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Stephen Greenblatt - Strategic Opacity

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Essay title: Stephen Greenblatt - Strategic Opacity

Stephen Greenblatt defines strategic opacity as the omitence of vital information in a play in order to make way for conclusions drawn up by the characters actions, the happenings of the play, and sometimes even the audience themselves. A champion of this literary idea was William Shakespeare because he was able to use this idea in mostly all of his plays. In The Tempest and King Lear, two similar characters can be seen with Prospero and Kind Lear. Two men in power, two men that have conniving family members, two men who completely lose the power they so much love, and who both struggle to regain the clout they once had. In comparing the strategic opacities in the two plays, it is in this readers opinion that one man had complete control of his own fate and destiny, where as the other was at the mercy of the wheel of fortune which he set in motion with his own actions.

The story of Prospero and Miranda starts with intense imagery of a tempest brewing in the middle of some unknown sea with a boat of men from Milan and Naples trapped at the mercy of the storm. The reader soon comes to find that it is at the hands of the magician Prospero that this storm has come to bear these men in this situation, for he is seeking revenge upon the sea goers for exiling him to an island many years before. Prospero had once been the prosperous Duke of Milan, until he, allowed his “state to grow a stranger” (The Tempest, I.2.76), at the hands of his own studying, that his brother hoisted him from his seat. Through the plot of the play, it can be wondered whether Prospero meant all along for this to happen, for at the end of the play, he appears to be in a better place than when he started as duke. One can question if this powerful magician had exile in mind while he studied his books. When the he describes the boat he and Miranda were set off in, he elaborates that Gonzolo gave them, “rich garments, linens, stuffs, and necessaries”, including books from Prospero’s library which later help hone his magical abilities (I.2.160-168). Prospero and Miranda where obviously not to be killed, “the love his people bore him” (I.2.141) was too strong that there would be revolt if such thing where to happen which is curious because the love of the people should also keep him in his position which makes way for the theory that he himself chose to leave. Another suspicious occurrence is the shipwreck itself, with the marriage of Alonso’s daughter to an African king which there appear to be no ties, one has to wonder if the wedding was not set up by Prospero’s hand in fate in order to draw the men towards his island (II.1.122-128). With his daughter too far to reach, and his son the only other heir to the thrown, it only seems fit that Prospero would compel Miranda and Ferdinand together to create an alliance. (I.2.421-423) At the end of the play when Prospero has revealed the reasoning behind all the characters being on the island, Gonzolo says, “Was Milan thrust from Milan, that his issue should become

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