Opposition between Art and Reality in Shakespeare's The Tempest

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Opposition between Art and Reality in The Tempest

The Tempest is a self-reflexive play that explores the boundaries of art and reality. Shakespeare's island is a realm controlled by the artist figure; where the fabulous, the ideal and the imaginative are presented as both illusory and palpable, and where the audience is held in an indeterminate state, a "strange repose". The juxtaposition of the world of art with political and social realities explored by representative characters is the central contrast of the play, and is foregrounded by the use of non-verbal techniques. These techniques allow the audience to appreciate the art that facilitates the spectacle they watch, as well as understand that the ideal remains an
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Additionally, Stephano, Trincullo and even Caliban have their own political plot - to murder Prospero. These subplots of usurpation are presented in a mimetic style and their sheer number has the effect of giving The Tempest its characteristic density and brevity. Brought about by Prospero's art, the storm is the first non-verbal technique to which the audience is exposed; giving us the opportunity to understand the way in which the characters of the play are archetypes who are representative of their society.

The initial reactions of the characters when arriving on the island are important representations of the ideologies they have carried with them from their society. Ferdinand scarcely notices his surroundings, absorbed instead by the sight of Miranda. Antonio is morose and cynical, remarking that it is as if the island "'twere perfumed by a fen" and has everything "save means to live". The most interesting reaction is from Gonzalo, whose comic vision of an impractical but ideal commonwealth "t' excel the Golden Age" is the first utopian dream in the play, with clear similarities to Thomas More's utopia. His view of the island setting as idyllic and full of promise is given credibility by madrigals, short lyrics dealing with aspects of pastoral life, which present images of pastoral beauty. The most famous madrigal, "Where the bee sucks, there
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