Shakespeare's "The Tempest" Part 1: The Story


The Tempest, one of the last plays Shakespeare wrote, draws on themes and stories that fascinated him throughout his career while also taking his art form to unexpected new places. Set in the course of a single day on a magical island, the play focuses on a magician named Prospero who plots to punish the enemies who exiled him to the island 12 years ago — including his own brother. But will Prospero ultimately follow the route of the revenger like Hamlet? Will the warring brothers make peace, as in As You Like It? Or, as in Twelfth Night, will tempest and shipwreck set the characters on new pathways they didn’t predict? In this course, you’ll learn the story of The Tempest, hear the play’s key speeches performed and analyzed by world-class Shakespearean actors and literary scholars, and see how Shakespeare recreated old stories in the context of New World exploration and exploitation. In Part 1, you’ll be guided through a detailed account of the story with commentary by Laurie Maguire, Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford. You’ll learn how the play reflects contemporary European encounters with Africa, North America, and Latin America (what Europeans called the “New World”), especially through the figure of Caliban: an earlier inhabitant of the island who is made Prospero’s slave. This summary is told using the language of the play itself, placing key quotations in context to help you understand where these lines come from and what they mean.

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