Music, Magic, Men – More Class Notes on The Tempest

 Why is the play titled such? The storm only lasts for the first few scenes. Is it because the fundamental struggle between good and evil is, like a storm, a tempest?

Is Prospero a vigilante? Does he only want revenge? Or does he want resolution and love?  Prospero was motivated by love for Miranda.

A very famous, much praised Danish king over part of England (Knute the Great) had his throne placed on a beach and ordered the waves not to touch his feet. Of course the waves did not obey the king, but continued to wash ashore. He did this in order to show his people that he was not as great or powerful as his subjects were making him out to be and that there were powers greater than he was.

Prospero seems to also recognize the greater powers to which he is subject. He does use his magic to try and point out that people are also subject to powers greater than themselves, that there is clearly defined good, and clearly defined evil, and that knowledge does give power, but only a limited kind. His magical powers are directly connected to his books, and consequently, education and learning. Is Shakespeare using this as a type of allegory for showing how useful education is, but that even with all the education in the world, men are still men and under control of greater powers such as nature, fate, or GOD?

“Ariel” is an elemental spirit of air, fire, water, and earth.

What does the island look like? Whose description of it is correct? Gonzalo or Antonio? Could it be both? A&A are bad guys – morally desert, so they see the island as brown and sparse. Gonzalo is good, spiritually rich in character, he sees a lush paradise. This could also be seen as the varying levels of gratitude – A&A had little or no gratitude because of their pride, while Gonzalo is incredibly grateful and humble in spirit.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made of.”

The stage of the Globe theatre could be likened to the island: what you see is what you bring to it. Audience members would be required to use their imagination and so provide the necessary missing components to those plays they watched. Shakespeare, as a playwright, is like Prospero, the magician. He creates  a type of magic and uses “spirits” as his slaves, in a sense.

Gonzalo: “And all of us, ourselves, when no man was his own.”

Shakespeare also uses his “magic” to teach others their flaws, and bring a sort of reconciliation to them.

Prospero uses his magic to show others more about themselves – the three evil ones through a stinking swamp, the courtiers through a maze. While this means of magic is “fakery” or “trickery,”  it can lead to more wisdom about true matters. Just as fiction or drama can show great human truth about human interactions or nature while being fake or not real.

The Tempest also deals with the subject of usurpation.

Fairness issue with Prospero: Dr. Donovan claimed that one cannot be “just” when there is no one to be just to. So, Prospero’s use of magic on an island deserted by humans, would not necessarily be an issue of fairness (as magic usually is), and explains why Prospero did not practice magic until he was on the island, then gave it up when he moved off of it.


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