The Tempest as a Renaissance Drama

Renaissance means rebirth, which marks a shift from seeing humans as sinners to a focus on their potentials and achievements. Humanism was a key part of Renaissance spirit. Quest for knowledge and power, a spirit of adventure, a quest for exploring new territories, the presence of evil in the politics and interest in magic are the Renaissance element in The Tempest.

William Shakespeare

The play’s major focus is on Prospero’s quest for perfection, knowledge and power. He devotes himself to learning even to the extent of neglecting his duties as a ruler. Use of magic is a weapon through which he can attain perfection. He attains to the status of God on the island assigning roles to the people, commanding and punishing them whenever they go wrong. The act of Antonio’s usurpation of power gives us insights into the evil that was a part of Renaissance politics. The predominance of magic in the play shows the Renaissance king’s interest is in the magical things. Prospero leaves Milan and happens to land on a new island. This incident of traveling through the sea, facing shipwreck, coming to a new land reminds us of the spirit of adventure, of Renaissance times made possible by the invention of the compass. The quest for geographical discovery of the time is vividly referred to. The long process of colonization began during the Renaissance period. Prospero goes to Caliban’s island and gives its culture and rules over it. He seems to have fulfilled the colonizing mission. He is the representative of western civilization, goes to a wild locale and molds it in the image of his own culture. He takes the land away from Sycorax to whom it legally belongs.

Antonio’s greed for power, Prospero’s quest for knowledge and perfection as well as his spirit of adventure from the Renaissance elements of the play. The use of magic as a means for gaining perfection and the colonization of the island also makes The Tempest a typical Renaissance drama.