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The Tempest: Sources and Contexts, Criticism, Rewritings and Appropriations (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – 20 Feb 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (20 Feb. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393978192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393978193
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 302,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Peter Hulme is Professor of Literature at the University of Essex. He is the author of Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492-1797 and Remnants of Conquest: The Caribs and Their Visitors, 1877-1998. He is co-editor, with William H. Sherman, of The Tempest and Its Travels and, with Tim Young, of the Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing. William H. Sherman is Professor of Early Modern Studies in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York. He is the author of John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance and of many articles on Renaissance literature, travel writing, and the history of the book. He has also edited The Tempest and Its Travels with Peter Hulme, and the new Cambridge edition of Ben Jonson's The Alchemist with Peter Holland.

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This is a very good edition for advanced undergraduates or postgraduates wanted a full response to the play. Alongside the play-text is a section on sources and contexts (magic, travel narratives), selected criticism from Dryden's 1679 essay to modern scholarship from the 1990s.

Especially useful are the rewritings and appropriations of the play, giving a broad sense of creative responses from Fletcher & Massinger to Ted Hughes. It's odd that Plath's 'Ariel' doesn't get a mention, especially as Hughes is writing as much back to that as he is to Shakespeare.

A very good study edition - and a bargain at this price.
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By Rachael Warters on 17 Dec. 2014
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Bought as I will be teaching this in the new year. Great quality for a decent price and the extra infromation is all helpful.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
What you deserve from Norton at a good price. 30 Sept. 2009
By Antoine Boisvert - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this a very helpful and interesting adjunct to the play proper (although, of course, it has the play in it). Like most NCE's it is stuffed with extras: primary sources, critical reactions and analyses, and creative reinterpretations. The price is a little higher than the Folger or other popular Shakepeare's paperbacks, but you get a lot of bang for only a few extra bucks. Pretty cool. I found it worked well as a "Teacher's Edition."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Ian Myles Slater on: NCE Tempest Gets the Magic Right 9 Oct. 2012
By Ian M. Slater - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Norton Critical Edition of the "The Tempest," edited by Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman, is my current favorite among editions of the play (edging out, for example, Frank Kermode's old edition for the "Arden Shakespeare" series.) That is more than a casual opinion. "The Tempest" is one of my favorite Shakespearean comedies (the First Folio description), alongside "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and as a one-time graduate student in English, I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking about Shakespeare.

It is also one of my favorite pre-modern fantasy stories, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about that subject as well. (I did a lot of pre-Amazon reviewing of fantasy, going back to the days of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.) It can meet most of the apparent mix-and-match requirements of current genre fantasy; an intimidating magician with a beautiful daughter, a brash would-be hero, political plots, their elaborate back-story, powerful spirits and a semi-human monster, and comic low-life characters. The main difference (leaving aside the medium and the style) is the question of whether evil is to be punished, or forgiven.

Hulme and Sherman have included, along with the standard selections from famous critics, and a welcome assortment of adaptations and parodies, a good selection of modern critical re-visionings, of the play, from various ideological standpoints. (For a much fuller representation, and some responses, see Gerald Graff and James Phelan, "The Tempest: A Case Study in Critical Controversy," now in its second edition.) All of these reconsiderations are at least interesting, and some of them are quite insightful.

Not that I agree with all of them. I've been known to express annoyance at, in particular, the hyper-serious "Post-Colonialist" attacks on it as some sort of Imperialist manifesto, or blueprint for the future English colonies in the New World, and even for the earlier Spanish conquests in the New World. (Presumably with the help of a convenient time machine! No, I'm not making that up -- but I am taking advantage of some ill-considered rhetorical flourishes by, e.g., George Lamming.)

After all, how can you ignore, that, except for some impatient or terrified seamen, most of the Europeans we encounter are either usurpers, or criminally-inclined, or naively idealistic, or fairly ineffectual, or drunk (and various combinations)? A selection of character faults which includes most members of the ruling class.

Or that Prospero, deposed Duke of Milan (to be pronounced Millen), has managed to replace his former complacency, not so much with keen-eyed vigilance, as with a short temper?

Or that the strange-looking Caliban, far from being a truly aboriginal inhabitant enslaved by Prospero, is the offspring of a marooned visitor-turned-conqueror? The actual native population of the island seems to consist of some surprisingly large animals for such a small area, and a variety of spirits dominated by Ariel, who made a bargain with Prospero.

Actually, these can be ignored pretty easily, since, so far as I can tell, most critics of any kind in the last four hundred years have managed to do exactly that. Along with ignoring -- or, more exactly, accepting without question -- Shakespeare's working assumptions about class and gender. Which, when examined closely, reveal him to have been an Elizabethan Englishman, inclined to consider hierarchy to be the basis of human existence, and with the social conservatism to be expected of an established property-owner. And in any case, the text, and any sub-text, probably tells us more about play's audience, and the possibility of censorship, than about the thoroughly professional author-actor who wrote it.

As for the editing of the play itself, "The Tempest" presents relatively few problems, since it occurs only in the First Folio, where it is the first play a prospective reader (or purchaser) encounters. A good scribal copy seems to have been used to set up a particularly attractive text, with only a handful of problems to be resolved. (The assignment and lineation of some of the prose, particularly in the opening scene, presents problems which will usually escape the reader or audience.) The page notes do not address these issues, but address the meanings of words, the intent of unfamiliar grammatical constructions, and a few other points of immediate importance.

Having brought up Frank Kermode's out-of-print edition, I feel I should mention some other alternatives to the Norton edition. Among familiar stand-bys (at least when I was in school), I would single out Robert Langbaum's edition of "The Tempest" for The Signet Classics, which is currently available in an expanded form (new introduction by the General Editor, new critical readings, new bibliography). Like those mentioned below, it is a mass-market paperback.

The "Folger Library General Reader's Shakespeare" editions of the plays, originally published by Washington Square Press back in the 1950-60s, edited by Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar, was immediately recognizable by the use of facing-page notes (instead of footnotes), and period illustrations selected from the Folger Library collections. The format remains, but whole series was replaced in the 1990s by completely new versions under the editorship of Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. "The New Folger Library" edition of "The Tempest" appeared in 1994, with the new series and play introductions, and an essay, "A Modern Perspective," by Mowat. It had a beautiful cover by Kinuko Y. Craft (an unusually convincing Ariel, Prospero, and Miranda). Later, the running title became just "Folger Shakespeare Library," and new, non-representational, covers were used. Some of these later printings were in trade-paperback format, but I haven't seen such an edition of "The Tempest."
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A classic 21 Dec. 2012
By KD - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Tempest is a classic Shakespeare work. A must read for any Shakespeare and generally any literature fan. The Norton Critical Edition also provides some help with the notes at the bottom to help explain some of the language used.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A review by Joseph Suglia 12 Jan. 2015
By Joseph Suglia - Published on
Format: Paperback
A Review of THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare
by Dr. Joseph Suglia

George Bernard Shaw inked the following (in 1913, "The Quintessence of Ibsenism"):

"Reflective people are not more interested in the Chamber of Horrors than in their own homes, nor in murderers, victims, and villains than in themselves; and the moment a man has acquired sufficient reflective power to cease gaping at waxworks, he is on his way to losing interest in Othello, Desdemona, and Iago exactly to the extent to which they become interesting to the police."

George Bernard Shaw is making the excellent point that Shakespeare's plays keep the spectator in the jury box. I endorse this thesis 100%. Shakespeare never inflicts guilt on the spectator. I feel guilty, at times, when reading Strindberg. I sometimes feel guilty when reading Ibsen. There are passages in Shaw that fill me with guilt. There are guilt-inflicting and -afflicting scenes in the films of Ingmar Bergman. But Shakespeare? Shakespeare is incapable of infusing anyone with guilt. There are enchantments, entertainments, and enticements in Shakespeare, but there is never a guilt-inspiring moment. Guilty characters (think of Alonso in THE TEMPEST or of Lady Macbeth). But no guilty spectators, ever.

* * * * *

The plot of THE TEMPEST, such as it is, should already be familiar to most. It is centered on Prospero, magus and erstwhile Duke of Milan, who is marooned on an island -- more than likely, one of the Bermudas, which were explored by the English in the early seventeenth century, the time of the play's composition. A shipwreck brings phantoms from Prospero's past, the promise of revenge and reinstatement, the promise of freedom to Prospero's slaves, Ariel and Caliban, and the promise of marriage to his daughter Miranda. Revenge comes swiftly and easily, Prospero's dukedom is restored, freedom is won, and marriage is inevitable. Since all of the protagonist's desires are fulfilled, THE TEMPEST is a comedy in the Shakespearean sense. I will return to this point below.

It might be useful to survey some of the dramatis personae.

Caliban is a cheetah-speckled fish-beast and the Earth-Spirit of the play. His name is anagrammatic of "can(n)ibal." Shakespeare read of South Seas cannibals in Montaigne, and the English of the early seventeenth century did believe that the South Seas islanders were cannibals, devils, evil spirits, fantastic creatures. Caliban is the whelp of the North African witch Sycorax; his god is Setebos. "Setebos" is the name given to a Patagonian "devil" by one of Magellan's companions. You can see that this is indeed a text that reflects the age of the European seafaring expeditions, the Age of Exploration.

Caliban is not merely uneducated -- he is not educable, not civilizable, not humanizable. His naturalness, his earthiness, his childish stupidity are what make him so dangerous. It does seem that he is the one character who escapes, if only for a moment, Prospero's power. Thus Prospero's power is not absolute. The ex-Duke is so unsettled by the breach in his power that he takes a walk to clear his head. Then again, Prospero's dazedness is nothing more than an interlude of impotence, an interruption of senescence or senility. As Miranda says of her father: "Never till this day / Saw I him touch'd with anger so distemper'd" [IV:1].

No one has ever seemed to notice before that Caliban's desires mirror Prospero's own desires. Caliban expresses his desire to burn Prospero's books [III:2]; Prospero drowns his own books (or "book") toward the close of the play. Caliban expresses the desire to violate Miranda. Does Prospero have the same desire? Am I alone in believing that Prospero has incestuous feelings for his own daughter? Here is what the magus says about Miranda:

"...I visit / Young Ferdinand, whom [his fellows] suppose is drown'd, / And his and mine lov'd darling" [III:3].

In the lines quoted above, Prospero does not separate his fatherly feelings from Ferdinand's erotic feelings for Miranda.

Ariel is the air sprite who does nothing without Prospero's directive, but it also might be said that Prospero does nothing without Ariel's assistance. Ariel's name means "The Lion of God" in Hebrew. Despite what Harold Bloom says, the etymology is neither accidental nor irrelevant to the pith of the play. Ariel releases a leonine roar in the second act and is the serf of Prospero, who is indeed the deific figure of the island. Ariel is endlessly promised a freedom that seems to be forever denied to him.

Miranda means "She Who is Admired." Before she meets Ferdinand, her soon-to-be-husband, the only man she knows is Prospero, unless we consider Caliban to be a "man" (he is a hybrid of man and fish, a fish-man or a man-fish. As Trinculo says, Caliban is "[l]egg'd like a man, and his fins [are] like arms" [II:2]). Prospero is more than mother and father to Miranda -- he is the very model of manhood. And of womanhood.

Miranda is a gift -- perhaps a potlatch -- from the former Milanese duke to the presumptive King of Naples, Ferdinand. It is the gift of his daughter that will lead to the restoration of Prospero's lost dukedom. Marriage is always a political transaction, in Shakespeare:

[T]hou shalt find she will outstrip all praise,
And make it halt behind her...
[A]s my gift, and thine own acquisition
Worthily purchas'd, take my daughter [IV:1].

Note the nastiness that Prospero showers on his daughter in absentia, discussing her as if she were a horse.

Ferdinand is a big beefy beefhead. He is a Keanu Reeves type. In fact, Keanu Reeves was most likely born to play the role of Ferdinand. This is how he describes himself (to his fiancee):

"[F]or your sake / Am I this patient log-man" [III:1].

He Log Man lift logs good.

* * * * *

The play was first performed for the amusement and bemusement of James I in November 1611. This explains why usurpation is one of the play's leitmotifs and why it contains a wedding masque in the style of Ben Jonson. The presence of the wedding masque is not accidental: THE TEMPEST is itself a masque and has nothing in its pretty little head other than the desire to beguile, to enchant, to entertain, and to reassure the King, his minions, and the groundlings of the Globe that the King shall always prevail. The usurping of Prospero's power by Antonio is the antimasque; the fifth act represents the restoration of the Duke's (and the King's) power. In ULYSSES, usurpation takes on a world-historical AND a personal significance--here, it is nothing more than a regal anxiety to be pacified.

There is magical poetry to be found in the play, but also some very lenient and lazy writing. Take, for instance, the following. Gonzalo, the court lawyer, intones at the close of the first scene of the first act:

"Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground -- long heath, brown furze, any thing. The wills above be done, but I would fain die a dry death."

Well, that is a wasted bit of dialogue, isn't it? Who ***wouldn't*** want to die on dry ground rather than in a shipwreck, as the ship one is in is wrecking?

And here is one of Ariel's excruciatingly stupid songs:

Before you can say `come' and `go,'
And breathe twice, and cry `so, so,'
Each one, tripping on his toe
Will be here with mop and mow.
Do you love me, master? No? [IV:1].

I could quote more senile singsong, but it would make me sick. There are those who can read such lines and still consider Shakespeare to be the greatest writer in the English language. I am not one of them.

There is too much tawdry bawdry in the play, too much of what we would call today "comic relief." With the exception of a botched assassination attempt, the entire second act is wasted on laughless comedy. The comedy is the poetic nadir of the play. It is not that the raillery is dated, nor that it has long since been drained of any humor it might have had. The problem is that it is fluff, filler -- empty pages and too much empty time, time wasted idly and emptily on the stage.

* * * * *

Why, exactly, should we believe that Prospero ought to be reinstated as the Milanese duke? Prospero was ridiculously inept as a duke. He explains to Miranda how his brother, Antonio, usurped control of the Milanese dukedom:

The government I cast upon my brother
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies...

I thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated
To closeness and the bettering of my mind
With that which, but by being so retir'd,
O'er-priz'd all popular rate, in my false brother
Awak'd an evil nature... [I:2].

The neglectful and inadvertent duke, absorbed in the dark arts, loses his material power. We won't have to wait very long before he wins it back again. Despite all of his flaws, and of these there are many, Prospero emerges as "The Favored One," as his name implies. He does this so effortlessly and smoothly that there is no space to wonder about the outcome. Prospero wins, without even trying to win, a game that is rigged in advance, and this (as I stated earlier) is what makes THE TEMPEST a Shakespearean "comedy."

A Shakespearean comedy is not a play that makes us laugh, but a play in which the unlikable main character is easily victorious and the principals are married off, even if they don't want to be married off.

All Shakespearean comedies project utopias. They are not frictionless utopias, to be fair. There are discordances in every one of Shakespeare's utopias. Antonio, the usurping brother, and Caliban, the rebel slave, provide the discordances in THE TEMPEST. And yet these disharmonies, these frictions, only exist in order to make the triumph of favored Prospero all the sweeter. The Duke is deposed, then reinstated. The Duke is dethroned, long live the Duke!

Some commentators have mused: Why are Prospero's adversaries so threatened by the magus ***after*** he abjures his art? Why don't they rise up and slit his throat (which Caliban intended to do earlier)? That they do not do this is nonplussing. On the contrary, they stand in fear of the demystified mage. Even after the abjurement of his magic, Sebastian says that the "devil speaks" in Prospero and Caliban worries that his master will "chastise" him [V:1].

It is difficult to say why Prospero's enemies are meekened and weakened at the close of the play. Perhaps, as Harold Bloom proposed, the magus does not need any of the external signs of magic. Perhaps he has interiorized all of his powers. He can break his staff, drown his book, and shed his mantle, for his power now comes from within. Or is it merely the case that Prospero's enemies -- Sebastian, Antonio, Caliban, Stefano, Trinculo -- are unaware that the magus has abjured his art?

While reading the play, there was a pleasantly unpleasant thought I could not quite suppress: I wished that Caliban would rise up and sodomize all of the inhabitants of the isle, kill them, skin them, cannibalize them, and wear their carcasses. This is more or less what happens in Peter Brook's dramatization. But no, instead, Prospero wins and forgives every one of his adversaries in a proto-Nietzschean affirmation of his power.

Indeed, forgiveness is the final phase of Prospero's revenge plot. Prospero calls his perfidious brother "wicked" and "unnatural" in the very sentences through which he forgives him:

"I do forgive thee, / Unnatural though thou art" [V:1].

The "rarer action" [Ibid.] is to forgive rather than to avenge. But my question is thus: Can forgiveness not be a form of vengeance?

* * * * *

In the Epilogue, the actor who plays Prospero steps onto the stage one last time to beg for applause: "[R]elease me from my bands / With the help of your good hands." He asks for the spectator's "indulgence." He says that his project was to "please." Only applause can free the actor from the isle of mirages over which the mage presides.

Here we have a pitiful plea for approbation from an attention-hungry actor-dramatist. It is a Pathetic Appeal in two senses of the term: On the one hand, it is the attempt to stimulate the pity of the spectators and to provoke within them the pity-driven need to clap. On the other hand, it is an appeal that is, well, ***pathetic***, in the colloquial-American sense of the word. But then, the Actor himself is yet another mask. One mask conceals another mask conceals another mask conceals another mask... and so forth ad infinitum.

(Long parenthesis: Here we have the Shakespearean conceit that life is theatre and theatre, life. The island is an island of illusions where no man is his own [V:1]. The characters on the stage, of course, are nothing more than dramatic illusions - and are themselves illusioned. We -- the audience, the spectators, we human beings -- we ourselves are illusions, according to Shakespeare: "We are such stuff / As dreams are made on; and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep" [IV:1]. Each character is seduced by simulations or seduces by simulation: The shipwreck is described as a "spectacle"; Ariel assumes the shape of a water-nymph and then a harpy; Prospero camouflages himself throughout the play in various disguises; Caliban, Trinculo, and Stefano are seduced by garments hanging from the bough of a tree, etc., etc.)

To please the audience, to appease the audience, to entertain the audience was also Shakespeare's only goal. I should here make the point that Shakespeare was a panderer, a jongleur of the court. His plays always pander. They seek to assuage their audiences' fears. They never provoke their audiences. To return to my opening point: No one has ever been made to feel guilty by a Shakespeare play.

At the end of the day, THE TEMPEST does bear one redeeming facet: The play sparked some of the most exciting works of literature of the twentieth century. The hallucinatory wonderlands of J.G. Ballard, for instance (by way of Joseph Conrad) would have been unthinkable without the tempestuous bluster of Shakes the Pear.

Dr. Joseph Suglia
Five Stars 25 Nov. 2014
By Ed Russell - Published on
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