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The Tempest as Shakespeare's Resignation Speech

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The Tempest as Shakespeare's Resignation Speech

 
    In Shakespeare's, The Tempest, the character Prospero is in many ways similar to Shakespeare himself at the time he wrote the play.  Prospero, having entertained himself with his magic for most of his life, now gives up his powers as he seems to understand that his magic is no more and no less than life itself :  it is just as transitory and hollow.  This seems to reflect on Shakespeare's attitude toward play writing.  Having spent his life writing plays and being entertained by his own employment, Shakespeare finds that his plays, while they explore the themes of life and relationship, are finally no more meaningful than life itself seems to a man who must have been feeling his mortality.  The Tempest is Shakespeare's resignation speech.  Having found that his 'magic' has failed him, Shakespeare is retiring to the real world, for if nothing of meaning is to be gained in play writing, then all that is left is to be human.

 

            First, look at Prospero's final decision in the play.  He is capable of returning to Milan and ruling it while keeping his magical power - he does not have to choose between the two - and he abandons his power.  Just as Shakespeare was not forced to quit writing, Prospero is not forced to abandon his magic.  In addition, Shakespeare specifically has Prospero tell us : "My charms crack not, my spirits obey, ..." ( V.i 2 ).  Shakespeare means to tell the audience he is not quitting because his ability as a writer is lessening at all, but specifically tells us through Prospero that he is at his peak and is completely in command of his art.  There is no other obvious thematic or plot-development reason why Prospero should specifically ...


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...total lack of morality, or Hotspur's view of absolute honor, had some doubt to it, or could be thought of differently.  Prospero's argument here is irrefutable.  Nothing he presents is in any way 'iffy' or doubtable.  This is Shakespeare's final conclusion : plays, like life, fade into nothing, and nothing is left worth doing but to be what we are: human, and mortal.

 

Works Cited and Consulted:

 

Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations: William Shakespeare's The Tempest. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1997.

 

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

 

Shakespeare, William, 1998.  The Tempest.  Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1998

 

Webster, Margaret. Shakespeare Without Tears. Greenwich: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1996.


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