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No one has hitherto been fortunate enough to discover the romance, on which Shakspeare founded this play. Mr. Collins the poet is said indeed to have informed Mr. T. Warton, that it was founded on an old romance called Aurelio and Isabella,' printed in Italian, Spanish, French, and English in 1588: but as no such work could be discovered by the acute and learned writer to whom this information was communicated, it was reasonably inferred by him, that Collins, in consequence of the failure of memory during his last illness, had substituted the name of one novel for another.
It seems probable, that the event, which immediately gave rise to the composition of this drama, was the voyage of Sir George Somers, who was shipwrecked on the Bermudas in 1609, and whose adventures were given the public by Silvester Jourdan, one of his crew, with the following title:- A Discovery of the Bermudas, otherwise called the Isle of Divels: by Sir Thomas Gates, Sir Geo. Sommers, and Captayne Newport, and divers others. In this publication Jourdan informs us, that the islands of the Bermudas, as every man knoweth, that hath heard or read of them, were never inhabited by any Christian or heathen people ; but ever esteemed and reputed a most prodigious and inchanted place, affording nothing but gusts, stormes, and foul weather; which made every navigator and mariner to avoid them as Scylla and Charybdis, or as they would shun the devil himselfe.' It has hence been concluded that this play was written towards the close of 1611, and that it was brought on the stage early in the succeeding year.
“Whatever might be Shakspeare's intention,' says Dr. Johnson, ‘in forming or adopting the plot, he has made it instrumental to the production of many characters, diversified with boundless invention, and preserved with profound skill in nature, extensive knowlege of opinions, and accurate observation of life. In a single drama are here exhibited princes, courtiers, and sailors, all speaking in their real characters. There is the agency of airy spirits, and of an earthly goblin; the operations of magic, the tumults of a storm, the adventures of a desert island, the native effusion of untaught affection, the punishment of guilt, and the final happiness of the pair for whom our passions and reason are equally interested.'
It is remarked by Dr. Drake, that “the Tempest is, next to Macbeth, the noblest product of our author's genius. Never were the wild and the wonderful, the pathetic and the sublime, more artfully and gracefully combined with the sportive sallies of a playful imagination, than in this enchantingly attractive drama. Nor is it less remarkable, that all these excellences of the highest order are connected with a plot, which, in its mechanism, and in the preservation of the unities, is perfectly classical and correct.'
Prospero, duke of Milan, being fond of study and retirement,
entrusts the public business of the state to his younger brother Antonio, who secretly engages with Alonso, king of Naples, to hold Milan as a fief of the Neapolitan crown, in consideration of his assistance in dethroning his unsuspecting brother. Not daring to deprive Prospero of life, on account of his great popularity, the conspirators force him and his daughter Miranda, an infant three years old, into a crazy boat; and with a small supply of provisions aban. don them to the fury of the elements. Being cast on a desert island, where no human creature is found but a savage named Caliban, Prospero studies the necromantic art with great success, and employs his leisure hours with the education of Miranda. About twelve years after these transactions, Alonso, having agreed to marry his daughter to the king of Tunis, conducts her to that country, accompanied by the usurping duke of Milan, and a numerous train. Having left the lady with her husband at Tunis, they embark on their return to Naples; and the drama commences with a great tempest raised by Prospero, who, by the agency of a spirit named Ariel, wrecks the king's ship in such a manner, that none of the passengers are lost. Ferdinand, the king's son, is separated from his father, who supposes him drowned ; while Prospero conducts him to his cell, where he and Miranda become mutually enamored. In the mean time, Alonso, Antonio, and their immediate followers, terrified by spectral illusions raised by the injured Duke, run distracted, till at length, Prospero, satisfied with making them sensible of their former guilt, and with the resumption of his dignity, generously remits farther punishment; extends his mercy to Caliban and his drunken companions, who had conspired to murder him ; and, having restored Ferdinand to his disconsolate parent, abjures for ever the magic art, and proceeds to Naples to solemnise the nuptials of the youthful pair.
Alonso, king of Naples.
Caliban, a savage and deformed slave.
MIRANDA, daughter to Prospero.
ARIEL, an airy spirit.
Other spirits attending on PROSPERO.
SCENE, the sea, with a ship; afterwards an uninhabited