« ZurückWeiter »
SOURCES OF THE PLAY
The Tempest has the happy distinction among Shakespeare's plays of having no source. Diligent search has thus far failed to discover any work which can be proved to have been used by the dramatist for any major portion of his work. If an 'original is ever discovered, it will probably contain merely the outlines of the story of Prospero, his daughter, his enemies, and his familiar spirit. The comic element in the play bears all the familiar marks of independent Shakespearean origin.
German critics, with characteristic ineptitude, have insisted upon Shakespeare's indebtedness to a play entitled, Die Schöne Sidea, by one Jakob Ayrer, of Nuremberg, who died in 1605; but a perusal of this piece of antiquated dulness (printed in Furness's Variorum edition of The Tempest) serves chiefly to convince the reader of the utter independence of Shakespeare's comedy. Dr. Furness remarks: 'In the course of the former story [Die Schöne Sidea] the captive prince is forced under blows and ill-treatment (and at the hands of the heroine, forsooth!) to split and pile up some wood, and, at the time of his capture, when he attempts to draw his sword, he finds it fast in its scabbard by the spell of the wicked magician. These are the two incidents which are supposed to be identical with Ferdinand's log-bearing, and with his disarming by Prospero; and these it is, which have been urged as an all-sufficient justification of the
belief in a close kinship between The Tempest and The Fair Sidea. ... If once we adopt such fragmentary, insignificant incidents as the source of The Tempest, we might as well extend the scope and admit as one of the originals of Ferdinand's log-bearing
task the nursery-rhyme behest of "Five, six, pick up sticks; seven, eight, lay them straight.")
To assert that there is no known source for The Tempest is not to say that Shakespeare's imagination was uninfluenced by certain books in composing this play. It is fairly certain that his interest had been stimulated by accounts of the shipwreck of the Sea Adventure off the Bermudas, in July, 1609. Accounts of this were given to the world the next year in the following works, A Discovery of the Barmudas, otherwise called the Ile of Divels, by Silvester Jourdan; and A True Declaration of the Estate of the Colonie in Virginia, an anonymous pamphlet by the 'Council of Virginia.' William Strachey wrote A True Repertory of the Wracke and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates Knight, upon, and from the Ilands of the Bermudas. The first two of these, and perhaps also the third, may have been known to Shakespeare. A comparison of them with The Tempest is not without reward.
An interesting parallel to the main plot of The Tempest is found in the fourth section of Antonio de Esclava's Las Noches de Invierno (The Winter Nights), which appeared in the year 1609. Here we have (1) a king, who is also a magician, living in exile with his daughter; (2) a magic palace in the sea, in which various spirits appear; (3) the luring of the son of the usurping monarch to the magic retreat; and (4) the wreck of the imperial fleet. This is, of course, a significant series of incidents. It has been shown, in turn, that the source of this material is to be found in a colossal romance, The Mirrour of Knighthood—an English translation of a Spanish original—which appeared in 1578. This, too, has —
, been claimed as the ‘probable source of The Tempest; but those who argue for Shakespeare's indebtedness to such work do not seem to take sufficient account of the vast mass of unrelated incident by which the