E 316K - The Tempest 2

E 316K - The Tempest 2 - WilliamS spe s hake are The Tempes...

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William Shakespeare ’s T h e T e m p e s t
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Background Originally performed in 1611, The Tempest shares many similarities with one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595). For instance, both plays employ magical qualities, the play- within-a-play technique, and are steeped in Roman myth. Not long after the play’s completion, Shakespeare retired from playwriting and returned only once in 1614 to collaborate with his colleague, John Fletcher, to pen The Two Noble Kinsmen. Despite being one of his later plays, The Tempest finds Shakespeare not only reinvigorating some of his tried-and-true formulas but also playing with new ideas and commenting on themes addressed in the works of his contemporaries such as Montaigne and Thomas More. The play is widely regarded as one of his best.
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Play Conventions Although Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear are steeped in the conventions of Greek tragedy, his comedies borrow heavily from Plautus, a Roman playwright. Specifically, The Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing---like Plautus’s Miles Gloriosus---revolve around love, farce, and misunderstandings. For the most part, these plays are meant to be light and humorous. But not all comedies are supposed to be comical. Greek Old Comedy is rather serious and politically motivated. Oftentimes, Shakespeare’s comedies can, in parts, be as dramatic as his tragedies. For instance, Cymbeline and The Tempest both comment on world affairs, like Greek Old Comedy, and could easily be mistaken for tragedies if the endings were ignored. While The Tempest has more in common with Greek Old Comedy than Plautus, the play uses stock characters (the jester, the drunk, etc.) to various effect throughout.
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Stock Characters A stock character relies heavily on stereotypes for his/her personality, manner of speech, and even appearance (similar to Cantebury Tales). We see evidence of stock characters today in movies, cartoons, and sitcoms. In The Tempest, most of the characters are fully formed human beings with unique personalities. However, a few of the side characters come
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This note was uploaded on 09/18/2011 for the course E 316K taught by Professor Berry during the Spring '09 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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E 316K - The Tempest 2 - WilliamS spe s hake are The Tempes...

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