Shakespeare: The Tempest
Write a persuasive, analytical essay that examines Caliban or Ariel or Miranda or some combination of those (along with any other characters you wish to include) as subjects in a “new world.” Your paper should compare and contrast the multiple points of view presented in the play to make a point about power, control, and ways of being. It might think of those distinct perspectives as those of colonizers and colonized; of nature and humankind; of authors and characters; of gods and men; of men and women (and other); of original inhabitants, later settlers, and brand new arrivals; or perhaps as some combination of these. Your paper should take the Shakespearean text as its primary source, though you may make reference to performances you have watched that draw out particular aspects of the play, or add new interpretations to the basic text. You may also draw specific comparisons with Aimé Cesaire’s Une Tempête if you like. You should definitely, however, consider the contextual sources we have examined along with the play.
In short, your paper should answer some part of one of the essential questions of our class: how does The Tempest represent human relations in the colonial encounter? What does it say about wildness and civilization, about subjugation and independence?
In addition to the characters of Caliban, Ariel, and Miranda (and their relationships with Prospero), which we have talked about in class, you might also consider how the Italian noblemen create ideas of a “new world” and how it might be used or imagined: Gonzalo’s ideal society, or Antonio’s opportunism. There are many, many directions to go, and you need choose only one.
Questions to consider:
Is Prospero’s island free? Superior to the society from which these travelers came? Superior to Caliban’s (or Sycorax’s) island before he came? Inferior? How or how not?
What are the racial, cultural, and gender ideas that the play suggests? Which relationships seem changed by the circumstances of the island? Why or how?
What could be represented or symbolized by each of the characters on the island–Ariel, Caliban, Prospero, Miranda, Stephano, Sebastian? By Prospero’s magic?
Who has the real power, in the play? What forces affect how events happen?
What identities do these characters have? How do we know? How do they treat each other, and do we trust the way they view each other?
What does the surprising mildness, in the end, of Prospero’s revenge, suggest about how the play views power? Can that plot, or any of the character relationships, be seen as advocating a particular approach to the New World and its inhabitants?
Requirements & Constraints:
Evidence & citation. You must use direct quotation from Shakespeare’s text. You must also make direct reference to the specifics, including names of actors, details of costumes or sets, accents and line intonations, etc., of your filmed or staged version. Use MLA citation in-text citation format, as detailed here.
Minimum length. Your review should make a large overall interpretive point with several original subpoints, likely considering more than one scene and more than one “text” (<link is hidden> the play’s text and a film version, or Shakespeare’s text and Cesaire’s, or the text and the Montaigne essay or Strachey letter). Thus it would seem difficult to make a solid case for your thesis in less than 1200-1500 words.
Thesis. You must have a central point that you want to argue. Usually, it can be stated in a sentence or two. The thesis is a statement, a conclusion you’ve come to about what the play means.
Use the script. It will be impossible to do this well without some direct quotation of Shakespeare. I expect you to cite the text, and to do so clearly and in MLA style.
Use at least one contextual document or artistic source outside the play. You must use one text outside the play to help make your argument. The Strachey letter or Montaigne essay are great places to start, as with any other significant source we read, including Aimé Cesaire’s version. You can also use scholarly readings or introductions of the play–if you need help finding one that bears on your thesis, let me know.
Introduction of elements. Make sure that you give enough description of what you experienced–the play, the plot, the cast, the effects, whatever–and enough introduction of specifics (the name of the director, actors, scenes, etc.) that a reader who has not seen the version you saw will still be able to understand and appreciate your ideas.
Counterargument. Your paper should consider at least one (but possibly more) counterarguments or counterevidence to your thesis. You do not have to refute absolutely every dissenting point; concede or argue the best evidence against your thesis, but do not ignore it.
Organization. Think about, and sketch out or outline, the order in which you’re going to make your points. Consider the most convincing argument to make them in.
Works Cited. It would also be a good idea to append a Works Cited to the end of your review. Please try to use MLA format, as explained here and modeled here. You may also want to consult this guide to citing DVDs and films. Be sure to include the Shakespeare text–and the Montaigne essay and others, if you use them. Here’s a clear guide to citing Shakespeare: <link is hidden> Use Arabic numerals for act, scene, and line.
Be clear on versions. See above for how to introduce the version in the text, how to cite it in-line, and how to put it in your Works Cited.
The RSC version is Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest, directed by Gregory Doran, produced in London in 2017, distributed on DVD by Opus Arte, also in 2017.
The Globe version is Shakespeare’s Globe’s The Tempest, directed by Jeremy Herrin, produced in London in 2013, distributed on DVD by kultur.
The Taymor version is The Tempest, directed by Julie Taymor, starring Helen Mirren, Djimon Hounsou, Felicity Jones, Ben Whishaw, et al. Distributed on DVD by Alliance in 2011.
Formal tone. Use a formal tone–this is an academic paper. That means a minimum of personal pronouns, no textspeak, elevated diction, etc. You could start with these basics. If you’re not sure, ask me.
Plagiarism. Do yourself a favor: do not Google any question you’re answering. Definitely be sure to cite all sources, for facts or arguments or ideas. Do not cut and paste. Take notes on your sources, quoting the best stuff with quotation marks, then write with the Internet off. Plagiarism will mean automatic failure of the assignment and potential judiciary consequences.