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pieces, and that one of these should fall into Shakespeare's hands? 1


Other works to which The Tempest is indebted in a minor degree, e.g. Florio's Montaigne, Golding's Ovid, and Eden's History of Travayle, are referred to in the Notes. But there is another probable source, different in kind from those spoken of, which claims a word. Does The Tempest reflect symbolically the circumstances of Shakespeare's own career at the period of its composition? To this question a strongly affirmative answer has been given by writers like Emile Montégut, who asserts 2 that it is "clearly the last of Shakespeare's dramas, and, under the form of an allegory, is the dramatic last will and testament of the great poet." The statement made in this unqualified form overshoots the mark, for The Tempest is very probably not Shakespeare's last complete play, and certainly not the last in which he had a share. Yet the world is assuredly right in its instinct that the voice of Prospero is, in peculiar measure, the voice of Shakespeare, and that when the great enchanter, at whose conimand graves 'have waked their sleepers," abjures his magic, the great dramatist is in some sort bidding a farewell, though scarcely formal and final, to the theater, where his "potent art" had resummoned the mighty dead to new and imperishable life.3


The popularity enjoyed by The Tempest from the time of its production is the more remarkable because the play lacks some of the customary elements of dramatic interest. The plot is comparatively slight, and, as we know from the first that Prospero has absolute control over the development of events, we are never stirred by the feeling of suspense that usually keeps the attention keenly alert during the progress of a play. Nor is The Tempest as rich as many dramas in studies of human character. The principal personages belong to the world of romance, and are either in part or entirely outside the pale of ordinary experience, while the subordinate figures

1 See, however, Charlotte Porter's study of Sources in the First Folio edition of The Tempest. She points out the inferiority of Ayrer's "clumsy production" to The Tempest, and advances a claim for a Spanish original, one of the Winter Nights of Antonio de Eslava, published in his own tongue at Madrid, 1609, the story of a royal magician, dwelling with his innocent daughter in a palace amid the deep sea.'

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2 Revue des Deux Mondes, 1865.

3 See further the passage in Dowden's Shakespeare's Mind and Art, referred to in Appendix B.

have no strongly marked individuality and are little more than types. Nor does Shakespeare's humorous genius show to full advantage. The buffoonery of Stephano and Trinculo has a large element of mere horseplay, and even the earliest comedies scarcely contain passages of such wire-drawn, insipid repartee as make up the main part of Act ii, sc. 1.1

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How is it then that, nevertheless, The Tempest ranks among the most fascinating, if not, strictly speaking, the greatest of Shakespeare's plays? In the first place, as we have seen, it appeals more than any other play except Hamlet to that permanent instinct which craves to catch a glimpse of William Shakespeare's own personality through and behind his creations. Yet at the same time the drama transports us to regions strangely remote from the Globe Theatre or the Avon's banks. Throughout it we hear echoes of the wonderful adventures of the Elizabethan seamen, of the discoveries and "plantations" wherewith the expansion of England began. As we read of the "mountaineers dew-lapp'd like bulls," and the men whose heads stood in their breasts"; or of the "putter-out of five for one" and the "holiday fool" eager to lay out ten doits to see a dead Indian or a painted monster, we call up a picture of Frobisher and Davis' voyages in search of the northwest passage, of Raleigh's exploration of Guiana, of Drake's journey around the world. We seem to stand on the quay of some old-world Cornish or Devonshire seaport, and to form a part of the open-mouthed crowd listening to the tales of bronzed mariners, and staring at the treasures that they have brought from Eldorados far away. No other work of Shakespeare reflects so vividly this enthralling aspect of Elizabethan life, and herein lies one of the main secrets of its charm.

But The Tempest transports us not only to new found regions over seas, but to poetic wonderlands undiscoverable by the most adventurous of voyagers. The distinction, however, in that age of geographical marvels was less well defined than to-day, and Shakespeare, if questioned as to the whereabouts of the uninhabited island, might well have answered in the semi-serious vein of Spenser's Introduction to Book II of The Faërie Queene:

"Who ever heard of th' Indian Peru?

Or who in venturous vessell measured

The Amazons huge river, now found trew?
Or fruitfullest Virginia who did ever vew?

1 This has, however, a partial dramatic justification. See introduction to ii. 1 in the Notes.

Yet all these were, when no man did them know,
Yet have from wisest ages hidden beene;

And later times thinges more unknowne shall show.
Why then should witlesse man so much misweene,
That nothing is, but that which he hath seene?"

It is in an age when the borderlands of the natural and the supernatural thus overlap that the creative artist can most unerringly give to the latter the "form and pressure" of reality. Prospero's kingdom, the island,

"Full of noises,

Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not,"

has as unquestionable an existence for us as if it were marked on every map of the southern seas. But it is characteristic of Shakespeare that he shows a wise economy in his use of supernatural effects, and, as a rule, restricts their display to a limited time and area. In A Midsummer Night's Dream the fairies are seen exercising their powers of enchantment only within the haunted wood, and for a single night. Similarly in The Tempest we witness the operation of Prospero's omnipotent art for the short space of three hours, and not beyond the confines of the mysterious isle. Hence in form the work has many of the characteristics of a classical play. It preserves the unities of time, and, in essentials, of place; and Act i, sc. 2, as far as l. 375, is practically equivalent to the classical prologue which enlightens the audience on preceding events necessary to the understanding of the action. In its closely knit structure The Tempest forms the strongest contrast to The Winter's Tale and Pericles, which, with kindred incidents, exhibit the license of the Romantic type in its extreme form.

Of the majority of the spirits thronging the island, airy shapes that are its original inhabitants, we get only passing glimpses, as in Prospero's final invocation:

"Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew."

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In Ariel's songs we catch echoes of the melody of the sweet sprites," as they foot it featly on the yellow sands, and of the "ding

dong" of the sea-nymphs as they ring the knell of the drowned mariner. Other spirits we see performing varied services at Prospero's command. They invite strangers to partake of a banquet which vanishes in thunder and lightning, they play the parts in a masque, or in the shape of dogs hunt misdoers till these roar with fright.

Akin to these "meaner ministers," but of loftier degree in the elfin hierarchy, is Ariel. He had been imprisoned by Sycorax, the mother of Caliban, for twelve years in a cloven pine because he was

"a spirit too delicate

To act her earthy and abhorr'd commands."

From this thraldom he has been set free by Prospero, and his gratitude is shown by his willing service:

"All hail, great master! grave sir, hail! I come

To answer thy best pleasure; be't to fly,

To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride

On the curl'd clouds, to thy strong bidding task
Ariel and all his quality."

As his name implies, he is a spirit of the air, though he has affinity, too, with the element of fire. "Like air and fire he can penetrate everywhere, treading the ooze of the salt deep, running upon the sharp wings of the north, doing business in the veins of earth when it is baked with frost. His natural speech is music or waves of air." 1 This music of Ariel's works strangely on all who hear it. As it creeps by Ferdinand on the waters, it allays their fury and his passion, and draws him to Prospero's cell. It wakes Gonzalo at the critical moment, when Sebastian and Antonio are threatening the King's life; it speaks through the elements to Alonso, and arouses remorse in his breast. But just because he is a spirit of the air, Ariel, though he is responsive to command, finds all human service galling, and begs for his liberty. The announcement that it is at hand makes him burst into a jubilant carol, and in the closing words of the play we see him dismissed to his natural haunts.

At the opposite scale of being is Caliban, son of the devil and the witch, Sycorax. This "freckled whelp" not honored with a human shape is allied to the grosser natural forces, and is contemptuously hailed as "thou earth," "thou tortoise." In his outward appearance, probably owing to his long, finny arms, he must have had

1 Moulton, Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist, p. 257.

some resemblance to a fish, which Trinculo at first sight takes him to be. Not without reason has he been claimed as an unconscious anticipation of the evolutionary "missing link," for he typifies humanity scarcely, if at all, raised above the brute stage. His name is probably an anagram of Cannibal, and he represents the savage as seen in his naked deformity, not through a rose-colored Arcadian or Utopian mist. For a while this creature had been "lord of the island,” or as he proudly puts it, his own king. But his dynasty had been overthrown when a strange succession of events brought a new ruler to the lonely domain.

Prospero, Duke of Milan, had abandoned the reins of government to his brother, Antonio, and given himself up entirely to secret studies. Antonio, ambitious of the ducal title as well as the power, had, with the aid of the King of Naples, deposed Prospero, and set him adrift with his infant child, Miranda. Borne by wind and wave to the shores of the island, Prospero had begun life anew. His misfortunes had not been entirely unmerited, for in Shakespeare ́s eyes the primary duty of a ruler is to rule, not to retire into seclusion for religious or intellectual meditation. Thus it is that Henry VI and the Duke in Measure for Measure bring disaster upon their realms, and likewise is it with Prospero. But in his case "sweet are the uses of adversity," and he learns to the full the lessons of exile. Stripped of temporal sway, he still retains his precious books, whence he wrings the secrets of magic lore, and becomes an all-powerful enchanter. And it must be remembered that to an Elizabethan audience this would have seemed far from impossible. Wizards, like Dr. Dee, with their symbolic staff and mantle, were familiar personages at the time, and they figure frequently in the literature of the day. But either, like Spenser's Archimago, they use their powers for wicked ends, or, like Marlowe's Faustus, for purely personal gratification. The noble originality of Shakespeare's conception lies in the fact that Prospero turns his art to entirely beneficent purposes, and to the practical illustration of his own lofty words:

"the rarer action is

In virtue than in vengeance."

So if we miss the aesthetic gratification which comes from the gradual resolution of suspense, we are compensated by the spectacle of an omnipotent force overruling the dramatic issues into correspondence with our conception of a righteous government of the world.

Thus Prospero frees Ariel from imprisonment, but imposes a

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