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An Analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest Essay

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An Analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest


There are many ways of interpreting Shakespeare's The Tempest. A Post-Colonialist critic, such as Stephen Greenblatt, will look at the influence of historical and political implications of colonialism on the text. Along these lines, a Reader Response critic, such as Paul Yachnin, will look specifically at Shakespeare's audience and their concerns at the time in which the play was written. Very different from these approaches, a Psychological critic, such as Bernard Paris, will completely ignore what was in the author's and audience's minds, and look at the psyche of the main character in the play. Regardless of which critical approach is used to analyze the play, all interpretations should be considered objectively for they all provide a great deal of insight for studying the text. However, I believe that it is imperative to keep in mind that the story offered in The Tempest is told from the point of view of the main character, Prospero. This has a definite impact on the interpretations and their validity.

According to Stephen Greenblatt the preoccupation with political power was not unfamiliar to Shakespeare and his audience. In his essay, "The Best Way to Kill Our Literary Inheritance Is to Turn It Into a Decorous Celebration of the New World Order," Greenblatt argues that recognizing the presence of issues such as colonialism and slavery in The Tempest will deepen the pleasure of the ordinary reader. He explains that it is very difficult to look at The Tempest without thinking about imperialism. The play, which is set on a mysterious island inhabited by natives and taken over by a European prince, is filled with allusions to the process of colonization. For example, one can f...


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...rtin's, 2000. 119-20.

Paris, Bernard. "The Tempest." Contexts for Criticism. 4th Ed. Donald Keesey. New York:
McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2003. 235-43.

Shakespeare, William. "The Tempest." The Tempest: A Case Study in Critical Controversy. Ed. Gerald Graff and James Phelan. Boston/New York:
Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 10-88.

Vaughan, Alden T. "Shakespeare's Indian: The Americanization of Caliban."
Shakespeare Quarterly 39.2 (Summer 1988): 137-153.

Willis Deborah. "Shakespeare's Tempest and the Discourse of Colonialism." The
Tempest: A Case Study in Critical Controversy. Ed. Gerald Graff and James Phelan. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 256-68.

Yachnin, Paul. "Shakespeare and the Idea of Obedience: Gonzalo in The Tempest."
Contexts for Criticism. 4th Ed. Donald Keesey. New York: McGraw-Hill
Companies, Inc., 2003. 34-46.


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