Romance And Anti Romance In Shakespeare's The Tempest

2201 words - 9 pages

Romance and Anti-Romance in The Tempest

    The specific genre classification that one may give to a piece such as The Tempest is often thought to be highly confusing. This is because so many of the qualities of a romance and a realism can be applied to it's words and actions, but at the same time pull away from the very sense of the genre that it is trying to achieve. A romance has many specific qualities, most of which rely on the fancy and imagination of the viewer or the reader. In some circles, it is even known as escapist. Not to the extreme of escapist drama, but certainly free from the boundaries of the mortal world as we know it.

In reading the critical essay entitled "The Tempest as Romance and Anti-Romance by Richard Hillman," I found many important points arguing both for and against the idea that it is a romance. He states quite plainly at the beginning that in any romance audiences expect to move and travel widely to exotic places, different times, and widely throughout the realm of imagination. In his opinion, The Tempest takes these principles farther than any previous works in order to destroy them (Hillman 141). In other words, Shakespeare goes to immense trouble to simply set us up for a great fall. The elements that produce fantasy in this work and make it known that it is a specific genre basically prove to be as insubstantial as Prospero's spirit actors. Hillman claims that these elements can simply vanish into thin air and leave quite disturbing resonances with the audiences after their departure. The Tempest is certainly a play of confinements, contortions, and problems (Hillman 142), that much is fairly obvious from the beginning. The island itself is exotic and fantastic in the beginning, proving the romantic genre. However, as the play goes on we come to realize the confining nature of the island and it becomes less and less romantic to each person as well as to each audience member. The island becomes a symbol for seclusion and confinement to all as they begin to understand what a life Prospero must have led there. This is all set up correctly in Hillman's view because it is, after all, Prospero who controls all in a rigid fashion within the realm of this world.

The storm at the beginning to the show adds new levels and romantic ideals to the play. Anthony B. Dawson shows that the storm is truly fitting to "the classic pattern of romance, where apparent disaster is metamorphosed into serenity and reunion." (Hillman 143). The audience is allowed to know that the storm is simply an illusion. This concept is not quite permissible by romance. We should believe in the storm and the powers over it, however, the fact that we are aware that it is controlled by one who has great magical power allows us to fall back into the realm of the fantastic. Romantic convention, after all, thrives on the idea of potential magic and the world of romance has limitless possibilities. In fact, to open the play with the...

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