A mind-map exploring 5 of the key themes of William Shakespeare's The Tempest - God & Humanity, Magic, New World & Old World, Forgiveness & Reconciliation and Power & Freedom. Plus a few quotes, historical context, critical interpretation and limited comparisons to Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.
1.1 Play may be an allegory. James
Russell Lowell described the
play as "an example of how a
great poet should write
1.1.1 Does Prospero represent
God? Does the island
represent the Garden of Eden?
Are Prospero, Miranda and
Ariel a allegorical
representation of the Father,
Daughter and Spirit?
22.214.171.124 Prospero is very powerful. A very
omnipotent character. He even
controls every single aspect of the
play - he controls the characters, the
elements etc. This is symbolised in
A5S1 when Ferdinand and Miranda
are playing chess.
126.96.36.199.1 HOWEVER like in Doctor Faustus,
it is not Prospero who is all
powerful, it is not Prospero who
cast the eponymous tempest but
is in fact his servant - Ariel.
Prospero is a manipulator, but
not necessarily God-like.
188.8.131.52.1.1 It could be argued
Prospero is in fact a
Shakespeare. Samuel Taylor
Prospero as "the very
184.108.40.206.1.1.1 The Tempest was written in
1611 and is believed to be
Shakespeare's final play.
Shakespeare like Prospero is
ageing and beginning to
question his own mortality.
220.127.116.11.2 Jan Frans Van Dijkhuizen notes
that the Masque Scene
"ability to defy the laws of time
and nature" - again
18.104.22.168.3 However Prospero recognises the limitations of
his powers. "I find my zenith doth depend
upon/A most auspicious star". Prospero's magic
does not rely upon his ability own but nature
too, and he is very grateful and respectful of
this. Though he is powerful he is not
2.1 Is magic ever used beningly
in the play? E.g Sycorax's
imprisonment of Ariel?
Prospero's enslavement of
Caliban and Ariel? Prospero's
control over Miranda and the
2.1.1 ALTHOUGH it appear's
Prospero is being evil with his
magic he is not as he is very
careful not to to harm
anybody on-board the ship -
"I have with such provision in
my art/So safely ordered that
there is no soul/No, not so
much perdition as an hair,
Betid to any creature in the
22.214.171.124 It is true no one has harmed in the conflict - but both Ferdinand and
Alonso suffer during the experience, thinking one another is dead.
2.2 In England during the time the play was
published there was still a widespread belief
in magic. James I believed in witches and
persecuted many of them. Maybe why
Shakespeare presents Scycorax as an evil
witch, yet Prospero as a just magician?
2.2.1 Feminists would criticise the play. Shakespeare
oppresses Miranda - even putting her in trance during
A1S2. She is only 'freed' when Prospero finds a man
suitable for her - Ferdinand. Mike Brett argues that
"Miranda's apparent freedom is entirely illusory"
2.3 The whole island is associated with the
supernatural - Sycorax is banished there,
Prospero's magic powers develop there and
are only given up before he leaves.
2.3.1 It is as if the island is enchanted, as
recognised by Caliban "...the isle is full of
noises, Sounds and sweet airs". That put
Caliban to sleep.
3 New World and
3.1 The Tempest has often been seen as a play based on colonialism, reflecting the European expansionism occurring
during James I's reign. Prospero comes to Caliban's island, subdues him, rules the island and imposes his culture upon
him - teaching him his language.
3.1.1 Caliban is described as a "Hag born" "whelp" who is not
"honoured with a human shape". Shakespeare dehumanises
him to build sympathy for the character and to reflect the
colonizer's attitude towards the native Americans. He is
portrayed as a despicable entity, who all the creatures from
the 'civilized world' view with disdain and fear.
3.2 HOWEVER Shakespeare may be talking about class rather than colonialsim,
3.2.1 In Gonzalo's monologue, he envisions a utopian
state - reflecting a Communist state - a state
where "riches, poverty,/And use of service" are
gone, where all men and women are idle but are
"innocent and pure"
126.96.36.199 By the end of the play all imprisoned
characters - Ariel, Caliban, Ferdinand
and Miranda are free. Perhaps
Shakespeare had sympathies with
the poor and women - envisioning a
world of freedom and equality.
Perhaps this is the "New brave
world" Miranda discovers.
4.1 Many scholars argue reconciliation and
forgiveness is at the centre of the play.
4.1.1 The play, despite having a large focus on the supernatural, places a large emphasis on human spirit. "The
rare victory is/In virtue than in vengeance". Prospero's capacity for mercy and forgiveness towards his
enemies, Miranda's empathy and Gonzalo's thoughtfulness dramatize the triumph of human spirit.
4.1.2 HOWEVER it could be argued that some characters do not change.
5 Power and
5.1 Most characters desire power at some point -
even the benevolent Gonzalo.
5.1.1 Whilst, in the words of Walton Beacham, Ariel's "only
request is to be free".
188.8.131.52 Prospero is master to both Caliban and Ariel - something which they are acutely aware of.
184.108.40.206.1 "Prospero and Caliban's 'relationship' deteriorates into one rebellion" (Davis Lindely)
220.127.116.11.1.1 Reflects rebellion against monarchs
during the reigns of Elizabeth? The
Northern Rebellion of 1569 and the
numerous Catholic Plots to overthrow
5.1.2 Barry Beck see's the play as "a tale of political
power and social responsibility"
18.104.22.168 Gonzalo's utopian state would be ideal - where everyone is
equal and cares for one another.
22.214.171.124 Sebastian and Antonio are both
despicable men - and mirror the foolish
characters of Stephano and Trinculo who
both desire power.