Priya Patel THE TEMPEST 20/12/04
Explore Shakespeare’s concern with illusion in his play “The Tempest”.
In my essay I am going to explore Shakespeare’s concern with illusion in his play “The Tempest,” in this play Shakespeare had used different forms of illusion in four different ways and means, they are:
- Theatrical Illusion
There is a lot of use of illusion in “The Tempest,” it is used mainly to hide things, the actual tempest is an illusion.
Deception is truth concealed by an illusion, there is frequent use of deception in “The Tempest”. The whole shipwreck is actually a magical illusion created by Prospero to bring his former enemies to the island, as this would mean justice for him, as he and his daughter Miranda were cast adrift at sea in the dead of the night by Alonso’s army. In act 1 scene 2, lines 471-475, Prospero says, “Who mak’st a show, but dar’st not strike, thy conscience is possessed with guilt. Come from thy ward; for I can disarm thee with this stick and make thy weapon drop.” Here Prospero is using his magical powers to disarm Ferdinand from his sword in order to take him prisoner, he is doing this to put Ferdinand through some hardship to test the strength of his love for Miranda. This in is an illusion as Prospero has used Ariel, in order to fetch Ferdinand, by getting him to sing a song to Ferdinand in order for him to see Miranda. Prospero deceives Ferdinand by making him think that he is a spy. Prospero’s actions are very clever as they lure Ferdinand and Miranda together, he has used deception in order to make them fall in love with each other.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Magic is used to create an illusion, “The Tempest”, is entirely the product of Prospero’s magic powers. The ship may have been brought to the island “by accident” but once the people on board the ship are in the reach of Prospero, their fate belongs to him. Magic makes immediate love between Ferdinand and Miranda in lines 420-421 as soon as Miranda sets eyes upon Ferdinand he falls in love with her straight away she says “I might call him a thing divine, for nothing natural I ever saw so
Noble.” We can tell that this is being controlled by Prospero’s actions as he says in Act1 Scene2, lines 422-424, “It goes on, I see, my soul prompts it.” In the Elizabethan time there was little science to explain phenomena, and religion wasn’t much help. Educated people believed in reason and logic but the common people still believed in the power of magic. There were two types of magic: black magic and white magic. Black magic comes from the devil; white magic comes from God, the white magician is supposed to be able to channel the power of God, whereas the black magician channels the power of the devil. In the play “The Tempest” the audience would immediately have recognized Prospero as a white magician and Sycorax as a black magician.
Dreams are a kind of illusion; there is a lot of reference to dreams in “The Tempest”. In act2 scene1, when Alonzo, Gonzalo, Francisco and Adrian fall asleep after Aerial’s singing, Sebastian says in lines 205-206 “Thou dost snore distinctly; There’s meaning in thy snores.” This portrays that Sebastian thinks that in his sleep Antonio’s snores are separating into meaningful words. In act4 scene1, line 157 Prospero refers to dreams in his speech, he says “As dreams are made on; and our little is rounded with a sleep.” In act3 scene2, Caliban talks about dreaming lines 131-137 he says “Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices, That, if I then had waked after long sleep, Will make me sleep again. And then in dreaming, The clouds methought would open, and show riches Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked, I cried to dream again.”
This play was not produced in the Globe Theatre, but was produced in a modern theatre as the Globe had burned down in the early seventeenth century. Another reason d James was keen on stamping out the immorality, which was associated with theatres. Theatre and theatre going moved up market. The box sets made a difference to Shakespeare’s plays. It was easier to use props, and special effects, for example, wave boards. The play itself is an illusion, even time is an illusion, “The Tempest” takes place on an island but is performed on a stage, and the actors and actresses on stage are also forms of illusions. “The Tempest” was originally performed, as court does not mean that it was specifically written for a royal audience, but it might explain the existence of masque in the play. The masque was a popular form of entertainment in the courts of King James and Queen Elizabeth. In “The Tempest” there are two masks: the miming masque in Act3 and the wedding masque in Act4. In Act4 Scene1, line153 in Prospero’s speech he says, “The solemn temples, the great globe itself” here he is referring to the Globe Theatre.
As you can see above there is significant evidence of illusion, Shakespeare is trying to tell us something: The borders of reality and illusion are shifting, you cannot be sure about what is an illusion. Life itself is an illusion is suggested; the final thing that is behind suggested by Shakespeare is that life may be a dream.