Shakespeare's The Tempest

Over eight sessions enjoy a detailed look at this wonderful text and delight in the rich experience Shakespeare at the height of his powers offers us. We will move through the play not primarily looking for information about it but rather in order to notice and enjoy all the ways in which it delights us. We begin in a tempest which Prospero’s magic has aroused in order to take revenge on the brother who had usurped his dukedom and also to arrange a marriage for his daughter. Evil, serious and comic, is overcome and love triumphs, but what is special about this play is Prospero’s finally relinquishing the satisfactions of vengeance.


  • Bate, Jonathan, The Genius of Shakespeare, Picador, London 1997


  • Session 1: Act 1 Scene 1, the storm on the royal ship; Act 1 Scene 2, up to l. 190: Miranda is distressed for the people on board the ship; Prospero comforts her and Ariel, the spirit servant he has sent to manage the ‘wreck’, reports back to him.
  • Session 2: Ariel continues his report to Prospero; Prospero rebukes Caliban who defends his rights to the island.
  • Session 3: Ariel brings the young son of the King of Naples, Ferdinand, to Prospero who treats him harshly. The royal party from the wrecked ship appear: the loyal and generous Gonzalo who had mercifully helped Prospero and his toddler daughter when Antonio, his brother, had usurped his Dukedom; Alonso, the King of Naples; and his brother Sebastian who now plots with Antonio to murder Alonzo.
  • Session 4: The royal plot continues. Trinculo and Stephano, low servants of the royal party, meet Caliban in a comic encounter.
  • Session 5: Ferdinand has been set to work by Prospero; Miranda pities him. Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban act out a comic parody of the power structure in Alonso’s household, and then a parody likening Sebastian and Antonio’s plot to kill Alonso with their plot to kill Prospero.
  • Session 6: Ariel punishes the royal plotters and Prospero plans a show of magic as a wedding gift to Ferdinand and Miranda.
  • Session 7: Prospero entertains Ferdinand and Miranda with his magic show; he breaks it off as he remembers the danger Caliban’s plot to him poses.
  • Session 8: Ferdinand and Miranda are married; Prospero defeats Caliban, Stefano and Trinculo, and then, at the height of his powers, begins to exact vengeance on his usurping brother Antonio and his allies. He has his goblins inflict such terrible punishments on them that Ariel is filled with pity. He persuades Prospero to have pity on them too, and to abandon his projected revenge. Prospero does even more – he gives up all his magic powers. He reveals himself to everyone as the Duke of Milan and tells Ariel to restore all the damage the tempest has done. He invites everyone back to his cell to hear the story he has to tell and announces that, after he has sailed to Naples where he will see Ferdinand and Miranda married, he will withdraw to a life of prayer in Milan. He frees Ariel and then speaking as an actor in the play he delivers his wonderful epilogue to the audience.


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Realise the wonder of the verse in this play.
  2. Appreciate that the imaginative power of the play depends on the details of Shakespeare’s writing as well as on his masterful stagecraft.
  3. Appreciate the fact that Shakespeare is constantly offering us a wider understanding of what happens than any individual character has of it.
  4. Appreciate the scope of Shakespeare’s genius.
$232 Limited / $209

<p>Over eight sessions enjoy a detailed look at this wonderful text and delight in the rich experience Shakespeare at the height of his powers offers us. We will move through the play not primarily

19 Apr

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