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The Tempest: Study questions

  1. Caliban and Prospero have been seen in almost diametrically opposite ways in the last fifty years: Prospero has changed from the all-seeing, godlike figure of a benign Providence to an exploitive, imperialist power, usurping the island from Caliban; correspondingly, Caliban has moved from a figure for the beast in humankind, its unrepressed and violent desires, to a victim of a tyranny he has no say in.
  2. How can the same play be capable of such apparently opposite interpretation? Is it a sign of the instability and vagueness of the text, or of the changing point of view of the critical community looking at the play? Look especially at Caliban's attitude to language (1.2.365), and the exchange that precedes it.
  3. The Tempest requires some stage tricks that involve appearing and disappearing banquets and other tricks. How fully are these displays integrated into the structure of the play? How do you respond to Renaissance music generally; how do you see the music in the play being presented on a modern stage?
  4. How do you respond to Miranda's characterization? Is she a significant force in the play? And how do you respond to the moment when our possible sympathy for Caliban is met by his attempt to "people" the island with Calibans (see 1.2.351)?
  5. There is general agreement that The Tempest is the last play Shakespeare wrote on his own. Does this possibility modify your reaction to it?
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This page last updated on 28 August 2006. © Michael Best, 2002.