Abbildungen der Seite

Sommers, and Captayne Newport, with divers. others," directed Shakespeare's fancy towards Prospero's island. That book told of a storm at the Bermudas in July, 1609, which dispersed the fleet of Sir George Sommers and Sir Thomas Gates. But it is at least as likely that Shakespeare's imagination had been directed towards The Tempest by reading the forty-first canto of the "Orlando Furioso," in the translation of Sir John Harington, which was first published in 1591, and of which there was a second edition in 1607. The date assigned to the untrustworthy record of a performance of The Tempest before King James on the 1st of November, 1611, in Mr. Peter Cunningham's "Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court," was probably designed to fit with the publication of Jourdan's book in 1610. There is no other evidence of a recorded date of performance till that found by Malone of a performance of The Tempest, at the beginning of the year 1613, by the King's company before Prince Charles, the Princess Elizabeth, and the Princess Palatine.

The play is a pure work of Shakespeare's fancy, touched possibly by some suggestion from a crude earlier play now lost, but known through Jacob Ayrer's German version of it as The Fair Sidea.

Shakespeare's fable shows a man, Prospero, who has been wronged to the utmost by a wicked world. Imagine such a man cast adrift by his fellows, landed on an island where men are not, and gifted with fairy power that enables him to say to all mankind, I banish you. Give him a child for a companion who shall satisfy him singly with the purest human love. Make him master of the spirits of the earth and air, so that he may have at call whatever nature needs for sustenance, with all luxuries that can delight a man thus isolated from his fellows. Nay, more, place in his magic power all his enemies; bring them within reach of his spells, let him be free to drown them if he will. What will he do? The play is Shakespeare's answer to the question; its theme, man's need of man. Prospero's whole device, which is the subject of the play, is a plot for turning hate to love. He will join his daughter in marriage to the son of his inveterate enemy. He will bring those who had wronged him to repentance. He will make himself their friend, and putting off his. magic power, he will return with them to the brotherhood of men whose world is no doubt wicked, but of whose wickedness we all are part; such as it is, the world we live in, and the world

in which we have to work and love till hatreds are

no more.

Prospero, Duke of free Milan, had by love of study been too much withdrawn from duties of the state. He had left the management of state affairs to a false brother. The false brother, who aspired to full possession of the Dukedom, bought the alliance of the King of Naples, Prospero's inveterate enemy, by offering, upon his own succession to the Dukedom, to make Milan tributary to the Crown of Naples. Antonio, false brother, and Alonso, King of Naples, by joint force became masters of Milan; and Prospero with his daughter Miranda, then not fully three years old, was turned adrift on the sea in a rotten boat to perish. The execution of the last crime against Prospero was committed to an honest counsellor who served the King of Naples, who by his loyalty was bound to do as his King bade, but by the kindness of his nature joined to the fulfilment of his duty every gentle act that it allowed. Not only food and clothes, but the books Prospero loved were put into the boat with him—the magic books. Then the sea bore Prospero and his child far away, and cast them on an island uninhabited by men. This happened twelve years before the action of the play

"Twelve years since, Miranda, twelve years since "-Miranda's age, therefore, is imagined to be fifteen

Upon the same island there had been left, twelve years before, a witch Sycorax, banished from Algiers into that wilderness away from men as punishment for evil sorceries, when, for one thing she did, they would not take her life. She was with child when banished, and her child, Caliban, was born upon the island. By her sorcery, she put the spirits of the island in thrall to her, but Ariel, a spirit too fine to obey her earthly and abhorred commands, she imprisoned in a cloven pine, within whose rift Ariel remained painfully confined a dozen years. Before Prospero's landing Sycorax had died. Ariel was found fixed in the cleft pine and set free by the magic art of Prospero. Caliban, whose age is indicated by the years of Ariel's imprisonment, was twelve years old. His magic books made Prospero supreme over the powers of the earth and air. Of the earth earthly, sensual, devilish, was Caliban. Prospero taught him speech and trained him, till his earthly nature led him to attempt a foul assault upon Miranda. Thenceforth he was kept in absolute subjection. If his age be in the least

worth noting, it must have been about twentyfour at the time of the action of the story.

The King of Naples, Prospero's inveterate enemy, has given his daughter Claribel in marriage to the King of Tunis. He has conveyed her to Tunis with a fleet. Antonio, the false brother of Prospero, and usurper of his Dukedom, as a vassal to the Crown of Naples, is in attendance on the King, who has with him his brother Sebastian, and Ferdinand his son. The old counsellor Gonzalo is also part of the King's following. The marriage is over. Claribel has been left at Tunis. King Alonso and his fleet are on their way back to Naples, when their voyage brings them within sight of the enchanted island, at an hour when Prospero has fullest power over them. rates the King's ship from the rest. now to take a full revenge. But "kindness nobler ever than revenge "-the duty that all Shakespeare's magic is contrived to make us feel, of conquering evil with good, not beating upon hate with hate but turning hate to love, and drawing close the cords that bind men to each other-to this Prospero now shapes his magic art.

[ocr errors]

He sepa

He is free

The play opens upon the King's ship driving ashore in a storın. The shipmaster and the boat

« ZurückWeiter »