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Tempest

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TEMPEST, The. Although certain inter nal evidence, notably the verse-test, has caused most scholars to believe that 'The Winter's Tale' was the last of Shakespeare's plays, there will always be reason in thinlcing that 'The Tempest' (written in 1610 or 1611) best represents the final mood of Shakespeare as he turned from the writing of his plays to the last years of his life in Stratford. It is certainly one of the group of romantic comedies which Shakespeare wrote after the completion of his tragedies; and in the char acter of Prospero we are warranted in seeing an adumbration of Shakespeare's personality as he looked out upon the world from the heights of his later years. He, like Prospero, broke his wand and buried his book deeper than did ever plummet sound. After all, while life may be tragical as presented in the series of plays from 'Hamlet' to (Timon of Athens,' it is also full of sunshine and humor and the for giveness of enemies and the recondliation of the forces of good and evil. (The Tempest> is such a representation of life. While some of the sceties of the play suggest definitely Milan 4 and Na les, Tunis and the intervening Medi terran i Sea, the enchanted island upon which rospero lived is on none other than the uncharted deep that voyagers were bring ing within the compass of man's imagina tion. In the grotesque figure of Caliban, the magic of Prospero and the spirit-like world of Ariel, there is the atmosphere of the strange werld that stood out in definite con trast with the fixed limits of the European world. More particularly, Shakespeare was indebted to the story of a fleet of ships that had set out from England in 1609, was wrecked in the Bermudas a few weeks after and finally.reached the newly-established colony in Virginia. While, as has been suggested, he might have heard from returning seamen stories of this wreck and qf the strange hap penings in the New World, he was especially indebted to Silvester Jourdan's (The Dis covery of the Bermudas,' published in 1610.

Professor Alden has recently made good his contention that the real source for the de scription of the storm and for the incidents that take place upon the strange island is found in a letter written by William Strachey, dated 15 July 1610, and which, though not pub lished until 1625, was, from contemporary evi dence, seen by Shakespeare. The parallelisms beriveen the play and the letter are most strik ing and certainly tend to show that the author's indebtedness to contemporary sources was far greater than has been generally supposed. The ideal comtnonwealth suggested by Gonzalo, while based upon Florio's translation of Montaigne's essays, a new edition of which was published in 1610, bears a strildng re setnblance to conditions in the Virginia colony as portrayed in the letter.

However far one may go in the acceptance of these parallels, the play is none the less the creation of Shakespeare's genius. While it is lacking in the perfect technique of some of his plays, and especially in the closeness of dra matic structure, it is a great poem and it lends itself to allegorical interpretation as do few of the plays. Caliban is a monumental repre sentation of a primitive type of humanity, re joidng in unrestricted freedom and in the saturnalia of license. Ariel, more than Puck, represents the spiritual forces of nature under the domination of superior wisdom and for the service of man. Prospero, both in. his magical art and in his intellectual and spiritual greatness, is an anticipation of the triumphant victory of man at his best over all the forces of the world. There is no greater utterance of Shakespeare than the words in which Prospero, looking out from the serene heights which he has reached, expresses the ultimate truth about man and the universe: