Auden, W. H. “The Sea and the Mirror.” In For the Time Being. London: Faber and Faber, 1945.
Auden’s long poetic reflection on Shakespeare’s play picks up at the moment just after the play’s action ends. The first “Chapter” is a seven-stanza monologue from “Prospero to Ariel,” in which Prospero, as he packs, talks to Ariel about the very questions left at the end of Shakespeare’s play: about Prospero’s feelings about giving up his magic, about Miranda’s leaving, about Ariel’s leaving, about Antonio’s refusing reconciliation. The second “Chapter” is a set of poems in which “the supporting cast” is each given a poem, each followed by a bitter or ironic poem of rejoinder from Antonio. In the final (prose) “Chapter,” Auden speaks through Caliban in a dense reflection on nature and art.
Breight, Curt. “‘Treason doth never prosper’: The Tempest and the Discourse of Treason.” Shakespeare Quarterly 41 (1990): 1–28.
For Breight, The Tempest is “constructed as a series of conspiracies, and as such it can be inserted into a vast discourse of treason . . . in late Elizabethan and early Jacobean London.” But The Tempest presents Prospero as stage-managing fictional conspiracies; thus it calls attention subversively to the possibility that so-called treason plots (such as the Gunpowder Plot) put down so bloodily by English monarchs might, like the plots in The Tempest, have been stage-managed by the monarchs for the purpose of displaying their power in crushing such “plots.”
Brown, Paul. “ ‘This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine’: The Tempest and the discourse of colonialism.” In Political Shakespeare: New essays in cultural materialism, ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, pp. 48–71. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985.
Brown reads The Tempest in the context of colonialist discourses about both the New World and Ireland. He finds the play to be implicated in the process of “euphemisation,” or the effacement of power, but he also finds that while the play mystifies power in its magical narrative of sea change, the play also exposes the operations of power in Prospero’s enslavement and oppression of Caliban. Thus the play reveals contradictions in colonialist discourse.
Cartelli, Thomas. “Prospero in Africa: The Tempest as colonialist text and pretext.” In Shakespeare Reproduced: The text in history and ideology, ed. Jean E. Howard and Marion F. O’Connor, pp. 99–115. London: Methuen, 1987.
Cartelli argues that The Tempest “speaks the predatory language of colonialism on behalf of the governing structures of western power and ideals.” In support of this claim, he cites the reception and representation of The Tempest in the writings of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o of Kenya and George Lamming of the West Indies.
Césaire, Aimé. Une Tempête. D’après ‘la Tempête’ de Shakespeare. Adaption pour un théâtre nègre. Paris: Édition du Seuil, 1969.
This adaptation of The Tempest sets the action in a Caribbean island. The focus is on the master/slave relationship that the author sees at the heart of colonization. Ariel is a mulatto who happily serves the ruling Prospero; Caliban, the protagonist of the play, is a black slave set in opposition to Prospero and given a sympathetic reading denied the other characters.
Dowden, Edward. Shakspere: A Critical Study of His Mind and Art. London: Henry S. King & Co., 1875.
Dowden sees The Tempest as the perfect expression of “the clear and solemn vision” of Shakespeare’s closing years. After having written the great tragedies, Shakespeare’s “temper demanded . . . an issue into joy and peace.” “It is not chiefly because Prospero is a great enchanter . . . that we chiefly identify Prospero in some measure with Shakespeare himself. It is rather because [Prospero’s] grave harmony, his self-mastery,” are characteristic of Shakespeare in his later years. “Prospero’s departure from the island is the abandoning by Shakespeare of the theatre. . . . He returns to the dukedom he had lost, in Stratford-upon-Avon.”
Greenblatt, Stephen J. “Martial Law in the Land of Cockaigne.” In Shakespearean Negotiations, pp. 129–63. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
Greenblatt examines The Tempest in the context of sixteenth-century techniques for exerting control through the production of what was then regarded as a thoroughly salutary anxiety in one’s subordinates. He then extends this analysis across both the enterprise of theatrical production—“a virtual machine” for inducing anxiety—and The Tempest and its sources.
Greenblatt, Stephen J. “Learning to Curse: Aspects of Linguistic Colonialism in the Sixteenth Century.” In Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture, pp. 16–39. New York and London: Routledge, 1990.
Greenblatt maps out the Renaissance humanist notion that “savages of America were without eloquence or even without language,” an opinion that justified the denial to these “savages” of any integrity or identity of their own. While Greenblatt finds that Shakespeare’s depiction of Caliban participates in this opinion, Greenblatt also argues that Caliban nevertheless has moments of eloquence.
Hayne, Victoria. “Performing Social Practice: The Example of Measure for Measure.” Shakespeare Quarterly 44 (1993): 1–29.
This study of betrothal and marriage customs in Elizabethan England, though applied here to the couples depicted in Measure for Measure, is pertinent to the Ferdinand-Miranda betrothal in The Tempest. Hayne draws on recent social histories to make clear that “legal marriage was accomplished solely by the voluntary consent of the two people involved; therefore, a legally valid and binding marriage was formed whenever a man and woman exchanged vows worded in the present tense. . . .” Hayne discusses “handfasting” and the role of the church in “blessing” a marriage.
Knights, L. C. “The Tempest.” In Shakespeare’s Late Plays: Essays in Honor of Charles Crow, ed. Richard C. Tobias and Paul G. Zolbrod, pp. 15–31. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1974.
Knights argues that one must begin one’s study of The Tempest by recognizing that paradox is of the essence of the play, and by giving attention to four aspects of the play’s technique: its conformance to the unities; its relationship to Jacobean masque; its integral use of music and song; and, finally, its wide range of linguistic styles. The play itself is about Prospero: its main movement “is Prospero’s movement towards restoration,” toward renewal of the self.
Mannoni, O. Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization, tr. Pamela Powesland. London: Methuen, 1956 (first published in Paris by Editions du Seuil in 1954 as Psychologie de la Colonisation).
Mannoni sets The Tempest within the complex of psychological and interhuman relationships he finds among colonials (i.e., those who colonize) and the subservient race that has been colonized—specifically among the Malagasies and their European colonial masters.
Mowat, Barbara. “Prospero, Agrippa, and Hocus Pocus.” English Literary Renaissance 11 (1981): 281–303.
Mowat argues that Prospero’s magic cannot be contained within the tradition of Agrippa and other Renaissance occult scientists, as many scholars would have it. Many of Prospero’s speeches are indeed in line with such magus figures, but other speeches and actions link Prospero to the tradition of pagan enchanters and to such wizards as J. Faustus, Owen Glendower, and Friar Bacon. Further, Prospero’s relationship with Ariel—along with the kinds of theatrical tricks that Prospero plays on his victims—is reminiscent of the language and actions of Jacobean street magicians and their apprentices.
Orgel, Stephen. The Illusion of Power: Political Theatre in the English Renaissance. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1975.
Orgel sees Prospero’s masque in The Tempest as an important Renaissance commentary on the subject of royal power. The masque, which is actually the dramatic representation of a masque, centers on the ruler who creates it. In the otherwise tight temporal control of The Tempest, the masque moves through different seasons; it is ended by the threat of death in Caliban’s conspiracy. Imagination here is real power, and the source of the power is imagination, an active and outgoing faculty in Prospero. Prospero’s power links him with Renaissance ideas of both gods and kings.
Patrick, Julian. “The Tempest as Supplement.” In Centre and Labyrinth: Essays in Honor of Northrop Frye, pp. 162–80. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983.
Patrick associates The Tempest with “the middle stages of romance,” which “are both unstable and actively generative.” He identifies such instability as arising in The Tempest from the play of past, present, and future in the form of the characters’ narratives, action, and goals, in all of which the audience is involved. Therefore the epilogue where Prospero insists that only the audience can return him to Naples “is not a mere supplement to the play but its necessary conclusion.”
Renan, Ernest. Caliban suite de La Tempête, ed. Colin Smith. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1954.
Renan’s play, written in 1877, is a political satire in which Prospero is presented as a scientist, Ariel as a devoted servant of Prospero, and Caliban as an anarchistic revolutionary. While Prospero works for God, which he equates with Reason, Caliban leads a revolt against Prospero and succeeds in establishing a secular democracy. In this “new age,” the aristocrats (who have made language, laws, morals, and reason) are thrown off as tyrants by their former slaves: The “tender and loyal hearted . . . have no place in the present conditions of the world. Death is their only hope and refuge.” Ariel disintegrates and Prospero falls dead.
Skura, Meredith. “Discourse and the Individual: The Case of Colonialism in The Tempest.” Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989): 42–69.
In explicit reaction to recent readings of The Tempest as implicated in colonial discourse, Skura offers readings of the play that link it instead to such plays as Hamlet. For Skura, The Tempest becomes part of a distinctive literature issuing from an individual mind, on which traditional psychological models can shed light.
Strachey, G. Lytton. “Shakespeare’s Final Period.” The Independent Review 3 (August 1904): 405–18. Reprinted in G. Lytton Strachey, Literary Essays. London: Chatto and Windus, 1948, pp. 1–15.
Strachey argues that those who (like Dowden) see Shakespeare in his final years as “On the Heights” are quite mistaken. Plays such as The Tempest show that Shakespeare, in his last years, was “half enchanted by visions of beauty and loveliness, and half bored to death.” Inspired by his fancy to lovely songs, he was also urged by a general disgust to burst through his torpor into bitter and violent speech. The Tempest, most often cited as containing the essence of Shakespeare’s kind and compassionate vision, contains instead the disillusionment and bitterness of middle age.
Vaughan, Alden T., and Virginia Mason Vaughan. Shakespeare’s Caliban: A Cultural History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
This interdisciplinary investigation of the historical and literary contexts out of which Caliban may have been produced also includes a detailed study of the reception and representation of Caliban in various media: for example, literary criticism, the stage, the screen, visual art, and poetry.
Wright, Louis B., ed. A Voyage to Virginia in 1609. Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1964.
Wright here edits two early-seventeenth-century narratives describing the wreck of the Sea-Venture and the miraculous saving of the new governor of Virginia, the admiral of the fleet, and all of the ship’s passengers and crew. The narratives are Strachey’s “True Reportory” and Sylvester Jourdain’s “Discovery of the Bermudas.” Wright’s “Introduction” (pp. ix–xx) gives a readable, succinct account of the voyage and its relation to The Tempest.