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DATE THOUGH the exact year of the production of this play cannot be absolutely determined, critics are now almost universally agreed in placing it among the last of Shakespeare's compositions. Among the evidence which has been produced as bearing on the question may be cited Gonzalo's forecast of his policy as king of the island in Act II. scene i. which is taken almost directly from Montaigne, whose work was translated by Florio and published in 1603. Shakespeare is known to have had a copy of this book, and thus 1603 is obtained as the earliest date at which the play could have been written. Secondly, Ben Jonson has been supposed to allude to the Tempest in his celebrated passage in the Induction to Bartholomew Fair, · If there be never a Servant-Monster in the Fair, who can help it (he says) nor a nest of Anticks? He is loth to make nature afraid in his plays, like those that beget Tales, Tempests and suchlike Drolleries, to mix his head with other men's heels. Bartholomew Fair was produced in 1614, which is thus the latest date at which the Tempest could have been written. Thirdly, a book entitled A Discovery of the Barmudas, otherwise called the Ile of Divels; by Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Sommers, and Captayne Newport, with divers others, 1610, written by Silvester Jourdain, has been thought to have some bearing on the question. The writer gives an account of a terrible storm by which they were cast on an enchanted island, where they found to their surprise the ayre so temperate and the country so aboundantly fruitfull of all fit necessaries for the sustentation and preservation of man's life' that they spent nine months in very fair comfort.
There are certain parallels which may be detected in his narrative with phrases in the Tempest. Though it had little influence on the scheme of the play, it is certainly probable that Shakespeare had read this work, and it is quite possible that he may have been impelled to write a play on the subject of a storm and an enchanted island at the time when this account was received with so much favour. Accepting this, 1610-11 would be the date to which this play niust be set down, and this entirely agrees with the internal evidence.
In the whole play, omitting the songs and masque, there are only two rhyming lines : double endings abound, while light and weak endings are comparatively numerous. The diction is often almost over burdened with ideas, the narrative element is freely used, and the tinge of gloom which accompanies the play till the conclusion when it is dissolved in forgiveness and marriage are all suggestive of Shakespeare's final period. It is difficult to support the idea that Shakespeare was bidding farewell to the stage in the character of Prospero: it was hardly in his nature to put himself forward so prominently and assertively: while it is more than probable that the Winter's Tale succeeded the Tempest.
The construction of the former play is more rugged than that of the Tempest, and an ingenious argument has been given by Mr. Collier that Shakespeare departed from Greene's Pandosto (in which Florizel and Perdita’s prototypes are shipwrecked) as this would savour too much of the Tempest which had only recently appeared. The years 1610–11 may then be taken as the probable date of composition of this play.
THE Text The Tempest was first printed in the Folio of 1623, where it occupies the first place among the comedies. It is exceedingly well printed and the emendator has had little scope for his ingenuity. In the few passages that present any difficulty, however, the suggestions made are bewildering in their quantity and complexity. The epilogue is generally admitted to be by some other hand than the author's: and doubts have been thrown on the masque with which Prospero entertains Ferdinand and Miranda. This is probably genuine nevertheless : there is nothing in the matter that is antagonistic to the theory of Shakespeare's authorship: and it was quite customary to insert a masque within a play in the early years of James I's reign. Beaumont and Fletcher_offer several examples of this: for instance in the Maid's Tragedy, which was probably written two years before the Tempest, there is a masque in the first act which far more seriously hinders the action than in Shakespeare's play.
With the exception of the Comedy of Errors, the Tempest is the shortest of Shakespeare's plays: hence it has been conjectured that the text is incomplete, and represents a version abridged for acting purposes.
This theory again has little to commend its acceptance. The abruptness of the action, of which much has been made, seems entirely in accord with the conception of the play.
SOURCE No source has been discovered for the Tempest. Reference has already been made to Jourdain's pamphlet : there is nothing in it beyond a few unimportant details that can be said to have furnished any
hint to the author. A German dramatist, Ayrer, who died in 1605, composed a play which has been translated under the title of the Fair Sidea, in which certain similarities have been traced and very much exaggerated. This production is crude and painfully wearisome; and though it contains a banished duke who becomes a magician and eventually marries his daughter to the son of the king whom he holds in his power, the story is almost as different in its conception as it is in its treatment. The curious reader must be referred to Furness' Variorum Edition, where a carefully condensed version will be found.
The dramatic value of the Tempest is not very great: there are four themes, (1) the Prospero-Antonio; (2) the FerdinandMiranda ; (3) the Sebastian-Alonso ; (4) the Trinculo-Stephano and Caliban. In all of these Prospero with his obedient spirit is supreme: and none of the action is developed but concludes almost as soon as it is expounded, Neither is the characterisation very subtle : the charm of the Tempest lies almost wholly in the inexhaustible treasures of poetry with which it is garnished.
Prospero is an interesting and pleasing study of an old man, who has seen trouble and ingratitude, and remains serious and sad but in no way bitter or unrelenting. Miranda is a charming picture of sweet and holy innocence, and ranks only second to Perdita. The cheery, good-natured and lovable Gonzalo stands forth among the crowd of rather conventional courtiers who are shipwrecked with Alonso. Caliban is certainly a marvellous creation. As Hazlitt has said, “It is the essence of grossness, but there is not a particle of vulgarity in it. Shakespeare has described the brutal mind of Caliban, in contact with the pure and original forms of Nature: the character grows out of the soil where it is rooted, uncontrolled, uncouth and wild, uncramped by any of the meannesses of custom. It is “ of the earth, earthy." It is possible, indeed, that Shakespeare may have obtained the germ of this creation from Job Hartop in Hakluyt's Voyages, III. 493. • When we came in the height of Bermuda, we discovered a monster in the sea, who shewed himselfe three times unto us from the middle upwards, in which part he was proportioned like a man, of the complection of a Malato or tawny Indian.'
Ariel, too, commands our highest admiration. His airiness, charm, fancy, and tenderness mingled with his love of mischief and occasional rebelliousness make him sympathetic and delightful in the highest degree. He forms an instructive contrast with the earlier Puck of the Midsummer Night's Dream.
The purely humorous characters Trinculo and Stephano provide no little diversion, but there is nothing in their characters that calls for particular notice.
* The Scene, an vn-inhabited Island.
Names of the Actors.
ALONSO, King of Naples, I.i.9, p. 1; II.1.9, p. 19; III.üi.4, p. 41; V.1.111,
p. 57 SEBASTIAN, his Brother, I.i.39, p. 2; II.1.10, p. 19; III.ü.13, p. 42; V.i. 129,
p. 58. PROSPERO, the right Duke of Millaine, I.ü.13, p. 4; III.1.31, P. 35; III.iii. 34,
P. 43 ; IV.i.1, p. 45; V.1.1, p. 54. ANTHONIO, his brother, the vfurping Duke of Millainc, I.i.12, p. 1, II.1.11,
p. 19; III.ü.11, p. 42; 'V.i.265, p. 62. FERDINAND, Son to the King of Naples, I.ii.386, p. 15; III.i.1, P. 34; IV.1.11,
P. 46; V.1.172, p. 59. GONZALO, an honest old Councellor, 1.1.15, p. 2; II.1.1, p. 19; III.üü. I, p. 41; V.i. 104, p. 57.
ADRIAN, II.1.34, P. 30; III.iii. 109, p. 45,
V.1.57, p. 55. ADRIAN, & FRANCISCO, Lords. FRANCISCO, 11.1.108, P. 22; III.iii. 40, p.
43; V.1.57, p. 45. CALIBAN, a faluage and deformed Naue, I.ü.314, p. 13; II.ü.I, p. 29; III.ii.22,
p. 38; IV.1.194, P. 51; V.1.361, p. 62. TRINCULO, a Iefter, II.li.18, P. 29; III.č.4, p. 37; IV.i.198, p. 52; V.i.259, STEPHANO, a drunken Butler, II.31.41, P. 30; III.ü.I, p. 37 ; IV.1.196, P. 52 ;
V.i.256, p. 62,
1 Mar., I.i.57, p. 3.
2 Mar., I.i.58, p. 3. Marriners, 1.i.6,* p. I; I.i.49, P. 3. 3 Mar., I.i.58, p. 3.
4 Mar., I.i.59, P. 3.
5 Mar., I.i.59, p. 3. MIRANDA, daughter to PROSPERO, I.ii.1, p. 3; 111.1.15, p. 34; IV.1.144, p.
50; V.1.172, P. 59. ARIELL, an ayrie fpirit, I.ii.189, P. 9; II.1.292, p. 28; III.ü.44, p. 38; (like a
Harpey) III.ü.53, p. 43; IV.i.34, p. 46; V.i.4, p. 54.
Play observes the classic unities of time, place, and action,
1 As this line, and the list of 'Names of the Actors,' are given in the Folio at the end of the Play, the entries are left here in the Folio order, references only to their first Speeches in every Scene being added. When they don't speak * is put.