Winter Will Be Here Soon -- Study hard as finals approach...


 
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The Tempest

 

The Epilogue
 
The Epilogue of the Tempest by William Shakespeare is an
excellent -- if not the best -- example of Shakespeare's
brilliance. In 20 lines Shakespeare is able to write an
excellent ending to his play, while speaking through his
characters about his own life and career. Even more
amazingly, he seamlessly ties the two together.
 
In the context of the story, Prospero's monologue makes
perfect sense. He has lost his magical power, so his
"charms are o'erthrown, and what strength [Prospero] have's
[his] own, which is most faint." He is now "confined" on
the Island, for his other choice would be to go to Naples
and reclaim his dukedom, but he doesn't want to do that
because he has already "pardoned the deceiver" who took his
position many years ago. Prospero then says something a
little strange, but it makes sense in the context of the
story. He ask us to "release [him] from [his] bands with
the help of your good hands." In other words, clap so that
the sails of the boats his friends are riding in will be
safely returned and Prospero can be "relieved by prayer" of
the audience.
 
All of what Prospero has said is very nice, but the most
interesting part of this monologue is what Shakespeare
himself is saying. "Now that my charms are all o'erthrown,
and what strength I have's mine own" means, now my plays
are over, and it's no longer my characters speaking. The
"Island" or stage Shakespeare is on is now "bare" and it is
time for "you" the audience to release Shakespeare and his
actors from this play with the "help of [y]our good hands."
Shakespeare was not only being released for the performance
of the play, he was being release from his career as a
playwright. But there are more reasons to clap besides the
obvious reason that the play is over, Shakespeare could not
allow his final play to be bad, his project "was to
please." He reiterates this point by saying "and my ending
is despair unless I be relieved by prayer", or the clapping
of the audience and it frees "all faults" and allows
Shakespeare to indulge the clapping and joy of the
audience. 
 
Finally, after we separate the two different perspectives,
we can step back and see how Shakespeare magically works
them together. The first such pun is on the word "faint",
in the third line. Prospero uses faint to describe his
strength, but Shakespeare makes it a pun on the pun he is
making! The word faint means light (amoung other things),
which means light hearted, or fun. It can also mean hard to
see, like the pun on the pun! That might be pushing it a
little, though. The thing about Shakespeare is that
anything is possible. Another, less obvious but more
significant double meaning is on the word "please" on line
13. Prospero is literally saying his goal was to make the
people on the Island happy, Shakespeare is saying his goal
was to please his audience. 

 




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