This essay will discuss the part that illusion and reality plays in developing and illuminating the theme of Shakespeare's The Tempest. This pair of opposites will be contrasted to show what they represent in the context of the play. Further, the characters associated with these terms, and how the association becomes meaningful in the play, will be discussed.
A good starting point to discuss the use of illusion and reality in The Tempest is to focus on the setting in Act I, scene ii. Here, the reader (or viewer) realizes that it takes place entirely in Prospero's cell which is a small room where he practices his magic arts. Miranda here asks her father, Prospero, to make sure that the people on the ship will be safe even though he has created a storm which threatens to capsize their boat and drown them all. Prospero reassures her. He says that he has no intention of allowing the people to die. To reassure her further, he continues by explaining his motives in creating the storm. Here the reader learns that Prospero and Antonio are brothers, and that Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan but that his brother usurped his kingdom and exiled Prospero and his daughter Miranda. Fortune saved the two from their rotting ship which had been set to drift, and brought them to the island where Prospero has been granted supernatural powers by the enemies of Antonio.
From the above description it is clear that the play embraces both the natural and the supernatural world. Twelve years before the action takes place, we are told that Prospero was a prince who had a different type of power than he has now.
Twelve year since, Miranda, twelve year since,
Thy father was the Duk...
... middle of paper ...
...and the event; then tell me
If this might be a brother.
Mir: I should sin
To think nobly of my grandmother.
Good wombs have borne bad sons. (I, ii, 139-144).
Prospero is really the key character about which the nature of illusion and reality centers. He is the one who appears to have been stripped of all his power, and yet he is truly the most powerful; he lives in a world where he can conjure up an illusion of a storm; he lives between a course of regular human action and magic; and he is perceptive about philosophies on the topic of illusion and reality.
In The Tempest, illusion and reality are opposites which may be considered on many different levels throughout the entire length of the play.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest, edited by Louis B. Weight and Virginia A. LaMar, published by Pocket Books, New York, 1961.
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