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Shakespeare's The Tempest, Essential Revision Notes

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Table of Contents

Context 4

Summary 5

Characters 8

Prospero 8

Miranda 8

Caliban 9

Ariel 10

Ferdinand 11

Alonso 11

Antonio 11

Sebastian 11

Gonzalo 11

Trinculo and Stephano 11

Boatswain 11

Themes, Motifs and Symbols 12

Themes 12

The Illusion of Justice 12

The Difficulty of Distinguishing ‘Men’ from ‘Monsters’ 12

The Allure of Ruling a Colony 13

Motifs 14

Master and Servants 14

Water and Drowning 14

Mysterious Noises 14

Symbols 15

The Tempest 15

The Game of Chess 15

Prospero’s Books 15

Important Quotations Explained 16

Sample Answers 20

The Tempest has been seen amongst other things as a statement by Shakespeare about the end of his writing life, as an allegory about the effects of colonialism and as an illustration of the difficulty or real communication. The variety of interpretations of The Tempest show that texts are capable of being explored in different ways. Explore The Tempest in the light of the idea that texts are capable of a ‘variety of interpretations’. 20

The Tempest: A Personal Response 23

Context

The Tempest was likely written in 1610–1611, and was first performed at Court by the King’s Men in the fall of 1611. It was performed again in the winter of 1612–1613 during the festivities in celebration of the marriage of King James’s daughter Elizabeth. The Tempest is most likely the last play written entirely by Shakespeare, and it is remarkable for being one of only two plays by Shakespeare (the other being Love’s Labour’s Lost) whose plot is entirely original.

The play does, however, draw on travel literature of its time – most notably the accounts of a tempest off the Bermudas that separated and nearly wrecked a fleet of colonial ships sailing from Plymouth to Virginia. The English colonial project seems to be on Shakespeare’s mind throughout The Tempest, as almost every character, from the lord Gonzalo to the drunk Stephano, ponders how he would rule the island on which the play is set if he were...

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