Study Guide

The Tempest Versions of Reality

By William Shakespeare

Versions of Reality

Perspective plays a large role in The Tempest. The island is dominated by magic, and it clouds the ability of all the new arrivals to tell the difference between reality and the magical illusions they see. Reality is also tempered by the outlook of the individuals—Gonzalo is relentlessly positive, and so sees the island as beautiful.  

Ariel revels in the island's naturalness, while Sebastian and Antonio see it as an inhospitable place because of their negative outlooks. Reality is clouded by magic, and this duality is only furthered by the influence of personal perspective over each individual's perceptions.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. How do you account for the difference between Gonzalo's vision of the island, as opposed to Antonio and Sebastian's vision? 
  2. Why does Alonso move back and forth so much on the issue of whether Ferdinand is dead? What does he really believe to be true?
  3. How does Ariel's appearance as a harpy at the banquet table impact the traitors Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian? Do they view themselves as traitors?
  4. Is it safe to trust your senses, or your own sense of reality, when in a magical place? Can the strange occurrences and behaviors in the play be explained by personal quirks, or by the island's enchantment?

Chew on This

People construct their own versions of reality depending on their perspective. The influence of magic in this play is irrelevant, because the characters' divergent interpretations of reality are due to their different experiences and perspectives.

Antonio and Sebastian are unrealistic characters because they have absolutely no remorse or fear of accountability.