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The Tempest Art and Culture Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the 2008 Norton edition.

Quote #4

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. (4.1.165-175)

This is one of the most famous passages in Shakespeare and reminds us a lot of the big "All the world's a stage" soliloquy in As You Like It.  When Prospero announces the wedding masque is over, Shakespeare gives a shout-out to the Globe Theater and makes an astonishing comparison between human life and the theater.  As literary critic Stephen Greenblatt points out, Prospero's remarks draw our attention to "the theatrical insubstantiality of the entire world and the dreamlike nature of human existence."

Quote #5

PROSPERO [aside]
It goes on, I see,
As my soul prompts it. [to Ariel] Spirit, fine spirit!
   I'll free thee
Within two days for this. (1.2.501-504)

When Miranda falls in love with Ferdinand at first sight, Prospero congratulates himself for making it all happen. This reminds us that Prospero's magic to manipulate people and situations just like artists do. In other words, Prospero acts like he's directing a play when he orchestrates his daughter's meeting with the prince.

Quote #6

If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin's cheek,
Dashes the fire out. (1.2.1-5)

When Prospero uses his magic to orchestrate the storm that shipwrecks his enemies, it's as though the entire island is a stage, don't you think? 

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