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The Tempest, a Brave New World; or Just a Sad Goodbye?

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Essay title: The Tempest, a Brave New World; or Just a Sad Goodbye?

Through the years there has been much debate as to whether Shakespeare’s The Tempest is an Allegory to European colonization and colonial life, or if it is his “farewell to the stage” with a complete overview of the stage and a compilation of all of his characters into a few, in which the playwright himself being presented as Prospero. Is The Tempest an allegory to European colonization, or is it Shakespeare, presenting his formal farewell to the stage?

Many believe that Shakespeare, personified his character into Prospero, because Prospero ultimately created the entire plot of the play with his magic, which he obtained shortly after being marooned on the island. Because The Tempest was one of only two of Shakespeare’s works that were entirely original, one could see why this would be the easiest position to take; after all, Prospero basically writes the play himself, by creating a complicated plot to regain his dukedom from which he was usurped. He also controls every character in the play, some with loving relationships, some with just the opposite. “Watching” Prospero create and work through the play, is almost like watching the playwright write the play, from start to finish. His extremely manipulative control over all characters in the play, and his delicate and sometimes hard to understand strategy in “capturing” the king is symbolized in the end in which Miranda and Ferdinand are revealed playing chess. Because of this, his dukedom is surrendered back to him, for which matter he also surrenders his magic in order to fit in with the world which he is about to rejoin after twelve years. This play very much does show the magic and ability to create anything in the world of theatre, even a barren theatre like the Globe, before the wonders of technology could create special effects and realistic scenery. This is ironic because the vivid descriptions that the characters give of the island, whether good or bad, are not achievable through primitive scenery as there was in Shakespeare’s day, so therefore are left up to the audience for interpretation. For instance:

Adr: Though this island be desert…

Uninhabitable and almost inaccessible…

The air breathes upon us here the most

Seb: As if it had lungs, and rotten ones

Ant: Or as if t’were perfumed by a fen

Gon: How lush and lusty the grass looks, How Green!

Ant: The ground indeed is tawny

(Act II. Scene I.)

This is just one example of how in this play, Shakespeare allows the reader to take a look into the playwright’s mind and how life as a playwright was to Shakespeare. After all, if every play were written in the magical world of The Tempest, Hamlet would have been reunited with Ophelia, and King Hamlet would have risen from the dead in order to forgive his murder and restore his kingdom (Johnston 6), or Lady Macbeth would have finally washed that “damned spot” out of her hand, with out going crazy, and Duncan would have forgiven Macbeth before he obtained his extreme pessimistic view of life in general, provided that Macbeth surrender his kingdom back to Duncan. It is a world without real tragedy, only staged tragedy, and it is the world in which Shakespeare is possibly trying to imply that the playwright lives, because his magic, like Prospero’s is only good in his world, or in his case, the stage.

One of the main indicators that perhaps this was his final farewell to the stage is Prospero’s epilogue to the play. In it he states that in order to rejoin life outside his isolated island where anything is possible, he must “drown his book” or give up his magic. This is very significant because to many readers it symbolizes Shakespeare “drowning his book” or preparing to re-enter society without the imagination with which he created plays. Prospero tells the audience that he is a slave to his own magic, and that in order for him to be set free, they must applaud him, so he can leave. This is possibly also symbolic of Shakespeare giving up his play writing and that in order for him to be set free from the imagination and creativity, the audience must applaud him one last time so as to satisfy the insatiable desire for applause that the playwright has. He also may be trying to show how it was very easy for him to get caught up in his own capabilities as playwright, and forgotten the main purpose of the play, which is not to show off. This is also illustrated by the wedding masque that Prospero performs with his magic, forgetting that there are three men attempting to take his life, while he shows off. When he remembers this, he must force himself back to reality, and focus on accomplishing the goal of

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