An Approach to The Tempest

Fred Langman


The Tempest easily allows-it might almost be said to invite allegorical interpretation. It has been seen as structured upon the theme of the relation of flesh to spirit, of chaos to order, of Nature to Art. It has been read as a meditation on the development of political thought in Shakespeare's period, the rights and responsibilities of rulers and of subjects, the dangers and attractions of rebeIlion, innovation, and utopian ideals. It has been presented as a study in contrasts-between the old world and the new, decadence and primitivism; or between different kinds of magic, diabolical and virtuous-with all the philosophical and religious consequences the contrasts imply. In particular, Prospero has been variously interpreted: as, for instance, a figure of Redemption, as a forerunner of the new science, as a symbol of intellectual order. And one view of Prospero has gained such currency as almost to be taken for granted, entering subtly into many accounts of the play otherwise very unlike each other. His magical powers are thought to resemble the functioning of creative imagination. Prospero is viewed as an artist, and his renunciation of magic is identified with Shakespeare's farewell to poetry.

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