Discuss How Shakespeare Uses the Tempest to Symbolise the Genre of Drama.

Essay by alyx84College, UndergraduateA-, March 2004

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Discuss How Shakespeare Uses the Tempest to Symbolise the Genre of Drama.

There can be no doubt that The Tempest contains numerous references to the theatre, and while many of Shakespeare's plays make reference to the dramatic arts and their parallel with real life (e.g., 'All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players.' from As You Like It.) it is in this, his last play, that the playwright most plainly acknowledges that the audience is viewing a show. Therefore, in the play's final scene, Prospero tells Ferdinand that the festivities at hand are almost at an end, that the actors are about to retire, and that the "insubstantial pageant" of which he has been a part has reached its conclusion. It is, in fact, tempting to compare the character of Prospero with that of his creator, the playwright Shakespeare. When Prospero sheds his magician's robes in favour of his civilian attire as the Duke of Milan, with the benefit of hindsight that this is Shakespeare's last work and his crowning achievement, we are inclined to associate the learned sorcerer with Shakespeare.

Beyond these surface biographical parallels, Prospero's role is less that of a character than that of the imaginative or creative force behind the play itself. After the masque of the goddesses who bless the union of Miranda and Ferdinand, Prospero explains that the effigies which they have seen are "Spirits, which by mine art/I have from their confines call'd to enact/My present fancies". Prospero emphasises that what is taking place in the play is under his control and is, in fact, his creation. This can also be seen, when Miranda worries about the fate of those exposed to the shipwreck at the start of the play, her father reassures her that despite the...