« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Act i, sc. 1; (3) the monster Caliban. But the allusions are very doubtful, and, in any case, they give no support to Hunter's theory. For this Prologue does not appear in the quarto edition, 1601, of Every Man in his Humour, and is first found in the folio edition of Ben Jonson's works, 1616. Apart from this, however, and from the evidences treated below, one fact is fatal to Hunter's hypothesis. Gonzalo's sketch of his ideal commonwealth (ii. 1. 147-164) is borrowed almost verbally from Florio's translation of Montaigne, but this translation was first printed in 1603, and then with a prefatory statement to the effect that, in 1599, it had not been begun.
This debt of the dramatist to Montaigne forms the starting point of the German critic Elze's theory, which assigns the play to 1604. Ben Jonson, in his Volpone (iii. 2), 1605, alludes to thefts by English authors from the French essayist. As Gonzalo's speech is the principal passage in extant Elizabethan literature taken from Montaigne, Elze concludes that the sarcastic reference is to The Tempest, which he accordingly places in the year between the publication of Florio's version and the production of Volpone. But the allusion is too vague to be thus pressed, nor does it gain much support from Elze's second argument that Shakespeare was also indebted to Darius, a tragedy by the Earl of Stirling, 1603, which contains (iv. 2) these lines:
"Let greatnesse of her glascie scepters vaunt;
Not sceptours, no, but reeds, soone brus'd soone broken:
Those golden Pallaces, those gorgeous halles,
Those statelie Courts, those sky-encountring walles
There is an undoubted similarity between these verses and Prospero's words (iv. 1) beginning “And, like this insubstantial pageant faded," but the parallel may simply have been accidental, as the transitoriness of earthly magnificence is a commonplace of thought, and even if Shakespeare had read Stirling's lines they might easily have found an echo in his verse later than 1604.
The safer way to ascertain the approximate date of The Tempest is to set aside these highly conjectural inferences in favor of indisputable evidence afforded by the metre, style, and spirit of the play. Shakespeare's metrical practice underwent great changes during his career as playwright. (a) Rhyme diminishes from Love's Labour's
Lost, where it marks 62 verses in every 100, to The Winter's Tale, where it is entirely absent; in The Tempest there is one rhyming couplet. (b) Double endings tend to increase, though not uniformly; they are fewest in 1 Henry IV, 8 per cent, and most numerous in The Tempest, 35 per cent. (c) Enjambements or run-on lines increase from 8 per cent in The Taming of the Shrew to 46 per cent in Cymbeline; in The Tempest there are 41 per cent. (d) Speech endings not coincident with verse endings increase from 1 Henry VI,
per cent, to The Winter's Tale, 87 per cent; in The Tempest there are 84 per cent.1 By the first test The Tempest stands last but one among the plays; by the second it stands last; by the third, last but three; by the fourth, last but two. The combined evidence of these tests assigns the play, beyond doubt, to Shakespeare's final period, approximately between 1608 and 1613.
The evidence of style supports this conclusion. In Shakespeare's youthful works thought often lags behind power of expression, and we thus find thin, labored, and rhetorical passages. In the dramatist's central period, from about 1597 to 1606, thought and expression attain to an exquisite balance, and it is during these years that Shakespeare produces his most perfect work. Afterward, however, his wealth of ideas tends to outgrow the capacity of his instrument, and the result is a style elliptical to a fault, and overriding the canons of syntax observed in earlier plays. Of this style in its fullest development The Tempest throughout is an example.
The spirit of the play and the nature of its incidents also assign it to Shakespeare's last years. From about 1600 to 1608 he put forth, probably under the stimulus of personal grief, his great series of tragedies. Later, his mood underwent a change, accompanied by a change in his choice of materials. Romantic themes henceforth engaged his pen tales of kindred parted by wrongdoing or misadventure, and reunited after many years. Reconciliation and repentance are the keynotes of this closing group of dramas, and in The Tempest they are struck in the clearest tones. Thus these converging lines of internal evidence forbid us to place the play earlier than 1608. On the other hand, it was well known by 1614, as is plain from the Induction to Bartholomew Fair, where Ben Jonson uses these words: "If there be never a Servant-monster i' the Fayre who can helpe it, he says; nor a nest of Antiques? He is loth to make Nature afraid in his Playes, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries." The italicized phrases refer, beyond reasonable doubt, to The Tempest and The Winter's Tale,
1 The figures are taken from G. König's Der Vers in Shakspere's Dramen.
which are mentioned in the Vertue MSS. as having been performed with twelve others, May 20, 1613, before the Elector Palatine and Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King James. Dr. Garnett,1 trusting to the authority of these MSS., concludes that The Tempest was written for the royal marriage, which took place February 14, 1613. The introduction (in Act iv) of the bridal masque, which has so little connection with the main plot, raises the strongest presumption that the play was composed in honor of a wedding, and Dr. Garnett argues that everything corresponds with the court marriage of 1613. "The foreign prince come from beyond sea, the island princess who has never left her home, the wise father who brings about the auspicious consummation by his policy; all found their counterparts among the splendid company that watched the performance on that February night." Dr. Garnett further sees in the story of Prince Ferdinand an exquisitely skillful allusion to the sudden death of Prince Henry in November, 1612, during the progress of the marriage negotiations. "The recent calamity is not unrecognised; on the contrary, the supposed death of the drowned Prince is a most vital incident, kept continually in view. But by a consummate stroke of genius, the woe is taken from Prospero, the representative of James, and transferred to the house of his enemy. The lost prince is duly mourned, but not by his real father. James is reminded of his bereavement, but it is not obtruded on him. In the end the hitherto sonless Prospero gains a son, as the bereaved James is gaining one in the Palatine.'
Dr. Garnett's theory is suggestively worked out, but the date for which he contends is too late by a year and a half or more. Scholars have been slow to trust the entries in the Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court, edited for the Shakespeare Society by Peter Cunningham in 1842, but now that Mr. E. P. A. Law has established their authenticity, it may be accepted as a fact that on November 1, 1611, The Tempest was played at Whitehall before King James. The metrical evidence favors a date for The Tempest near the date of The Winter's Tale, which was seen at the Globe Theatre on May 15, 1611, by Dr. Forman. The two plays seem to have been written almost at the same time, and the internal tests thus support Malone's suggestion that The Tempest was inspired in part by Silvester Jourdan's narrative of the wreck of The Sea-Venture, the flagship of a fleet of nine vessels bound for Jamestown, off the Bermudas. The wreck took place in July, 1609, and during the latter part of that year much anxiety was felt for the fate of the crew, as is proved
1 Universal Review, April, 1889.
by the issue of a pamphlet by the Council of Virginia to allay apprehension. After the safe return of the shipwrecked company to England, Jourdan, who was one of their number, published his account, dated October 13, 1610. The parallel points between his tract and The Tempest are discussed on page xii, and they suggest the end of 1610 or the beginning of 1611 as the date of the play. But resemblances still more striking exist between the drama and another account of the disaster by William Strachey. This impassioned and highly poetic narrative, known as The Wrack and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, was written as a letter to a lady in England and dated July 15, 1610. How soon it found its way into print is not known, but its contents would naturally have become matter of common report. To sum up, we may assert that The Tempest certainly belongs to Shakespeare's final period, that it probably dates from the spring or summer of 1611, but that possibly it may be as early as the autumn of 1610.
2. LITERARY HISTORY
The Tempest is the opening play in the folio of 1623, and the text is of remarkable purity. It shares with The Two Gentlemen of Verona the distinction of being printed with more correctness than perhaps any other play in that volume. The shortest of Shakespeare's dramas except The Comedy of Errors, it contains only 2064 lines. This exceptional brevity supports the view that it was originally composed for some Court entertainment. Some critics (e.g. Fleay and Grant-White) have conjectured that it has come down to us in a form abbreviated for this purpose; but it must be remembered that the play, with its songs and dances and elaborate masque in Act iv, would take longer in representation than the number of lines suggests.
In spite of Ben Jonson's sarcasm, The Tempest was evidently from the first a popular play, and was imitated by succeeding dramatists, as Dryden testifies, stating that it had "formerly been acted with success in the Black-Fryers: and our Excellent Fletcher had so great a value for it, that he thought fit to make use of the same Design, not much varied, a second time. Those who have seen his SeaVoyage, may easily discern that it was a Copy of Shakespear's Tempest: the Storm, the Desart Island, and the Woman who had never seen a Man, are all sufficient Testimonies But Fletcher was not the only Poet who made use of Shakespear's Plot: Sir John Suckling, a profess'd admirer of our Author, has follow'd his
footsteps in his Goblins, his Regmella being an open imitation of Shakespear's Miranda; and his Spirits, though counterfeit, yet are copied from Ariel." These words are taken from Dryden's preface to his own and Davenant's version of the play, The Enchanted Island, produced at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1667, and published in 1670. The original suggestion of this version came, as Dryden acknowledges, from Davenant; the added scenes, as the German essayist Grimm has shown, are translated from a play by the principal Spanish dramatist, Calderon.
In this Restoration version The Tempest is robbed of more than half its poetry and of all its moral elevation and exquisite purity of tone. Yet it would be unfair to deny that The Enchanted Island is a very deft piece of craftsmanship, and, measured by the artistic and moral standard of its day, must be pronounced a success. The somewhat tedious plot of Sebastian and Antonio against Alonso is omitted, as is also the conspiracy of Caliban and his allies against Prospero. Instead, we have an amusing political burlesque. Stephano elects himself duke, with Mustacho the mate, and Ventoso, a mariner, as viceroys, but Trincalo (sic) sets up an opposition régime, supported by Caliban and his sister Sycorax, who becomes Trincalo's bride. The desire to share Trincalo's butt of wine makes Stephano's party submit to the rival rule, but after a joint potation discord breaks out again. All this is excellent fooling, which would be especially appreciated by spectators who had passed through the troubled period of the Civil War and Commonwealth. But the figure of Caliban is shorn of the features that clothe it with a wild poetry and dignity, and Ariel is vulgarized by being represented in love with another spirit, Milcha.
In the main plot Miranda has associated with her a sister, Dorinda, while dwelling in another part of the cave is Hippolito, rightful heir to the dukedom of Mantua. Bequeathed in infancy to Prospero's care, he has shared his guardian's fortunes, and is kept thus secluded because his horoscope portends death should he see the face of woman. His chance encounter with Dorinda, and their love at first sight, followed by the similar passion between Miranda and the shipwrecked Ferdinand; the duel between the princes because Hippolito claims the right to love all women; the apparent death of Hippolito and his restoration by Ariel's balms; the attendant entanglements that ensue for a time—all this makes up a plot far-fetched and often disagreeably suggestive, but, unfolded in easy and fluent dialogue, very effective for stage purposes. The 1 Given in full in Appendix A.