The Tempest and Revenge

You know what’s interesting about The Tempest? What’s interesting is that even though the play’s rising action indicates that Prospero seeks vengeance against his deposers, it’s not a revenge tragedy. The play’s trajectory seems to turn upon itself when Prospero says “the rarer action is / in virtue than in vengeance,” but why, then, has he shipwrecked the King of Naples, the Duke of Milan, and their whole surly entourage on this island, yet “Not a hair perish’d” (which the Bard reiterates many times, indicating deeper significance when one mention would have sufficed).

"No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be"

The Tempest was possibly the final play that Shakespeare wrote independently and, fittingly, it’s a more intellectual drama that privileges reunion and reconciliation over the “murder most foul” of the campy revenge tragedies (that I admittedly favour) of the late sixteenth century. To Prospero, the best revenge is living well… and making his enemies watch. Although the audience does not get to experience the ‘happily ever after’ of their return to Naples, regaining his position as Duke must provide Prospero with sweeter schadenfreude than could be achieved in being a vengeful killer, which, 9 times out of ten Shakespeare plays, would otherwise leave the elderly mage as but one in a heap of dead bodies on the stage with a helpless sidekick praying that “flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”



Filed under Plays, Roles

2 responses to “The Tempest and Revenge

  1. Jess Siegfried

    Awesome point! Love the T.S. Eliot reference too.

  2. Olatunji A Rosemary

    wonderful point.i love it

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