Imagination in The Tempest

Shakespeare definitely went out on a whim here with The Tempest. Unlike any introduction we have seen thus far, Shakespeare took imagination to a whole new level. The Tempest started with a massive storm out at sea called The Tempest, ergo the title of the play. A boat, holding many people of royal families, was being tossed and turned around by humongous waves, or “roarers”—as I interpreted Shakespeare calling them. The Tempest was different from all that we have read so far in that it that it brought a lot of illusion into it’s scenes. Just in the beginning, we see The Tempest threatening to take down this ship and kill everyone, meanwhile we have barely stepped foot into the play. This happened so early in the play that we are left wondering how the rest of it is going to compose.  This was also very odd for Shakespeare to start off with a supernatural event being that, as we talked about in class, many of the supernatural events were left up to audience members interpretation and imagination; they were relatively common, but only within certain place not among many of Shakespeare’s works. In Act I, Scene II, Prospero says “’Tis time I should inform thee farther. Lend thy hand and pluck my magic garment from me. So, lie there, my art.—Wipe thou thine eyes. Have comfort.” He was referring to a magic cloak of sorts, I presumed, when he talked of this magic garment. This scene required a lot of imagination because of the odd explanation of the shipwreck. Prospero was admitting to the horrible shipwreck that took place and was saying that he had done it on purpose, but he also supposedly allowed no one to get hurt, as well. He essentially blamed himself for the distress that Miranda was feeling in this here scene. This was an odd scene because you wonder whether Prospero was actually of super natural type or if he just has a few loose screws, if you know what I mean. 

I also took notice to a strong illusionary theme, along with that of imagination. Prospero seemed to have had a mildly hypocritical idea of finding justice, making this theme more like an illusion. Prospero used his magic and tricks to get back at his brother and to find a form of justice because that was how he thought it flowed. When in actuality, he could have been creating more problems for himself as the play grows in plot. In Act I, Scene 2, Prospero said, “I, thus neglecting worldly end, all dedicated to closeness and the bettering of my mind with that which, but by being so retired, o’erprized all popular rate, in my false brother awaked an evil nature.” Here we see Prospero mention him using his magic to get some form of righteousness.  Throughout the first Act of The Tempest, we see a lot of this illusionary justice and injustice. Imagination was key in this first act and will continue to play a role in my interpretation of this play. 

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2 thoughts on “Imagination in The Tempest

  1. Marcella

    As we’ve seen, Shakespeare is a pretty imaginative guy. Remember the donkey head and fairies in MidSummer? But I think you’re totally right in saying that the start of The Tempest is completely different than Shakespeare has ever done before. It’s interesting because this was one of his last plays and it seems to have a lot of major ideas, themes, and incidents of his other plays. The shipwreck and lost people is an obvious allusion to Twelfth Night. Even though we can draw connections though, maybe Shakespeare wants to throw us completely off balance with this very imaginary introduction.

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  2. anikakrempl

    As you were saying, Tempest is set apart from many of Shakespeare’s other plays. One way that his vivid imagination is proved is the fact that the island is entirely of another world. As Marcella was pointing out, Mid Summer did have heavy elements of magic as well, but in that the fairy world crossed into the human world. In Tempest, the humans seem to have stumbled into a magical world. And the characters are controlled and dictated by the actions of these magical forces, which drive the plot even more so than they did in Mid Summer.

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