The Rhetorical in the Music of The Tempest Essay

The Rhetorical in the Music of The Tempest Essay

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The Rhetorical in the Music of The Tempest


In the midst of a Shakespearean play, there has and always will be a ghost that hovers over the actors and the audience. This is a ghost with a purpose, a ghost I call rhetoric. In every Shakespeare play, there exists an energy that has the power to persuade the audience to feel or believe something that Shakespeare believed. This energy breathes through the dialogue, the props and especially the music. The audience and the play engage in an exchange of question and answer to assist society in working through human dilemmas. What I hope to point out in this paper is how that ghost, rhetoric, manifests in the music in Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest.

I assert that Ariel is a bridge, a sort of servant, not just to the character Prospero, but also to Shakespeare’s audience. In Peter Seng’s book, The Vocal Songs in the Plays of Shakespeare, he reflects upon the idea that Shakespeare use of song was to incite characters to action. As Ariel sings, he is causing the characters to move into a certain dramatic action. Seng says, "Ariel draws Ferdinand from the coast to Miranda’s presence, by singing, ‘Come unto these yellow sands,’ and that in the second song Ariel ‘persuades the prince of his father’s death, thus recalling his grief and preparing him for a new and unreserved affection" (248). The purpose of Ariel’s song in the play, to call Ferdinand forward unto the island, was the plan of Prospero to get Ferdinand and his daughter Miranda together. He enchants them with his magic to fall in love when they meet. This relationship serves a rhetorical purpose for the Elizabethans as Seng suggests,

Ariel is here issuing an invitation to the dance. It is addressed to Ferdinand. Miranda, t...


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...Theatre of Ben Jonson. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980

Hagar, Alan. Shakespeare’s Political Animal: Schema and Schemata in the Canon. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1990.

L’Engle, Madeleine, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1980.

Montagu, Jeremy. The World of Baroque and Classical Musical Instruments. Woodstock: Overlook Press, 1879.

Platt, Peter G . Shakespeare and Rhetorical Culture. Rpt. in Kastan, David Scott. A Companion To Shakespeare. Oxford: Blackwell. 1999.

Seng, Peter J. The Vocal Songs in the Plays of Shakespeare: A Critical History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

Schantz , Alan, The Arts in Christian Perspective and Selections from the World of Music. Dubuque: Brown and Benchmark, 1997.

Vyverberg, Henry. The Living Tradition. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988.

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