Historical Background, Literary and Philosophical Theories, Themes, Motifs, and Topics for Investigation
The Tempest, probably the best known play of the final period, has its basis in fact, both macrocosmically in terms of certain historical events, and microcosmically reflecting perhaps [because not all scholars agree] events in Shakespeare's life as some believe it is his "farewell" to the stage and a successful career. The play is different from most others you have looked at--it is not a comedy, history or tragedy, but yet has elements of all of them. Note how the play reflects our "invention of the human" theme.
In order to test these assumptions, please prepare the following:
1. Carefully read the play, noting the following information from various primary and secondary sources listed below:
Shakespeare. Sonnet XVIII
Plato. Excerpts from The Republic
Sidney. Excerpts from The Apology for Poetry
Coleridge. Excerpts from The Biographia Literaria
Burton, R. Excerpts from The Anatomy of Melancholy
Browning, R. Caliban Upon Setebos
Lovejoy, A. The Great Chain of Being. Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1960.
Graves, R. The White Goddess. New York: Noonday Press, 1960.
Langbaum, R. "Introduction" to The Tempest in the Signet edition of The Tempest,1964.
Tillyard, E.M.W. The Tragic Pattern: The Tempest in the Signet edition, 1964.
Brower, R. The Mirror of Analogy: The Tempest in the Signet edition, 1964.
"The Source of The Tempest in the Signet edition, 1964.
Kermode, F. "Introduction" to The Tempest in the Arden edition published by Random House, 1964.
Bloom, H. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human--you should read Bloom's criticism of the play.
EVENTS OF 1609--THE SHIPWRECK AND ITS AFTERMATH:
IN JUNE, 1609, NINE SHIPS WITH FIVE HUNDRED COLONISTS SET OUT FOR VIRGINIA, BUT ON JULY 24, THE FLAGSHIP--SEA ADVENTURE--BECAME LOST IN A STORM AND WOUND UP AT BERMUDA. ULTIMATELY THEY ARRIVED IN VIRGINIA ON MAY 23, 1610. MANY STORIES OF THE WRECK WHICH AT FIRST WAS THOUGHT TO BE FATAL WERE PUBLISHED, AND THE EVENT WAS SEEN AS A SIGN OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. SHAKESPEARE'S FRIENDS, SOUTHAMPTON AND PEMBROKE HAD FINANCIAL INTERESTS IN THE NEW WORLD. THE VOYAGE WAS SEEN AS AN ALLEGORY FOR MAN'S SALVATION.
THE FORM OF THE TEMPEST:
(definitions of relevant literary terms. Note: for details, see: Thrall, Hibbard and Holman, (eds.) A Handbook to Literature New York: Odyssey Press, and The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume II, Fifth Edition, 1986.)
A MODE OF EXHIBITING THE ACTION OF MAGICAL AND MORAL LAWS IN A VERSION OF HUMAN LIFE SO SELECTIVE AS TO OBSCURE, FOR THE SPECIAL PURPOSE OF CONCENTRATING ATTENTION ON THESE LAWS, THE FACT THAT IN REALITY THEIR FORCE IS INTERMITTENT AND ONLY FITFULLY GLIMPSED. THUS ALSO WE MAY BELIEVE THAT IN THE END THE FORCES OF FERTILITY OR OF PLENTY TRIUMPH, AND THAT IT IS A LAW OF HUMAN LIFE THAT THEY SHOULD DO SO; WE WOULD NOT HOLD IT AS A RATIONAL CONVICTION THAT THIS MUST BE SO IN EVERY SINGLE CASE OF EVERY INDIVIDUAL; YET COMEDY BY A FORMAL LAW, PROVIDED BY A FEW EXCEPTIONS, ENDS IN A FEAST OR A WEDDING. IN THE SAME WAY WE ACCEPT EVEN MORE ARBITRARY DEVICES, SUCH AS THAT OF THE CRUCIAL RECOGNITION OF TRAGEDY AND COMEDY, A FORMAL LAWS CORRESPONDING TO, AND IN SOME VALUABLE WAY ILLUMINATING, FORCES WHICH ARE INTERMITTENT AND RARELY VISIBLE. (FROM THE ARDEN EDITION)
MASQUES WERE ELABORATE COURT ENTERTAINMENTS WITH SEMI-DRAMATIC QUALITIES. THESE CEREMONIES WERE PERFORMED BY NOBLE AMATEURS, AND PERFORMED ON SPECIFIC OCCASIONS SUCH AS MAY DAY CELEBRATIONS TO HERALD THE COMING OF SPRING ETC. THE AUDIENCE WAS OFTEN INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE EVENT BY SINGING, DANCING ETC. OR PAYING TRIBUTE TO A ROYAL FIGURE--THE TEMPEST MAY HAVE BEEN WRITTEN TO CELEBRATE THE MARRIAGE OF KING JAMES' DAUGHTER ELIZABETH (MIRANDA?). AT COURT, THE MASQUE MADE USE OF ELABORATE AND EXPENSIVE MACHINERY--SETS MORE INTRICATE THAN THE PLAYHOUSES, INVOLVING MUSICIANS, SPECIAL DANCERS, AND EXTRAVAGANT COSTUMES; IT JUMBLED CHARACTERS AND MYTHICAL FIGURES TOGETHER; IT WAS BOTH COMIC AND SERIOUS, BUT NOT REALISTIC. THE FOLLOWING HAD TO BE INCLUDED: RICH SPECTACLE OF SONG AND DANCE,  MORAL ALLEGORY, and  COURTLY COMPLIMENTS.
A TRAGIC - COMEDY CONCERNED THE STATUS OF HUMAN LIFE IN RELATION TO NATURE, AND THE MERCY OF PROVIDENCE WHICH GIVES NEW LIFE WHEN THE OLD IS SCARRED BY SIN OR LOST IN FOLLY. THE ROMANCE IS RELATED TO THE TRAGIC-COMEDY; RECALL THE ELEMENTS OF MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. EG.: PROSPERO PITCHES HIS COUNTRYMEN INTO A VIOLENT SEA STORM, BUT IS MERCIFUL; FROM THE MANY DISASTERS AND ANGUISHES THE CHARACTERS SUFFER COMES A KIND OF REDEMPTION--RECALL MEASURE FOR MEASURE. NOTE THE LINES: "...BRAVE NEW WORLD..."
THEMES OF THE TEMPEST:
The quote below was from the writing of the post-Renaissance philosophy and poet, Coleridge, who himself was strongly influenced by NEO-PLATONIC philosophy. Although writing considerably after Shakespeare and since Shakespeare himself did not write a formal document of literary philosophy, we will use Coleridge as a data base, making necessary modifications for The Tempest. Coleridge here is writing about his poem called The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:
COLERIDGE: "...incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural, and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions as would naturally accompany such situations supposing them real. And real in this sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever source of delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural agency...my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters at least supernatural...with this view I wrote the Ancient Mariner. [Coleridge wished to connect the human truth of] "our outward nature" with the "shadows of imagination." [Romantic poetry appeals] "to the imagination rather than to the sense and to the reason as contemplating our inward nature, the working of the passions in their most retired recesses." [By] "exciting our internal emotions," [the poet] "acquires the right and privilege of using time and space as they exist in the imagination, obedient only to the laws which the imagination acts by." "In looking at objects of Nature while I am thinking...I seem rather to be seeking, as it were asking for, a symbolic language, for something within me that already and forever exists, that observing anything new. Even when the latter is the case, yet still I have always an obscure feeling as if that new phenomenon were the dim awakening of a forgotten or hidden truth of my inner nature."
Shakespeare would probably have agreed with these ideas for his play. As a case in point, some of the travel literature that influenced Shakespeare in writing The Tempest also influenced Coleridge in his Poetry.
Platonic and NEO-PLATONIC Influences:
PLATO: "Spirits are half-way between god and man. They are envoys and interpreters that ply between heaven and earth, flying upward with our worship...and descending with heavenly answer...they merge both sides into one great whole...the divine will not mingle directly with the human. God is the supreme governor in charge...and in like manner was the government of its [the universe] several regions, for these were all portioned out to be provinces under the surveillance of tutelary [protecting] deities. Over every herd of living creatures...were set a heavenly daemon to be its shepherd. [Pertaining to man]...a god was their shepherd and had charge of them...This is the story of the life of men under Cronus. [Plato goes on to describe how the absence of these daemons caused chaos on earth until man could fend for himself, a task best defined by cultivating of the rational faculty to appreciate and intuit the forms, especially the form of the good].
NEO-PLATONIC INFLUENCES IN THE MIDDLE AGES AND RENAISSANCE INHERITED BY SHAKESPEARE: [To be sure that there was not a single gap in the chain of being from the ONE [form of the good] to the world of sense perception [nominalism-plentitude], the Medieval philosophers "...increased the number of different stages through which the world proceeds forth from the ONE and identified them with the forms of the deities [daemons] in the different religions by all kinds of more or less arbitrary allegories. It was therefore natural in connection with the return of the soul to God, since it must traverse the same stages up [to the form of the good], to claim the support of these lower gods...metaphysics thus degenerated into mythology:
DIAGRAMS TO ILLUSTRATE:
NATURE WITH THE FOLLOWING SUB-DIVISIONS:
GODS --representing order, unity behind plenitude
HEROES --closer to divine nature, perfects the soul and leads man to God (god-man myth)
DAEMONS --(matter) power transmitters, serve as ministers to gods, guard the elements of nature, makes natural pheromone obey God Includes may classes-POLAR SPIRITS too.
MAN'S SOUL --plenitude that his its origin in god (unity idea) Soul must strive to participate in this unity as it "frees" itself from matter. Man can commune with the above daemons.
RENAISSANCE THEORIES (BURTON): [daemons] produce miraculous alterations in the air and most wonderful effects...conquer armies, give victories, help, hurt and alter human attempts.
CRITICAL OPINION: "...every individual part of nature is under the immediate guardianship of its especially appointed daemon...material things are controlled immediately by only that lowest order of spirits called irrational daemons. In their capacity of contributing to wholes; even irrational daemons are superior to man, and when allowed to exercise their natural functions undisturbed, they be beneficent--though framed for evil because of their irrationality and proximity to matter. But neither having reason for principle of judgment of their own, they may be commanded by man. Therefore, the wicked magician finds it easy to subvert...and misdirect the normal processes of nature: urged by selfish passion, he compels to his nefarious ends the irrational guardians of created things. From this...the irrational demons emerge utterly depraved and evil."
Shakespeare and the above influences:
Prospero's art is to achieve supremacy over the natural world by holy magic. He studies the harmonic relationship of the element, the sky, and the intellectual word and conceives it, "...no way irrational that is should be possible for us to ascend by the same degrees through each world to the same very original world itself, the Maker of all things, and First Cause, from whence all things are, and proceed..."
chain of being--recall background notes
nominalism and realism
Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida --order and degree speech--recall the introductory lectures...
Sidney's Defense of Poetry --see the relevant excerpts:
I. Poetry to be defended as it has come under attack.
II. Poetry has been man's first source of inspiration:
A. Great philosophers have been poets (including Plato)
B. Poetry in Greek and Roman times meant "Maker"/ prophet
This passage is essential to understand The Tempest:
III. Sidney: "All philosophers (natural and moral) follow nature, but only the poet, disdaining to be tied to any such subjection, lifted up with the vigor of his own invention, does grow in effect into another nature, in making things either better than nature brings forth, or, quite anew, forms such as never were in nature...Nature never set forth the earth in so rich a tapestry as different poets have done, neither with so pleasant rivers, fruitful trees...
IV. The poet as a creator: Poetry and man--the poet's talents stem from the fact that he is able to create from a pre-existing idea called the fore-conceit. Poetry is the link between the real [nominalism] and the ideal [realism] worlds. Poets therefore take part in the divine act of creation.
V. Poetry defined: "Poetry therefore is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle terms it in the word mimesis--that is to say a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture with this end, to teach and delight."
VI. "Since then poetry is of all human learnings the most ancient, and of most fatherly antiquity, a from whence other learnings take their beginnings, since it is so universal that no learned nation does despise it...since both Roman and Greek gave such divine names to it, the art of prophesying the other of making,...the poet only, only brings his own stuff, and does not learn a conceit out of a matter, but makes matter for a conceit, since neither his description or his end contains any evil, the thing described cannot be evil; since his effects be so good as to teach goodness, and delight the learner of it; since therein...he doth not only far pass the historian, but, for instructing, is well night comparable to the philosopher, for moving leaveth him behind him, since the HOLY SCRIPTURE hath whole parts poetical. and that even our Savior Jesus Christ, vouchsafed to use the flower of it;...
VII. Poetry discussed in its effects and kinds: The true poet is one who creates "Notable images on virtues, vices...with that delightful teaching, which must be the right describing note to know a poet by..." The ultimate end of this is, "...to draw us to as high a perfection as our degenerate souls...can be made capable of." Man can thus enjoy what makes him divine. Poetry has a moral purpose, therefore, consisting in leading men to truth by integrating, not dividing knowledge. The poet is the right popular philosopher [and] poet uses the facts of the historian, but he makes them more noble by using the imagination in the creative process. The poet then can teach virtue--which is one of the central functions of tragedy-- evil men who experience evil fortune end in disgrace.
This part of Sidney's work is especially important for Shakespeare:
The previous comment suggests the importance of the creative process in writing poetry. One of Plato's arguments was that the very danger of the poet was that he could use creative means to ensnare his listeners--something Plato himself knew and used in his own writing. The next section from Sidney deals with the creative process. The terms he uses are very important and will appear in later periods:
POETRY AND NATURE:
Only the poet, disdaining to be tied on any such subjugation, lifted up with the vigor of his own invention doeth grow in effect into another nature, in making things either better than nature brings forth, or quite anew...gods, Cyclops etc. Nature's world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.
POETRY AND MAN:
For every understanding knows the skill of each artificer stands in the idea or fore-conceit of the work, and not in the work itself. And that the poet hath the idea is manifest by delivering them forth in such excellency as he had imagined them; which delivering forth in such excellency as he had imagined them; which delivering forth also is not wholly imaginative, as we are wont to say by them that builds castles in air.
POET AS A CREATOR:
Neither let it be deemed too bold a comparison to balance the highest point of man's wit with the efficacy of nature; but rather give right honor to the heavenly maker of that maker, who having made man to his own likeness, set him beyond and over all the work of that second nature, which in nothing he shows so much as in poetry, when with the force of a divine breath he brings things forth far surpassing her doings, with no small argument to the incredulous of that first accursed fall of Adam, since our erected wit makes us know what perfection is, but our infected will keeps us from reaching unto it.
GOD--forms: beauty, truth, love (foreconceits)
1. poetry transcends................. Prospero's world-his ART
2. MAN--divine breath
Prospero thus ascends the chain of being through the created worlds to the condition of the angels (good-daemons). The spirits he commands are the daemons: Ariel, for example. The goodness or evil of these spirits depends on the degree to which they are imprisoned in matter--note how frequently this motif of imprisonment is a motif in The Tempest. Prospero is an expert in astrology, alchemy and magic--these constitute his ART another motif in this play.
Shakespeare himself wrote of the power of art, and Bloom notes that art cannot be abandoned, even by Prospero. Therefore, can the theme of this sonnet be applied to the play?
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
A counter to the ARIEL character is the CALIBAN character, in some respects the most important character in the play? Why? As a hint, note the poem Caliban Upon Setebos by the Victorian poet, Robert Browning. Indebted to Shakespeare, Browing developed the dramatic monologue. A soliloquy-like art form, the dramatic monologue employs dramatic irony to explore the consciousness of a character who is unaware of the impression he/she is creating. Bloom notes about the poem, "Here the terrible psychic suffering brought about through the failed adaptation of Caliban by Prospero is granted fuller expression that Shakespeare allowed. What Browning sees is Caliban's essential childishness, a weak and plangent sensibility that cannot surmount its fall from the pardisal adoption by Prospero:"
Caliban upon Setebos; or, NATURAL THEOLOGY IN THE ISLAND
by Robert Browning
"Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself."
['Will sprawl, now that the heat of day is best,
Flat on his belly in the pit's much mire,
With elbows wide, fists clenched to prop his chin.
And, while he kicks both feet in the cool slush,
And feels about his spine small eft-things course,
Run in and out each arm, and make him laugh:
And while above his head a pompion-plant,
Coating the cave-top as a brow its eye,
Creeps down to touch and tickle hair and beard,
And now a flower drops with a bee inside,
And now a fruit to snap at, catch and crunch,--
He looks out o'er yon sea which sunbeams cross
And recross till they weave a spider-web
(Meshes of fire, some great fish breaks at times)
And talks to his own self, howe'er he please,
Touching that other, whom his dam called God.
Because to talk about Him, vexes--ha,
Could He but know! and time to vex is now,
When talk is safer than in winter-time.
Moreover Prosper and Miranda sleep
In confidence he drudges at their task,
And it is good to cheat the pair, and gibe,
Letting the rank tongue blossom into speech.]
Setebos, Setebos, and Setebos!
'Thinketh, He dwelleth i' the cold o' the moon.
'Thinketh He made it, with the sun to match,
But not the stars; the stars came otherwise;
Only made clouds, winds, meteors, such as that:
Also this isle, what lives and grows thereon,
And snaky sea which rounds and ends the same.
'Thinketh, it came of being ill at ease:
He hated that He cannot change His cold,
Nor cure its ache. 'Hath spied an icy fish
That longed to 'scape the rock-stream where she lived,
And thaw herself within the lukewarm brine
O' the lazy sea her stream thrusts far amid,
A crystal spike 'twixt two warm walls of wave;
Only, she ever sickened, found repulse
At the other kind of water, not her life,
(Green-dense and dim-delicious, bred o' the sun)
Flounced back from bliss she was not born to breath,
And in her old bounds buried her despair,
Hating and loving warmth alike: so He.
'Thinketh, He made thereat the sun, this isle,
Trees and the fowls here, beast and creeping thing.
Yon otter, sleek-wet, black, lithe as a leech;
Yon auk, one fire-eye in a ball of foam,
That floats and feeds; a certain badger brown
He hath watched hunt with that slant white-wedge eye
By moonlight; and the pie with the long tongue
That pricks deep into oakwarts for a worm,
And says a plain word when she finds her prize,
But will not eat the ants; the ants themselves
That build a wall of seeds and settled stalks
About their hole--He made all these and more,
Made all we see, and us, in spite: how else?
He could not, Himself, make a second self
To be His mate; as well have made Himself:
He would not make what He mislikes or slights,
An eyesore to Him, or not worth His pains:
But did, in envy, listlessness or sport,
Make what Himself would fain, in a manner, be--
Weaker in most points, stronger in a few,
Worthy, and yet mere playthings all the while,
Things He admires and mocks too,--that is it.
Because, so brave, so better though they be,
It nothing skills if He begin to plague.
Look now, I melt a gourd-fruit into mash,
Add honeycomb and pods, I have perceived,
Which bite like finches when they bill and kiss,--
Then, when froth rises bladdery, drink up all,
Quick, quick, till maggots scamper through my brain;
Last, throw me on my back i' the seeded thyme,
And wanton, wishing I were born a bird.
Put case, unable to be what I wish,
I yet could make a live bird out of clay:
Would not I take clay, pinch my Caliban
Able to fly?--for, there, see, he hath wings,
And great comb like the hoopoe's to admire,
And there, a sting to do his foes offence,
There, and I will that he begin to live,
Fly to yon rock-top, nip me off the horns
Of grigs high up that make the merry din,
Saucy through their veined wings, and mind me not.
In which feat, if his leg snapped, brittle clay,
And he lay stupid-like,--why, I should laugh;
And if he, spying me, should fall to weep,
Beseech me to be good, repair his wrong,
Bid his poor leg smart less or grow again,--
Well, as the chance were, this might take or else
Not take my fancy: I might hear his cry,
And give the mankin three sound legs for one,
Or pluck the other off, leave him like an egg,
And lessoned he was mine and merely clay.
Were this no pleasure, lying in the thyme,
Drinking the mash, with brain become alive,
Making and marring clay at will? So He.
'Thinketh, such shows nor right nor wrong in Him,
Nor kind, nor cruel: He is strong and Lord.
'Am strong myself compared to yonder crabs
That march now from the mountain to the sea;
'Let twenty pass, and stone the twenty-first,
Loving not, hating not, just choosing so.
'Say, the first straggler that boasts purple spots
Shall join the file, one pincer twisted off;
'Say, this bruised fellow shall receive a worm,
And two worms he whose nippers end in red;
As it likes me each time, I do: so He.
Well then, 'supposeth He is good i' the main,
Placable if His mind and ways were guessed,
But rougher than His handiwork, be sure!
Oh, He hath made things worthier than Himself,
And envieth that, so helped, such things do more
Than He who made them! What consoles but this?
That they, unless through Him, do naught at all,
And must submit: what other use in things?
'Hath cut a pipe of pithless elder-joint
That, blown through, gives exact the scream o' the jay
When from her wing you twitch the feathers blue:
Sound this, and little birds that hate the jay
Flock within stone's throw, glad their foe is hurt:
Put case such pipe could prattle and boast forsooth
"I catch the birds, I am the crafty thing,
I make the cry my maker cannot make
With his great round mouth; he must blow through mine!"
Would not I smash it with my foot? So He.
But wherefore rough, why cold and ill at ease?
Aha, that is a question! Ask, for that,
What knows,--the something over Setebos
That made Him, or He, may be, found and fought;
Worsted, drove off and did to nothing, perchance.
There may be something quiet o'er His head,
Out of His reach, that feels nor joy nor grief,
Since both derive from weakness in some way.
I joy because the quails come; would not joy
Could I bring quails here when I have a mind:
This Quiet, all it hath a mind to, doth.
'Esteemeth stars the outposts of its couch,
But never spends much thought nor care that way.
It may look up, work up,--the worse for those
It works on! 'Careth but for Setebos
The many-handed as a cuttle-fish,
Who, making Himself feared through what He does,
Looks up, first, and perceived he cannot soar
To what is quiet and hath happy life;
Next looks down here, and out of very spite
Makes this a bauble-world to ape yon real,
These good things to match those as hips do grapes.
'Tis solace making baubles, ay, and sport.
Himself peeped late, eyed Prosper at his books
Careless and lofty, lord now of the isle:
Vexed, 'stitched a book of broad leaves, arrow-shaped,
Wrote thereon, he knows what, prodigious words;
Has peeled a wand and called it by a name;
Weareth at whiles for an enchanter's robe
The eyed skin of a supple oncelot;
And hath an ounce sleeker than youngling mole,
A four-legged serpent he makes cower and couch,
Now snarl, now hold its breath and mind his eye,
And saith she is Miranda and my wife:
'Keeps for his Ariel a tall pouch-bill crane
He bids go wade for fish and straight disgorge;
Also a sea-beast, lumpish, which he snared,
Blinded the eyes of, and brought somewhat tame,
And split its toe-webs, and now pens the drudge
In a hole o' the rock and calls him Caliban;
A bitter heart that bides its time and bites.
'Plays thus at being Prosper in a way,
Taketh his mirth with make-believes: so He.
His dam held that the Quiet made all things
Which Setebos vexed only: 'holds not so.
Who made them weak, meant weakness He might vex.
Had He meant other, while His hand was in,
Why not make horny eyes no thorn could prick,
Or plate my scalp with bone against the snow,
Or overscale my flesh 'neath joint and joint,
Like an orc's armor? Ay,--so spoil His sport!
He is the One now: only He doth all.
'Saith, He may like, perchance, what profits Him.
Ay, himself loves what does him good; but why?
'Gets good no otherwise. This blinded beast
Loves whoso places flesh-meat on his nose,
But, had he eyes, would want no help, but hate
Or love, just as it liked him: He hath eyes.
Also it pleaseth Setebos to work,
Use all His hands, and exercise much craft,
By no means for the love of what is worked.
'Tasteth, himself, no finer good i' the world
When all goes right, in this safe summer-time,
And he wants little, hungers, aches not much,
Than trying what to do with wit and strength.
'Falls to make something: 'piled yon pile of turfs,
And squared and stuck there squares of soft white chalk,
And, with a fish-tooth, scratched a moon on each,
And set up endwise certain spikes of tree,
And crowned the whole with a sloth's skull a-top,
Found dead i' the woods, too hard for one to kill.
No use at all i' the work, for work's sole sake;
'Shall some day knock it down again: so He.
'Saith He is terrible: watch His feats in proof!
One hurricane will spoil six good months' hope.
He hath a spite against me, that I know,
Just as He favors Prosper, who knows why?
So it is, all the same, as well I find.
'Wove wattles half the winter, fenced them firm
With stone and stake to stop she-tortoises
Crawling to lay their eggs here: well, one wave,
Feeling the foot of Him upon its neck,
Gaped as a snake does, lolled out its large tongue,
And licked the whole labor flat; so much for spite.
'Saw a ball flame down late (yonder it lies)
Where, half an hour before, I slept i' the shade:
Often they scatter sparkles: there is force!
'Dug up a newt He may have envied once
And turned to stone, shut up inside a stone.
Please Him and hinder this?--What Prosper does?
Aha, if He would tell me how! Not He!
There is the sport: discover how or die!
All need not die, for of the things o' the isle
Some flee afar, some dive, some run up trees;
Those at His mercy,--why, they please Him most
When . . . when . . . well, never try the same way twice!
Repeat what act has pleased, He may grow wroth.
You must not know His ways, and play Him off,
Sure of the issue. 'Doth the like himself:
'Spareth a squirrel that it nothing fears
But steals the nut from underneath my thumb,
And when I threat, bites stoutly in defence:
'Spareth an urchin that contrariwise,
Curls up into a ball, pretending death
For fright at my approach: the two ways please.
That either creature counted on its life
To-morrow and the next day and all days to come,
Saying, forsooth, in the inmost of its heart,
"Because he did so yesterday with me,
And otherwise with such another brute,
So must he do henceforth and always."--Ay?
Would teach the reasoning couple what "must" means!
'Doth as he likes, or wherefore Lord? So He.
'Conceiveth all things will continue thus,
And we shall have to live in fear of Him
So long as He lives, keeps His strength: no change,
If He have done His best, make no new world
To please Him more, so leave off watching this,--
If He surprise not even the Quiet's self
Some strange day,--or, suppose, grow into it
As grubs grow butterflies: else, here are we,
And there is He, and nowhere help at all.
'Believeth with the life, the pain shall stop.
His dam held different, that after death
He both plagued enemies and feasted friends:
Idly! He doth His worst in this our life,
Giving just respite lest we die through pain,
Saving last pain for the worst,--with which, an end.
Meanwhile, the best way to escape His ire
Is, not to seem too happy. 'Sees, himself,
Yonder two flies, with purple films and pink,
Bask on the pompion-bell above: kills both.
'Sees two black painful beetles roll their ball
On head and tail as if to save their lives:
Moves them the stick away they strive to clear.
Even so, 'would have Him misconceive, suppose
This Caliban strives hard and ails no less,
And always, above all else, envies Him;
Wherefore he mainly dances on dark nights,
Moans in the sun, gets under holes to laugh,
And never speaks his mind save housed as now:
Outside, 'groans, curses. If He caught me here,
O'erheard this speech, and asked "What chucklest at?"
'Would, to appease Him, cut a finger off,
Or of my three kid yearlings burn the best,
Or let the toothsome apples rot on tree,
Or push my tame beast for the orc to taste:
While myself lit a fire, and made a song
And sung it, "What I hate, be consecrate
To celebrate Thee and Thy state, no mate
For Thee; what see for envy in poor me?"
Hoping the while, since evils sometimes mend,
Warts rub away and sores are cured with slime,
That some strange day, will either the Quiet catch
And conquer Setebos, or likelier He
Decrepit may doze, doze, as good as die.
[What, what? A curtain o'er the world at once!
Crickets stop hissing; not a bird--or, yes,
There scuds His raven that has told Him all!
It was fool's play, this prattling! Ha! The wind
Shoulders the pillared dust, death's house o' the move,
And fast invading fires begin! White blaze--
A tree's head snaps--and there, there, there, there, there,
His thunder follows! Fool to gibe at Him!
Lo! 'Lieth flat and loveth Setebos!
'Maketh his teeth meet through his upper lip,
Will let those quails fly, will not eat this month
One little mess of whelks, so he may 'scape!]
TOPICS FOR INVESTIGATION
1-What the play presents in terms of:
-Metaphysics--the nature of reality; what is really real in the play & how do we know?
-Epistemology--how do we know what is real? Are our senses reliable guides? If not, what else is there?
-Ethics--what is right and wrong, good and evil? Are there standards? Who decides? Who is being tested and why, and what is the result? Compare a well known prayer from the NT. The phrase from the play brave new world, was used by Huxley in the 20th century as a title for a sci-fi anti-utopian novel.
2-The play and politics--Shakespeare writing in a police state?
-the role of Gonzalo
-Prospero and leadership
-influence of James I, Machiavelli
3-The psychology of the play--archetypes: shadow, parent, child, old man, trickster
(What characters embody each?). Check the relationship between reason and lust.
4-Shakespeare never wrote a theory of literature as a textbook, but how does The Tempest embody it? Apply retrospectively as well. See Hamlets advice to the players and compare. See also Sidneys Defense of Poetry above.
5-The supernatural agents in the play...the aliens of the day...why there? What kind of commentary do they offer about the human condition? Relate to a major idea in the play: art and nature. What do the terms mean as used throughout, and is the tension between theme ever resolved? Magic is likewise an important motif. See above for neo-Platonic influences. Note too the importance of romance and the masque.
6-The major characters, their virtues and vices. What do they represent?
-Prospero and control and leadership
-Miranda and Ferdinand and love
-the conspirators--the play and politics
-Gonzalo--the ideal state--is Shakespeare being ironic in a police state?
-Caliban and psychology- Jung, the shadow--is he evil?
-Trinculo and Stephano--what kind of humor? Recall Falstaff?
7--The style and language of the play--themes and motifs such as water, storms, clothing, books, food, dreaming, magic, music, staff etc. The soliloquies of Prospero are very important.
8-Check allusions to: Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV, Part I.
9--Autobiographical elements--consult Will in the World by Greenblatt for allusions--there are several passages that directly reflect Shakespeares life. How, if the play is his retirement piece, does it reflect his view of the human condition? Examine Prospero's soliloquies. Shakespeare's Sonnets might also be examined; one anticipates our play especially well.
10-The ending of the play...several possibilities? The play as a crucible for the human condition: What happens when you isolate a group of people on an island...point of view is very important.