Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Claps of thunder and flashes of lightning illuminate a swelling sea,

  • as a ship buckles beneath the waves.

  • This is no ordinary storm, but a violent and vengeful tempest,

  • and it sets the stage for Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play.

  • As the skies clear, we are invited into a world

  • that seems far removed from our own, but is rife with familiar concerns

  • about freedom, power, and control.

  • The Tempest is set on a desert island, exposed to the elements

  • and ruled with magic and might by Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan.

  • Betrayed by his brother Antonio, Prospero has been marooned on the island

  • for twelve years with his daughter Miranda and his beloved books.

  • In this time he’s learned the magic of the island

  • and uses it to harness its elementary spirits.

  • He also rules over the island’s only earthly inhabitant,

  • the dejected and demonized Caliban.

  • But after years of plotting revenge, Prospero’s foe is finally in sight.

  • With the help of the fluttering sprite Ariel,

  • the magician destroys his brother’s ship and washes its sailors ashore.

  • Prospero’s plotting even extends to his daughter’s love life,

  • whom he plans to fall for stranded prince Ferdinand.

  • And as Prospero and Ariel close in on Antonio,

  • Caliban joins forces with some drunken sailors,

  • who hatch a comic plot to take the island.

  • The play strips society down to its basest desires,

  • with each faction in hot pursuit of power- be it over the land, other people,

  • or their own destiny.

  • But Shakespeare knows that power is always a moving target;

  • and as he reveals these charactersdark histories,

  • we begin to wonder if this vicious cycle will ever end.

  • Although Prospero was wronged by Antonio,

  • he has long inflicted his own abuses on the island,

  • hoarding its magical properties and natural re-sources for himself.

  • Caliban especially resents this takeover.

  • The son of Sycorax,

  • a witch who previously ruled the island,

  • he initially helped the exiles find their footing.

  • But he’s since become their slave, and rants with furious regret:

  • And then I loved thee,/ And showed thee

  • all the qualities o’ thisle/ The fresh springs,

  • brine pits, barren place and fertile./

  • Cursed be I that did so!”

  • With his thunderous language and seething anger,

  • Caliban constantly reminds Prospero of what came before:

  • this island’s mine by Sycorax my mother, Which thou takest from me.

  • Yet Sycorax also abused the island,

  • and imprisoned Ariel until Prospero released him.

  • Now Ariel spends the play hoping to repay his debt and earn his freedom,

  • while Caliban is enslaved indefinitely, or at least as long

  • as Prospero is in charge.

  • For these reasons and many more,

  • The Tempest has often been read as an exploration of colonialism,

  • and the moral dilemmas that come with en-counters ofbrave new world(s)."

  • Questions of agency and justice hang over the play:

  • is Caliban the rightful master of the land?

  • Will Ariel flutter free?

  • And is Prospero the mighty overseer-

  • or is there some deeper magic at work, beyond any one character's grasp?

  • Throughout the play,

  • Ariel constantly reminds Prospero of the freedom he is owed.

  • But the question lingers of whether the invader will be able

  • to relinquish his grip.

  • The question of ending one’s reign is particularly potent given that The Tempest

  • is believed to be Shakespeare’s final play.

  • In many ways Prospero’s actions echo that of the great entertainer him-self,

  • who hatched elaborate plots, maneuvered those around him,

  • and cast a spell over characters and audience alike.

  • But by the end of his grand performance of power and control,

  • Prospero’s final lines see him humbled by his audience -

  • and the power that they hold over his creations.

  • "With the help of your good hands./ Gentle breath of yours my sails/

  • Must fill or else my project fails,/ Which was to please."

  • This evokes Shakespeare’s own role as the great entertainer

  • who surrenders himself, ultimately, to our applause.

Claps of thunder and flashes of lightning illuminate a swelling sea,

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B2 TED-Ed ariel island tempest shakespeare antonio

Why should you read Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”? - Iseult Gillespie

  • 25 3
    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/21
Video vocabulary