Discuss the Major Themes in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”


Many commentators agree in the belief that The Tempest is the last creation of Shakespeare. I will readily believe it. There is in The Tempest the solemn tone of a testament.

Victor Hugo, A 19th century French poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. [Literariness.org]

Shakespeare’s The Tempest has been variously interpreted as a romantic comedy, a comedy concerned with such serious themes as justice and mercy, and as an autobiographical play. 

Many critics think that Shakespeare bid farewell to his dramatic career by writing The Tempest

Other critics have tried to find a colonial theme where Prospero and Caliban stand for the colonizer and colonized, respectively.

Outwardly, the central theme of The Tempest seems to be the love affair between Ferdinand and Miranda, which culminates in their marriage at the end of the play. Shakespeare has treated the romantic theme of love between young men and women in secluded surroundings. 

Shakespeare’s Magical Theme of A Romantic Love Affair in The Tempest

One may recount the romantic love affair between Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden in As You Like It or the confusing love entanglement of the Athenian youths in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Ferdinand and his company find themselves shipwrecked on Prospero’s island shore in The Tempest. Ferdinand meets Miranda, the daughter of Prospero, and they fall in love with each other instantly. 

Although there is an element of implausibility in speed, Ferdinand and Miranda’s love affair passes through all the expected stages of maturation- through trials and tribulations. However, Shakespeare’s magical imagination makes the romantic theme plausible to us.

The Tempest As An Allegorical Autobiography by Shakespeare

One important theme of The Tempest, when looked at from the allegorical point of view, is the autobiographical theme. The play reflects the circumstances of Shakespeare’s career at its end. The play has a distinctly autobiographical interest. 

Prospero has often been akin to Shakespeare. Like Prospero, Shakespeare is the magician of the London stage, which is the prototype of an enchanted island. Like Prospero, Shakespeare has raised the tempest of emotions in his audience’s minds. 

Shakespeare’ Theme of Last Testament through The Tempest

Ariel is allegorically the poetical imagination of Shakespeare, who has helped the dramatist create sweet music to the charmed readers. The Tempest is clearly the last of Shakespeare’s drama under an allegory. It is the dramatic testament of the great poet. 

Shakespeare is saying goodbye to the public through Prospero. At the end of the play, Prospero sets free Ariel and bids farewell to the island. He decides to break his magic wand and drown his magic books and return to the ordinary life of Milan:

“But this rough magic

I here abjure; and, when I have required

Some heavenly music-which even now I do-

To work mine end upon their senses that

This airy charm is far, I’ll break my staff,

Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,”

Prospero, The Tempest, (Act-V, Sc-I).

The Tempest Themetizes Peace Unlike Shakespeare’s Earlier Plays

Two important themes of The Tempest are mercy and forgiveness. Shakespeare has dealt with the sound and fury of revenge, hatred, and evil in his earlier plays. However, The Tempest has something else to say.

Theme of Justice & Mercy in Sha...
Theme of Justice & Mercy in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure || Hamandista Academy

In MacbethOthelloHamlet, and King Lear, he had shown a bloody universe with cruelty, murder, hypocrisy, and ingratitude. However, in this last phase of life, Shakespeare’s vision of life is mellowed into a sober one. 

After the din and bustle of his revenge play, Shakespeare started writing tragic comedies and romances in the last days of his career. In The Tempest, Shakespeare shows that love and forgiveness can bring final peace to the world. 

The Theme of Reconciliation in The Tempest 

The theme of reconciliation is the central theme in The Tempest. His brother wronged Prospero. Nonetheless, he does not take revenge when he gets his enemy in his power. He instead forgives him and embraces him.

Shakespeare’s view of life in this act is a maturing one, and definitely, it is a final message to the world. Shakespeare is saying farewell to the stage by asking us to follow the path of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Themes of Colonization And Education in The Tempest

The 20th-century critics have identified the theme of colonization in The Tempest. In one sense, Prospero is a colonizer; he colonizes the remote island by snatching it away from its rightful owner Sycorax, the mother of Caliban. 

Antonio, his brother, usurped Prospero’s dukedom. On the island, Prospero has himself become another usurper.

One subsidiary theme of The Tempest is the theme of education. Prospero educates Miranda; he also tries to educate Caliban civilized. However, in a sense, Prospero also undergoes a process of education. 

There is an inner development in Prospero, which turns him into an intense human being. Many critics say that Shakespeare has revealed himself extensively in portraying Prospero’s character. 

EndNote

The progress in wisdom made by Prospero gives us some idea of the path which Shakespeare has himself followed in life. As the Duke of Milan, Prospero was essentially a scholar with no practical wisdom. Thus, he neglected his state government which was his first duty. Besides, he allowed his wicked brother to undermine the throne. 

Even so, in the play, he has become as watchful as providence; he has known human nature in the worst form. Ultimately, Prospero becomes mature and worldly-wise through experience.

A H M Ohidujjaman

I'm the Founder of Hamandista Academy. I live in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I studied English Literature and ELT. Now, I'm working as a Lecturer of English at a Dhaka-based Private University.

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