It has been said that the function of drama is to confront and then engage the audience. This is certainly the approach taken by Shakespeare in his play, The Tempest. When the play begins, the audience is immediately confronted by the sheer ferocity of the tempest, and from the time that the unfortunate passengers land on the island, the audience is engaged by the fantasy of the island of Prospero.
At the start of the play, we see the action on board the ship which is ferrying the King and some members of the upper class back home. They are in the midst of a great storm, the likes of which mariners of those times would have prayed not to meet. The state of nature, at this point, is very much in disorder. This becomes important after the action inn the ensuing calm, as many different binary opposites are set up, such as fate against free will, human versus non human, and order conflicting with disorder. Prospero, the ruler of the island, is actually both parts of the opposition 'power of kings' versus supernatural power, being both the rightful Duke of Milan and the leader of his island, and also being a magician with a spirit as a servant. Through his 'art', he also shows us again the order/disorder opposition. He created the storm at the start of the play, the great disorder. Towards the end, however, he is responsible for the masque scene, a great order - the culminating of perfection for that culture, in fact.
In Elizabethan times, dramatists used the thrust stage as the standard for all of the plays performed. The thrust stage, as distinct to the later used Proscenium arch, was a large raised platform that reached out into the audience. In fact,...
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...on. It is important to note that you do not get the full effect of a play just from reading it, but in The Tempest, these effects work as well as in another masterpiece from Shakespeare.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Garnett, Richard. "Irving Shakespeare" The Tempest (and selected criticism).
Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke (eds.) Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. 1903.
Knight, G. Wilson. "Shakespearian Superman" The Tempest D.J. Palmer (ed.) Macmillan & Co. 1968
Murray, J. Middleton. "Shakespeare's Dream" The Tempest D.J. Palmer (ed.) Macmillan & Co. 1968
Palmer, D.J. Shakespeare's Later Comedies: An Anthology of Modern Criticism. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1971.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. 1611. Ed. Stephen Orgel. New York: Oxford UP, 1994.
Tillyard, E.M. "The Tragic Pattern" The Tempest D.J. Palmer (ed.) Macmillan & Co. 1968
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