Essay on Importance of Environment in Shakespeare's The Tempest

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Importance of Environment in The Tempest

   The island is full of noises; Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight,” says Caliban. The responses which the characters in The Tempest offer to their immediate surroundings reveal much about their individual traits, at the same time they allow the audience glimpses of Prospero's island as different parts of the island are isolated in the play. The island itself and the sea that surrounds it may be seen as encompassing elemental nature and throughout the play, the elements are used to emphasize the inherent nature of characters (notably Ariel and Caliban) as these elements to an Elizabethan audience possessed "primarily certain qualities attributable to matter" (Tillyard's Elizabethan World Picture). The imagery of clouds dissolving and melting, or reason that had ebbed flooding back, and in changes of state between sleeping and waking all draw on images from the natural environment that extend the main thematic concerns in The Tempest. Analogies may also be drawn between the macrocosm and microcosm and how disorder in one corresponded to disorders in the other.

            Prospero places the characters in different parts of the island in an attempt to illicit responses that would reveal their characters. There is suggestion that the portion of the island in which the court party is placed is rather barren and hostile. Despite Adrian's objective comments in Act II of the island as being "desert", Gonzalo in responding to the island as "here is everything advantageous to live. How lush and lusty the grass looks" reveals clearly his constant optimism and fervent belief in hope, his response is offered in contrast to Sebastian's and Antonio's response that "the ground, indeed, ...

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...ermode's introduction from the Arden edition.) And indeed, the importance of the environment in the play can be seen in its effective fulfillment of the pastoral tragicomedy form.


Works Cited and Consulted

Boss, Judith E. "The Golden Age, Cockaigne, and Utopia in The Faerie Queene and The Temepest." Georgia Review 26 (1972) 145-55.

Cohen, Walter. "Shakespeare and Calderon in an Age of Transition." Genre 15 (1983), 123-37.

Hill, Christopher. The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution. London: Temple Smith, 1972.

Kermode, Frank, ed.  The Tempest.  Arden, 1964.

Maus, Katherine Eisaman. "Arcadia Lost: Politics and Revision in the Restoration Tempest." Renaissance Drama 13 (1982): 189-209.

Wolf, A. A History of Science, Technology and Philosophy in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Vol. 2. New York: Harper, 1959.

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