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Themes

Although the play takes place entirely on an island, The Tempest dramatizes the divide between the courtly worlds and the wilderness.  As the play opens, Prospero, a former Italian duke now living in exile, has already journeyed from the court to the remote island and is now trying to return.  When Prospero causes his royal enemies to be shipwrecked on his isle, we learn that loyalty to the King is no longer sacred, and court members must abandon their traditions and expectations.  The Tempest's foray into a kind of "pastoral" world also aligns this play with As You Like It and A Midsummer Night's Dream. 

Questions About Contrasting Regions

  1. Does Prospero conform to the ideals of the court or the pastoral world? With which world would he most likely align himself?
  2. Where does Miranda fall in the pastoral/courtly divide? Is she prepared to be Queen of Naples?
  3. It's clear through the actions of the play that courtly laws aren't suited for the pastoral setting. Or can they be? How would the laws of the pastoral world hold up in the environment of court?
  4. Are there principles that differentiate courtly values from pastoral values, or are the norms that govern each just the same rules, interpreted differently?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

While hierarchy still matters in the pastoral setting, the rules of the court lose authority once court members find themselves in the wilderness.

The rules of the court are abandoned by the shipwreck survivors because courtly rules have no place anywhere outside the court. 

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