Four Sides of Shakespeare's The Tempest

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Four Sides of The Tempest


"They all enter the circle which Prospero had made, and there stand charm'd"

In the First Folio edition of The Tempest, at the climax of the action, Shakespeare instructs that the magician Prospero inscribe a magic circle on the bare Elizabethan stage into which all the various characters of the action will be drawn: sage and fool, monarch and savage, clown and lover, young and old, cynic and innocent.

It is as if Shakespeare, through Prospero, has assembled a representative sample of divided humanity, and brought them together deliberately to re-enact the oldest of rituals and the most insistent themes of history and of psychology The divisions among these characters resonate deeply, with many implications. They have been elaborated in generations of Western thought: together with Prospero, the spirit Ariel and the grotesque Caliban have been "read" through such critical lenses as Thomas Aquinas' division of human nature between spiritual and animal elements, or Darwin's evolutionary ladder, or Freud's superego and id,or through images of colonialism, or Jung's conflation of history with psychology, in which "our world is dissociated like a neurotic." In such a view, the reintegration of fractured family and society that takes place in this play is at the same time a reintegration of the divided and conflicted self into health and wholeness.

In Georgia Shakespeare Festival' s The Tempest, the circle on the stage floor, the Shakespearean sign of wholeness, is the Jungian symbol of the "Quaternity of the Mandala,"a square-within-a-circle that was a symbol of the resolution of opposites and a sign of the transformation of both individual and collective consciousness, the full promise of human potential.

Thus, when Prospero, having chosen the road of reconciliation over that of recrimination and rejection,

draws the rapacious and rebellious Caliban into the magic circle, only to say of him "This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine," we seem for a moment to pass beyond the logic of power and punishment into a higher, more inclusive awareness. The magician who will shortly surrender his powers, sees and acknowledges the brutish side of himself, his own abjection, power-lust, possessive-ness, and scheming resentment.

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