, he says, ‘And pluck my
magic garment from me’ (1.2.24). The best way that I can see
to make sense of what appears to be a puzzling passage in the
text – Miranda claiming, one moment, never to think about
their life before coming to the island and then, in the very next
moment, claiming she has inquired ‘often’ about precisely this
matter – is to take note of an implicit stage direction. When
Prospero dons his ‘magic garment’, Miranda, so to speak,
loses her mind; when he doffs the robe, she regains cognitive
Little more than a somnambulist, who returns to sleep
at the snap of her father’s fingers, Miranda must struggle to
think for herself throughout the play. It is clear to us in the
audience that her experience of falling in love at first sight and
her most seemingly spontaneous questions are all predictably
‘provoked’ by Prospero, who never appears so content with
his daughter as when he is reassuring her, ‘I know thou
canst not choose’ (1.2.186). Moreover, Miranda confronts a
conspicuous memory lapse. Although she vaguely recalls the
scene from her infancy of ‘four or five women’ standing beside
her (1.2.47), Miranda has no recollection of the perilous
sea-journey she and her father undertook as a result of his

Prospero: If thou rememb’rest aught ere thou cam’st here,

How thou cam’st here thou mayst.
Miranda: But that I do not. (1.2.50–1)

Though one could ascribe such amnesia to the traumatic

nature of the episode itself, doesn’t Prospero’s relentless
interrogation, his incessant testing of Miranda’s memory,
hint at something more significant? And why else have
Miranda harp on her failure to recall the fateful trip: ‘O my

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 191

heart bleeds / To think o’ th’ teen that I have turned you to, /
Which is from my remembrance’ and ‘I not remembering how
I cried out then, / Will cry it over again’(1.2.63–5, 133–4).
Twice Shakespeare calls our attention to what appears to be
unaccounted-for time – first in the form of Miranda’s memory
lapse and then in Prospero’s declaration that he has raised the
dead – as if first posing the question at the start of the play and
supplying an answer at the end. Given the conditions under
which they travelled, on a rat-infested ‘rotten carcass of a butt’
(1.2.146), isn’t it just as likely that the infant Miranda died en
route to the island and that her bold ‘smile’ (1.2.153), which
Prospero says was ‘Infused with a fortitude from heaven’
(1.2.154), was merely the lifeless rictus of a chilly death at
sea? Perhaps the reason Prospero has ‘many times begun’ to
tell Miranda of her life – and just as many times broken off the
story – and the reason that Miranda recalls the part of her life
that she does – the part that Prospero has recounted frequently
over the course of 12 years, without ever heeding Miranda’s
wish, ‘Please you, farther’ (1.2.65) – is that his own daughter
is the creature he brought back from the grave. She is the first
‘Frankenstein monster’.
The ‘secret arts’ of raising the dead, which Shakespeare
shows as part of the mimetic stage action in Pericles, are
alluded to by Prospero as part of the diegetic story in The
Tempest.57 As the Arden editors explain, ‘The Tempest’s action
is elliptical, leaving readers and audiences to speculate about
events that happened before the play begins […] [and] attempt
to fill in the narrative gaps’.58 Supposing a prologue in which
Prospero, like Cerimon before him, reanimates a recently
deceased corpse arguably enhances Stephen Orgel’s psycho-
analytic claim that ‘Prospero, several times explicitly, presents
himself as incorporating [Miranda], acting as both father and
mother to [her], and in one extraordinary passage describes
the voyage to the island as a birth fantasy’; extends Ann
Thompson’s feminist observation that ‘apart from Miranda
herself, the only females in the First Folio’s list of “Names of
the Actors” are Iris, Ceres, Juno and the Nymphs, all of whom

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are spirits’; and complements John Bender’s new historicist

observation that The Tempest ‘was tried out at a public
theatre’ on Halloween night, when the line between living
and dead is traditionally blurred.59 More valuable than the
establishment of any critical consensus, however, are the new
opportunities for making sense of erstwhile puzzling passages.
Why, for example, does Prospero have Ceres risk spoiling the
mood of the wedding masque by lamenting how ‘dusky Dis
my daughter got’ (4.1.89)? Ceres’s daughter, Proserpina, is
notorious for having been brought back from the dead. Does
this explain why the fresh young nymphs are joined in their
dancing by ‘certain Reapers, properly habited’ ( Is
there a whiff of ‘open graves’ about this play-within-the-play?
Has Prospero, like Hamlet before him, carefully crafted the
material of his dramatic entertainment in order to probe the
memories and to witness the reactions of one of its audience
members? Does Prospero still wonder what precisely Miranda
remembers of their fateful journey to the island? Admittedly,
such a conjecture will be less compelling than, say, my more
painstakingly evidentiary approach to ‘the great globe itself’.
Such a supposition will fail to convince some readers of its
substantive and logical plausibility. But not supposing or
speculating about Prospero’s magical fait accompli means
not taking Prospero at his word. It also risks diminishing the
potency of Prospero’s magical prowess and, consequently, the
importance we ascribe to its ultimate surrender.

Coda: The scientific revolution

comes un-Donne
In ‘An Anatomy of the World’ John Donne invented the
‘scientific revolution’ as it was described for most of the
twentieth century in the works of Alexander Koyré, Thomas
Kuhn, Michel Foucault and others: a momentous ‘paradigm
shift’ or ‘epistemic rupture’ in which all the meaningful

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Shakespeare’s Revolution 193

elements of an old worldview (medieval/magical/analogical/

geocentric) are superseded by a totally new worldview
(modern/mechanical/analytical/heliocentric) as the result of
some singular game-changing discovery. According to this
model of historical change in which one totalizing system
or mode of thought is replaced by an equally totalizing
alternative, the old celestial orbs ‘crumble’ beneath the new
Copernican cosmology; the old gods and angels are ‘lost’
in the new infinite universe; the old astrology and belief
in planetary influences are ‘called in doubt’ by Kepler and
Galileo’s new physical astronomy; and the old alchemists’
fire is ‘quite put out’ by Robert Boyle’s chemistry and Isaac
Newton’s new physics. But that is not what happens. Instead,
Copernicus keeps the celestial orbs, including the outermost
sphere or ‘great globe’ of fixed stars; Copernicans prove to
be the most ardent adherents to the belief in stellar ‘influ-
ences’; Digges’s infinite universe retains a ‘court of celestial
angels, devoid of grief and replenished with perfect endless
joy’; Kepler and Galileo both practise astrology as well as
astronomy; Boyle and Newton each continue to tend, however
secretively, to the old alchemical flame; and romance still
resonates in the ‘brave new world’ of science. Steven Shapin
wrote in 1996, ‘[t]here was no such thing as the Scientific
Revolution’; Lorraine Daston and Katherine Park concluded,
in 2006, ‘[t]he cumulative force of the scholarship since the
1980s has been to insert skeptical question marks after every
word of this ringing three-word phrase, including the definite
What can a wizard know of science? Once we accept that
there was no wholesale replacement of magic by science in the
seventeenth century and that no hard line can be drawn ‘in or
about 1610’ to separate medieval thinking from modernity,
the answer is an awful lot. Prospero’s ‘our revels now are
ended’ speech has traditionally been read as containing ‘a
certain tinge of visionary melancholy’, as if Shakespeare was
‘saying farewell to a whole region of the human imagination
[…] to magic and all its ways’.61 But The Tempest seamlessly

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weaves together modern science with medieval romance. In

his last solo play, Shakespeare does not write against the fact
of the new science, in the style of Donne’s ‘An Anatomy of
the World’, nor even about it, in the style of Ben Jonson’s
masques; instead, Shakespeare writes with the new science –
fictionalizing its discourses and discoveries by scrubbing them
of their original circumstances and situations and inserting
them into a magical world of his own making – at once prefig-
uring and launching the genre of scientific romance.

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‘volumes that / I prize’:
Resources for Studying
and Teaching The Tempest

N. Amos Rothschild

This chapter surveys resources for approaching The Tempest

– resources to assist the student or scholar in interpreting the
play, and resources to aid the instructor in presenting it. I
begin with an account of the various editions of Shakespeare’s
text, assessing the contexts in which each would be most
useful, before proceeding to an overview of resources available
online. Next, this chapter details a number of lenses that might
lend focus to classroom discussion or written analysis of The
Tempest: social hierarchies and politics; travel, geography,
and colonialism; gender, sexuality, and marriage; music and
masque; and magic and education. In elaborating each of
these lenses, I highlight relevant works of criticism, as well
as specific late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century texts
that will help students to explore and teachers to present
the variety of early modern discourses that shaped The
Tempest and were shaped by it. The chapter concludes with

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an annotated bibliography structured to complement the

preceding discussion of critical and pedagogical approaches
to the play.

A survey of selected editions

The three major one-volume editions of Shakespeare’s works
require little introduction. The Riverside Shakespeare (edited
by G. Blackmore Evans, 1974), The Complete Works of
Shakespeare (edited by David Bevington, 1980), and The
Norton Shakespeare (edited by Stephen Greenblatt, Walter
Cohen, Jean Howard and Katharine Eisaman Maus, 1996)
are all more than adequate for classroom use, particularly in
Shakespeare survey courses. Each volume has its particular
quirks. Unrevised since 1997, the Riverside often adopts
traditional critical approaches to the plays. Hallett Smith’s
introduction to The Tempest, for instance, discusses various
oppositions that might be seen as ‘major themes’ of the play:
the natural and the supernatural, reality and illusion, servitude
and freedom, personal power and providence (1657–8).
By contrast, The Complete Works and the Norton offer
introductions informed by new historicist, postcolonial and
feminist approaches: thus, the oppositions Smith identifies
as themes, Bevington understands as Shakespeare’s effort
to ‘invite consideration of many unsettling questions about
exploration, colonialist empire building, and sexual imperi-
alism’ by ‘dramatizing […] conflict[s] without taking sides’
(1572) – a view Greenblatt seconds in his introduction to the
play (3060–1). It is matters of formatting and readability,
however, that leads me to prefer the Norton to its competitors
as a teaching text. While both the Riverside and Bevington’s
Complete Works present the plays according to divisions
of genre deriving from the First Folio, the Norton follows
the Oxford editors in presenting the plays and poems in a
reconstructed chronological order, thereby offering a glimpse

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‘ volumes that / I prize’ 197

of what Greenblatt calls ‘The Shakespearean Trajectory’

(56–9). Moreover, I have found that students appreciate the
user-friendly page layout of the Norton. Each page contains
only one column of lines, with textual glosses in the right-
hand margin and longer notes below. The Riverside and The
Complete Works, on the other hand, fit two columns of text
on each page, leaving both longer notes and glosses somewhat
less accessible at the bottom of the page.
Of course, given their price and heft, these one-volume
editions of Shakespeare’s works are not always desirable.
Among single-play editions of The Tempest, the Arden third
series stands apart. Edited by literary scholar Virginia Mason
Vaughan and historian Alden T. Vaughan, this volume provides
a comprehensive introduction analysing the play’s genesis,
genre, structure, music, language and characters, along with
accounts of its early performance history, its domestic and
colonial contexts, and its ‘afterlife’ across four centuries. In
the main text, excellent glossarial notes and commentary
point the way to sources, contextual documents and critical
arguments relevant to a given line’s interpretative possibilities,
while a second set of notes records textual variants from
the previous editions (as in all plays in the Arden series).
Appendices include selections from source texts (Strachey’s
A True Reportory and Montaigne’s ‘Of the Caniballes’)
and appropriations (Browning’s ‘Caliban on Setebos’, Rodó’s
Ariel, and Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban). In fact, in the
revised edition (2011), the Arden editors revisit the issue of
The Tempest’s sources and extend their account of the play’s
performance history, surveying important recent productions
such as Janice Honeyman’s RSC Tempest in Cape Town
(2009) and Julie Taymor’s film adaptation (2010), starring
Helen Mirren as Prospera. Overall, the Arden Tempest is the
clear choice for scholarly work and graduate-level study.
Those in search of an alternative scholarly edition might
consult either Stephen Orgel’s Tempest from the Oxford
Shakespeare series or the New Cambridge Tempest, edited by
David Lindley. Orgel’s 1987 edition was reprinted, unrevised,

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in 2008. As such, certain sections of his excellent introduction

– most obviously the illustrated stage history (64–87) – are no
longer current, though his thorough notes and commentary
on the playtext remain hard to beat. Happily, emphasis on
performance history (and an insistence on the mutual inter-
pretative value of stage performance and literary criticism)
is a strength of Lindley’s Tempest. Indeed, appendices on
performing the play’s songs and on casting choices redouble
Lindley’s concentration on production. A revised version of
his 2002 edition was published in 2013.
In keeping with the approach of Cambridge University
Press’s Shakespeare in Production series, Christine
Dymkowski’s Tempest forgoes textual glosses, instead offering
lengthy notes on the multifarious ways in which each line and
silence in Shakespeare’s text has been interpreted and reinter-
preted on stage over the past four hundred years. This focus
makes Dymkowski’s edition unsuited for the undergraduate
classroom but potentially invaluable for directors, actors
and scholars interested in the play’s performance history.
Dymkowski (understandably) limits the scope of her project
to productions of The Tempest itself, excluding the many
adaptations and appropriations of the play – a subject on
which the researcher will likely find the Arden edition more
As one might expect, the strength of Peter Hulme and
William Sherman’s Norton Critical Tempest is its supporting
material. A section dedicated to sources and contexts includes
documents on magic and witchcraft (from Ovid, but also from
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Reginald Scott and William
Biddulph), politics and religion (Samuel Purchas and Gabriel
Naudé), and geography and travel (Montaigne, Strachey,
and five excerpts from early modern travel documents). The
volume also offers an extensive compilation of reprinted
criticism both old (Dryden, Coleridge and Henry James) and
relatively new (Orgel, Hulme, Gurr, Marcus and others),
as well as an equally impressive selection of excerpts from
theatrical, filmic and literary ‘rewritings and appropriations’

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‘ volumes that / I prize’ 199

(301–50). While some undergraduates have, in my experience,

been overwhelmed by the sheer array of material available in
this edition, the contextual cultural materials make it a solid
choice for the upper-level student.
Bedford/St Martin’s The Tempest: A Case Study in Critical
Controversy, edited by Gerald Graff and James Phelan,
has much to offer both the classroom instructor and the
individual researcher. The playtext and notes are reprinted
from Bevington’s complete works. Graff and Phelan’s real
contribution is the second part of the volume, which provides
not only the usual array of source texts and contextual
documents, but also an impressive assortment of important
essays arranged as critical camps in argument with one
another: traditional old historical and new critical approaches,
postcolonial challenges, and feminist reexaminations. These
essays – including work by Frank Kermode, Reuben Brower,
Leah Marcus, Paul Brown, Francis Barker and Peter Hulme,
Deborah Willis, David Scott Kastan, Meredith Anne Skura,
Ania Loomba and Ann Thompson – serve as an excellent intro-
duction to evolving critical conversations about Shakespeare’s
play for students and scholars alike.
A number of smaller, teaching editions of The Tempest
are also available, many of them exceptionally well suited
for beginning students. The Signet Classic edition, edited by
Robert Langbaum, offers an introductory overview, including
a brief biography, a glance at the authorship controversy, a
summary account of early modern theatrical conventions,
and some useful notes on Shakespeare’s dramatic language. It
also contains more supporting material than similar editions,
including excerpts from source texts and a selection of critical
writings ranging from Coleridge to E. M. W. Tillyard to
Greenblatt. The Pelican edition lacks the Signet’s sections on
source material and critical commentary, but Peter Holland
provides a clear and concise introduction to both the play and
‘The Theatrical World’ of early modern England (vii–xxii).
That said, perhaps my favourite of these introductory-level
editions is the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Tempest, edited

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by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine. Like all volumes in the

New Folger Library series, this edition provides an account of
Shakespeare’s language (with examples tailored to the text at
hand), a biography, a description of early modern theatres, a
section on the publication of Shakespeare’s plays, and an expla-
nation of editorial principles observed. Most useful from a
teaching perspective, explanatory notes on the playtext appear
on left-facing pages, allowing the editors space to supplement
their commentary with an impressive array of relevant images
from Tudor-Stuart cultural documents. Following the text,
Mowat also contributes a particularly accessible ‘Modern
Perspective’ on the play (185–99). The volume closes with a
short annotated bibliography of classic criticism and a ‘Key to
Famous Lines and Phrases’ (217–8).
Finally, two recent versions of The Tempest showcase the
ways in which digital humanities initiatives are redefining
what constitutes an edition in the first place. Brent Whitted
and Paul Yachnin’s digital edition of the play, published and
hosted by the University of Victoria’s Internet Shakespeare
Editions (, might just as well
have appeared in the next section of this chapter.1 Whitted
and Yachnin have composed a scholarly introduction
addressing the play’s origins, genre, themes, characters,
critical reception and performance history that would not be
out of place in an accomplished print edition; however, there
most similarities end. First, the editors are able to offer both
a modern spelling and an early modern spelling version of
the playtext, each fully searchable with pop-up, hyperlinked
notes. Furthermore, they provide links to no fewer than five
facsimile texts, two different First Folios and one each of the
Second, Third and Fourth Folios. A section of the ISE site
entitled ‘Shakespeare’s Life and Times’ – subjects include the
unities in The Tempest, Prospero and Shakespeare, Caliban
and colonization, the young lovers, special effects, music,
and masques – complements and expands on material
covered in the introduction. The edition’s digital medium
also allows the editors and site managers to continually

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‘ volumes that / I prize’ 201

update sections entitled ‘Performances’ and ‘Performance

Materials’; thus, while the playtexts were edited in 2006, as
of mid–2013, the most recent performance listed was also
in 2013. Luminary Digital Media’s The Tempest for IPad,
created by Elliott Visconsi and Katherine Rowe, pushes the
possibilities of the digital edition even further. This app
relies on the Folger edition for its playtext, but lines are not
just fully searchable, users can also take notes, select and
store passages for later analysis, and share their questions
and commentary via social media platforms. A linked full-
length audio performance by Actors From the London Stage
ensures that any passage may be listened to aloud; indeed,
several key selections offer multiple, alternative audio
performances. Moreover, a partnership with the Folger
Shakespeare Library furnishes an outstanding selection of
relevant illustrations, podcasts and video clips. Perhaps most
impressive, the app offers extensive commentary from a host
of leading Shakespeare scholars on passages throughout the

A glance at online resources

Some of the best online resources on Shakespeare’s plays and
poems are available through the Folger Shakespeare Library’s
website. The site’s pedagogical component (accessed via the
‘Teach and Learn’ tab) includes more than a dozen lesson plans
for The Tempest designed primarily for middle and high school
students, a podcast discussing the relevance of the wreck of
the Sea Venture to Shakespeare’s play, digital facsimiles of the
play as it appears in two different copies of the First Folio, and
much more. An incredible ‘Primary Sources Archive’ provides
links to gorgeous, classroom-ready images of relevant source
and contextual documents for each of Shakespeare’s plays –
fourteen links for The Tempest alone. Each document has its
own page complete with a general description and suggestions

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for uses in the classroom. Furthermore, ‘The Tempest Photo

Gallery’ in the Folger’s Digital Image Collection (accessible
online via LUNA Insight at includes 430
high-resolution illustrations, costume designs, photographs,
and screenshots from historical editions and productions of
the play both old and recent.
Another useful resource is Norton Literature Online (www., a companion site for The Norton
Shakespeare accessible with a registration code printed on
that text’s second page. The Tempest is one of six plays for
which Norton has designed a ‘Workshop’. This impressive
multimedia sub-site includes nine topics – the New World,
Caliban, Language, Music, Love, Ariel, Metadrama, Masques,
and Magic – to facilitate analysis of the play, each with its
own page containing an introductory description with images
from early modern contextual documents and significant
historical productions, ‘Questions for Discussion, Writing,
and Research’, and suggestions for further reading. The
workshop also offers pages on source texts, theatrical recep-
tions and critical receptions, as well as a select bibliography.
Throughout the workshop site, discussions of scenes in the
play are hyperlinked to the relevant lines in a digital version
of Norton’s playtext – itself a potentially useful resource
for in-class projection. Finally, tabs entitled ‘Shakespeare’s
Songbook’ and ‘Audio/Video Resources’ offer a handful of
Tempest-related recordings and clips.
MIT’s Global Shakespeares Video and Performance Archive
( provides an even richer resource
for such media. The site offers online access to films and
recorded performances involving Shakespeare from all over
the world on the conviction that demonstrating ‘the diversity
of the world-wide reception and production of Shakespeare’s
plays […] will nourish the remarkable array of new forms of
cultural exchange that the digital age has made possible’. As
such, the archive is continually growing. When I visited the
site, it claimed a catalogue of ‘more than 397 productions, 75
video clips, and online videos of over 30 full productions’;2

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‘ volumes that / I prize’ 203

I located 25 listed productions related to The Tempest, nine

with video footage available in seven different languages –
including English, French, Arabic, Mandarin, Korean, Italian
and Malayalam.
When it comes to online video content, no resource trumps The site offers a veritable cornucopia of clips
from recorded theatrical productions and filmic interpretations
of The Tempest. While the quality of such clips varies widely,
it is possible to find and (with the help of easily acquired
software) to download invaluable material for classroom use.
Scenes and trailers are readily available from films such as Fred
Wilcox’s 1956 science fiction adaptation Forbidden Planet,
Derek Jarman’s avant-garde film version of the play (1979),
Peter Greenaway’s experimental Prospero’s Books (1991),
Julie Taymor’s recent star-studded Tempest (2010), and many
Lastly, it is worth mentioning some of the online study
guides for Shakespeare’s plays that many students will consult
despite their professors’ warnings about the shortcomings
of such resources. SparkNotes, CliffsNotes,, and (to name a few of the better-known examples)
each offer summaries, character analysis, thematic break-
downs, quizzes, and prospective essay questions on The
Tempest. Beyond study guides, students and teachers alike
may benefit from the assortment of links assembled by Terry
Gray on his site, ‘Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet’
( Gray maintains links to useful
pages on early modern theatre culture and on Shakespeare’s
biography, contemporaries and sources. The site also offers
access to a number of critical articles on each of the plays,
including seven on The Tempest.

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Critical approaches and lenses for

classroom study
A growing number of print publications focus on strategies for
teaching The Tempest, many detailing in-class exercises and
prospective essay topics.3 Rather than duplicate such work,
this section outlines several established and emergent critical
lenses for approaching the play and suggests strategies for
using those lenses to facilitate classroom discussion.

Social hierarchies and politics

Early scholarship on The Tempest tended to understand
Prospero as an artist figure (even a Shakespeare stand-in)
whose creative power allows him to forge order from chaos.
According to such interpretations, the magus occupies a happy
medium (both elementally and psychologically) between the
earthy and libidinous Caliban and the ethereal, non-human
Ariel – he is a balanced creator who in turn brings balance to
nature and controls potentially subversive elements within his
mini-commonwealth (Kermode). However, more recent work
has reevaluated Shakespeare’s approach to issues of order,
contending that The Tempest does not simply reproduce,
but also interrogates visions of natural hierarchy (Norbrook,
Instructors might encourage students to explore the play’s
treatment of cosmic and social hierarchies by asking them
to consider how different characters in the play would
regard the striking image of The Great Chain of Being from
Robert Fludd’s Utriusque Cosmi … Historia (available via
the Folger’s ‘Primary Source Archive’ for The Tempest).
Internet Shakespeare Editions also offers a variety of comple-
mentary images and excerpts on this subject under the
heading ‘Putting Nature in Order’ (within the ‘Ideas’ section
of the ‘Life and Times’ tab). I found such material particular

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effective when juxtaposed with the Boatswain’s challenges to

conventional social structure in The Tempest’s opening scene

Travel, geography and colonialism

Perhaps the largest shift in critical appraisal of The Tempest
came with recognition of the play’s engagement with New
World contexts – Ariel’s trip to the ‘still-vexed Bermudas’
(1.2.229), Sycorax and Caliban’s South American deity
Setebos (1.2.374), and Trinculo’s ‘dead Indian’ (2.2.32) (Frey)
– and with the broader discourses of colonialism (Greenblatt,
Brown, Barker and Hulme). While subsequent work has
warned against overstating the text’s preoccupation with the
colonial project (Willis, Skura), postcolonial approaches have
had a particularly meaningful impact on interpretations of
Caliban, likening him to a native ‘Which first was [his] own
king’ (1.2.343), only to be displaced and enslaved by the
usurping, European Prospero.
The Tempest’s various intertexts offer excellent start points
for exploring this topic in the classroom (Mowat). Reading
excerpts from Strachey’s ‘True Reportory’ – reprinted in
many editions and available in facsimile form via the Folger
Shakespeare Library’s ‘Primary Source Archive’ – prompts
students to come to their own conclusions about the play’s
complicity with, or interrogation of, colonialism. Similarly,
encouraging students to reexamine the play’s much-discussed
New World allusions and Gonzalo’s description of his ideal
commonwealth (2.1.148–57) alongside the latter’s established
source text, John Florio’s 1603 translation of Montaigne’s ‘Of
the Caniballes’, might prompt consideration of the extent to
which Shakespeare engages Montaigne’s insights about the
relativity of civility and savagery. Beyond source texts, the
Folger’s ‘Primary Source Archive’ also offers classroom-ready
excerpts from early modern travel narratives and reproductions
of maps preselected for their contextual relevance to the play.

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Gender, sexuality and marriage

Just as postcolonial approaches to The Tempest unsettled tradi-
tional humanistic and old historical interpretations, so feminist
criticism illuminated persistent oversights concerning the play’s
representations of women, gender and sexuality. Such schol-
arship has emphasized that while Miranda is the only woman
to appear on stage in The Tempest, a number of other women
hovering just off-stage play crucial roles nonetheless: Miranda’s
unnamed mother, Ferdinand’s sister Claribel, the witch Sycorax,
and even the ‘widow Dido’ (2.1.77–102) (Loomba, Thompson,
Orgel). Recent work has also sought to rehabilitate Miranda
herself as a ‘self-fashioning woman’ capable of ‘defiant actions’
rather than ‘a dehumanized cipher’.5
In the classroom, instructors might remind students that
The Tempest was performed at court in 1613 as one of the
entertainments celebrating the marriage of King James I’s
daughter Elizabeth to Frederick the Elector Palatine. As such,
students may find it instructive to consider the similarities
in dynastic and gender politics between this historical royal
union and the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand within
the play (Leininger). Moreover, I have found the panoply of
early modern cultural documents gathered by Peter Stallybrass
in his excellent ‘Patriarchal Territories: the Body Enclosed’
invaluable for contextualizing the discourses of chastity that
Prospero invokes so vociferously as prologue to the masque
(4.1.13–23).6 Lastly, Julie Taymor’s recent film adaptation
(multiple clips available via MIT’s Video and Performance
Archive) can be used to open a compelling dialogue about the
manifold effects of cross-casting roles (Hartley).

Music and masque

Interpretations of music and masque in The Tempest are
predictably various. Some scholars regard Prospero as an
Orpheus/Amphion figure, tuning nature’s confused cacophony

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to a more perfect, harmonious order (Simonds), while others

contend that the play’s ‘treatment of concord and discord […]
invite[s] a less univocal interpretation than Prospero seeks to
impose’ (Neill, Ortiz).7 Similarly, scholarship has begun to
complicate the traditional view that Shakespeare’s play simply
recreates the conservative Neo-Platonism characteristic of
Stuart court masquing culture (Lindley, Bevington).
Surviving musical settings for both ‘Full Fathom Five’ and
‘Where the Bee Sucks’ by Shakespeare’s contemporary Robert
Johnson (reprinted in both the Arden and the Oxford editions)
provide an excellent opportunity for multimedia instruction. A
high-quality audio recording of both songs is available online
via, and students may benefit from
considering how hearing these works performed affects their
understandings of 1.2.397–405 and 5.1.88–94. Instructors
might also refer students to Internet Shakespeare Editions’
useful introduction to the early modern masque (under the
‘Stage’ tab), where images of costumes and stage settings
by Inigo Jones invite classroom discussion of the social and
political significance of different Renaissance dramatic forms.

Magic and education

Traditional critical approaches to magic in The Tempest
stressed the distinction between Prospero’s theurgy, or
‘white’ magic, and Sycorax’s goety, or ‘black’ magic (Traister,
Mebane). More recently, critical work has extended focus on
Prospero’s learning beyond his magic. Building on postcolonial
criticism’s observations about the role of language instruction
in the colonial project, such scholarship has begun to focus on
Prospero – a self-identified ‘schoolmaster’ (1.2.172) – as an
educator (Carey-Webb, Winson, Shin).
Prospero’s famous renunciation speech (5.1.33–57) offers
a natural touchstone for classroom conversation about the
play’s magic. Reading this speech alongside its source text
– an incantation voiced by the witch Medea in Arthur

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Golding’s translation of Ovid – should encourage students

to question overly simplistic distinctions between Prospero’s
and Sycorax’s art and the gendered implications thereof (Bate,
Lyne). Meanwhile, the play’s lengthy second scene serves as an
excellent starting point for in-class discussion on the subject
of education. Choice excerpts from early modern pedagogical
treatises such as Richard Mulcaster’s Positions […] for the
training up of children or Montaigne’s ‘Of the Institution and
Education of Children’ can do much to complicate the signifi-
cance of the often-domineering history lessons that Prospero
offers Miranda, Ariel and Caliban (Moncrief, Rothschild).

Selected annotated bibliography

The following bibliography includes an introductory overview
of essay collections on The Tempest from 1969 to the present,
subject-specific sections corresponding to the approaches
described above, and a concluding section surveying recent
work on the play’s performance history and adaptations.
In sections after the first, I focus on texts published since
2000, but also include some important earlier scholarship on
each topic. For a more exhaustive bibliography of criticism
on the play prior to the turn of the century, consult John S.
Mebane and Richard L. Nochimson’s excellent annotated
bibliography of work on Shakespeare’s late plays from 1864
through 2000.8

Essay collections
Bloom, Harold ed., Caliban (New York: Chelsea House, 1992).
Compiles essays and excerpts from critical works discussing
Caliban by authors ranging from Dryden to twentieth-century
scholars, including Frye, Kermode, Berger, Orgel, Greenblatt,
Skura, V. Vaughan and others. Bloom’s introduction critiques
narrowly focused postcolonial approaches to Tem.

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Bloom, Harold ed., William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (New York:

Chelsea House, 1988).
Reprints important work on Tem by Paul Brown, Harry Berger,
Marjorie Garber, Stephen Greenblatt, Stephen Orgel, Barbara
Traister and others.
Döring, Tobias, and Virginia Mason Vaughan eds, Critical and
Cultural Transformations: Shakespeare’s The Tempest, 1611
to the Present (REAL – Yearbook of Research in English and
American Literature, 29 [Tübingen: Narr Verlag, 2013]).
Offers fourteen new essays. Six articles in Part 1 focus on
the various ‘literary, historical, philosophical, religious and/
or cultural connections through which [The Tempest] is
interrelated – and interacts – with discourses and practices in
the period of its first production’ (3). In Part 2, eight more
essays take up recent ‘critical and cultural transformations’ of
the play ‘across a range of media and different culture […] in
Cuba, China, Germany or Japan […] in theatrical staging or
rewriting, in DIY versions on YouTube or in arthouse films on
screen’ (3).
Lie, Nadia, and Thea D’haen eds, Constellation Caliban:
Figurations of a Character (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997).
A collection of seventeen works – four critical essays analysing
stage representations of and sources for Shakespeare’s
Caliban, twelve more essays discussing later adaptations and
appropriations centring on the character, and a closing poem by
Cedric Barefoot.
Hulme, Peter, and William H. Sherman eds, The Tempest and Its
Travels (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000).
Offers eighteen essays on The Tempest and its adaptations
arranged into three categories: those addressing ‘Local
Knowledge’ and domestic contexts; those involving ‘European
and Mediterranean Crossroads’; and those addressing
‘Transatlantic Routes’ related to the New World. Also includes
Tempest-related poems, visual art, and excerpts from several
twentieth-century appropriations.
Murphy, Patrick ed., The Tempest: Critical Essays (New York and
London: Routledge, 2001).
A four-part anthology, including an introductory account of

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The Tempest’s evolving ‘critical legacy’, 19 reprints of literary

criticism (whole and excerpted) ranging from Dryden to
Arthur F. Kinney, 11 performance reviews and essays about
performance, and eight original essays on The Tempest and
Montaigne, The Tempest’s print history, modernist versions of
The Tempest, and more.
Palmer, D. J. ed., The Tempest: A Casebook (London: Macmillan,
A perfect introduction to traditional new critical and old
historical approaches to The Tempest. Part One offers
reprinted excerpts of Dryden and Davenant’s Enchanted Island
and Auden’s ‘The Sea and the Mirror’ alongside historical
interpretations of The Tempest. Part Two includes work by
Reuben Brower, G. Wilson Knight, E. M. W. Tillyard, Frank
Kermode and J. Middleton Murry.
Smith, Hallett ed., Twentieth-Century Interpretations of The
Tempest: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice-Hall, 1969).
This early collection provides another excellent sampling of
traditional critical approaches to the play. Essays and excerpts
of commentary by G. Wilson Knight, Frank Kermode, A. D.
Nuttall, Northrop Frye, A. C. Bradley and others.
Vaughan, Virginia Mason, and Alden T. Vaughan eds, Critical
Essays on Shakespeare’s The Tempest (London: Prentice Hall,
A collection of essential critical work on The Tempest, including
essays and excerpts by Jonathan Bate, Meredith Anne Skura,
David Scott Kastan, Barbara Mowat, Russ McDonald, Ann
Thompson, Alden T. Vaughan and others.
White, R. S. ed., The Tempest: Contemporary Critical Essays (New
York: St Martin’s, 1999).
A collection of ten essays and excerpts by leading scholars
designed to survey a wide variety of literary critical approaches
to The Tempest.
Wood, Nigel ed., The Tempest, Theory in Practice Series
(Buckingham and Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1995).
A collection of essays selected to showcase different literary

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theoretical approaches to The Tempest, including formalist,

materialist, new historicist, and psychoanalytic models.

Social hierarchies and politics

Beck, Ervin, ‘Platonism and Politics in The Tempest’, in Politics
Otherwise: Shakespeare as Social and Political Critique, eds
Leonidas Donskis and J. D. Mininger (Amsterdam: Rodopi,
2012), 85–94.
Surveys the oppositions between traditional and more recent
postcolonial or feminist approaches to The Tempest and analyses
their political underpinnings.
Brevik, Frank W., The Tempest and New Word-Utopian Politics
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
Contests critical assessment of The Tempest as ‘a fiercely
political palimpsest grounded in historical events like
colonialism’, suggesting instead that ‘the Americanist impulses of
the play form part of a larger utopian discourse that has been all
but neglected by Tempest criticism’ (3–4).
Hamilton, Donna B., Virgil and The Tempest: The Politics of
Imitation (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1990).
Analyses The Tempest’s links to Virgil’s Aeneid to suggest that
the play subtly critiques the absolutist politics of James I.
Kastan, David Scott, ‘“The Duke of Milan / And his brave
son”: Dynastic Politics in The Tempest’, in Critical Essays
on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, eds Virginia Mason
Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughan (London: Prentice Hall, 1998),
Contends that postcolonial approaches to The Tempest tend
to overlook the play’s larger focus on dynastic politics and its
investment in early modern social concerns.
Kermode, Frank, William Shakespeare: The Final Plays: Pericles,
Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, The Two Noble
Kinsmen (London: Longmans, 1963).
Includes a classic study of The Tempest that presents Prospero
as an artist figure bringing civilized order to base nature both
within and without.

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Lee, Young Cho, ‘The Theatrical Representation of Politics in The

Tempest’, Journal of English Language and Literature (Seoul) 49
(2003), 935–54.
Argues that The Tempest both endorses and obliquely critiques
the political ideologies of James I.
Lupton, Julia Reinhard, ‘Creature Caliban’, Shakespeare Quarterly
51 (2000), 1–23.
Limns an early modern ‘discourse of the creaturely’ and suggests
that Caliban ‘takes shape beneath the arc of wonder that moves
throughout the play between “creatures” and “mankind”’ (2–3).
McAlindon, Thomas, ‘The Discourse of Prayer in The Tempest’,
Studies in English Literature 1500–1900 41 (2001), 335–55.
Uses an analysis of prayer in The Tempest to contest
postcolonial critiques of the play. Contends that the text
endorses not ‘an intrinsically oppressive hierarchical order’ but
a ‘leveling, horizontal ethic of interdependence and reciprocity’
Norbrook, David, ‘“What cares these roarers for the name of
king?”: Language and Utopia in The Tempest’, in The Politics
of Tragicomedy: Shakespeare and After, eds Gordon McMullan
and Jonathan Hope (London and New York: Routledge, 1992),
Suggests that The Tempest is ‘structured around […] oppositions
between courtly discourse and wider linguistic contexts’
(159) such that it reproduces but also questions ‘complacent
celebrations of a natural order’ (177).
Schlueter, Nathan, ‘Prospero’s Second Sailing: Machiavelli,
Shakespeare, and the Politics of The Tempest’, in Shakespeare’s
Last Plays: Essays in Literature and Politics, eds Stephen W.
Smith and Travis Curtright (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books,
2002), 179–95.
Argues that Prospero learns a ‘politics which incorporates much
of the Machiavellian project while retaining critical aspects of
the classical alternative’, thus balancing philosophy and political
necessity (191).
Strier, Richard, ‘“I am power”: Normal and Magical Politics
in The Tempest’, in Writing and Political Engagement in

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Seventeenth-Century England, eds Derek Hirst and Richard

Strier (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 10–30.
Suggests that The Tempest continues Shakespeare’s career-long
exploration of ‘service’, but contends that it is ‘more
conservative than the plays that precede it’, reflecting on
‘the practical or existential rather than the moral limits of
authority’ (10).

Travel, geography and colonialism

Barker, Francis, and Peter Hulme, ‘Nymphs and Reapers Heavily
Vanish: The Discursive Contexts of The Tempest’, in Alternative
Shakespeares, ed. John Drakakis, 2nd edn (London and New
York, Routledge, 2002), 194–208.
An important essay, first published in 1985, helped define
The Tempest as ‘a play imbricated within the discourses of
colonialism’, and cautioned against ‘critical practices that have
often been complicit, whether consciously or not, with a colonial
ideology’ (207).
Brotton, Jerry, ‘“This Tunis, sir, was Carthage”: Contesting
Colonialism in The Tempest’, in Post-Colonial Shakespeares, ed.
Ania Loomba (London and New York, 1998), 23–42.
Contends that most postcolonial readings of The Tempest
offer ‘historically anachronistic and geographically restrictive
view[s] of the play’ by overemphasizing its New World
contexts. Examines Mediterranean and Old World references to
present ‘a politically and geographically bifurcated’ vision of the
play (24).
Brown, Paul, ‘“This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine”:
The Tempest and the Discourse of Colonialism’, in Political
Shakespeare: Essays in Cultural Materialism, eds Jonathan
Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, 2nd edn (Manchester, Manchester
University Press, 1994), 48–71.
An important early essay that presents The Tempest as ‘not
simply a reflection of colonialist practices but an intervention
in an ambivalent and even contradictory discourse’ that
‘foreground[s] precisely those problems which it works to efface
or overcome’ (48).

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Cefalu, Paul A., ‘Rethinking the Discourse of Colonialism in

Economic Terms: Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Captain John
Smith’s Virginia Narratives, and the English Response to
Vagrancy’, Shakespeare Studies 28 (2000), 85–119.
Argues that postcolonial readings of The Tempest have focused
on ‘the early modern English-Native American encounter’
while overlooking the play’s focus on ‘describing or allegorizing
embattled economic relationships among the European colonists
themselves’ (85).
Childs, Peter ed., Post-Colonial Theory and English Literature: A
Reader (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999).
Reprints excerpts from Trevor R. Griffiths’s ‘“This island’s
mine”: Caliban and Colonialism’ and Rob Nixon’s ‘Caribbean
and African Appropriations of The Tempest’.
Evans, Robert C., ‘“Had I Plantation of This Isle, My Lord”:
Exploration and Colonization in Shakespeare’s The Tempest’,
in Exploration and Colonization, Bloom’s Literary Themes, eds
Harold Bloom and Blake Hobby (New York, Infobase, 2010),
Contends that despite The Tempest’s interest in colonization and
exploration, ‘few of the characters fit common stereotypes about
explorers and colonizers’ (180).
Feerick, Jean, ‘“Divided in Soyle”: Plantation and Degeneracy
in The Tempest and The Sea Voyage’, Renaissance Drama 35
(2006), 27–54.
Analysing The Tempest alongside Fletcher and Massinger’s The
Sea Voyage suggests that Shakespeare’s play ‘obliquely engages
the question of whether and how foreign lands might reinscribe
the physical and social identity of transplanted Europeans’
Frey, Charles, ‘The Tempest and the New World’, Shakespeare
Quarterly 30 (1979), 29–41.
An important early consideration of The Tempest’s ‘several
glances […] toward the New World’ (29).
Go, Kenji, ‘Montaigne’s “Cannibals” and The Tempest Revisited’,
Studies In Philology 109 (2012), 455–73.
Reexamines the link between The Tempest and Montaigne’s ‘Of

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the Caniballes’, suggesting that the connection provided ‘the

source of the name “Sycorax” and the mysterious location of
Prospero’s island’ (457).
Greenblatt, Stephen J., ‘Learning to Curse: Aspects of Linguistic
Colonialism in the Sixteenth Century’, in First Images of
America: The Impact of the New World on the Old, eds Fredi
Chiappelli, Michael J. B. Allen and Robert L. Benson (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1976), 561–80.
A classic study of the complex relationship between language
learning and colonialism in The Tempest and beyond.
Laroque, François, ‘Italy vs. Africa: Shakespeare’s Topographies
of Desire in Othello, Antony and Cleopatra and The Tempest’,
Shakespeare Studies (Tokyo, Japan) 47 (2009), 1–16.
Presents Claribel’s off-stage marriage to the King of Tunis as
one of several examples in which Shakespeare ‘predicate[s]
desire on tropes of otherness by associating it with various
geographical sites where Italy – be it Venice, Rome, Milan
or Naples – is opposed to as well as paired with Africa’
(Abstract, 1).
Mowat, Barbara, ‘“Knowing I loved my books”: Reading The
Tempest Intertextually’, in The Tempest and its Travels, eds
Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman (Philadelphia: University
of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 27–36.
Argues that The Tempest’s many intertexts – especially the
Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Montaigne’s Essais, and
Strachey’s letter – expand the play’s ‘geographical and temporal
boundaries far beyond its apparent limits’ (27).
Skura, Meredith Anne, ‘Discourse and the Individual: The Case of
Colonialism in The Tempest’, Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989),
An invaluable survey, and useful critique, of criticism concerning
The Tempest’s relationship to the colonial discourse of
Shakespeare’s day.
Stritmatter, Roger, and Lynne Kositsky, ‘Shakespeare and the
Voyagers Revisited’, Review of English Studies 58 (2007),

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Argues that William Strachey’s True Reportory was completed

too late to be a source for The Tempest.
Vaughan, Alden T., ‘William Strachey’s “True Reportory” and
Shakespeare: A Closer Look at the Evidence’, Shakespeare
Quarterly 59 (2008), 245–73.
Counters attempts to remove William Strachey’s letter from the
list of The Tempest’s sources.
Vaughan, Alden T., and Virginia Mason Vaughan, Shakespeare’s
Caliban: A Cultural History. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1991.
An impressively comprehensive analysis of Caliban as a ‘durable
cultural signifier’ that traces the character from his literary and
historical ‘origins’ through nearly four centuries of ‘receptions’
– on the page, the stage, the screen, and beyond – to discover
‘how and, wherever possible, why each age has appropriated
and reshaped him to suit its needs and assumptions’ (ix).
Willis, Deborah, ‘Shakespeare’s Tempest and the Discourse of
Colonialism’, Studies in English Literature 1500–1900 29
(1989), 277–89.
Critiques Paul Brown’s ‘“This thing of darkness I acknowledge
mine”: The Tempest and the Discourse of Colonialism’ to warn
against the tendency of criticism to present The Tempest as
‘wholly engulfed by colonial discourse’ (278).
Wilson-Okamura, David Scott, ‘Virgilian Models of Colonization
in Shakespeare’s Tempest’, English Literary History 70 (2003),
Suggests that The Tempest shares in early modern colonial
discourse’s use of Virgil’s Aeneid, and especially Carthage, ‘to
focus on issues of character (such as temperance and industry)’
Woodward, Hobson, A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the
Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare’s
The Tempest (New York: Viking, 2009).
Asserts the primacy of William Strachey’s account of the wreck
of the Sea Venture in 1609 as a source for The Tempest.
Wylie, John, ‘New and Old Worlds: The Tempest and Early Colonial
Discourse’, Social and Cultural Geography 1 (2000), 45–63.

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Contends that the ‘imaginative geographies’ of The Tempest

‘trace a complex narrative of voyaging and encounter’ in
which ‘the problematics of colonization are negotiated within a
Renaissance imago mundi still beholden to classical mappings of
European empirical and imaginative space’ (46).

Gender, sexuality and marriage

Brown, Sarah Annes, ‘The Return of Prospero’s Wife: Mother
Figures in The Tempest’s Afterlife’, Shakespeare Survey 56
(2003), 146–60.
Finds that The Tempest’s two absent mothers – Prospero’s wife
and Sycorax – are ‘surprisingly potent presences’ in both very
early and more recent creative responses to the play, anticipating
critical focus on ‘issues of race, sexuality, and gender’ (146).
Goldberg, Jonathan, Shakespeare’s Hand (Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press, 2003).
The essay ‘Under the Covers with Caliban’ explores questions
of sexuality in The Tempest through focus on the gendered
implications raised by several textual cruxes in the history of the
play’s ‘editorial and critical production’ (287).
Hartley, Andrew James, ‘Prospera’s Brave New World: Cross-Cast
Oppression and the Four-Fold Player in the Georgia Shakespeare
Festival’s Tempest’, in Shakespeare Re-Dressed: Cross-Gender
Casting in Contemporary Performance, ed., James C. Bulman
(Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2008),
Uses a production of The Tempest in which the role of Prospero
was ‘cross-cast’ as Prospera to dissect how standard readings
stressing the character’s patriarchal aspects are predicated on the
extra-textual assumption of a ‘male body in which the character
is personated’ (140).
Leininger, Lorie J., ‘The Miranda Trap: Sexism and Racism in
Shakespeare’s Tempest’, in The Woman’s Part, eds Carolyn Lenz,
Gayle Greene and Carol Thomas Neely (Chicago: University of
Illinois Press, 1980), 285–94.

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Analyses the symbolic importance of Miranda’s chastity and

parallels with the historical Princess Elizabeth.
Loomba, Ania, Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1989).
In her final chapter, ‘Seizing the Book’ (142–58), Loomba
examines the persistent sexism in most postcolonial readings of
The Tempest.
Orgel, Stephen, ‘Prospero’s Wife’, Representations 8 (1984), 1–13.
A classic study of Prospero’s conspicuously missing wife as a
key to The Tempest’s powerful consideration of ‘the absent, the
unspoken’ (1).
Poole, William, ‘False Play: Shakespeare and Chess’, Shakespeare
Quarterly 55 (2004), 50–70.
Resituates Miranda and Ferdinand’s chess match in Act 5 within
a literary tradition involving ‘not only kings and courts, but
cheating, betting, beating, fighting, class conflict, civil unrest,
and seduction’ (53).
Sanchez, Melissa E., ‘Seduction and Service in The Tempest’,
Studies in Philology 105 (2008), 50–82.
Argues that ‘the conjunction of erotic, economic, and political
vocabularies of servitude’ in The Tempest implies that
political authority is not monolithic, but ‘dispersed across
an intricate network of seduction and constraint, desire and
deference’ (54).
Slights, Jessica, ‘Rape and the Romanticization of Shakespeare’s
Miranda’, Studies in English Literature 1500–1599 41 (2001),
Presents Miranda as a ‘bravely independent but always
embedded self’ to remind us that The Tempest ‘does offer some
alternative to the paternalist order with which [it] opens’ (376).
Thompson, Ann, ‘“Miranda, where’s your sister?”: Reading
Shakespeare’s The Tempest’, in Feminist Criticism: Theory
and Practice, ed. Susan Sellers (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester
Wheatsheaf, 1991), 45–55.
An important essay that asks ‘what feminist criticism can do
in the face of a male-authored canonical text which seems to
exclude women to this extent’ (46).

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Music and masque

Bevington, David, ‘The Tempest and the Jacobean Court Masque’,
in Politics of the Stuart Court Masque, eds David Bevington and
Peter Holbrook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998),
Argues that The Tempest ‘capitalizes on public sentiment
about the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick [the
Elector Palatine]’ by staging a wedding masque accessible to the
excluded common folk – a ‘politics of masquing’ that ‘suggests
some implicit criticism of James [I]’ (220; 238).
Cholij, Irena, ‘“A thousand twangling instruments”: Music and The
Tempest on the Eighteenth-Century London Stage’, Shakespeare
Survey 51 (1998), 79–94.
Traces the production history of The Tempest during the
eighteenth century, ‘focusing specifically on the musical
requirements and amendments’ and links between music and
Demaray, John G., Shakespeare and the Spectacles of Strangeness:
The Tempest and the Transformation of Renaissance Theatrical
Forms (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1998).
Contends that The Tempest is not a return to the ‘academic’
drama of Shakespeare’s early career, but an innovative blend of
European and English dramatic traditions, particularly court
Green, Andrew, ‘Sound and Music in The Tempest’, English Review
13 (2002), 2­–5.
Contends that the ‘widely varied nature’ of the island’s music
and sounds ‘reflects the changeable and often contradictory
nature of Prospero’ (2).
Kelsey, Lin, ‘“Many Sorts of Music”: Musical Genre in Twelfth
Night and The Tempest’, John Donne Journal: Studies In The
Age of Donne 25 (2006), 129–81.
Links music to dramatic genre and explores Shakespeare’s
awareness of early modern musical developments.
Lindley, David, The Court Masque (Manchester: Manchester
University Press, 1984).

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Includes an excellent chapter entitled ‘Music, Masque, and

Meaning in The Tempest’ (47–59), which contends that The
Tempest ‘explores the tensions’ between music’s capacity to
delude or awaken illicit passions and its ability (conventionally
invoked in court masques) to create harmony (47).
Lindley, David, ‘The Tempest’s Masque and Opera’, in Shakespeare
and the Mediterranean, eds T. Clayton, S. Brock, V. Forès and
J. Levenson (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2004),
Considers how various historical productions of The Tempest
have struggled with Miranda and Ferdinand’s betrothal
masque in Act 4. Concludes that many problems are solved by
transforming the masque into a ‘mini-opera’ (103).
Minear, Erin, Reverberating Song in Shakespeare and Milton:
Language, Memory, and Musical Representation (Farnham:
Ashgate, 2011).
Includes a chapter called ‘Playing Music: Twelfth Night and The
Neill, Michael, ‘“Noises, / Sounds, and Sweet Airs”: The Burden of
Shakespeare’s Tempest’, Shakespeare Quarterly 59 (2008), 36–59.
Analyses the language of music and sound in The Tempest –
particularly resonance between the text’s physical, emotional
and musical ‘burdens’ – to argue that the play’s ‘treatment
of concord and discord’ is not so narrow as Prospero’s
interpretation (45).
Ortiz, Joseph, Broken Harmony: Shakespeare and the Politics of
Music (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011).
Includes a chapter entitled ‘Impolitic Noise: Resisting Orpheus
from Julius Caesar to The Tempest’.
Pask, Kevin, ‘Caliban’s Masque’, English Literary History 70
(2003), 739–56.
Contends that the relationship between The Tempest and Ben
Jonson’s court masques has much to reveal about ‘Shakespearean
theatricality and its relationship to the history of sexuality’ (746).
Simonds, Peggy Muñoz, ‘“Sweet power of music”: the political
magic of “The Miraculous Harp” in Shakespeare’s The
Tempest’, Comparative Drama 29 (1995), 61–90.

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‘ volumes that / I prize’ 221

Presents Prospero as ‘a type of Orpheus’ who brings ‘harmony

to his garden kingdom, control[s] his own passions, and
civilize[s] the wild man’ (86).

Magic and education

Carey-Webb, Allen, ‘National and Colonial Education in
Shakespeare’s The Tempest’, Early Modern Literary Studies 5
(1999), 3.1­­–39.
Finds links between The Tempest’s representations of schooling
and colonialism.
Dawkins, Peter, The Wisdom of Shakespeare in The Tempest
(Warwickshire: I. C. Media, 2000).
Explores The Tempest’s engagement with alchemy,
Neo-Platonism, Rosicrucianism and cabala.
Friesen, Ryan Curtis, Supernatural Fiction in Early Modern Drama
and Culture (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2010).
A chapter entitled ‘Magic in The Tempest: Shakespeare’s
Critique of Rough Art and Harsh Reason’ (190–212)
suggests that magic in The Tempest represents the ‘ways in which
knowledge and power are gained and governance sought on a
middle ground between theory and experience’ (190).
Kearney, James, The Incarnate Text: Imagining the Book in
Reformation England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 2009).
Includes a chapter entitled ‘Book, Trinket, Fetish: Letters
and Mastery in The Tempest’, which analyses The Tempest’s
‘exploration of the book as an icon of European enlightenment
and Christian transcendence’ (179).
Knopp, Sherron, ‘Poetry as Conjuring Act: The Franklin’s Tale and
The Tempest’, Chaucer Review: A Journal Of Medieval Studies
And Literary Criticism 38 (2004), 337–54.
Extends earlier arguments that Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale is a
source text for The Tempest by positing ‘a shared engagement
on the part of [Chaucer and Shakespeare] with the status of
poetry as illusion and conjuring act’ (338).

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Lucking, David, ‘Carrying Tempest in His Hand and Voice. The

Figure of the Magician in Jonson and Shakespeare’, English
Studies: A Journal Of English Language And Literature 85
(2004), 297–310.
Contends that The Tempest influenced Jonson’s The Alchemist,
not vice versa.
Lyne, Raphael, ‘Ovid, Golding, and the “Rough Magic” of The
Tempest’, in Shakespeare’s Ovid: The Metamorphoses in the
Plays and Poems, ed. A. B. Taylor (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2000), 150–64.
Reexamines the significance of Shakespeare’s borrowing from
Arthur Golding’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses for
Prospero’s abjuration speech (5.1.33–57).
McAdam, Ian, Magic and Masculinity in Early Modern English
Drama (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2009).
Suggests that Prospero’s ‘appropriation of pre-Oedipal or
maternal magic results in an ambivalence between a recuperation
of “feminine” nature and a continued masculine narcissistic
idealism’ (21).
Mebane, John S., Renaissance Magic and the Return of the
Golden Age: The Occult Tradition and Marlowe, Jonson, and
Shakespeare (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989).
Explores The Tempest’s engagement with the philosophical
strand of early modern magical theory in particular.
Moncrief, Kathryn M., ‘“Obey and Be Attentive”: Gender and
Household Instruction in Shakespeare’s The Tempest’, in Gender
and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood, ed. Naomi J.
Miller (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 127–38.
Analyses The Tempest alongside early modern pedagogical texts,
contending that Prospero’s instruction of Miranda ‘raises important
questions about the practice and purpose of education in the
household, especially the schooling of daughters’ (128).
Mowat, Barbara, ‘Prospero’s Book’, Shakespeare Quarterly 52
(2001), 1–33.
Situates Prospero’s ‘always-offstage book’ of magic in the
context of actual early modern manuscript grimoires or
conjuring books (1).

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Rothschild, N. Amos, ‘Learning to Doubt: The Tempest, Imitatio,

and Montaigne’s “Of the Institution and Education of Children”’,
in Critical and Cultural Transformations: Shakespeare’s The
Tempest, 1611 to the Present, eds Tobias Döring and Virginia
Mason Vaughan (Tübingen: Narr Verlag, 2013), 17–36.
Suggests that The Tempest playfully engages with Montaigne’s
‘Of the Institution and Education of Children’, an essay that
itself explores the power and the dangers of education and
imitatio. Contends that this engagement informs the play’s
staging of the problems and processes of learning, particularly
Prospero’s pedantic aspects.
Shin, Hiewon, ‘Single Parenting, Homeschooling: Prospero,
Caliban, Miranda’, Studies In English Literature, 1500–1900 48
(2008), 373–93.
Reads Prospero as ‘a homeschooling single parent to both Caliban
and Miranda’ and explores why his ‘unorthodox educational
methods’ fail with one pupil and work with the other (373).
Sokol, B. J., A Brave New World of Knowledge: Shakespeare’s The
Tempest and Early Modern Epistemology (London: Associated
University Press, 2003).
Draws on early modern scientific writings regarding natural
history, atmospheric science, and time measurement and more
to suggest that The Tempest shares with such discourse an
emphasis on ‘the aesthetics of truthfulness and order’ rather than
on ‘the aesthetics of surprise’ (18).
Stanivukovic, Goran, ‘The Tempest and the Discontents of
Humanism’, Philological Quarterly 85.1–2 (2006), 91–119.
Attempts to ‘displace the postcolonial approach to The Tempest’
by ‘re[en]visioning [the play] as allegorizing humanism’s positive
and negative characteristics’ (91).
Traister, Barbara Howard, Heavenly Necromancers: The Magician
in English Renaissance Drama (Columbia: University of
Missouri Press, 1984).
Links Prospero and other early modern magus figures to
two views of the magician, one from a ‘popular and literary’
tradition best expressed in medieval romances, and another from
an ‘elitist and philosophical’ tradition of Italian Neo-Platonic
magical theory (1–2).

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Winson, Patricia, ‘“A Double Spirit of Teaching”: What

Shakespeare’s Teachers Teach Us’, Early Modern Literary
Studies, Special Issue 1 (1997), 8.1–31.
Includes Prospero in an analysis of Shakespeare’s teacher figures.
Contends that in The Tempest and elsewhere, Shakespeare
critiques those who ‘use language solely to promote their own
erudition or to exert power’ (2).

Performance history and adaptation

Bate, Jonathan, ‘Caliban and Ariel Write Back’, Shakespeare Survey
48 (1996), 155–62.
Works to redress the elision of non-white non-European
responses to The Tempest in criticism on the play by focusing on
the work of George Lamming, Aimé Césaire, Roberto Fernández
Retamar, and especially Edward Brathwaite.
Bosman, Anston, ‘Cape of Storms: The Baxter Theatre Centre–RSC
Tempest, 2009’, Shakespeare Quarterly 61 (2010), 108–17.
Analyses the successes and failures of Janice Honeyman’s 2009
RSC production of The Tempest in South Africa and queries
whether the production ‘signaled the exhaustion of The Tempest
as a vehicle for [colonial allegory]’ (109).
Dobson, Michael, ‘“Remember / First to possess his books”: The
Appropriation of The Tempest, 1700–1800’, in Shakespeare
and History, eds Stephen Orgel and Sean Keilen (New York and
London: Garland, 1999), 433–42.
Examines eighteenth-century appropriations of The Tempest
to ‘sketch a history of the cultural pressures under which this
text was enabled to function alternatively as a fiction of gender
relations and a fiction of racial mastery’ (433).
Goldberg, Jonathan, Tempest in the Caribbean (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 2003).
Applies a feminist and queer studies approach ‘to open a
discussion of questions of sexuality that have not been broached
in much of the critical literature on the topic of [Caribbean re-]
deployments of The Tempest’ (3).
Gurr, Andrew, ‘The Bare Island’, in Shakespeare in the Theater,

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‘ volumes that / I prize’ 225

eds Stephen Orgel and Sean Keilen (New York and London:
Garland, 1999), 29–43.
Uses Prospero’s epilogue to begin an account of the original
staging of Shakespeare’s plays.
Henderson, Diana E., ‘Shakespearean Comedy, Tempest-Toss’d:
Genre, Social Transformation, and Contemporary Performance’,
in Shakespeare and Genre: From Early Modern Inheritances to
Postmodern Legacies, ed. Anthony R. Guneratne (New York:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 137–52.
Uses Julie Taymor’s film adaptation of The Tempest as a key
example of the ‘ways in which Shakespeare and genre can be, or
fail to be, mutually refreshing through performance’ (140).
Holland, Peter, ‘Modernizing Shakespeare: Nicholas Rowe and The
Tempest’, Shakespeare Quarterly 51 (2000), 24–32.
Examines the text of The Tempest from Nicholas Rowe’s 1709
edition of Shakespeare’s works to demonstrate that Rowe
‘established a practice of presentation and modernization of
Shakespeare’s text that continues to exert exceptional influence’ (24).
Hopkins, Lisa, Screen Adaptations: Shakespeare’s The Tempest, The
Relationship between Text and Film (London: Methuen Drama,
Analyses film adaptations of The Tempest, with special focus
on The Forbidden Planet, Derek Jarman’s The Tempest, and
Prospero’s Books.
Horowitz, Arthur, Prospero’s ‘True Preservers’: Peter Brook, Yukio
Ninagawa, and Giorgio Strehler – Twentieth-Century Directors
Approach Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Newark: University of
Delaware Press, 2004).
Analyses six post-WWII productions of The Tempest to
show how ‘the dynamics that go into directing a production
of The Tempest turn its director into Prospero’s surrogate’ (12).
Jefferson, Teddy, ‘Rorschach Tempest or The Tempest of William
S. Performed by Flies on the Erection of a Dreaming Hyena’,
Shakespeare Quarterly 61 (2010), 78–107.
Playwright and fiction writer Teddy Jefferson offers a dreamy
argument between a director and his researcher about how and
why The Tempest might be performed today.

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Khoury, Joseph, ‘The Tempest Revisited in Martinique: Aimé

Césaire’s Shakespeare’, Journal For Early Modern Cultural
Studies 6 (2006), 22–37.
Applies Hegel’s master-slave dialectic in comparing The Tempest
and Aimé Césaire’s Une Tempête.
Nixon, Rob, ‘Caribbean and African Appropriations of The
Tempest’, Critical Inquiry 13 (1987), 557–78.
A classic study of postcolonial responses to The Tempest by
Octave Mannoni, George Lamming, Aimé Césaire and Roberto
Fernández Retamar.
Singh, Jyotsna, ‘Caliban versus Miranda: Race and Gender
Conflicts in Postcolonial Rewritings of The Tempest’, in
Shakespeare’s Romances, ed. Alison Thorne (Basingstoke:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 205–25.
Contends that postcolonial appropriations of The Tempest
tend to reconfigure oppression rather than truly interrogating
hierarchical structures, particularly when it comes to relations
between men and women.
Stalpaert, Christel ed., Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books: Critical
Essays, Studies in Performing Arts and Film, 3 (Ghent: Academia
Press, 2000).
Offers seven essays examining Greenaway’s filmic adaptation of
The Tempest.
Vaughan, Virginia Mason, ‘Literary Invocations of The Tempest’,
in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s Last Plays, ed.
Catherine M. Alexander (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2009), 155–72.
Examines adaptations and appropriations of The Tempest with
particular focus on works that respond to the play’s ‘unusual
emphasis on the role of art in human consciousness as well as its
limitations, particularly in relation to the material world’ (155).
Vaughan, Virginia Mason, The Tempest: Shakespeare in
Performance (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011).
Situates productions of The Tempest from Dryden and Davenant
to the twenty-first century within their historical contexts to
provide an excellent analysis of the ways in which ‘cultural
attitudes, political issues, and changing aesthetic principles have

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‘ volumes that / I prize’ 227

been intertwined in [The Tempest’s] fascinating performance

history’ (2).
Welsh, James M., Shakespeare into Film (New York: Checkmark
Books, 2002).
Includes Mariacristiana Cavecchi’s ‘Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s
Books: A Tempest between Word and Image’, and Diana Harris
and MacDonald P. Jackson’s ‘Stormy Weather: Derek Jarman’s
The Tempest’.
Zabus, Chantal, Tempests after Shakespeare (New York: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2002).
Traces the ‘Deprivileging of Prospero’ and the ‘Rise of
Caliban’ in postcolonial rewritings of The Tempest (9–102),
the appropriation of Miranda and Sycorax in adaptations ‘On
the “Eve” of Postpatriarchy’ (103–76) and ‘The Return of
Postmodern Prospero’ in more recent reimaginings (177–264).

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1 John Dryden and William Davenant, The Tempest, or, The
Enchanted Island (London: 1670), sig. A2v; Ben Jonson,
Works of Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford and Percy and
Evelyn Simpson, 11 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925–52),
2 Edmond Malone, An Account of the Incidents, from which
the Title and Part of the Story of Shakspeare’s Tempest Were
Derived; and Its True Date Ascertained (London: Printed by
C. & R. Baldwin, 1808–[1809]). Malone misreported the facts
about Indians taken to England between 1605 and 1614 but
correctly named the two who sailed on Sea Venture in 1609
3 Many passages hint obliquely at the island’s location, but
see especially 1.2.129–50, 171, 178–80, 230–35; 2.1.70–4;
5.1.153–62, 307–17 in The Tempest, 3rd Arden Series, eds
Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughan (Walton-on-
Thames: Thomas Nelson, 1999; rev. edn, London: Bloomsbury,
4 Among the advocates of specific islands are George Chalmers,
A Supplemental Apology for the Believers in the Shakspeare-
papers (London: Printed for Thomas Egerton, 1799), 438–41;
Joseph Hunter, A Disquisition on the Scene, Origin, Date,
etc. etc. of Shakespeare’s Tempest (London: Printed by C.
Wittingham, 1839), 17–32; Edward Everett Hale, Prospero’s
Island (New York: Dramatic Museum of Columbia University,
1919), 33–41; Theodor Elze, ‘Die Insel der Sykorax’,
Shakespeare Jahrbuch 15 (1880), 251–3; and Richard Paul
Roe, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s
Unknown Travels (New York: Harper, 2011), 265–95, which

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230 Notes

champion, respectively, Bermuda, Lampedusa, Pantalaria,

Cuttyhunk and Vulcano.
5 The handiest guide to the literature is John Parker, Books
to Build an Empire: A Bibliographical History of English
Overseas Interests to 1620 (Amsterdam: N. Israel, 1965).
6 Alden T. Vaughan, Transatlantic Encounters: American Indians
in Britain, 1500–1776 (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2006), 21–67.
7 See Alden T. Vaughan, ‘William Strachey’s “True Reportory”
and Shakespeare : A Closer Look at the Evidence’, Shakespeare
Quarterly 59 (2008), 245–74; and Tom Reedy, ‘Dating
William Strachey’s “A True Reportory of the Wracke and
Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates”: A Comparative Textual
Study’, Review of English Studies, 61 (2010), 529–52.
Doubters include Peter D. McIntosh, ‘Storms, Shipwrecks and
South America: From Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa’s Voyage to
Shakespeare’s The Tempest’, Colonial Latin American Review,
20 (2011), 363–79, and (from an Oxfordian stance) Roger
A. Stritmatter and Lynne Kositsky, On the Date, Sources
and Design of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ (Jefferson, NC:
McFarland, 2013).
8 See especially Andrew Gurr’s ‘Industrious Ariel and idle
Caliban’, in Travel and Drama in Shakespeare’s Time, eds
Jean-Pierre Maquerlot and Michèle Willems (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1996), 193–208.
9 David Scott Kastan, ‘“The Duke of Milan / And His Brave
Son”: Dynastic Politics in The Tempest’, in Critical Essays on
Shakespeare’s The Tempest, eds Virginia Mason Vaughan and
Alden T. Vaughan (New York: G. K. Hall, 1998), 91–103.

The Critical Backstory: ‘What’s Past is

1 E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and
Problems, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930), 1:490–1.
2 Ben Jonson, The Works of Ben Jonson, eds C. H. Herford and

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Notes 231

Percy and Evelyn Simpson, 11 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press,

1925–52), 6:16.
3 Maximillian E. Novak and George Robert Guffey, eds The
Works of John Dryden, 20 vols (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1970), 10:329.
4 Ibid, 4.
5 Pepys on the Restoration Stage, ed. Helen McAfee (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1916), 75.
6 Katharine Eisaman Maus, ‘Arcadia Lost: Politics and Revision
in the Restoration Tempest’, Restoration Drama 13 (1982),
189–209, quotation from 206.
7 Matthew H. Wikander, ‘“The Duke My Father’s Wrack”: The
Innocence of the Restoration Tempest’, Shakespeare Survey 43
(1990), 91–8.
8 Eckhard Auberlen, ‘The Tempest and the Concerns of the
Restoration Court: A Study of The Enchanted Island and the
Operatic Tempest’, Restoration 14 (1991), 71–88.
9 John Dryden, Of Dramatic Poesy and Other English Essays,
2 vols, ed. George Watson (London: J. M. Dent, 1962), 1:253.
10 The Works of Mr. William Shakespear, ed. Nicholas Rowe,
6 vols (London: Jacob Tonson, 1709), 1:xxiv.
11 Charles Gildon, ‘Remarks on the Plays of Shakespear’, in
The Works of William Shakespear, ed. Nicholas Rowe, vol. 7
(London: Jacob Tonson, 1710), 258–74, quotations from 264,
12 Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, ed. Brian Vickers, 6 vols
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), 3:344.
13 British Essayists, ed. Lionel Thomas Berguer, 45 vols (London:
T. and J. Allman, 1823), 25:29–34, quotation from 31.
14 Critical Heritage, 4:552.
15 Critical Heritage, 5:101.
16 Gildon, ‘Remarks on the Plays of Shakespear’, 273.
17 Thomas Campbell, ed. The Dramatic Works of William
Shakespeare (London: E. Moxon, 1838), lxiv.
18 For discussion of Scheemaker’s statue, see Gordon McMullan,
Shakespeare and the Idea of Late Writing (Cambridge:

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232 Notes

Cambridge University Press 2007), 147–8, and Michael L.

Dobson, The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare,
Adaptation and Authorship, 1660–1769 (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1992), 135–46; quotation from McMullan, 147.
19 Edward Dowden, Shakspere: His Mind and Art, 10th edn
(London: Macmillan, 1892), 417–18.
20 Augustus William Schlegel, Lectures on Dramatic Art and
Literature, trans. John Black, rev. by A. J. W. Morrison
(London: George Bell, 1879), 361–2.
21 Schlegel, Lectures on Dramatic Art, 394–5.
22 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Coleridge’s Criticism of Shakespeare,
ed. R. A. Foakes (London: Athlone, 1989), 157–70, quotations
from 158, 159, 162, 163.
23 William Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespear’s Plays (1817; repr.
London: Dent, 1906), 98–107.
24 William Hazlitt, ‘The Tempest at Covent Garden’, in ‘The
Tempest’: Critical Essays, ed. Patrick Murphy (New York:
Routledge, 2001), 327–9.
25 P[atrick] MacDonnell, An Essay on The Play of ‘The Tempest’
(London: John Fellowes, 1849), 35.
26 MacDonnell, An Essay, 9–12.
27 MacDonnell, An Essay, 16–18.
28 For a thorough discussion of Browning’s poem, see Ortwin
de Graef, ‘Browning Born to Wordsworth’, in Constellation
Caliban: Figurations of a Character, eds Nadia Lie and Theo
D’haen (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997), 113–43.
29 Daniel Wilson, Caliban: The Missing Link (London:
Macmillan, 1973), 79, 78, 87 and 90.
30 See Virginia Mason Vaughan, ‘The Tempest’, Shakespeare in
Performance (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011),
31 Russ McDonald, Shakespeare’s Late Style (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2006), 18.
32 Wolfgang Clemen, The Development of Shakespeare’s Imagery
(New York: Hill and Wang, 1951), Chapter 19.
33 Dowden, Shakespeare: His Mind and Art, 406, 403.

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Notes 233

34 Hallett Smith, Shakespeare Romances (San Marino, CA:

Huntington Library Press, 1972), 20.
35 Howard Felperin, Shakespearean Romance (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1972), 281.
36 Diana T. Childress, ‘Are Shakespeare’s Late Plays Really
Romances?’ in Shakespeare’s Late Plays, eds Richard C. Tobias
and Paul G. Zolbrod (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1974),
37 G. E. Bentley, ‘Shakespeare and the Blackfriars Theatre’,
Shakespeare Survey 1 (1948), 138–50.
38 Quoted from Joan Hartwig, Shakespeare’s Tragicomic Vision
(Baton Rouge: University of Louisiana Press, 1972), 14.
39 Lee Bliss, ‘Tragicomic Romance for the King’s Men,
1609–11’, in Comedy from Shakespeare to Sheridan, eds A.
R. Braunmuller and J. C. Bulman (Newark: University of
Delaware Press, 1986), 148–64, quotation from 157.
40 Hartwig, Shakespeare’s Tragicomic Vision, 33, 139, 173.
41 Frank Kermode, ed. The Tempest (London: Methuen, 1954;
repr. 1977).
42 Barbara A. Mowat, ‘“What’s in a Name?” Tragicomedy,
Romance, or Late Comedy’, in A Companion to Shakespeare’s
Works, vol. 4, eds Richard Dutton and Jean E. Howard
(London: Blackwells, 2003), 129–49.
43 Barbara A. Mowat, The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s
Romances (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1976).
44 See McMullan, Shakespeare and the Idea of Late Writing, Chs
1 and 2.
45 John Dover Wilson, The Essential Shakespeare (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1932), 144.
46 J. Middleton Murry, ‘Shakespeare’s Dream’, in Shakespeare’s
‘The Tempest’: A Casebook, ed. D. J. Palmer (London:
Macmillan, 1968), 109–29, quotation from 110.
47 Colin Still, The Timeless Theme (London: Ivor Nicholson &
Watson, 1936), 134, 135.
48 G. Wilson Knight, The Crown of Life (Oxford, 1947; repr. New
York: Barnes and Noble, 1966), Chapter 5, quotation from 255.

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234 Notes

49 D. G. James, The Dream of Prospero (Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 1967), quotations from 149 and 174.
50 A. D. Nuttall, Two Concepts of Allegory (London: Routledge
& Kegan Paul, 1967), 159.
51 Noel Cobb, Prospero’s Island: The Secret Alchemy at the Heart
of ‘The Tempest’ (London: Coventure, 1984).
52 Harry Levin, ‘“The Tempest” and “The Alchemist”’,
Shakespeare Survey 22 (1969), 47–58.
53 Frances A. Yates, Shakespeare’s Last Plays: A New Approach
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975), Chapter 4.
54 Peggy Muñoz Simonds, ‘“My charms crack not”: The
Alchemical Structure of The Tempest’, Comparative Drama 31
(1997–8), 538–70.
55 Walter Clyde Curry, Shakespeare’s Philosophical Patterns
(Baton Rouge: University of Louisiana Press, 1937), Chapter 6.
56 D’Orsay W. Pearson, ‘“Unless I be reliev’d by prayer”: The
Tempest in Perspective’, Shakespeare Studies 7 (1974), 253–82,
quotation from 273.
57 Karol Berger, ‘Prospero’s Art’, Shakespeare Studies 10 (1977),
58 Barbara Howard Traister, Heavenly Necromancers: The
Magician in English Renaissance Drama (Columbia: University
of Missouri Press, 1984), Chapter 6.
59 John S. Mebane, Renaissance Magic and the Return of the
Golden Age (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989),
60 Barbara A. Mowat, ‘Prospero, Agrippa, and Hocus Pocus’,
English Literary Renaissance 11 (1981), 281–303; repr. in
The Tempest, eds Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman (New
York: Norton, 2004), 168–87, quotation from 187.
61 John H. Long, Shakespeare’s Use of Music: The Final
Comedies (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1961), 108.
62 John P. Cutts, ‘Music and the Supernatural in The Tempest’
(1958), repr. in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’; A Casebook,
196–211, quotation from 196.
63 Peggy Muñoz Simonds, ‘“Sweet Power of Music”: The Political

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Notes 235

Magic of “the Miraculous Harp” in Shakespeare’s The Tempest’,

Comparative Drama 29 (1995), 61–90, quotation from 73.
64 David Lindley, ‘Music, Masque, and Meaning in The Tempest’,
in The Court Masque (Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 1984); repr. in The Tempest, eds Hulme and Sherman,
187–200, quotation from 190.
65 Kermode, ed. The Tempest, xlviii.
66 Northrop Frye, A Natural Perspective: The Development of
Shakespearean Comedy and Romance (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1965), 71.
67 Jan Kott, Shakespeare our Contemporary, trans. Boleslaw
Taborski (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1966), 271.
68 Robert Ralston Cawley, ‘Shakespeare’s Use of the Voyagers
in The Tempest’, Publications of the Modern Language
Association 61 (1926), 688–726.
69 Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1964), Chapter 2, quotation from 72.
70 Leslie Fiedler, The Stranger in Shakespeare (New York: Stein &
Day, 1972), 230.

A Theatre of Attraction: Colonialism,

Gender, and The Tempest’s
Performance History
1 ‘The Tempest’ and Its Travels, eds Peter Hulme and William
H. Sherman (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
2000). For a general introduction to ‘global’ Shakespeare in
performance, see the essays collected in Stanley Wells and
Sarah Stanton, Shakespeare on Stage (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2002).
2 Virginia Mason Vaughan, ‘The Tempest’: Shakespeare in
Performance (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011),
3 John Drakakis, ‘Shakespeare in Quotations’, in Studying

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236 Notes

British Cultures, ed. Susan Bassnett, 2nd edn (London:

Routledge, 2003), 156–76, 170: ‘Shakespeare now is primarily
a collage of familiar quotations, fragments whose relation to
any coherent aesthetic principle is both problematical and
irremediably ironical.’
4 Crystal Bartolovich, ‘“Baseless Fabric”: London as a “World
City”’, in ‘The Tempest’ and Its Travels, 18.
5 Christine Dymkowski, ‘The Tempest’: Shakespeare in
Production (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2000), 71.
6 Dymkowski, ‘The Tempest’, 72; in this passage she disregards
the important dimension of aural fascination.
7 This evidence of early performances of The Tempest is
preserved in E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare a Study
of Facts and Problems, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon, 1930),
quoted in Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughan,
‘Introduction’, The Tempest, 3rd Arden Series (Walton-on-
Thames, 1999; rev. edn London: Arden, 2011), 1–160, esp.
6–7. A useful (but far from exhaustive) list of productions
until 1999 can be found in Dymkowski, ‘The Tempest’,
8 See Keith Sturgess, ‘“A Quaint Device”: The Tempest at the
Blackfriars’, in Critical Essays on ‘The Tempest’, eds Virginia
Mason Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughan (New York: G. K.
Hall, 1998), 107–29; Andrew Gurr, ‘The Tempest’s Tempest at
the Blackfriars’, Shakespeare Survey 41 (1988), 91–102.
9 For example, musical compositions (e.g. Purcell, Sibelius,
Berlioz, Tchaikovsky), ballets (Michael Nyman, 1991) and
operas (Felice Lattuada, 1922; The Knot Garden, Michael
Tippett, 1970; Un Re in Ascolto, Luciano Berio, 1984; John
C. Eaton, 1985; Heinrich Sutermeister, Die Zauberinsel,
Dresden 1942; Frank Martin, Vienna, 1956; Thomas Adès,
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 2004). In her song ‘Blue
Lagoon’ (1984), performance artist Laurie Anderson remixes
The Tempest with Moby Dick and other cultural references to
the sea; the eponymous voice asks herself who she might bring
to a desert island, then quotes from Ariel’s song (‘Full fathom
five thy father lies […]’) and ends with ‘And I alone am left to

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Notes 237

tell the tale / Call me Ishmael’. Marianne Faithfull performed

one of the surviving settings of the original music of The
Tempest by court lutenist Robert Johnson (1965) and, with
David Lynch composer Angelo Badalamenti, set the Epilogue
to music in 1995.
10 See Stephen Orgel, ‘Shakespeare Illustrated’, in Shakespeare
and Popular Culture, ed. Robert Shaughnessy (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2007), 72–92.
11 Cori Ellison, ‘The Met’s Gleeful Baroque Mash-Up’, New York
Times (22 December 2011).
12 Dymkowski, ‘The Tempest’, 80–1, explores the metatheatrical
dimensions of these and more Tempest settings. Lepage
reprises the metatheatrical interpretation in his subsequent
2012 production for Thomas Adès’s opera at the New York
Met. Here, Prospero is a nineteenth-century theatre impresario
whose magic island turns into La Scala opera house.
13 See Eckart Voigts-Virchow, ‘Something richer, stranger, more
self-indulgent: Peter Greenaway’s Fantastic See-Changes in
Prospero’s Books et al.’, Anglistik & Englischunterricht 59:
Fantasy in Film und Literatur (Heidelberg, 1996), 86.
14 Quoted in Voigts-Virchow, 1996, 92.
15 Paula Willoquet-Maricondi, ‘Prospero’s Books, Postmodernism
and the Reenchantment of the World’, in Peter Greenaway’s
Postmodern/Poststructuralist Cinema, 2nd edn, eds Paula
Willoquet-Maricondi and Mary Alemany-Galway (Lanham,
MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2008), 177–202, 183.
16 The production was selected as one of the best German theatre
productions for the Berliner Theatertreffen. Cf. also the critical
slashing that Leander Haussmann’s The Tempest (Berlin,
Theater am Schiffbauerdamm) had to endure as the critics saw
merely Spasstheater (‘fun theatre’) that failed to address any of
the dimensions opened by the play.
17 Amy Lawrence, The Films of Peter Greenaway (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2006), 149.
18 More often than not, production footage can be found on
YouTube. The best source for the vibrant, publicly funded
German-language Shakespeare productions is the yearly

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238 Notes

theatre reviews in the time-honoured, 148-year-old German

19 This detail was subsequently removed from the London
transfer. For this detail and the press reaction see Dymkowski,
‘The Tempest’, 327.
20 Unsurprisingly, a recent young adult fiction novelization of
The Tempest called Tempestuous (Kim Askew, Amy Helmes,
Merit Press, 2012) merges Prospero and Miranda, focusing on
the plight of Miranda Prospero, a spoilt ‘it girl’ in dire straits.
21 Douglas Lanier, ‘Drowning the Book. Prospero’s Books
and the textual Shakespeare’, in Shakespeare, Theory, and
Performance, ed. James C. Bulman (London: Routledge, 1996),
22 Vaughan and Vaughan (2011), ‘Additions and Reconsiderations’,
23 See Elsie Walker, ‘Julie Taymor’s Titus – ten years on’, in
Shakespeare on Screen: The Roman Plays, eds Sarah Hatchuel
and Nathalie Vienne-Guerin (Mont-Saint-Aignan, 2009),
23–66, 44. Walker also quotes Burt’s argument from his essay
‘Shakespeare meets the Holocaust’, ibid., 24.
24 See Bartolovich, ‘Baseless Fabric’, 19.
25 As Vaughan and Vaughan (2011, 98) suggest, this trend
emerged at the end of the nineteenth century, with Nicaraguan
journalist Rubén Dario, for whom Caliban was an expression
of US crudity – a tradition subsequently picked up by other
Latin American writers. Sidney Lee (North American coast)
and Rudyard Kipling (Bermudas) located the island in the New
World. E. E. Stoll fought in vain against this line of reception,
arguing that this was not corroborated in the text.
26 Shakespeare here used Antonia Pifagetta’s 1519 travel
narrative; see Vaughan and Vaughan (2011), 41–2.
27 See Mary Loeffelholz, ‘Miranda in the New World: The
Tempest and Charlotte Barnes’s The Forest Princess’, in
Women’s Revisions of Shakespeare, ed. Marianne Novy
(Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 58–75. Alden
T. Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan offer a detailed
overview of the New World material available to Shakespeare
in Shakespeare’s Caliban: A Cultural History (Cambridge:

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Notes 239

Cambridge University Press, 1991). See also their ‘Introduction’

(39–47) and the ‘Additions and Reconsiderations’ to the 3rd
Arden edition introduction (2011), 139–42. The fact that other
references (Ireland, Africa) can also be detected invites the
plurality of ‘global’ postcolonial readings.
28 See Vaughan and Vaughan (2011), 107.
29 Thomas Cartelli, Repositioning Shakespeare. National
Formations. Postcolonial Appropriations (London: Routledge,
1999), 106.
30 Vaughan, Performance, 214.
31 See Stephen Greenblatt, Learning to Curse: Aspects of Early
Modern Culture (New York: Routledge 1990), 16–39; Bill
Ashcroft, Caliban’s Voice: The Transformation of English in
Postcolonial Literatures (London: Routledge, 2009).
32 See Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources
of Shakespeare, 8 vols (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul,
1957–75), 8:241.
33 Nadia Lie and Theo D’haen eds, Constellation Caliban:
Figurations of a Character (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997), i.
See also Vaughan and Vaughan, Shakespeare’s Caliban.
34 Again, the best discussion of this occurs in Vaughan and
Vaughan, Shakespeare’s Caliban and in Vaughan and Vaughan,
The Tempest, 59–61.
35 Notably H. R. Coursen has criticized Greenaway’s lack
of postcolonial sensibility, in H. R. Coursen, Watching
Shakespeare on Television (Cranbury, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson
University Press, 1993), 164–7. Vaughan, Performance, 97,
however, sees a postcolonial dimension in the contrast between
ridiculously overdressed Europeans and naked islanders.
36 Chantal Zabus and Kevin A. Dwyer, ‘“I’ll be wise hereafter”:
Caliban in Contemporary Postmodern Cinema’, in
Constellation Caliban, 271–89, esp. 283.
37 Michael Billington, Review, Guardian (15 August 2011).
38 Sam Favate, ‘Shakespeare’s The Tempest Barred from Arizona
Public Schools’, Wall Street Journal (17 January 2012).
39 The best source for The Tempest on screen is Lisa Hopkins’s
book Screen Adaptations of The Tempest (London: Methuen

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240 Notes

Drama, 2008). Greenaway’s film is dismissed, for instance, in

the woefully parochial and evaluative text by Douglas Brode
(Shakespeare in the Movies [Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2000]), and both films get short shrift in Shakespeare and
the Moving Image (eds Anthony Davies and Stanley Wells
[Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994]) and The
Shakespeare Companion to Shakespeare on Film (ed. Russell
Jackson [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007]). A
collection of essays on Prospero’s Books was published in
Ghent (Christel Stalpaert, 2000). Standard introductions to
Greenaway are Amy Lawrence, The Films of Peter Greenaway
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) and Douglas
Keesey, The Films of Peter Greenaway (Jefferson, NC:
McFarland, 2006).

Recent Perspectives on The Tempest

1 Raymond Williams, Problems in Materialism and Culture
(London: Verso, 1980), 44.
2 Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield eds, Political
Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1985).
3 John Drakakis and Terence Hawkes eds, Alternative
Shakespeares (London: Routledge, 1985).
4 Stephen J. Greenblatt, Learning to Curse: Essays in Early
Modern Culture (New York: Routledge, 1992), 3.
5 Stephen J. Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations: The
Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1988), 154.
6 Gary Schmidgall, Shakespeare and the Courtly Aesthetic (Los
Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).
7 Curt Breight, ‘“Treason doth never Prosper”: The Tempest and
the Discourse of Treason’, Shakespeare Quarterly 41.1 (1990),
8 Mark Thornton Burnett, ‘“Strange and Woonderfull Syghts”:
The Tempest and the Discourses of Monstrosity’, Shakespeare
Survey 50 (1997), 187–99.

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Notes 241

9 Steven Mullaney, ‘Strange Things, Gross Terms, Curious

Customs: The Rehearsal of Cultures in the Late Renaissance’,
Representations 3 (1983), 40–67.
10 Barbara A. Mowat, ‘Prospero’s Books’, Shakespeare Quarterly
52.1 (2001), 1–33.
11 Edward W. Said, The World, the Text and the Critic
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983).
12 Alden T. Vaughan, ‘Trinculo’s Indian: American Natives in
Shakespeare’s England’, in The Tempest and Its Travels, eds
Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman (Philadelphia: University
of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 49–59.
13 Octave Mannoni, Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of
Colonization (New York: Praeger, 1956).
14 George Lamming, The Pleasures of Exile (London: Michael
Joseph, 1960; rev. edn 1984), 13.
15 Terence Hawkes, ‘Swisser Swatter: making a man of English
letters’, in Alternative Shakespeares, ed. John Drakakis
(London: Routledge, 1985), 26–46.
16 Terence Hawkes, Shakespeare’s Talking Animals –
Language and Drama in Society (London: Edward Arnold,
1973), 211.
17 Greenblatt, Learning to Curse, 31, 23.
18 Paul Brown, ‘“This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine”:
The Tempest and the discourse of colonialism’, in Political
Shakespeare, 48–71.
19 Peter Hulme, ‘Hurricanes in the Caribbees: The Constitution
of the Discourse of English Colonialism’, in 1642: literature
and power in the seventeenth century; proceedings of the Essex
Conference on the sociology of Literature, eds Francis Barker,
Jay Bernstein, John Coombes, Peter Hulme, Jennifer Stratton
and Jon Stone (Colchester, 1981), 55–83, quotation from 74.
20 Francis Barker and Peter Hulme, ‘“Nymphs and Reapers
Heavily Vanish” – The Discursive Con-Texts of The Tempest’,
in Alternative Shakespeares (London: Routledge, 1985),
191–205, quotations from 206, note 7 and 202.
21 John Gillies, ‘Shakespeare’s Virginian Masque’, English
Literary History 53.4 (1986), 673–707.

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242 Notes

22 Derek Cohen, ‘The Culture of Slavery: Caliban and Ariel’, The

Dalhousie Review 75.2 (1996), 153–75.
23 Andrew Gurr, ‘Industrious Ariel and Idle Caliban’, in Travel
and Drama in Shakespeare’s Time, eds Jean Pierre Maquerlot
and Michéle Willems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1996), 193–208.
24 Kim F. Hall, Things of Darkness; Economies of Race and
Gender in Early Modern England (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 1995).
25 Joyce Green MacDonald, Women and Race in Early Modern
Texts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
26 Ania Loomba, Gender, Race and Renaissance Drama
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989), 153, 155, 157.
27 Thomas Cartelli, ‘Prospero in Africa – The Tempest as
colonialist text and pretext’, in Shakespeare Reproduced – The
text in history and ideology, eds Jean E. Howard and Marion
F. O’Connor (New York and London: Methuen, 1987),
99–115, quotation from 112.
28 Dympna Callaghan, Shakespeare without Women (New York:
Routledge, 2000), 137.
29 Barbara Fuchs, ‘Conquering Islands: Contextualizing The
Tempest’, Shakespeare Quarterly 48.1 (1997), 45–62,
quotations from 45–6 and 62.
30 Jerry Brotton, ‘“This Tunis, sir, was Carthage”: Contesting
Colonialism in The Tempest’, in Post-colonial Shakespeares,
eds Ania Loomba and Martin Orkin (London: Routledge,
1998), 23–42.
31 Richard Wilson, ‘Voyage to Tunis: New History and the old
world of The Tempest’, English Literary History 64.2 (1997),
32 Deborah Willis, ‘Shakespeare and the Discourse of
Colonialism’, Studies in English Literature 29.2 (1989),
277–89, quotation from 286.
33 David Scott Kastan, ‘“The Duke of Milan / And His Brave
Son”: Old Histories and New in The Tempest’, in The Tempest
– A Case Study in Critical Controversy, eds Gerald Graff and
James Phelan (Boston: Bedford, 2000), 268–86.

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Notes 243

34 Jyotsna G. Singh, ‘Caliban vs. Prospero: Race and Gender

Conflicts in Postcolonial Rewritings of The Tempest’, in
Feminist Readings of Early Modern Culture: Emerging
Subjects, eds Lindsay M. Kaplan and Dympna Callaghan
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 191–209,
quotation from 195.
35 Lori Leininger, ‘The Miranda Trap: Sexism and Racism in The
Tempest’, in The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare,
eds Carolyn Ruth Swift, Gayle Greene and Carol Thomas Neely
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980), 285–94.
36 Ann Thompson,‘ “Miranda, where’s Your Sister?’: Reading
Shakespeare’s The Tempest’, in Feminist Criticism: Theory
and Practice, eds Susan Sellers, Linda Hutcheon and Paul
Perron (Hempel Hemstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991),
45–55, quotation from 54.
37 Barbara Ann Sebek, ‘Peopling, Profiting and Pleasure in The
Tempest’, in The Tempest – Critical Essays, ed. R. S. White
(New York: St Martins, 2001), 463–81.
38 Melissa E. Sanchez, ‘Seduction and Service in The Tempest’,
Studies in Philology 105.1 (2008), 50–82, quotation from 75.
39 Denise Albanese, New Science, New World (Durham, NC:
Duke University Press, 1996), 69.
40 Marina Warner, ‘The “Foul Witch” and her “Freckled Whelp”:
Circean Mutations in the New World’, in The Tempest and Its
Travels, 97–113, quotations from 97 and 98.
41 Leah S. Marcus, ‘Introduction – The blue-eyed witch’, in
Unediting the Renaissance: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton
(London: Routledge, 1996), 1–37, quotation from 16.
42 Mark Netzloff, England’s Internal Colonies: Class, Capitalism
and the Literature of Early Modern English Colonialism (New
York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).
43 Annabel Patterson, ‘“Thought is Free”: The Tempest’, in The
Tempest – New Casebooks, ed. R. S. White (New York: St
Martins, 1999), 123–34.
44 David Norbrook, ‘“What Care these Roarers for the Name
of the King?” Language and Utopia in The Tempest’, in The
Politics of Tragicomedy: Shakespeare and After, eds Gordon

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244 Notes

McMullan and Jonathan Hope (London: Routledge, 1992),

21–54, quotation from 24.
45 Walter Cohen, Drama of a Nation – Public Theater in
Renaissance England and Spain (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 1985), 404, 401, 402.
46 Frances E. Dolan, Dangerous Familiars: Representations of
Domestic Crime in England, 1550–1700 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 1994).
47 Stephen Orgel, ‘Prospero’s Wife’, Representations 8 (1984),
1–13, quotation from 2.
48 Janet Adelman, Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal
Origin in Shakespeare’s Plays, Hamlet to The Tempest (New
York: Routledge, 1992), 237, 238.
49 Coppélia Kahn, ‘The Providential Tempest and the
Shakespearean Family’, in Representing Shakespeare: New
Psychoanalytic Essays, eds Murray M. Schwartz and Coppélia
Kahn (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980),
217–43, quotation from 240.
50 David Sundelson, ‘“So Rare a Wonder’d Father”: Prospero’s
Tempest’, in Representing Shakespeare: New Psychoanalytic
Essays, 33–53, quotation from 37.
51 Meredith Anne Skura, ‘Discourse and the Individual: the Case
of Colonialism in The Tempest’, Shakespeare Quarterly 40.1
(1989), 42–69.
52 Barbara A. Mowat, ‘“Knowing I Loved my Books”: Reading
The Tempest Intertextually’, in The Tempest and Its Travels,
27–36, quotation from 27.
53 Donna B. Hamilton, Virgil and ‘The Tempest’: The Politics of
Imitation (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1990), 65.
54 David Scott Wilson-Okamura, ‘Virgilian Modes of
Colonization in The Tempest’, English Literary History 70.3
(2003), 709–37.
55 Jonathan Bate, Shakespeare and Ovid (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1993), 239.
56 Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan, Shakespeare’s
Caliban: A Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1991), 7.

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Notes 245

57 Patrick Cheney, Shakespeare’s Literary Authorship

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
58 Andrew Gurr, ‘The Tempest’s tempest at the Blackfriars’,
Shakespeare Survey 41 (1989), 91–102.
59 Stephen Orgel ed., ‘Introduction’, The Tempest (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2008), 1–89.
60 James Knowles, ‘Insubstantial Pageants: The Tempest
and Masquing Culture’, in Shakespeare’s Late Plays:
New Readings, eds Jennifer Richards and James Knowles
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), 108–25.
61 Douglas Bruster, ‘Local Tempests – Shakespeare and the Work
of the Early Modern Playhouse’, Journal of Medieval and
Renaissance Studies, 25.1 (1995), 33–53, quotation from 53.
62 Martin Orkin, Local Shakespeares: Proximations and Power
(London: Routledge, 2005).
63 James Kearney, ‘The Book and the Fetish: The Materiality of
Prospero’s Text’, Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies
32.3 (2002), 33–68.

New Directions: Sources and

Creativity in The Tempest
1 See Robert Wiltenburg, ‘The Aeneid in The Tempest’,
Shakespeare Survey 39 (1977), 159–68, esp. 162.
2 For a comment on this version of Prospero’s book, see Gurr,
‘Editing Stefano’s Book’, Shakespeare Survey 59 (2008),
3 Metamorphoses (Golding), 7:263–89.
4 Jonathan Bate, Shakespeare and Ovid (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1993), 343.
5 Donna B. Hamilton, Virgil and ‘The Tempest’: The Politics
of Imitation (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1990),
6 Margaret Tudeau-Clayton, Jonson, Shakespeare and Early
Modern Virgil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998),

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246 Notes

Ch. 6: ‘Shaking Neptune’s “dread trident”: The Tempest and

figures of Virgil’, 194–244.
7 Tudeau-Clayton, Jonson, Shakespeare and Early Modern
Virgil, 215. This link was first made by Bernard Smith, cited
in the second Arden Tempest, ed. Frank Kermode (London:
Methuen, 1954; note to 4.1.25), who tied this phrase to
Virgil’s ‘speluncam’, Aeneid 4, line 124.
8 For an analysis of this aspect of the play, see Andrew Gurr,
‘Industrious Ariel and Idle Caliban’, in Travel and Drama in
Shakespeare’s Time, eds Jean-Pierre Maquerlot and Michèle
Willems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996),
9 Douglas Bruster, ‘Local Tempest: Shakespeare and the work
of the early modern playhouse’, Journal of Medieval and
Renaissance Studies 25 (1995), 33–53.
10 John Florio, trans. Essayes on Morall, Politike and
Militarie Discourses of Michaell de Montaigne (London, 1603),
11 (London, 1555) BL 929.c.27 / C.13.a.18.
12 I suggested in Essays in Theatre 1 (1982), 52–62, that the
allusion to Romano in WT was a reference to Aretino’s
famous pornographic book. More recently Bette Talvacchia
has endorsed my reading in ‘The Rare Italian Master and
the Posture of Hermione in The Winter’s Tale’, Literature
Interpretation Theory 3 (1992), 163–74.
13 Erica Sheen in particular, in Shakespeare and the Institution
of Theatre (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), sets
down the contrasts between Jonson’s play and Shakespeare’s
in terms of their rival views about the work of theatre. Noting
Zachary Lesser’s point that Jonson’s Latin epigram for The
Alchemist asserts his preference for a few intelligent readers
against the mass of theatre audiences, she claims that The
Tempest responds to Jonson’s satire by asserting the value
of royal authority against Jonson’s elitism. ‘Point by point,
Shakespeare’s apparent aim, and achievement, in The Tempest
was not simply to answer The Alchemist; it was to turn the
mirror of Shakespearean theatre on the social and political
framework by which the play’s contempt for popular theatre

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Notes 247

legitimated itself. If, within 45 lines, Jonson’s spectators knew

that what they were looking at and thinking about were the
Blackfriars and the King’s Men, by the end of 1.2 Shakespeare’s
spectators could have been in no doubt that the object of
their gaze was the very image of Jonsonian monarchy. The
Alchemist begins with a parodic account of theatrical labour
undertaken in absence of the owner of the house. The Tempest
responds with a spectacular contrast between sovereignty
and collective labour which proceeds to a comprehensive
vindication of that labour’ (134–5).
14 ‘Revisiting “The Tempest”’, Modern Philology 93 (1995),
161–77, quotation from 165.
15 For a thorough rebuttal of the main feature of Kinney’s
analysis, see Alden T. Vaughan, ‘William Strachey’s “True
Reportory” and Shakespeare: A Closer Look at the Evidence’,
Shakespeare Quarterly 59 (2008), 235–73.
16 See The Tempest, eds Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T.
Vaughan (Walton-on Thames, 1999; rev. edn London: Arden,
2011), 139–42.
17 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1999).
18 ‘“Glutted with Conceit”: Imprints of Doctor Faustus on The
Tempest’, in Placing the Plays of Christopher Marlowe. Fresh
Cultural Contexts, eds Sara Munson Deats and Robert A.
Logan (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 193–208.
19 S. G. Culliford, William Strachey, 1572–1621 (Charlottesville:
University of Virginia Press, 1965).
20 Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of
Shakespeare, 8 vols (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975),
quotation from 8:245.
21 Bullough, 8:245 and 273.
22 Bullough, 8:249.
23 ‘The Sources of The Tempest’, Modern Language Notes 35
(1920), 321.
24 On the works that Bullough called ‘analogues’, in MLN 35
(1920), 321–30, Henry David Gray published a reassessment
of the claims for works such as Die Schöne Sidea, which he
averred has ‘only the merest outline of the story’, along with

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248 Notes

the Spanish Noches de Invierno, and proposed instead that the

Caliban subplot was taken from what he called ‘a dramatic
framework much closer to The Tempest’s than either of those
works’. Specifically, he identified what he called ‘the basic
source’ of the play in a set of commedia dell’arte scenarios,
found in a manuscript by Locatelli dated 1622. Apparently
they were old scripts that Locatelli fiddled with to make them
suitable for stage presentation. The originals, Gray suggested,
might have been seen in London by Shakespeare. As Gray
summarizes them, in Scenari delle Maschere in Arcadia,
Ferdinando Neri published five commedia scenarios set on
the enchanted island of Arcadia, ruled by a magician who
controls spirits. He raises a tempest and causes a ship to be
wrecked. The ship’s occupants, nobles and clowns, arrive one
by one on the island, each thinking he is alone, and lamenting
the loss of the others. Fathers lose their children, and lovers
lose each other. In the end all are reunited. Pantaloncino has
the magician declaring that he will renounce his magic and
throw away his staff and book. Gray went into some detail
finding matches between the works, including figures being
locked into trees or rocks and in one scenario a gathering of
drunken clowns which has some resemblances to Caliban’s
first encounter with Trinculo and Stephano. The clowns in
one plot wear stolen finery, and in two others the magician
hangs garlands on a tree which the clowns put on. A further
plot has the clowns stealing the magician’s book. This, Gray
argues, fits Shakespeare’s play, with a version that preceded
what he considered to be the modified text we have, which he
argued elsewhere was altered for the 1613 wedding of Princess
Elizabeth. This hypothetical earlier version, Gray thought,
made more of the play’s elements from Thomas’s Historye
of Italye and Eden’s History of Travaille, which supplied
Ferdinand of Naples and the usurping and banished dukes
of Milan. Into these Shakespeare inserted Ferdinand’s love
story from the commedia scenarios. Other commedia devices
have been identified in the clown scene where Ariel speaks
in Trinculo’s voice, and gets him a beating from Stephano.
Fanciful though much of this is, some of the Italian analogues
are persuasive. See Robert Henke, ‘Transporting Tragicomedy:
Shakespeare and the Magical Pastoral of the Commedia

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Notes 249

dell’Arte’, in Early Modern Tragicomedy, eds Subha Mukerji

and Raphael Lyne (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2007), 43–58.
25 Hamilton, Virgil and ‘The Tempest’. The Politics of Imitation,
26 Morton Luce ed., The Tempest (London: Methuen, 1901), xii.
27 Robert Cawley, ‘Shakespeare’s Use of the Voyagers in The
Tempest’, Publications of the Modern Language Association 41
(1926), 688–716.
28 Cawley, ‘Shakespeare’s Use’, 703.
29 The Jonsonian Masque (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1965), 35.
30 Shakespeare & Jonson / Jonson & Shakespeare (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1988), Chapter 5.
31 The play’s stage directions are thought to have been possibly
composed by the scribe Ralph Crane, not by Shakespeare
himself. Assuming it was Shakespeare who read Jonson’s
masque, this particular stage direction must be the author’s.
32 ‘The Tempest and Hymenaei’, Cahiers Elisabéthains 26 (1984),
29–39, esp. 31–2. At around this time Jonson was working
for Prince Henry rather than more generally for the court. He
dedicated The Masque of Queens in 1609 to him, and wrote
The Speeches at Prince Henry’s Barriers for him in 1610, as
well as Oberon in 1611. Gary Schmidgall, in Shakespeare
and the Poet’s Life (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press,
1990), reckoned that the chief inspiration for Shakespeare’s
masque, and a possible model for Prospero, might have been
not so much King James as Prince Henry. Noting that the
prince had danced in Hymenaei, he argued that ‘Considering
Henry’s well-known interests in ships, sailing, colonization,
and masquing, one is tempted to think that The Tempest might
be the one Shakespeare play written more with him than James
in mind’ (118–22).
33 Ben Jonson, The Works of Ben Jonson, eds C. H. Herford,
Percy Simpson and Evelyn Simpson, 11 vols (Oxford:
Clarendon, 1925–52), 7:214.
34 Shakespeare’s Almanac. A Midsummer Night’s Dream,
Marriage and the Elizabethan Calendar (Cambridge:

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250 Notes

Cambridge University Press, 1993), 60–6. Wiles followed

E. B. Gilman in identifying a pattern of inversions in it. See
Ernest B. Gilman, ‘“All Eyes”: Prospero’s Inverted Masque’,
Renaissance Quarterly 33 (1980), 214–30. David Lindley,
‘Music, Masque, and Meaning in The Tempest’, in The Court
Masque (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984),
47–59, notes that the play consistently registers harmonies and
disharmonies, where the disharmonious such as Antonio and
Sebastian cannot hear the harmonies. Such a pattern does not
of course appear in the subplot, where Ariel seduces Stephano
and Trinculo with his music, although he does use the tabor
and pipe of the clown, whereas the offstage ‘solemne musick’
that caught Alonso’s courtiers had the whole Blackfriars
ensemble to deliver it.
35 See for instance Hugh Craig, ‘Jonson, the antimasque, and
the “rules of flattery”’, in The Politics of the Stuart Court
Masque, eds David Bevington and Peter Holbrook (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press 1998), 176–96, quotation from 184.
36 John Orrell, ‘The Musical Canon of Proportion in Jonson’s
Hymeniae’, English Language Notes 15 (1978), 171–8.
37 Orrell, ‘The Musical Canon’, 178.
38 Alison Thorne, Vision and Rhetoric in Shakespeare. Looking
Through Language (New York: St Martins, 2000), 216.
39 William S. Powell, John Pory, 1572–1646. The Life and
Letters of a Man of Many Parts (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1977), microfiche, 3.

New Directions: Commedia dell’Arte,

The Tempest, and Transnational
1 These authors advance their arguments about commedia
dell’arte in many works, but of particular importance to this
essay are: Robert Henke, Pastoral Transformations: Italian
Tragicomedy and Shakespeare’s Late Plays (Newark: University
of Delaware Press, 1997); Performance and Literature in

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Notes 251

the Commedia Dell’Arte (Cambridge: Cambridge University

Press, 2002); ‘Transporting tragicomedy: Shakespeare and
the magical pastoral of the Commedia Dell’Arte’, in Early
Modern Tragicomedy, eds Subha Mukerji and Raphael Lyneeds
(Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2007), 43–58; ‘Border Crossing
in the Commedia Dell’Arte’, in Transnational Exchange in
Early Modern Theatre, eds Robert Henke and Eric Nicholson
(Hampshire: Ashgate, 2008), 19–34; Richard Andrews,
‘Moliere, Commedia Dell’Arte and the Question of Influence
in Early Modern Theatre’, in Shakespeare and Renaissance
Europe, eds Andrew Hadfield and Paul Hammond (London:
Arden, 2004), 123–49; Winifred Smith, The Commedia
Dell’Arte: A Study in Italian Popular Theatre (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1912); K. M. Lea, Italian Popular
Comedy: A Study in the Commedia Dell’Arte, 1560–1620
(Oxford: Clarendon, 1934); Marvin T. Herrick, Italian
Comedy in the Renaissance (Urbana: University of Illinois
Press, 1960).
2 See especially Henke, ‘Border Crossing’.
3 All citations from The Tempest are taken from the Arden
edition, Third Series, eds Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden
T. Vaughan (Walton-on-Thames, 1999; rev. edn London:
Arden, 2011).
4 A. Lynne Magnusson, ‘Interruption in The Tempest’,
Shakespeare Quarterly, 37 (1986), 52–65.
5 See especially Louise George Clubb, Italian Drama in
Shakespeare’s Time (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989),
6 The reunification of these two streams of Italian Renaissance
drama is the sustained project of Clubb’s book, but the
first and last chapters effectively ground and summarize her
7 Henke identifies comici skills throughout Performance and
Literature; in many ways, Winifred Smith’s ebullient summary
of those skills remains accurate. See Smith, The Commedia
Dell’Arte, 4–5, 17–19.
8 Clubb, Italian Drama, 6.
9 Clubb, Italian Drama, 1–26.

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252 Notes

10 See Henke, ‘Transporting tragicomedy’, 45, and Andrews,

‘Shakespeare and Italian Comedy’, 123, 131.
11 Henke, Performance and Literature, 175.
12 Clubb, Italian Drama, 53. For an extended example of such
‘cross-contamination’, see 273–6.
13 Henke, ‘Border Crossing in the Commedia dell’Arte’, 1
14 Henke, ‘Transporting tragicomedy’, 44.
15 Louis B. Wright, ‘Will Kempe and Commedia Dell’Arte’,
Modern Language Notes 41 (1926), 516–20.
16 Wright, ‘Will Kempe’, 518.
17 Wright, ‘Will Kempe’, 517–18.
18 See Enid Welsford, The Fool: His Social and Literary History
(London: Faber and Faber, 1935).
19 David Wiles traces both the etymology and theatrical use of
the term ‘clown’ in Shakespeare’s Clown: Actor and Text in
the Elizabethan Playhouse (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2005). Unfortunately, Wiles centres his study on the
assumption that all fools’ roles were written for Robert
20 Wiles almost makes true his own claim when he declares
prematurely that ‘there is general scholarly agreement that
the parts of “fools” in Shakespeare were written for Armin to
perform’, 136.
21 This point was made exceptionally well by Lauren Buckley in
her paper, ‘The Italian Genealogy of Shakespeare’s Clowns and
Fools’, presented at the 8th annual Undergraduate Shakespeare
Conference, Fitchburg State University, 2009.
22 Andrews, ‘Shakespeare and Italian Comedy’, 133.
23 With the exception of The Tempest, all Shakespeare citations
are taken from The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd edn, ed.
G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).
24 See Henke, Performance and Literature, 12–14, 24–30, for a
sound discussion of ‘dialogic structure’ in commedia dell’arte.
25 Andrews, ‘Transporting tragicomedy’, 132.
26 See Andrews, ‘Moliere, Commedia Dell’Arte and the Question
of Influence’, 454.

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Notes 253

27 Henry David Gray, ‘The Sources of The Tempest’, Modern

Language Notes 35 (1926), 321–30, quotations are taken from
324, 325 and 326.
28 Gray, ‘Sources’, 329.
29 Clubb, Italian Drama, 163, 184.
30 Clubb, Italian Drama, 163.
31 Clubb, Italian Drama, 182–3.
32 Henke, ‘Transporting tragicomedy’, 58.
33 For an unequalled discussion of the many literary texts and
historical events that scholars have identified as possible
sources for Caliban, see Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia
Mason Vaughan, Shakespeare’s Caliban: A Cultural History
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 55–85.
34 Andrews, ‘Shakespeare and Italian Comedy’, 132; Henke,
‘Transporting tragicomedy’, 58.

New Directions: ‘He needs will

be Absolute Milan’: The Political
Thought of The Tempest
1 See Stephen Orgel, ‘Introduction’, in William Shakespeare, The
Tempest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 1–4.
2 See Andrew Hadfield, Shakespeare and Renaissance Politics
(London: Arden, 2004), 1–35; and Patrick Collinson, ‘The
Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I’, in Elizabethan
Essays (London: Rio Grande: Hambledon Press, 1994), 31–58.
3 See Charles Nauert, Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance
Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006);
Eugenio Garin, Italian Humanism (Westport, CT: Greenwood
Press, 1975); and Hans Baron, The Crisis of the Early Italian
Renaissance: Civic Humanism and Republican Liberty in an
Age of Classicism and Tyranny, 2 vols (Princeton: Princeton
University Press 1955).

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254 Notes

4 Henry Peacham the Elder, The Garden of Eloquence (1593;

Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 1954), sig. ABiiv.
5 Pierre Charron, ‘Of Wisdome’ (1601), trans. Samson Lennard
(London, 1606).
6 Republicanism took many forms in early modern Europe.
The Latin term res publica literally meant the ‘public thing’
but was most frequently translated as ‘commonwealth’. See
Markuu Peltonen, Classical Humanism and Republicanism in
English Political Thought, 1570–1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1995), and Quentin Skinner, The Foundations
of Modern Political Thought, 2 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1978).
7 See Brian Levack, ‘Law and Ideology: The Civil Law and
Theories of Absolutism in Elizabethan and Jacobean England’,
in The Historical Renaissance: New Essays on Tudor and
Stuart Literature and Culture, eds Richard Strier and Heather
Dubrow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 220–41.
8 James Stuart, ‘Speech to Parliament Regarding Monarch, 21
March 1610’, quoted in The Renaissance: A Sourcebook, ed.
Lena Cowen Orlin (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 37.
9 Ibid.
10 Richard Strier, ‘Faithful Servants: Shakespeare’s Praise of
Disobedience’, 104–33, and Donald Kelly, ‘Ideas of Resistance
before Elizabeth’, 48–78, in Strier and Dubrow, The Historical
11 Collinson, ‘The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I’.
12 Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought.
13 David Bevington, Shakespeare’s Ideas: More Things in
Heaven and Earth (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2008) and
Tudor Drama and Politics: A Critical Approach to Topical
Meaning (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1968);
Robin Headlam Wells, Shakespeare’s Politics: A Contextual
Introduction (London: Continuum, 2009); and Shakespeare
and Politics, ed. Catherine M. S. Alexander (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2004).
14 Blair Worden, ‘Shakespeare and Politics’, in Shakespeare and
Politics, ed. Alexander; David Scott Kastan, Shakespeare and
the Book (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001);

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Notes 255

and Paola Pugliatti, Shakespeare the Historian (Basingstoke:

Palgrave Macmillan, 1996).
15 Mark Thornton Burnett, Masters and Servants in English
Renaissance Drama and Culture: Authority and Obedience
(Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997).
16 Marie Axton, The Queen’s Two Bodies: Drama and the
Elizabethan Succession (London: Royal Historical Society,
17 Andrew Hadfield, Shakespeare and Republicanism (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2005).
18 Paul Cantor, ‘Shakespeare’s The Tempest: The Wise Man
as Hero’, Shakespeare Quarterly 31 (1980), 64–75, and
‘Prospero’s Republic: The Politics of Shakespeare’s The
Tempest’, in Shakespeare as Political Thinker, eds John E.
Alvis and Thomas G. West (Durham, NC: Duke University
Press, 1981); Howard White, ‘Copp’d Hills Towards Heaven’:
Shakespeare and the Classical Polity (The Hague: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1970), 133–70; and David Lowenthal, Shakespeare
and the Good Life: Ethics and Politics in Dramatic Form
(Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997), 21–70.
19 Marjorie Garber, Shakespeare After All (New York: Anchor
Books, 2005), 871.
20 Paul Brown, ‘“This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine”:
The Tempest and the Discourse of Colonialism’, in Political
Shakespeares: Essays in Cultural Materialism, eds Jonathan
Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press 1985), 48–71.
21 Translated from the original French, ‘Je suis la puissance’,
in Aimé Césaire, A Tempest: Based on Shakespeare’s ‘The
Tempest’, Adaptation for a Black Theatre (1969), trans.
Richard Miller (New York: Theatre Communications Group,
2002), 31. Thanks to Richard Strier for reminding me of this
22 Citations from The Tempest are taken from the Arden Edition
Third Series, eds Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T.
Vaughan (Walton-on-Thames, 1999; rev. edn London: Arden,

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256 Notes

23 The Politics of Aristotle, trans. and ed. Ernest Baker (Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 1958); Leo Strauss, What Is Political
Philosophy? And Other Studies (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1988); and David Miller, Political Philosophy:
A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2003), 19–36.
24 Plato, Republic, trans. Paul Shorey, 2 vols (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1987), 2:19–23.
25 Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought; and Jean
Marie André, L’otium dans la vie morale et intellectuelle
romaine des origins a l’époque augustéenne (Paris, 1966).
26 John Roe, Shakespeare and Machiavelli (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2002); and Hugh Grady,
Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Montaigne: Power and
Subjectivity from ‘Richard II’ to ‘Hamlet’ (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2003).
27 Sidney Anglo, Machiavelli: The First Century (Oxford:
Oxford University Press 2005); Michael Wyatt, The Italian
Encounter with Tudor England: A Cultural Poetics of
Translation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005);
Emile Gasquet, Le Courant machiavelien dans la pensée et la
littérature anglaises du XVIe siècle (Paris, 1975); and Felix
Raab, The English Face of Machiavelli (London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1964; reissued, 2010).
28 See John F. Tinkler, ‘Praise and Advice: Rhetorical Approaches
in More’s Utopia and Machiavelli’s The Prince’, Sixteenth
Century Journal 19 (1988), 187–207.
29 Skinner, Machiavelli (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1981); Machiavelli and Republicanism, ed. Gisela Bock et
al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Vickie
Sullivan, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and the Formation of a Liberal
Republicanism in England (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2006); Patrick Coby, Machiavelli’s Romans: Liberty
and Greatness in the Discourses on Livy (Lanham, MD:
Rowman and Littlefield, 1999); and Felix Gilbert, Machiavelli
and Guicciardini: Politics and History in Sixteenth-Century
Florence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965).

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Notes 257

30 Cicero, On Obligations, trans. P. G. Walsh (Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 2000).
31 J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine
Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); and Skinner,
Liberty before Liberalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1998).
32 Niccolò Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’ and ‘Discourses on the First
Ten Years of Titus Livius’, in The Chief Works, and Others,
trans. Allan Gilbert, 2 vols (Durham, NC: Duke University
Press, 1999), 1: all citations correspond to this edition.
33 Michelle Zerba, ‘The Frauds of Humanism: Cicero,
Machiavelli, and the Rhetoric of Imposture’, Rhetorica 22.3
(2004), 215–40; Arlene Oseman, ‘The Machiavellian Prince in
The Tempest’, Shakespeare in Southern Africa 22 (2010), 7–19;
Victoria Kahn, Machiavellian Rhetoric (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1994); and Kahn, Rhetoric, Prudence, and
Skepticism in the Renaissance (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 1985).
34 Michel de Montaigne, ‘Of Cannibals’, in The Complete
Essays of Montaigne, trans. Donald Frame (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1958), 150–8.
35 Isaiah Berlin, ‘The Question of Machiavelli’, New York Review
of Books (4 November 1971).

New Directions: Shakespeare’s

Revolution – The Tempest as Scientific
1 Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (New York: Heron, 1969),
2 Brian Aldiss, Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science
Fiction (New York: Doubleday, 1973); Carl Freedman, Critical
Theory and Science Fiction (Hanover, NH: University Press of
New England, 2000).

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258 Notes

3 Freedman, Critical Theory, 4.

4 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus, ed.
Maurice Hindle (London: Penguin, 1985), 88, 94.
5 Shelley, Frankenstein, 88.
6 In The History of Science Fiction, Adam Roberts writes: ‘SF is
the genre that mediates the discourses of “science” (or “fact”)
and “magic” (or, subsequently, “imagination,” “fiction”); and
it comes into generic being at precisely the historical moment
when competing cosmic discourses were in the process of
separating themselves into rationalist Protestant and ritualist-
magical Catholic religious idioms. […] “SF” in its broadest
sense can be understood as a textual strategy to mediate this
dialectic cleavage. SF texts from the early seventeenth century
mark this disjunction most clearly, none more evidently than
Kepler’s Somnium (written c. 1600, published 1634), which
has a good claim to be the first work of modern SF’ (London:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 42.
7 Huxley, Brave New World, 88.
8 Huxley, Brave new World, 153.
9 Quoted in William Shakespeare, The Tempest, eds Virginia
Mason Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughan (Walton-on-Thames,
1999; rev. edn London: Arden, 2011), 88. For the suggestion
that Shakespeare writes himself into the play not as Prospero
but as Caliban, see Scott Maisano, ‘Rise of the Poet of the
Apes’, Shakespeare Studies 41 (2013), 64–76.
10 John Donne, John Donne’s Poetry, ed. Arthur L. Clements
(New York: Norton, 1992), 102.
11 I have elsewhere shown how Shakespeare incorporates
Galileo’s dramatic discovery into Cymbeline, another ‘scientific
romance’ from 1610. See Scott Maisano, ‘Shakespeare’s
Last Act: The Starry Messenger and the Galilean Book in
Cymbeline’, Configurations 12:3 (2004), 401–34.
12 Marjorie Hope Nicolson, Breaking of the Circle: Studies in
the Effect of the ‘New Science’ Upon Seventeenth-Century
Poetry, rev. edn (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960),
13 Nicolson, Breaking the Circle, 76.

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Notes 259

14 Nicolson, Breaking the Circle, 170.

15 Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World: How Shakespeare
Became Shakespeare (New York: Norton, 2004), 373.
16 Vaughan and Vaughan, The Tempest, 254.
17 Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution: Planetary
Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), 1–44.
18 This is Shakespeare’s only use of the word ‘zenith’.
19 The Riverside edition does not provide a footnote for ‘great
globe itself’ in the text of The Tempest but equates ‘the great
globe’ with ‘the solid globe’, the earth, in Troilus and Cressida
in its ‘General Introduction’, 7. See The Riverside Shakespeare,
ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974).
20 According to William Donahue, ‘Although there were
numerous remarkable developments in astronomy in the
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, a broad theme that
was common to many of them was the trend toward treating
things in the sky as physical objects no different from terrestrial
objects. In this trend, there were two central figures: Galileo
and Kepler’. See Donahue, ‘Astronomy’, in The Cambridge
History of Science: Volume 3, Early Modern Science, eds
Katharine Park and Lorraine Daston (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2006), 563.
21 For Shakespeare’s apparent equation of the Christmas star with
the planet Jupiter, see Maisano, ‘Shakespeare’s Last Act’.
22 See The Tempest in The Riverside Shakespeare, 1630.
23 William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. David Lindley
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 191.
Invoking an inter-theatrical allusion, Lindley glosses the ‘great
globe’ thus: ‘The world but also perhaps recalling the Globe
theatre and the globes on a turning machine that figured in
Jones’s designs for Hymenai and The Haddington Masque’.
But Lindley makes no distinction between Inigo Jones’s two
globes. Like Gerard Mercator, the Flemish cartographer who
followed the publication of his terrestrial globe in 1541 with
a celestial globe ten years later, Jones transformed what had
been a terrestrial globe in Hymenaei, or The Masque of Hymen

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260 Notes

in 1606 into a celestial globe for The Haddington Masque in

1608. John G. Demaray suspects the same globe might have
been used as a stage prop in The Tempest. See Shakespeare
and the Spectacles of Strangeness: The Tempest and the
Transformation of Renaissance Theatrical Forms (Pittsburgh:
Duquesne University Press, 1998), 90–2. My argument does
not require bringing an actual globe on stage because Prospero
could simply direct his gaze up to the ‘heavens’.
24 ‘Stuff, n. trans. and fig.’, The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd
edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), OED Online.
25 ‘Inherit, v. fig.’, OED Online (emphasis in original). The
earliest instance of this usage, according to the OED, occurs
in Cyril Tourneur’s Transformed Metamorphosis (1600),
in which the Elizabethan poet and playwright queries: ‘O,
wherein can celestial life inherit, / If it remains not in a
heav’nly spirit?’
26 See ‘Appendix I: Sources’, in William Shakespeare, Timon
of Athens, eds Anthony B. Dawson and Gretchen E. Minton
(London: Arden, 2008), 383.
27 2.2.266. The Arden editors’ note reads: ‘For early
audiences, Hamlet might be indicating the overhanging roof
of the Globe playhouse (referred to as “the heavens”) as
well as the sky above it’. See William Shakespeare, Hamlet,
eds Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (London: Arden, 2006),
28 Catherine Wilson, Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity
(Oxford: Clarendon, 2008), 39.
29 Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became
Modern (New York: Norton, 2011), 254.
30 Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, trans. Martin Ferguson
Smith (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishers, 2001), 92.
31 Wilson, Epicureanism, 23.
32 Wilson, Epicureanism, 22.
33 Francis Bacon, ‘Of Vicissitude of Things’, Francis Bacon:
A Critical Edition of the Major Works, ed. Brian Vickers
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 451–4.
34 Vickers, Francis Bacon, 782.

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Notes 261

35 Leonard Digges, A Prognostication Everlasting… Lately

Corrected and Augmented by Thomas Digges his Sonne
(London, 1576). Emphasis mine.
36 Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, trans. Smith, 35.
37 Bacon, ‘The Advancement of Learning, Book One’, Francis
Bacon, 167.
38 Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, trans. Smith, 140.
39 See M. F. Smith ‘Introduction’, in Lucretius, Nature of Things,
40 Nor does it necessarily require Prospero to be an atheist.
41 More than a century ago John Churton Collins noted ‘in
Ariel’s song in The Tempest, “Nothing of him that doth
fade”, etc., is a most exquisite adaptation of Lucretius’. See
John Churton Collins, Studies in Shakespeare (Westminster:
A. Constable, 1904), 31.
42 For the etymology of Ariel’s name see Vaughan and Vaughan,
The Tempest, 27–8.
43 Deborah Harkness, John Dee’s Conversations with Angels:
Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1999), 46.
44 ‘Aerial, adj.’, OED Online.
45 Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, trans. Smith, 10.
46 Gerard Passannante, The Lucretian Renaissance: Philology
and the Afterlife of Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2011), 135–6, 144, 178–80.
47 Graham Rees, ‘Atomism and “Subtlety” in Francis Bacon’s
Philosophy’, Annals of Science 37 (1980), 549–50.
48 Rees, ‘Atomism’, 552.
49 Except for Bruno, see Lorraine Daston and Katherine Park,
Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750 (New York:
Zone Books, 1998), 159–72. For Bruno’s ‘Neoplatonising’
approach to Lucretius, see Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and
the Hermetic Tradition (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul,
1964), 224–5, 246–9.
50 Francis Bacon, New Organon Part II aphorism 6, in Works,

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262 Notes

eds J. Spedding, R. Ellis, D. Heath and W. Rawley (Boston,

MA, 1860–4), viii, 174; quoted in Wilson, 22.
51 William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Stephen Orgel (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1994), 20.
52 Denise Albanese, New Science, New World (Durham NC:
Duke University Press, 1996), 39.
53 Gabriel Egan, Green Shakespeare: From Ecopolitics to
Ecocriticism (New York: Routledge, 2006), 169.
54 Jonathan Sawday, Engines of the Imagination: Renaissance
Culture and the Rise of the Machine (London: Routledge,
2007), 305.
55 Elizabeth Spiller, ‘Shakespeare and the Making of Early
Modern Science: Resituating Prospero’s Art’, South Central
Review 26 (2009), 24–41, quotation from 36. See also B.
J. Sokol, A Brave New World of Knowledge: Shakespeare’s
The Tempest and Early Modern Epistemology (Madison, NJ:
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003).
56 Egan, Green Shakespeare, 167.
57 Just a couple of years before The Tempest, Shakespeare had
written of another great magician, Cerimon, also living on an
island (or an isthmus), and curiously called upon to reanimate
the corpse of a woman who had not only died at sea but,
subsequently, been thrown overboard. See Act 3, Scene 2 in
William Shakespeare, Pericles, ed. Suzanne Gossett (London:
Arden, 2004).
58 Vaughan and Vaughan, The Tempest, 75.
59 Stephen Orgel, ‘Prospero’s Wife’, in Modern Critical
Interpretations: The Tempest, ed. Harold Bloom (New York:
Chelsea, 1988), 103; Ann Thompson, ‘“Miranda, Where’s Your
Sister?”: Reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest’, in Critical Essays
on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, eds Virginia Mason Vaughan and
Alden T. Vaughan (London: G. K. Hall, 1998), 234; and John
B. Bender, ‘The Day of The Tempest’, in The Tempest: Critical
Essays, ed. Patrick M. Murphy (London: Routledge, 2001), 201.
60 Steven Shapin, Scientific Revolution (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1996), 1; and Daston and Park, ‘Introduction:
The Age of the New’, Cambridge History of Science: 3:12–13.

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Notes 263

61 Noel Cobb, Prospero’s Island: The Secret Alchemy at the Heart

of The Tempest (London: Coventure, 1984), 174; and D. G.
James, Prospero’s Dream (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1967), 68.

‘volumes that / I prize’: Resources

for Studying and Teaching
The Tempest
1 There are, of course, other online editions of The Tempest,
but none that I have located are fully edited. Examples
include MIT’s Complete Works ( and
Northwestern’s Wordhoard (
2 Quotations are from Director & Editor-in-Chief Peter S.
Donaldson’s description of The Global Shakespeares Video
& Performance Archive,
(accessed 1 June 2013).
3 See, for example, Maurice Hunt’s Approaches to Teaching
Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Other Late Romances (New
York: MLA, 1992); Mary L. Dennis, The Tempest by William
Shakespeare: Teacher Guide (San Antonio: Novel Units, 1999);
Brenda Pinder, Full Fathom Five: A Workshop Approach to
The Tempest (Rozelle: St Clair, 1991). David Lindley’s recent
contribution to Arden’s Shakespeare at Stratford series, The
Tempest (London: Bloomsbury, 2003), is not a teacher’s
guide, but it provides an excellent introduction to the play for
students and instructors alike.
4 All quotations from The Tempest follow the Arden edition,
Third Series, eds Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T.
Vaughan (Walton-on-Thames, 1999; rev. edn London, 2011).
5 Jessica Slights, ‘Rape and the Romanticization of Shakespeare’s
Miranda’, Studies in English Literature 1500–1599, 41.2
(2001), 357–79, 371.
6 Peter Stallybrass, ‘Patriarchal Territories: the Body Enclosed’,
in Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual

9781472518439_txt_print.indd 263 02/05/2014 14:46

264 Notes

Difference in Early Modern Europe, eds Margaret W.

Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan and Nancy J. Vickers (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1986), 123–44.
7 Michael Neill, ‘“Noises, / Sounds, and Sweet Airs”: The
Burden of Shakespeare’s Tempest’, Shakespeare Quarterly 59
(2008), 36–59, 45.
8 John S. Mebane and Richard L. Nochimson, Cymbeline, The
Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest: An Annotated Bibliography
of Shakespeare Studies, 1864–2000 (Fairview, NC: Pegasus,

9781472518439_txt_print.indd 264 02/05/2014 14:46


Albanese, Denise, New Science, New World (Durham, NC: Duke

University Press, 1996).
Alvis, John and Thomas G. West eds, Shakespeare as Political
Thinker (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1981).
Auden, W. H., The Sea and the Mirror, ed. Arthur Kirsch
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).
Barker, Peter Francis and Peter Hulme, ‘“Nymphs and Reapers
Heavily Vanish” – The Discursive Con-Texts of The Tempest’,
in Alternative Shakespeares, ed. John Drakakis (London:
Routledge, 1985), 191–205.
Bate, Jonathan, ‘Caliban and Ariel write back’, Shakespeare Survey
48 (1995), 155–62.
Berger, Jr., Harry, ‘The Miraculous Harp: A Reading of
Shakespeare’s Tempest’, Shakespeare Studies 5 (1967), 253–83.
Bloom, Harold ed. Caliban (New York: Chelsea House, 1992).
—William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ (New York: Chelsea House,
Brevik, Frank W., The Tempest and New World-Utopian Politics
(New York: Palgrave, 2012).
Brockbank, Philip, ‘The Tempest: Conventions in Art and Empire’,
in Later Shakespeare, eds John Russell Brown and Bernard
Harris (London, 1966), 183–201.
Brotton, Jerry, ‘“This Tunis, Sir, was Carthage”: Contesting
Colonialism in The Tempest’, in Post-colonial Shakespeares, eds
Ania Loomba and Martin Orkin (London: Routledge, 1998),
Brown, Paul, ‘“This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine”:
The Tempest and the Discourse of Colonialism,’ in Political
Shakespeare: Essays in Cultural Materialism, eds Jonathan

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266 Select Bibliography

Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University

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in English 23 (1984), 75–88.
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Shakespeare, 8 vols (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975).
Burnett, Mark Thornton, Masters and Servants in English
Renaissance Drama and Culture: Authority and Obedience
(New York: St Martin’s, 1997).
Callaghan, Dympna, ‘Irish memories in The Tempest’, in
Shakespeare Without Women (London: Routledge, 2000),
Campbell, Stephen, ‘Giorgione’s Tempest, Studiolo Culture and
the Renaissance Lucretius’, Renaissance Quarterly 56 (2003),
Carroll, William C., ‘The Virgin Not: Language and Sexuality in
Shakespeare’, Shakespeare Survey 46 (1994), 107–19.
Césaire, Aimé, A Tempest: Based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’,
Adaptation for a Black Theatre (1969), trans. Richard Miller
(New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2002).
Coursen, H. R., The Tempest: A Guide to the Play (Westport, CT:
Greenwood, 2000).
Demaray, John G., Shakespeare and the Spectacles of Strangeness:
‘The Tempest’ and The Transformation of Renaissance
Theatrical Forms (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press,
Dobson, Michael, ‘“Remember / First to possess his books”: The
Appropriation of The Tempest, 1700–1800’, Shakespeare Survey
43 (1990), 99–107.
Döring, Tobias and Virginia Mason Vaughan, Critical and Cultural
Transformations – Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ – 1611 to the
Present (Tübingen: Narr Verlag, 2013).
Douglas, Trevor, ‘Mapping the Celestial in Shakespeare’s The
Tempest and the Writings of John Donne’, in Shakespeare and
Donne: Generic Hybrids and the Cultural Imaginary, eds Judith
H. Anderson and Jennifer C. Vaught (New York: Fordham
University Press, 2013), 111–29.
Dymkowski, Christine, ‘The Tempest’: Shakespeare in Production
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

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Quarterly 30 (1979) 29–41.
Fuchs, Barbara, ‘Conquering Islands: Contextualizing The
Tempest’, Shakespeare Quarterly 48 (1997), 45–62.
Gillies, John, ‘Shakespeare’s Virginian Masque’, English Literary
History 53 (1986), 673–707.
Goldberg, Jonathan, The Tempest in the Caribbean (Minneapolis,
MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2004).
Greenaway, Peter, Prospero’s Books (New York: Four Walls Eight
Windows, 1991).
Greenblatt, Stephen, ‘Learning to curse: Aspects of linguistic
colonialism in the sixteenth century’, in Learning to Curse:
Essays in Early Modern Culture (New York: Routledge, 1990),
Griffiths, Trevor, ‘“This island’s mine”: Caliban and colonialism’,
Yearbook of English Studies 13 (1983), 159–80.
Guffey, George Robert ed. After the Tempest, Augustan Reprint
Society, Special Series No. 4 (Los Angeles: William Andrews
Clark Memorial Library, 1969).
Gurr, Andrew, ‘Industrious Ariel and Idle Caliban’, in Travel and
Drama in Shakespeare’s Time, eds Jean-Pierre Maquerlot and
Michèle Willems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1996), 193–208.
—‘The Tempest’s Tempest at the Blackfriars’, Shakespeare Survey
41 (1988), 91–102.
Hadfield, Andrew, ‘Shakespeare and Italian Comedy’, in
Shakespeare and Renaissance Europe, eds Andrew Hadfield and
Paul Hammond (London: Arden 2004), 123–49.
—Shakespeare and Renaissance Politics (London: Arden, 2004).
—Shakespeare and Republicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2005).
Hamilton, Donna B., Virgil and ‘The Tempest’: The Politics of
Imitation (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1990).
Hartwig, Joan, Shakespeare’s Tragicomic Vision (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana University Press, 1972).
Henke, Robert, Pastoral Transformations: Italian Tragicomedy and
Shakespeare’s Late Plays (Newark: University of Delaware Press,

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Hirst, David, ‘The Tempest’: Text and Performance (Houndsmills:

Macmillan, 1984).
Hopkins, Lisa, Screen Adaptations of ‘The Tempest’ (London:
Methuen Drama, 2008).
Horowitz, Arthur, Prospero’s ‘True Preservers’: Peter Brook,
Yukio Ninagawa and Giorgio Strehler (Newark: University of
Delaware Press, 2004).
Hulme, Peter, Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native
Caribbean, 1492–1797 (London: Methuen, 1986).
Hulme, Peter and William H. Sherman eds, ‘The Tempest’ and its
Travels (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000).
Jowett, John, ‘New created creatures: Ralph Crane and the stage
directions in The Tempest’, Shakespeare Survey 36 (1983),
Lie, Nadia and Theo D’haen eds, Constellation Caliban: Figurations
of a Character (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997).
Lindley, David, ‘Music, Masque and Meaning in The Tempest’, in
The Court Masque, ed. David Lindley (Manchester: Manchester
University Press, 1984), 47–59.
—‘The Tempest’: Shakespeare at Stratford (London: Arden, 2000).
Loomba, Ania, Gender, Race and Renaissance Drama (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1989).
Lowenthal, David, Shakespeare and the Good Life: Ethics and
Politics in Dramatic Form (Lanham, MD: Rowman and
Littlefield, 1997).
McAlindon, Tom, ‘The Discourse of Prayer in The Tempest’,
Studies in English Literature 41 (2001), 235–55.
McDonald, Russ, ‘Reading The Tempest’, Shakespeare Survey 43
(1990), 15–28.
—Shakespeare & Jonson / Jonson & Shakespeare (Lincoln, NE:
University of Nebraska Press, 1988).
—Shakespeare’s Late Style (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2006).
Marchitello, Howard, The Machine in the Text: Science and
Literature in the Age of Shakespeare and Galileo (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2011).
Maus, Katharine Eisaman, ‘“Arcadia lost”: Politics and Revision in the
Restoration Tempest’, Renaissance Drama 13 (1982), 189–209.
Mebane, John S., Renaissance Magic and the Return of the Golden
Age (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1989).

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Mowat, Barbara A. The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s Romances

(Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1976).
—‘Prospero, Agrippa, and hocus pocus’, English Literary
Renaissance 11 (1981), 281–303.
Murphy, Patrick ed. ‘The Tempest’: Critical Essays (New York:
Routledge 2001).
Neill, Michael, ‘“Noises, / Sounds, and Sweet Airs”: The Burden
of Shakespeare’s Tempest’, Shakespeare Quarterly 59 (2008),
Nixon, Rob, ‘Caribbean and African appropriations of the
Tempest’, Critical Inquiry 13 (1987), 57–78.
Orgel, Stephen, ‘New Uses of Adversity: Tragic Experience in
The Tempest’, in Essays in Shakespeare Criticism, eds James
L. Calderwood and Harold E. Tolliver (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice Hall, 1970), 368–87.
—‘Prospero’s wife’, in Rewriting the Renaissance, eds Margaret W.
Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan and Nancy J. Vickers (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1986), 50–64.
Oseman, Arlene, ‘The Machiavellian Prince in The Tempest’,
Shakespeare in Southern Africa 22 (2010), 7–19.
Schmidgall, Gary, Shakespeare and the Courtly Aesthetic (Los
Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).
—Shakespeare and the Poet’s Life (Lexington: University of
Kentucky Press, 1990).
Sheen, Erica, Shakespeare and the Institution of Theatre
(Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009).
Simonds, Peggy Muñoz, ‘“My charms crack not”: The alchemical
structure of The Tempest’, Comparative Drama 32 (1998),
—‘“Sweet power of music”: “the miraculous harp” in
Shakespeare’s The Tempest’, Comparative Drama 29 (1995),
Singh, Jyotsna, ‘Caliban versus Miranda: Race and Gender
Conflicts in Postcolonial Rewritings of The Tempest’, in
Shakespeare’s Romances, ed. Alison Thorne (Basingstoke:
Palgrave, 2003), 205–25.
Skinner, Quentin, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, 2
vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978).
Skura, Meredith, ‘Discourse and the individual: The case of colonialism
in The Tempest’, Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989) 42–69.

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Smith, Hallett, Shakespeare’s Romances: A Study of the

Imagination (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library Press, 1972).
Sokol, B. J., A Brave New World of Knowledge: Shakespeare’s
‘The Tempest’ and Early Modern Epistomology (Madison, NJ:
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003).
Spiller, Elizabeth, ‘Shakespeare and the Making of Early Modern
Science: Resituating Prospero’s Art’, South Central Review 26
(2009), 24–41.
Thompson, Ann, ‘“Miranda, where’s your sister?”: Reading
Shakespeare’s The Tempest’, in Feminist Criticism: Theory and
Practice, eds Susan Sellers, Linda Hutcheon and Paul Peron
(Hempel Hemstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), 45–55.
Traister, Barbara, Heavenly Necromancers: The Magician in English
Renaissance Drama (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri
Press, 1984).
Tudeau-Clayton, Margaret, Jonson, Shakespeare and Early Modern
Virgil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
Vaughan, Alden T. ‘William Strachey’s “True Reportory” and
Shakespeare: A Closer Look at the Evidence’, Shakespeare
Quarterly 59 (2008), 245–73.
Vaughan, Alden T. and Virginia Mason Vaughan, Shakespeare’s
Caliban: A Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1991).
Vaughan, Virginia Mason, ‘Literary Invocations of The Tempest’,
in Shakespeare’s Last Plays, ed. Catherine M. S. Alexander
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 155–72.
—‘The Tempest’: Shakespeare in Performance (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 2011).
Von Rosader, Kurt Tetzeli, ‘The Power of Magic from Endymion to
The Tempest’, Shakespeare Survey 43 (1990), 1–14.
White, Howard, ‘Copp’d Hills Towards Heaven’: Shakespeare and
the Classical Polity (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1970).
Wood, Nigel ed., The Tempest: Theory and Practice (Buckingham:
Open University Press, 1995).
Yates, Frances A. Shakespeare’s Last Plays (London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1975).
Zabus, Chantal, Tempests after Shakespeare (New York: Palgrave,

9781472518439_txt_print.indd 270 02/05/2014 14:46


Adelman, Janet 85 Bevington, David 196, 219

Albanese, Denise 80, 188 Blackfriars 1, 42, 96, 103, 111,
alchemy 32–3 247n. 13
Aldiss, Brian 166 Bliss, Lee 28
allegorical readings 30–2, 46 Bloom, Harold 209
Anderson, Laurie 236n. 9 Bodin, Jean 143
Andreini, Francesco 121, 122 Bosman, Anston 224
Andrews, Richard 115–16, Boyle, Robert 193
122, 127, 130, 135 Breight, Curt 65, 83
Antonio 3, 158–9, 160 Brevik, Frank W. 211
Aretino, Pietro 143 Brook, Peter 9, 50
Ariel 21, 22, 30, 95, 182–4 Brotton, Jerry 75, 213
in performance 47, 50 Brown, Paul 69–70, 74, 213
as servant 95 Brown, Sarah Annes 217
as slave 56 Browning, Robert xvi, 23–4,
Aristotle 139, 142, 176, 177 197
Armin, Robert 125, 126 Bruster, Douglas 90, 96
Atomism 177–80, 183–4 Buckley, Lauren 252n. 21
Auberlen, Eckhard 15 Bullough, Geoffrey 55, 99–100,
Auden, W. H. xvii 104–5
Ayrer, Jacob xiv, 105 Burnett, Mark Thornton 65

Bacon, Francis 167, 179–80, Caliban 1, 3, 4, 24, 47, 54, 56,

181, 185–6, 187–8 88, 111
Barker, Francis 71–2, 213 as colonized subject 55–6,
Bate, Jonathan 87–8, 94, 224 57, 67–8, 71
Beaumont, Francis xiii, 28 language of 15–18, 22, 69
Beck, Ervin 211 as monster 16, 65, 67
Bender, John 192 as natural man 36, 57
Bennett, George 23 as rebel 154–7
Benson, Frank 24, 57 as savage 20–1, 23
Bentley, Gerald Eades 28 as servant 72–3, 95
Berger, Karol 33–4 as slave 72, 160

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272 Index

Callaghan, Dympna 74 Darío, Rubén xvi, 238n. 25

Campbell, Thomas 18 Das, Nandini 174
Carey-Webb, Allen 221 Daston, Lorraine 193
Cartelli, Thomas 54–5, 74 Davenant, William xv, 1, 2, 6,
Castiglione, Baldassare 143 7, 14–15, 41, 43
Cawley, Robert Ralston Dawkins, Peter 221
xvi–xvii, 37, 107–8 Day, John 124
Cefalu, Paul 214 Dee, John xiii, 33, 50, 183
Césaire, Aimé xvii, 56, 146 Demaray, John G. 219, 260n. 23
Chambers, E. K. 123 D’haen, Thea 209
Charron, Pierre 139 Digges, Thomas 180, 193
Cheney, Patrick 89 Digital Shakespeare 60, 201–3
Childress, Diana T. 27 Dobson, Michael 224
Childs, Peter 214 Dolan, Frances 83–4
Cholij, Irena 219 Donahue, William 259n. 20
Cicero 139, 151 Donne, John 10, 168–70, 177,
Clemen, Wolfgang 25–6 178, 192
Clubb, Louise George 120–1, Döring, Tobias 209
122, 132, 251n. 6 Dowden, Edward 19, 26–7, 30
Cobb, Noel 32 Drakakis, John 235–6n. 3
Cohen, Walter 83 Dryden, John xv, 1, 2, 6, 7,
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 21, 14–15, 16, 41, 43
57, 168 Duffett, Thomas xv, 43–4
Collinson, Patrick 144 Dymkowski, Christine 40–1,
commedia dell’arte 9, 45, 105, 50, 51–2, 198, 237n. 12
115–36, 248n. 24
Dottore 134, 135 Eden, Richard xii, 4, 97, 103,
Lazzi 124, 134 108
Masks 119, 120, 125, 127 editions of The Tempest xvi,
Pantalone 127, 134, 135 xvii, 28–9, 106, 171,
scenarios 118–19, 129–30, 174–5, 196–201 see also
133–4, 248n. 24 First Folio
Zannis 120, 124–7, 131, 134 education 25, 207–8, 221–4
commedia erudita 120–1 Egan, Gabriel 188
Copernicus 169–72, 193 Elizabeth, Princess of England
Coursen, H. R. 239n. 35 xiv, 5, 111, 206
cultural materialism 8, 40, Evans, Robert C. 214
Curry, Walter Clyde 33 Faithfull, Marianne 236–7n. 9
Cutts, John P. 35 Feerick, Jean 214

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Index 273

Felperin, Howard 27 Gonzalo 157–9, 160

feminist readings 78–81, 206, Graff, Gerald 199
217–18 Gray, Henry David 105,
Fernández Retamar, Roberto 130–2, 247–8n. 24
xvii, 56 Gray, Terry 203
Ficino, Marsilius 33 Green, Andrew 219
Fiedler, Leslie 37 Greenaway, Peter xviii, 45–6,
First Folio xiv, 14, 26, 40, 56, 57, 203
134, 191–2, 196, 200 Greenblatt, Stephen 8, 55,
Fletcher, John xiii, 28, 132 63–4, 69, 170, 177–8,
Fludd, Robert 204 184, 196–7, 215
Folger Shakespeare Library Greene, Robert 27, 98, 174
201–2 Guarini, Giambattista 28, 132
Forbidden Planet xvii, 51, 203 Guicciardini, Francesco 143
Forset, Edward 141–2 Gurr, Andrew 41, 72, 89,
Fortescue, John 143 224–5
Freedman, Carl 166
Frey, Charles 214 Hakluyt, Richard xii, 4
Friesen, Ryan Curtis 221 Hall, Edward 145
Frye, Northrop 36 Hall, Kim 73
Fuchs, Barbara 74–5, 76 Hamilton, Donna B. 87,
Fuseli, Henry xv 105–6, 211
Harkness, Deborah 183
Galileo 169, 179, 193 Harriot, Thomas 187
Garrick, David 19 Hartley, Andrew James 217
Geneva Bible xii, 100–1 Hartwig, Joan 28
genre 26–30 Hazlitt, William 21–2, 104
as late play 29–30 Heath, Benjamin 17
as romance 27 Henderson, Diana E. 225
as scientific romance 166–8, Henke, Robert 115–16, 122,
194, 258n. 6 123, 130, 133–4, 135,
as tragicomedy 28–9, 132 251n. 7
Gentillet, Innocent 150–1 Herrin, Jeremy 59
German productions 40, 50, 52 Holinshed, Raphael 145
Gielgud, John 46, 49, 50 Holland, Peter 199, 225
Gildon, Charles 16–17, 18 Holmes, Jonathan 59–60
Gillies, John 72 Holt, John 17
Gilman, Ernest B. 240n. 34 Honeyman, Janice 197
Go, Kenji 215 Hooke, Robert 187
Goldberg, Jonathan 217, 224 Hopkins, Lisa 225

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274 Index

Horowitz, Arthur 225 Knight, G. Wilson 31

Hotman, François 143 Knop, Sherron 221
Hulme, Peter 39, 70–2, 198, Knowles, James 90
209, 213 Kositsky, Lynne 215
Huxley, Aldous 165–6, 167–8 Kott, Jan 37
Hytner, Nicholas 50 Kuhn, Thomas 171

intertextuality 86–8 Lamming, George xvii, 67–8

Islam 75–6 Langbaum, Robert 199
Lanier, Douglas 51
Jacobi, Derek 50 Laroque, François 215
James, D. G. 31 Lea, Kathleen 123
James I, King of England 5, Lee, Sidney xvi, 238n. 25
138–9, 140–2, 145, 155, Lee, Young Cho 212
162 Leininger, Lori 79, 217–18
Japanese productions 58–9 Leoni, Battista 133
Jarman, Derek xviii, 50, 51, 203 Levin, Harry 32
Jefferson, Teddy 225 Lie, Nadia 209
Johnson, Samuel 17–18 Lindley, David 36, 175, 197–8,
Jones, Inigo 109 219, 220, 250n. 34,
Jonson, Ben xiii, 1, 14, 41, 96, 259n. 23, 263n. 3
98, 103, 105 Locatelli, Basilio 121–2, 130,
Alchemist, The xiii, 32, 99, 248n. 24
103, 246–7n. 13 Logan, Robert A. 102
Hymenaei xiii, 108–11, Long, John W. 35
112–13, 249n. 32 Loomba, Ania 73–4, 76–7, 218
Luce, Morton xvi, 106
Kahn, Coppélia 85–6 Lucking, David 222
Kastan, David Scott 5, 77–8, Lucretius 177, 178–9, 181–2,
211 183–4
Kean, Charles 44 Lupton, Julia Reinhard 212
Kearny, James 91, 221 Lyne, Raphael 222
Kelsey, Lin 219
Kempe, William 90, 96, 123, McAdam, Ian 222
124–6 McAlindon, Thomas 204, 212
Kepler, Johannes 187, 193 MacDonald, Joyce Green 73
Kermode, Frank xvii, 28–9, McDonald, Russ 25
204, 211 MacDonnell, Patrick 22–3
Khoury, Joseph 226 Machiavelli, Niccoló 10, 143,
Kinney, Arthur F. 99–100 150–4, 158, 159–60

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Index 275

MacKaye, Percy xvi Mullaney, Steven 65

McMullan, Gordon 29 Murphy, Patrick 209–10
Macready, William Charles xv, Murry, J. Middleton 30
22–3, 43, 44, 57 music 33–4, 35–6, 59–60,
magic 17, 33–6, 64, 66, 102, 206–7, 219–21, 236–7n.
207–8, 221–4 9, 250n. 34
Magnusson, A. Lynne 119
Malone, Edmond xv, 3, 106, Nashe, Thomas 123–4
229n. 2 Neill, Michael 220
Mannoni, Octave xvii, 55–6, Neri, Ferdinando 130, 248n.
67, 197 24
Marcus, Leah 81 Netzloff, Mark 82
Marlowe, Christopher xiii, 33, new historicism 8, 55, 63–6
102 New World readings 4–5,
Marston, John xiii 37, 54, 66–7, 99–100,
Marx, Leo 37 103–5, 106–8, 156
Marxist readings 81–4 Newton, Isaac 193
masque 42–3, 89–90, 108–13, Nicolson, Marjorie Hope
161–2, 206–7, 219–21 169–70
Maus, Katharine Eisaman 15 Ninagawa, Yukio xviii, 57, 58
Mazursky, Paul xviii, 49 Nixon, Rob 226
Mebane, John S. 34, 208, 222 Nochimson, Richard 208
Mendes, Sam 50, 51, 59 Norbrook, David 82–3, 204,
metatheatre 29, 47, 89–90 212
Minear, Erin 220 Nunn, Trevor 59
Miranda 23, 51, 72, 73, 79–80, Nuttall, A. D. 31–2
162, 189–91, 206
Mirren, Helen xviii, 7, 52, 197 Orgel, Stephen 84, 89–90, 109,
Mirror of Knighthood, The xii 187–8, 191, 197–8, 218
Moncrief, Kathryn M. 222 Orkin, Martin 90–1
Montaigne, Michel de xiii, 101, Orrell, John 112
143, 158, 163 Ortiz, Joseph 220
‘Of the caniballes’ 4, 22, 55, Ovid xii, 87–8, 93, 94–5, 96,
96–7, 117–18, 156–7, 97, 105, 144, 189
197, 205
‘Of the institute and Palmer, D. J. 210
education of children’ 208 Park, Katherine 193
Mowat, Barbara A. 29, 34–5, Pask, Kevin 220
65–6, 87, 200, 215, 222, Patterson, Annabel 82
223 Peacham, Henry 139

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276 Index

Pearson, D’Orsay 33 Renan, Ernest xvi

Peele, George 27 republicanism 138–46, 254n. 6
Pepys, Samuel 7, 15, 43 Richards, I. A. 25
performances, earliest xiv, 1, 5, Roberts, Adam 258n. 6
13–14, 41, 111 Rodó, José Enrique xvi
Phelan, James 199 Romano, Giulio 98
Pittman, Demetra 52 Rosier, James 100
Plato 139, 147–8, 156–7 Rothschild, N. Amos 223
political readings 9–10, 15, Rowe, Katherine 201
62–3, 82–4, 137–64, Rowe, Nicholas xv, 16
204–5 Rudolph II, King of Bohemia
Polybius 142 xiii, 5
Poole, William 218
Pope, Alexander 17 Said, Edward 66
Pory, John 113 Sams, Jeremy 44
post-colonial readings 8, 54–6, Sanchez, Melissa 80, 218
66–77, 205, 213–17 Sawday, Jonathan 188
refutation of 77–8 Scala, Flaminio 121, 122, 130
Primaleon, Prince of Greece Schlegel, August Wilhelm 6,
xiv 20–1
Prospero 1–2, 36 Schlueter, Nathan 212
as colonist 55–6, 64, 71–2, Schmahl, Hildegard 47, 48,
146 49, 52
as governor 104–5 Schmidgall, Gary 64–5, 249n.
as philosopher 46–7, 146–7 32
as prince 150, 153–6 160–1, science, early modern 10–11,
163–4 80, 168–94
as scientist 174, 186–7, Sea Venture xiii, xiv, 3, 54,
188–91 99–100, 104, 106
as Shakespeare 18–19 Sebastian 158–9, 160
as woman 47–9, 52 Sebek, Barbara 79–80
Prospero’s island 3–4, 53, 156, Sennert, Daniel 177–8
159, 229–30n. 4 Shadwell, Thomas 14–15
psychoanalytic readings 49, Shaheen, Naseeb 100–2
55–6, 67, 84–6 Shakespeare, William
Pucher, Stefan 47–8, 49 Antony and Cleopatra
Ralegh, Walter 33 Comedy of Errors 118, 144
Redgrave, Vanessa 7, 52 Coriolanus 145
Rees, Graham 185–6 Cymbeline 110, 189

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Index 277

Hamlet 127, 128, 178 sources 8–9, 93–113, 117–18,

Henry IV, Part One 128 135–6, 144–5
Julius Caesar 145 Spenser, Edmund 89
King Lear 125, 145, 182 Spiller, Elizabeth 188
Macbeth 126–7 Stallybrass, Peter 206
Measure for Measure 145 Stalpaert, Christel 226
Merchant of Venice 125, Stanivukovic, Goran 223
126, 127–8, 129, 145 Still, Colin 30–1
Midsummer Night’s Dream Strachey, William xiii, xiv, 2,
128, 129–30 54, 97, 99–100, 103–4,
Much Ado About Nothing 106–8, 156, 197, 205
128 Strehler, Giorgio xvii–xviii, 9,
Othello 127, 129, 130 45
Pericles 191, 262n. 57 Strier, Richard 212–13
Rape of Lucrece 145 Stritmatter, Roger 215–16
Richard III 94 Suchet, David 57
Romeo and Juliet 127 Sundelson, David 86
Taming of the Shrew 128 Sycorax 58, 73, 74, 155
Timon of Athens 145, 176
Titus Andronicus 144, 145 Tarlton, Richard 124
Twelfth Night 125, 126 Taymor, Julie xviii, 52, 197,
Winter’s Tale 98, 189 203, 206
Shapin, Steven 193 theatregrams 121, 127–9, 135
Shaw, Catherine M. 110 Thompson, Ann 79, 191–2,
Sheen, Erica 246n. 13 218
Shelley, Mary 166–7 Thorne, Alison 112
Sher, Antony 50–1 Traister, Barbara 34, 223
Sherman, William 39, 198, 209 Tree, Herbert Beerbohm 24,
Shin, Hiewon 223 57
Simonds, Peggy Muñoz 33, 35, Tudeau-Clayton, Margaret 95,
36, 220–1 101
Singh, Jyotsna 78–9, 226
Skura, Meredith 86, 215 Vaughan, Alden T. 42, 66–7,
slavery 72, 76, 160 88, 197, 210, 216,
Slights, Jessica 218 238–9n. 27, 253n. 33
Smith, Hallett 27, 196, 210 Vaughan, Virginia Mason 55,
Smith, John (Captain) 54 88, 197, 209, 210, 216,
Smith, Thomas 143 238–9n. 27, 253n. 33
Smith, Winifred 251n. 7 on performance 40, 42,
Sokol, B. J. 223 226–7, 239n. 35

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278 Index

Virgil xii, 87, 94–5, 96, 144, 159 Wilson, Daniel xvi, 24
Visconsi, Elliott 201 Wilson, John Dover 30
Wilson, Richard 76
Warburton, Willliam 17 Wilson-Okamura, David 87,
Warner, Marina 51, 58, 81 216
Warton, Joseph 17 Winson, Patricia 224
Welsh, James M. 227 Wolff, Max J. 131
Werstine, Paul 200 Wood, John 50
White, R. S. 210 Wood, Nigel 210–11
Whitted, Brent 200 Woodward, Hobson 216–17
Wikander, Matthew 15 Wright, Louis B. 123
Wiles, David 252n. 19, 20 Wylie, John 217
Williams, Raymond 62
Willis, Deborah 77, 216 Yachnin, Paul 200
Willoquet-Maricondi, Paula Yates, Frances A. 32–3
Wilson, Catherine 177, 179 Zabus, Chantal 227

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