Shakespeare's play, The Tempest, is constructed on a framework of ideas rather than on any dramatic principle. It is "ideas" that are presented throughout, and the play is built around the presentation of these themes -- themes such as the argument over whether nature is superior to nurture or vice versa (as in the case of Caliban and Antonio, the first being one on whom all efforts at nurture "can never stick" due to the inherent baseness of his nature, the second being one whom neither nature nor nurture has availed to deter him from consciously choosing evil), the moral duties of the sovereign (in the case of Prospero and Alonso, both of whom have to go through physical or emotional distress because of their negligence, in one way or another, or these duties), the transitoriness of all material things (as in Prospero's speech following the masque), the rights of the colonialist and whether he is exploiting or educating the natives (in the case of Prospero and Caliban), the argument over whether "enlightened" civilization is superior to the "natural man" or otherwise, and the importance of retaining social hierarchy.
It is also, to a certain extent, not inaccurate to suggest that the characters, or at least the important ones, have a symbolic function. Prospero does symbolize "Art" and enlightened civilization, Caliban "Nature" and the primitive, uncontrolled succumbing to instinctual, sometimes base, urges that results from the lack of "civilization", Ferdinand and Miranda the purity and virtue of noble birth, most of the court party (Antonio, Alonso, Sebastian; on a different level, Stephano and Trinculo) the imperfection of civilization in the form of ...
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...nd Political Thought." A Companion to Shakespeare. Ed. David Scott Kastan. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1999. 100-116.
Gervinus, G.G. "A review of The Tempest." Shakespeare Commentaries. (1877):787-800. Rpt. Scott. 304-307.
More, Sir Thomas. "Utopia." The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Vol 1. Ed. David Damrosch. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc., 1999. 637-706.
Platt, Peter. "Shakespeare and Rhetorical Culture." A Companion to Shakespeare. Ed. David Scott Kastan. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1999. 277-296.
Sacks, David Harris. "Political Culture." A Companion to Shakespeare. Ed. David Scott Kastan. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1999. 100-116.
Snider, Denton J. "A review of The Tempest." The Shakespearian Drama a Commentary: The Comedies. (1890). Rpt. Scott. 320-324.
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