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THE TEMPEST

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Virginia Palmieri

on 30 March 2014

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Transcript of THE TEMPEST

THE TEMPEST
by William Shakespeare
Date and sources
The Tempest is the last Shakespeare's work and it was first performed in 1611(under the reign of James I): the Elizabethan Age ended in 1603, so this play is post-Elizabethan. It's characterized by an happy ending, so it was chosen in 1613 for the wedding celebration of Elizabeth (James' daughter) and Prince Frederick.
Shakespeare's inspiration came from different sources, mainly of three types:
Pamphlets
about voyages to America
Fairy tales of monsters in human form or stories about magic
The Italian "commedia dell'arte", from Italian companies
Plot

The play is divided into five acts; the first one begins with a tempest, near an enchanted island. There are several characters who are shipwrecked on it: Alonso, king of Naples (with all his court), his son Ferdinand and Antonio, duke of Milan. His brother Prospero, the main character, the rightful duke of that city, had reached that island lots of years before: now he lives on the island with her daughter Miranda and has become a great magician; Prospero caused the tempest to meet again his brother, who had betrayed him twelve years before; there is also Caliban, a villainous island native, the deformed son of a witch named Sycorax, who ruled the island before Prospero arrived, but in the play she was already dead. Finally there's Ariel, a gentle spirit of the air, imprisoned by Sycorax herself.
The second act presents initially the desperation of Alonso because he thinks his son drowned, but instead Ferdinand is alive and, while he wanders through the island, meets Miranda, falling in love with her.
In the third part of the play, Ferdinand is tested by Prospero while Caliban meets Stefano and Trinculo, two members of Antonio's court: they decide to kill Prospero, but luckily Ariel listens to them and warns the magician.
The marginal fourth act consists in an interlude to entertain Miranda and Ferdinand, while an atmosphere of general reconciliation characterizes the fifth and last act: Miranda and Ferdinand marry; Prospero forgives his brother and resumes possession of his lost dukedom in Milan, but he decides to surrender his magical powers. Caliban is left alone on the island and Ariel is finally released.
Themes



The main characteristic of the play is the 'serenity' in human relationships: the forgiveness becomes an essential theme, like the peace; in fact there's no tragic ending. Shakespeare seems eager to show that good may come of evil.
Other relevant elements are:
the relationship between natives (Sycorax and Caliban) and invaders (Antonio, Alonso, Prospero...);
the presence of magic, both the dark one (Sycorax), and the Prospero's one, through his good purposes.
Since it's a very theatrical play,
The Tempest
is very tough to interpret; lots of resources of the theatre have to be used: dramatic action, special effects, music, magic, monsters, dancing and storms, that contribute to transform the play into an exploration of the nature of the theatre itself.
Ariel, whose release and willing service provides Prospero of his magical power, becomes the character who makes the effects of the theatre possible.
But the unreal atmosphere of the enchanted island mustn't remove the dimension of real (Milan, Naples...): in fact, at the end Prospero decides to forsake his powers.
The play must be regarded as a warning against the danger of colonialism: according to this interpretation, Prospero becomes an European coloniser who has organized, in a remote island, a life for himself, by getting the local inhabitants to work for him, promising them of freedom some day. We can note as, under this point of view, he's negatively analyzed and judged.

The Tempest: movie vs play

The play has also a movie version, published in 2010. There are many differences between this and the original play: first of all, in the movie Prospera is the female version of Prospero; she is the wife of the previous Duke of Milan, before Antonio's arrival: the relationship between Antonio and Prospera becomes a brother-sister relation. Besides, Caliban in the movie is shown as a half-human/half-monster, while in the Shakespeare's one is an animal type creature, with unnatural parts. Instead, Ferdinand and Miranda's characters are quite similar to the one of the original play. Many scenes aren't included while others are changed.
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Consort
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Mathieu
Consort
(EN)
« If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin's cheek,
Dashes the fire out. »
(IT)
« Se con la vostra arte, amatissimo padre, avete
sollevato questo urlo dalle onde selvagge, ora calmatele.
Sembra che l'aria voglia rovesciare fetida pece,
ma che il mare, alzandosi fino al volto del cielo,
ne attenui il fuoco. »
Miranda, atto I, scena II
A little extract from the play...
Full transcript