The Tempest

Content Group

Overview
The Tempest: Miss Brown as Miranda, Mr. Mattocks as Ferdinand

This play is among Shakespeare's most popular with modern audiences, particularly in America, where it is seen as his American play because of allusions picked up from accounts of the Virginia voyages in William Strachey's manuscript Sea Adventure and Sylvester Jourdain's A Discovery of the Bermudas, which contribute details to Propero's island. Caliban's name is an anagram of "cannibal," which derives from the fierce tribe of Caribs who also gave their name to the Caribbean Sea (see Renaissance Marriages: The Caribbean for the Caribbean in English visual culture). The script also appeals to modern radicals (like Manoni, in our bibliography) who find Caliban to be an example of abused natives in the colonized zones of America, though Prospero's island clearly lies within the Mediterranean. This sympathy is reinforced by the comic misconduct of the clowns. However, great audience appeal lies in the innocent loves of Ferdinand and Miranda, fostered by Prospero's benevolent magic. The play is also sentimentally seen as Shakespeare's last, so that Prospero's surrender of his magical powers becomes a figure for Shakespeare's own retirement. However, he was involved in several other scripts thereafter, particularly Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, though scholars attempt to assign the former partly to his successor John Fletcher, and much of the latter to Fletcher too. Modern staging of The Tempest exploits the scenic enrichment developed in the script (as with other late Shakespearean romances) by the King's Men's use of an indoor theatre at Blackfriars. Modern staging tends to the spectacular (see Shakespeare and Co. 2001), particularly through the magical effects of Ariel, as in the elaborate Masque of Ceres.

Images
The Tempest, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1982
The Tempest, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1998
The Tempest, R.S.C., 1998: Robert Glenister as Caliban.
The Tempest, R.S.C., 1998: Robert Glenister as Caliban.
The Tempest at the Faculty Glade, U.C.Berkeley, 1993
*Margaret Webster Production: The Tempest, 1945, New York
A Wedding at the Valois Court
Tempest, IV.i.60: Three Goddesses from the Masque of Ceres. Royal Shakespeare Company, 1993.
The Tempest: Shakespeare & Company, 2001.
The Tempest: National Theatre Company, May 1988.
The Tempest: Robert Atkins as Caliban
The Tempest: Prospero and Miranda
The Tempest: Ariel and Prospero
The Tempest: Shakespeare and Company, 2001
The Tempest: J. L. Cathcart as Caliban
Prospero in The Tempest at the Bruns Theatre of the California Shakespeare Theatre, 2005.

Pages

Slideshows
Bibliography

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Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond