The Tempest: A Guide to the Play

The Tempest: A Guide to the Play

The Tempest: A Guide to the Play

The Tempest: A Guide to the Play

Synopsis

The Tempest is probably the last play Shakespeare wrote by himself. As such, it is the product of his artistic maturity. While its plot is relatively straightforward, the play addresses numerous current topics in the early part of the 17th century, such as magic and colonialism. This reference is a comprehensive guide to the play. The volume looks at early and modern editions of The Tempest, overviews its sources and historical and cultural contexts, analyzes Shakespeare's dramatic art, explores the play's various themes, and summarizes its critical heritage. It then reviews the play's production history and comments on the success of various performances.

Excerpt

The textual issues surrounding The Tempest are straightforward. The play was not printed during Shakespeare's lifetime. The only text is that of the First Folio (1623). Although The Tempest is the last play Shakespeare wrote by himself, it is the first play printed in the First Folio. There, the text is divided into five acts, with separate scenes clearly delineated, and with the Epilogue and a list of characters on the last page. The stage directions are unusually complete, even "literary," meaning that modifications like "tempestuous" and "quaint" seem more appropriate for a reader than for a stagehand. It may be that John Heminge and Henry Condell, who compiled the First Folio, decided that the play, which was popular and had never been published, should lead off their massive volume, and that the text should be especially prepared for a printed format.

John Jowett (1983) says that the stage directions in The Tempest tend to be "non-theatrical, and would be peculiarly ineffective in instructing the players" (107). The "transcript," Jowett says, "was [probably] prepared specifically in order to appear as the first play in F" (109). Its "literary quality . . . may be an impediment when the text is used in the theatre" (110).

A few scholars speculate that the Masque in Act 4 was added for a special performance: the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick, the Elector Palatine, on 14 February 1613. W. J. Lawrence argues that the Masque was interpolated shortly after Elizabeth's betrothal, in anticipation of a command performance (1920, 941-46). This is dubious, however, since the Masque serves . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.