Shakespeare’s Use of Ovid's Metamorphoses and Virgil's Aeneid as Basis for The Tempest

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Shakespeare’s Use of Ovid's Metamorphoses and Virgil's Aeneid as Basis for The Tempest

William Shakespeare, as did most writers of his time, took the basis for the stories he wrote from other texts. He would use source poems or mythology in order to write his own works. Romeo and Juliet, for example, can be compared to the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisby. Plays such as Richard III and Julius Caesar are artistic accounts of historic events. The Tempest, however, is commonly perceived as an original story. Many critics feel that this was the only story of his that was entirely created by Shakespeare. This is not the case. In fact, there are several sources from which he very much drew inspiration for this tale. Shakespeare used classical texts for most of his plays, and The Tempest is no exception.

Two of the stories from which Shakespeare drew most of his inspiration were Ovid's Metamorphoses and Virgil's The Aeneid. Both are very often used in the construction of stories or works that have come after, and my intention here is to illustrate just how they were used in the writing of The Tempest.

The Aeneid tells the story of a Trojan warrior named Aeneas, who is the son of Venus (the Roman goddess of love) and Anchises, a Trojan prince. The tale takes place in the12th century B.C., after the Trojan War, which was started when the Trojan prince Paris seduced Helen, the wife of the King of Sparta, and took her back to Troy. In retaliation, a Greek army waged a 10-year war on Troy, leaving the once great city and most of its people devastated. After the war, Aeneas, along with others that escaped the destruction, sets sail in search of a new home. Their journey takes them towards Sicily and Italy, and this i...

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