William Shakespeare wrote The Tempest, arguably his finest work, on the eve of European colonization of the New World in 1611 (Hollander and Kermode 445-46). As a result, common European ideas about the New World in the early 1600s are alluded to throughout the play (446). Through the propagandistic writings of explorers like Captain John Smith, who authored a sensational and unsubstantiated account of his dramatic rescue from death at the hands of Indians by the Indian chiefís beautiful daughter, Pocahontas, many Europeans developed an interest in the inhabitants of the New World (Smith 24-25). Indeed, from the various explorers’ stories that trickled hack to Europe, two different viewpoints surfaced concerning the natives in America (Hollander and Kermode 446). These two different viewpoints in Shakespeare’s play are represented by the characters Ariel, who represents the compliant, friendly native, and Caliban, who represents the native as a wild savage. In 1969, Aime Cesaire published A Tempest, a play which uses Shakespeare’s play as a model. Whereas Shakespeare writes from a European point of view about the New World on the eve of colonization, Cesaire, who was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1913 and, thus, is a native of the “New World,” writes from over 300 years of hindsight about the effects of European colonization. While one aspect of Shakespeare’s genius in The Tempest is his reticence (Hollander and Kermode 444), part of Cesaire’s genius in A Tempest is his overt accentuation of certain nuances found in Shakespeare’s play. Thus, Cesaire, employing Shakespeare’s play as a paradigm. accentuates the ugly consequences of Europeís colonization of the New Worl…
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…. Boston: Houghton, 1985.
Hollander, John, and Frank Kermode. The Literature of Renaissance England. New York: Oxford UP, 1973.
Keen, Benjamin. A History of Latin America, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton, 1992.
Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities; Children in Americaís Schools. New York. Harper, 1991.
Proffitt, Edward. Reading and Writing About Literature Fiction. Poetry. Drama and the Essay. New York: Harcourt, 1990.
Smith, John. “The General History of Virginia.” Anthology of American Literature; Colonial Through Romantic. 5th ed. Ed. George McMichael. New York: Macmillam, 1993. 15-25. Washington, James M., ed. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King. New York: Harper, 1986.
West, Cornel. Race Matters. New York: Vintage, 1992.
Wood, Joe, ed. Malcolm X: In Our Own Image. New York: St. Martins, 1992.
A Comparison of the Supernatural in Tempest, Julius Caesar, and Midsummer Night’s Dream
Supernatural Phenomena in The Tempest, Julius Caesar, and Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “supernatural” as something “that is out of the ordinary course of nature; beyond, surpassing, or differing from what is natural.” In light of this definition, I shall be discussing the plays The Tempest, Julius Caesar, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream through three successive pairings, drawing distinctions and comparisons between each play and its significant others as relate to some aspect of the supernatural realm.
In any discussion of two Shakespeare plays, the issue of chronology deserves at least a passing nod. In the case of The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, knowledge of the chronology of the plays is of paramount importance in understanding the differences in tone, language, and the relationship dynamics between Oberon/Puck and Prospero/Ariel/Caliban. A Midsummer Night’s Dream came out roughly 1594-5, The Tempest around 1611-12, some seventeen years later. The development of Shakespeare’s imagination, as well as his powers as a playwright and poet, are certainly evident in The Tempest: The language is richer and more convoluted, the tone darker, more brooding, as are the characters (a feature characteristic of Shakespeare’s Jacobean phase), and the whole message of revenge transmuted into forgiveness and resignation is a remarkable departure from traditional Senecan motifs. Also, as often seen in the later plays, a particular character or group dynamic seen in an earlier play is updated, expanded, and elaborated upon, in this case that of Oberon and Puck.
In MND, Oberon is proud and imperious, but basically helps the course of true love run smooth in the end with the help of…
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…20th century might consider a quaint dramatic expedient, a colorful, fanciful, booga-booga quality, for the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre-goer of the time, the world of fairies and ghosts and demons and witches was very much a real one, and it pays to bear this in mind when reading and attending the plays. To try and imagine that such things really people one’s world, really have a place somewhere in the immense chain of being, is to feel a very vital resonance within that nothing in the gray, bleak, so-called post-modern landscape can ever provide.
Badawi, M.M., Background to Shakespeare, London, MacMillan Education Ltd., 1981.
Boyce, Charles, Shakespeare A to Z, New York, Roundtable Press Inc., 1990.
All act, scene, and line number citations refer to the Arden editions of the various plays discussed in this monograph.