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Shakespeare's Representation of Weather, Climate and EnvironmentThe Early Modern 'Fated Sky'$
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Sophie Chiari

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474442527

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474442527.001.0001

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The I/Eye of the Storm: Prospero’s Tempest

The I/Eye of the Storm: Prospero’s Tempest

(p.217) Chapter 7 The I/Eye of the Storm: Prospero’s Tempest
Shakespeare's Representation of Weather, Climate and Environment

Sophie Chiari

Edinburgh University Press

The Tempest (1611) is a play often quoted for its ecological significance: indeed, it is one in which Shakespeare once again addresses the question of climate and the four elements in his revisiting of the early modern travel narratives (in which, incidentally, the motif of the fiery ocean was a topos of the genre). In this rewriting of Virgil’s Aeneid not entirely devoid of Homeric reminiscences, the playwright returns to the initial questions of the Dream: can men and women rule the elements? If we trigger off a climatic disorder, can it be mended? And if we lose control, what may then ensue? The playwright thus reassesses the role of man’s ‘potent art’ (5.1.50) in the ordering of nature. Chapter 7 explores the idea of temperance in connection with that of temperate clime, and it shows that Prospero’s tempest, meant both as a form of revenge against Antonio and as a means of catharsis and rebirth, is deeply problematic as it oscillates between the illusory and the real, magic and science, the sublime and the mundane. Providing us with kaleidoscopic views, the play cogently explores the power of the elements and reaffirms that, for Shakespeare, what appears in the celestial sphere cannot be dissociated from what happens on earth.

Keywords:   The Tempest, sea, hurricane, William Strachey, winds, temper, temperance, purgation, exhalations, rainbow

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