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'To what extent do you agree that the Masque is an "integral part of the action of the play" in The Tempest?

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Introduction

9th December To what extent do you agree that the masque is "an integral part of the action of the play?" The Tempest was first performed in 1611, at a time when the concept of the masque was becoming increasingly popular as a multimedia event. It represented a fairly elaborate form of courtly entertainment. The masque was usually performed by people of noble backgrounds and therefore when the performers revealed their true identities to their audience, themselves originally of noble background, the courtiers are meant to be seeing an exact reflection of their own personalities. The masque in the Tempest therefore offers itself as not only being crucial to the action of the play, but also as a symbolic tool of the current politics. However, despite its other uses, on a basic level, and perhaps the only level to some of the least educated of the audience, the masque in the Tempest is an important element of the narrative and action of the play. ...read more.

Middle

Prospero's magical art of the masque would have been able to evoke awe and wonder amongst his audience. Despite this, the aspect of the masque which can perhaps be considered to be the most 'integral' is the symbolism illustrated through its performance. The audience of the time, who would have been becoming gradually more accustomed to the spectacle of the masque would have noticed the symbolic undertones of the performance of the masque and would have been remembered for longer than any other part of the play. Prospero is the character able to stir up the show and therefore the masque is a statement of his power. This reminds the audience that Prospero is still king of the island and has the potential to unleash more dominance than any other character. Prospero's ability to create the masque links him to royal power. Other than a character in a play, the King or other people of royalty would be the only members of society able to have a court masque performed for them. ...read more.

Conclusion

The symbolism of how politically important the marriage is to Prospero is also conveyed through the masque. The presentation of Ceres, Iris and Juno in the masque brings a union of earth and air, fire and water. This harmony and balance is a sign that the marriage of Miranda to Ferdinand will be a fruitful one and shows the fulfilment of Prospero's political ambitions. The action of the play is clearly supplemented by the use of the masque. Through it Miranda and Ferdinand are finally brought together and the magic of the island is once again realised. Much of the symbolism of the contemporary politics and Prospero's utopia can also be interpreted as being part of the narrative of the Tempest. However, in his last play it is unlikely that Shakespeare would use such a revolutionary method of entertainment such as the masque just to simply embolden his plot. Shakespeare wanted to not only evoke feelings of awe and inspiration through the use of the masque, but moreover to use it as a tool to showcase powerful and effective symbolism. ...read more.

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