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Relevance of The Tempest in the Modern World

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Relevance of The Tempest in the Modern World The Tempest, a pastoral tragicomedy by William Shakespeare, was written in the Renaissance period, around 1611. When the play was written, the particular context that the author intended and that the audience received would be different to the meanings and ideas that we pick up from studying or viewing the play now, nearly 400 years later. For example, the way that women in particular are portrayed in old plays such as The Tempest is quite derogatory and would be unacceptable for a modern play. (Unless it was trying to recreate a historical location.) Various meanings in The Tempest demonstrate this difference in the distinct readings that you can find in the text today, and those meanings that we can try to simulate by looking at the text from a historical context. One meaning that could have been picked up from the play, both in the seventeenth century and now, is that 'there are always lessons to be learnt about your true nature, and always ways to improve yourself.'


When looking at The Tempest from a historical context, one meaning that many analysts seem to have discovered is one that deals with the New World of the Americas and the beginnings of colonialism and the British Empire. Sometimes it is known as 'fear of the other' or fear of what is unknown, but in this play it also means more to do with new opportunity and a new beginning on new country. As the new country, the magical isle of The Tempest certainly lets people realize new beginnings, with everyone on the island forgiven as they all travel back to the real world; their home in Italy. Part of the form of pastoral tragicomedy is the status of humanity when compared to nature: Prospero's forgiveness gives people new life after their old life is scarred. However, the 'fear of the other' is also present in this play, in the form of Caliban, the monstrous servant who is not wholly human.


That is why it is important to keep the context of the time that the play was written in in mind while studying the play, since at the time of writing this would have been normal behavior for a father. (Although Miranda is perhaps closer to the modern picture of a 'maiden,' never taught to be quiet and self reserved as women were expected to be, she is quite forthright and expresses her feelings.) Obviously, not all meanings that could be found in a play when it was first written by the audience and the analysts of the time are completely invisible to those studying the text today, but significant differences in society and cultural codes can change the range of meanings available, especially to those who are not acquainted with information about the historical and social context. In studying a text, the reading of the audience (or student) coming from a contemporary context is important, but reading from a historical context can help to widen the range of readings available, and make it easier to understand certain aspects of the text. ?? ?? ?? ??

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