The Tempest

The Tempest

The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–1611, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where the sorcerer Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place using illusion and skillful manipulation. He conjures up a storm, the eponymous tempest, to cause his usurping brother Antonio and the complicit King Alonso of Naples to believe they are shipwrecked and marooned on the island. There, his machinations bring about the revelation of Antonio's lowly nature, the redemption of the King, and the marriage of Miranda to Alonso's son, Ferdinand.

There is no obvious single source for the plot of The Tempest, but researchers have seen parallels in Erasmus's NaufragiumPeter Martyr's De orbe novo, and eyewitness reports by William Stracheyand Sylvester Jordain of the 1609 shipwreck of the Sea Venture on the islands of Bermuda, and the subsequent conflict between Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers. In addition, one of Gonzalo's speeches is derived from Montaigne's essay Of the Canibales, and much of Prospero's renunciative speech echoes a speech by Medea in Ovid's poem Metamorphoses. The masque in Act 4 may have been a later addition, possibly in honour of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick V in 1613. The play was first published in the First Folio of 1623.

The story draws heavily on the tradition of the romance and it was influenced by tragicomedy, the courtly masque and perhaps the commedia dell'arte. It differs from Shakespeare's other plays in its observation of a stricter, more organised neoclassical style. Critics see The Tempest as explicitly concerned with its own nature as a play, frequently drawing links between Prospero's "art" and theatrical illusion, and early critics saw Prospero as a representation of Shakespeare, and his renunciation of magic as signalling Shakespeare's farewell to the stage. The play portrays Prospero as a rational, and not an occultist, magician by providing a contrast to him in Sycorax: her magic is frequently described as destructive and terrible, where Prospero's is said to be wondrous and beautiful. Beginning in about 1950, with the publication of Psychology of Colonization by Octave MannoniThe Tempest was viewed more and more through the lens of postcolonial theory—exemplified in adaptations like Aimé Césaire's Une Tempête set in Haiti—and there is even a scholarly journal on post-colonial criticism named after Caliban.