The Tempest Context

Joe Brown
Mind Map by Joe Brown, updated 10 months ago More Less
Joe Brown
Created by Joe Brown over 4 years ago


A mind-map of the historical context surrounding William Shakespeare's final play The Tempest including James I's persecution of witches, the European colonization in America and the mistreatment of the native Americans and forced marriages.

Resource summary

The Tempest Context
1 Written in 1611 and is considered to be Shakespeare's last play.
1.1 Shakespeare would have been around about the age of 47. He died 5 years later.
2 James I of England considered himself to be an expert in witchcraft.
2.1 In 1597 he wrote the Daemonologie, a tract which opposed the practise of withcraft and provided background material for Shakespeare's Tragedy of Macneth.
3 In Shakespeare's time women were subservient to men; and were often used forge alliances with other powerful families through arranged marriages.
3.1 Scottish Protestant leader John Foxe said: "Women in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey men".
3.2 Girls often had little choice who they married, and could get married when they were very young. For instance Catherine Howard married a 47 year old Henry VIII when she was 19. There were instances where girls were much younger.
4 Under Elizabeth, England had begun colonization of the Americas with Walter Raleigh's excursions to the Atlantic shore and establishment of Roanake colony.
4.1 Colonization seems to have been on Shakespeare's mind as almost every character - even the benevolent Gonzalo - ponders on how they would rule the island.
4.2 Shakespeare also seems to be inspired by Michel e Montaigne's essay 'Of the Cannibals' as Prospero's servant-monster's name, Caliban, seems to be an anagram of 'Cannibal'
4.3 In 1609, the ship Sea Venture was wrecked in a storm near the Bermudas on it's way to Jamestown. The passengers and crew were stranded for months on a deserted island in the Bermudas. It is likely this event inspired the play.
5 European colonization had a devastating effect on the Native American population. They lost their land, brought diseases from Europe that the Americans were unaware of and could not prevent. They brought horses, guns and alcohol - the use of guns and horses changed the way they hunted. The 'heathen' 'savage' 'inferior' Native American were encouraged to convert to Christianity. The Europeans were eroding their culture and enforcing theirs upon them.
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