Tag Archives: Reading Practices

RQ: Tempest, Act 1 & Media Ecology

Giant red eel-like sea serpent on antiquarian maritime map, extended


Keep the following questions in mind as you read The Tempest, Act 1 and the first half of Ingo Berensmeyer, “Shakespeare and Media Ecology: Beyond Historicism and Presentism.” The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

Tempest Questions

  • How does Prospero cause the storm? Does he cause it? Why does he cause the tempest that seems, to the nobles and sailors, at least, to wreck their ship?
  • What do Sycorax to Prospero have in common? What do Ariel to Miranda have in common? What do Caliban and Ferdinand have in common?
  • What sorts of transformations have all of the characters on the island undergone by the end of the first act?
  • Does Prospero manipulate Miranda and Ferdinand at the end of act one, or do they really experience “love at first site”? How does the “love a first site” motif compare to the tempest with which the play opens?
  • Feel free to use the a database such as Open Source Shakespeare for these sorts of usage questions: What’s the relationship between the words ‘wrack’ and ‘rack’? What does the lack of aural distinction imply? Does Shakespeare repeat any other words or phrases in the first act? If yes, what are the implications?
  • If you had to stage the magical elements the first act of The Tempest how would you do it? In other words, how would you communicate storm at sea (1.1); Ariel’s invisibility (1.2.374); or Caliban’s supposed strangeness?

“Shakespeare and Media Ecology” Questions:

  • What does it mean to think of a play as a blue print, score, or recipe? What does it mean for text to point out to a performance? Do these sorts of texts demand to be treated differently than say a song or a novel?
  • What does Berensmeyer mean by ‘presentism’ & ‘historicism’? How, according to Berensmeyer, are these two schools of literary criticism/inquiry similar? What alternative critical methods does he suggest?
  • “Can we read Shakespeare’s work as belonging to the early modern period and at the same time consider it in its current relevance, since the present continually revisits and restages the plays in different forms and different media” (517)?
  • What is “media ecology,” and what do we gain from applying the discourse to Shakespeare, generally, and The Tempest, specifically?