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Opposition between Art and Reality in Shakespeare's The Tempest

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Opposition between Art and Reality in The Tempest

The Tempest is a self-reflexive play that explores the boundaries of art and reality. Shakespeare's island is a realm controlled by the artist figure; where the fabulous, the ideal and the imaginative are presented as both illusory and palpable, and where the audience is held in an indeterminate state, a "strange repose". The juxtaposition of the world of art with political and social realities explored by representative characters is the central contrast of the play, and is foregrounded by the use of non-verbal techniques. These techniques allow the audience to appreciate the art that facilitates the spectacle they watch, as well as understand that the ideal remains an illusory state impinged on by concerns of the real world. This contrast does not resolve itself; rather, it remains inconclusive and leaves us, according to Russ McDonald, in a "marginal condition between expectation and understanding, affirmation and skepticism, comedy and tragedy".

The opening storm scene represents the collapse of all the civility and social order of the known world. The effectiveness of the storm is made possible by the opening "tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning" which pre-empts the events to come. The storm immediately catapults the reader into an understanding of the characters on board the ship. It exposes us to the way in which the characters' social assumptions capitulate when they are exposed to adversity; and leads us to expect that on their arrival on the island they will be reformed. However, quite the reverse is true - in the second act we are presented with men who appear even More zealously political now that they are free of havin...

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...tion between art and reality is developed simultaneously by dialogue and a series of non-verbal techniques.

Works Cited and Consulted

Alan Durband. (Ed.) (1984). The Tempest. Hauppauge, New York: Barron's Educational Series Inc.

Deborah Willis, 'Shakespeare's Tempest and the Discourse of Colonialism', Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 29, no.2, (1989)

Eric Cheyfitz, The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from The Tempest to Tarzan, (Oxford University Press, 1991)

Ritchie, D. and Broussar, A. (1997). American History: The Early Years to 1877. New York: Glencoe

Kanoff, Acott. (1998). Your Study Guide to William Shakespeare: The Tempest. Cleveland: The Cleveland Play House Education Department

William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Frank Kermode, with an introduction by Frank Kermode, (Arden, 1964)
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