The Tempest by William Shakespeare: Introduction

William Shakespeare's last play, The Tempest, was first performed in 1611, although it was the opening play of his collected works of 1623. The play has long dazzled readers and audiences with its intricate blend of magic, music, humor, intrigue and tenderness.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

It charmed Jacobean audiences, played (in substantially altered form) to packed houses from the Restoration through the eighteenth century, emerged (in its original form) as a focal point in nineteenth- century European debates about the nature of humanity, and served disparate symbolic roles in twentieth-century writings on western imperialism and its demise.

The Tempest has been a play for all eras, all continents and many ideologies. Several centuries of readers, watchers and critics have found Shakespeare's last play as perhaps less the story of the shipwreck, island refuge, murderous cannibals and happy ending but more of ambiguous central characters: the detestable Prospero (who, some critics oppose, reflects the playwright himself), the bestial of noble Caliban, the loyal or resentful Ariel, and the demure or resilient Miranda. Even the play's narrative context is disputable. Controversy has marked The Tempest almost from the outset through centuries of changing interpretations by legions of scholars-whether from a Romantic, Christian, Darwinian, Freudian, allegorical, autobiographical, cultural materialist or post-colonial perspective. The Tempest has resonated with unusual power and variety.

The Tempest is neither a comedy nor a disintegrating tragedy, but a matured play of Shakespeare. As he grows matured, he moves beyond the tragedy and wrote some comedy plays along with romance. Since, it is the last play of Shakespeare, it depicts his long career in the field of theatres. Prospero’s supreme control over the island and over the spirits of the island symbolizes Shakespeare’s supreme mystery of the English theatre of his time. Here, the position of Prospero has been regarded as the position of Shakespeare himself. Prospero, who parallels Shakespeare, manages all the problems and shows resolution. He creates a tempest through the use of magic, which makes people forget and brings resolution. The creation of magic is not just ego gratification, but a genuine use. Giving up the power of magic by Prospero parallels the ending of the Shakespeare dramatic career.

The Tempest is full of supernatural elements and it seems clear that the playwright is not interested in producing lifelike events. The beautiful presentation of the characters, the moral theme of forgiveness and the issue of freedom bestowed to Ariel, and the delightful poetry are the charm of this play.