The Tempest - Personal Response

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The Tempest: A Personal Response 4

The Tempest: A Personal Response

Interpretations of The Tempest tend to be shaped quite strongly by the particular background which the interpreter brings to it. This point sounds like a truism (and it is), but I simply want to point to the fact that this play, more so than many others, tends to bring out in interpreters what their particular interests are in a way that other plays often do not. At least that has been my experience.

In part, this happens because this play puts a good deal of pressure on us to treat it allegorically, that is, to find a conceptual framework which will coordinate our understanding of what goes on in the play. I think we feel this mainly because there is little complex characterization in The Tempest (except perhaps for the figure of Prospero himself) and there are many elements which we cannot simply account for by taking the action naturalistically. So we want to know what they stand for: What exactly is Prospero's magic? What does Caliban represent? Is the island a representation of the new world or a world of the imagination or something else? And so on.

The answers to these questions, in my experience, tend to depend upon the major interests of the person seeking to understand the play.

So, for example, those, like me, with a strong interest in reading Shakespeare and a lively interest in theatrical productions of Shakespeare, tend to emphasize the extent to which the main focus in The ...

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