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The Theme of Loss in Shakespeare's The Tempest

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The Theme of Loss in The Tempest

Shakespeare's play, The Tempest tells the story of a father, Prospero, who must let go of his daughter; who brings his enemies under his power only to release them; and who in turn finally relinquishes his sway over his world - including his power over nature itself. The Tempest contains elements ripe for tragedy: Prospero is a controlling figure bent on taking revenge for the wrongs done to him, and in his fury he has the potential to destroy not only his enemies, but his own humanity and his daughter's future.

Throughout the play, Prospero is a figure who talks at rather than to the other characters, including his daughter Miranda, Prince Ferdinand, and Ariel, his airy servant. At the end of Act IV Prospero is caught up in the ecstasy of punishing and determining the fate of his foes. The beginning of Act V, however, marks a change in the character of Prospero, which averts a possible tragedy. Prospero is unsettled even though his plans are reaching fruition. In his talk with Ariel for the first time we see an actual conversation take place. In addition, in the line "...And mine shall." (Shakespeare V.i.20) we see a change of heart on the part of Prospero, and in the following monologue the audience is privy to introspection and contemplation even beyond that of the end of the masque in Act IV "We are such stuff as dreams are made on..."(Shakespeare).

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...est: An Interpretation." In The Tempest: A Casebook. Ed. D.J. Palmer. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1968. 225.

Kermode, Frank. Introduction. The Tempest. By William Shakespeare. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1958. xlii.

Palmer, D. J. (Editor) The Tempest - A Selection of Critical Essays London: MacMillan Press Ltd., 1977.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans, et. al. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1974.

Solomon, Andrew. "A Reading of the Tempest." In Shakespeare's Late Plays. Ed. Richard C. Tobias and Paul G. Zolbrod. Athens: Ohio UP, 1974. 232.

John Wilders' lecture on The Tempest given at Oxford University - Worcester College - August 4th, 1999.
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