Tag Archives: Tempest

Conventions. 10 Sept.



Historical Terms Description
16th & 17th century Shakespeare, and the thriving theater business to which he contributed, performed in public, open air theaters; private, indoor theaters; at court; at the ins-at-court; at the colleges; and on tour from 1576 (when James Burbage opened The Theater in Shoreditch) till 1642 (when the staging of plays was banned by the Puritans who controlled Parliament during the First English Civil War).
Elizabethan Queen Elizabeth I ruled England 1559-1603. 
Jacobean James I ruled England and Scotland 1603-1625.
Renaissance (1450-1600 approx.) The term “Renaissance” came into use in the later half of the 19th century to describe cultural production in mostly Italy and France. Literary critics and historians began describing Shakespeare as an author belonging to the “English Literary Renaissance” in the early part of the 20th century. Might want to keep in mind: Terms contemporary scholars use to describe the past are “…more typically extensions of the naming practices seen in examples of ‘Renaissance’ businesses found in any telephone directory: labels that seek to suggest qualities in objects, practices, persons, and times that do not obviously possess them” (Douglas Bruster “Shakespeare and the End of History” 149). 
Early Modern (1500-1700 approx.) Term applied by scholars and historians in the late 20th century to describe the period defined by events such as the Reformation, the printing press, the Age of Discovery, Vanishing Point Perspective, etc. This term emphasizes and affinity between Shakespeare’s time and post-war America. The term is also useful because, unlike Renaissance, it does not assume that the period prior was somehow dead enough to be reborn.
Restoration (1660-1689) Last gasp of the Tudor/Stuart monarchy and a production of art, especially theater, that advanced impulses similar to those Shakespeare and fellow authors, actors, impresarios. This little slice of English history describes the years Charles II and briefly his brother James II ruled England were restored to the throne in England after eleven years of Parliamentary rule called the Interregnum. The theaters in England remained closed from 1642-1660.

Writing Workshop

Part I. Take 10 minutes and read through the draft of the short paper that you brought to class. Once you have finished make note of the following:

  • What is your main claim and how have you developed it?
  • Do you define your key terms?
  • Do you attend to the citations you chose from The Tempest at the sentence level? 
  • In a couple of sentences describe the next steps you plan to take.

Part II. Push the desks into a circle, and each of you can read her/his paper aloud or describe your claim, terms, and evidence. Take note as your peers read and/or describe their papers, so you can ask questions/make suggestions when they finish speaking.

RQ: Tempest Act 3 & 4

after Unknown artist,print,circa 1649


Keep the following questions in mind as you read The Tempest, Act 3 & 4. 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.

The Tempest, Act 3

What does Ferdinand mean when he says, “The mistress which I serve quickens what’s dead” (3.1.6)?

How’s Ferdinand’s history with women?

Ferdinand refers to himself as a “patient log man” (3.1.68) conscripted to “wooden slavery” (3.1.62). How do his descriptions of himself and his service compare to the epithet Stephano gives Caliban, “servant monster” (3.2.3)?

Has Miranda ever seen any other women?

Are Ferdinand and Miranda married by the end of 3.1?

Why does Caliban kneel before Trinculo & Stephano in 3.2? Why does Ariel contradict the story Caliban tells the other men?

There are a lot of vows taken in Act 3. Compare the vows Miranda and Ferdinand make to one another to the vows Caliban and Stephano exchange.

How do the conspirators plan to Kill Prospero? Compare the rebellion against Prospero to the plot to kill Alonso. Might also compare the two attempted murders to the attempted rape mentioned in 1.2.?

Why does Caliban instruct Stephano to “Burn but his books” (3.2.90) before he kills Prospero?

Why do you think that Caliban pledges his service to Stephano instead of leading the insurgency?

Is Caliban’s description of the isle based on experience or desire? Compare his description to Gonzalo & Trinculo’s.

What’s a “Living Drollery!” (3.3.21)? What does sight of it confirm for the nobles?

What’s a “quaint device” (SD 3.3.52)?

How does the sea function like a character in 3.3?

The Tempest, Act 4

What’s the relationship between the disappearing banquet in 3.3 and the nuptial masque in 4.1?

Banqueting House, Whitehall

In his aside at the end of act 3, Prospero says, “My high charms work” (3.3.88). What does he mean? Should we credit Prospero with saving Alonso or stirring up trouble between Trinculo and Stephano? Then compare Prospero’s previous claims to “art” with the play-in-the-play that he calls, “Some vanity of mine art” (4.1.41) he puts on for Miranda and Ferdinand.

What sorts of stipulations does Prospero attach to the the “gift” he gives to Ferdinand? What sorts of things will befall the couple if they do not follow Prospero’s instructions?

Compare Iris’ opening intonation to Ceres in the masque to Gonzalo’s utopian vision of the island? What rhetorical features do they share?

Does the weird pagan celebration at the heart of this play seem pagan and/or potentially sacrilegious? Is this the blessing that Prospero warned the couple to wait for?

Why can’t Venus come to the wedding celebration?

What sorts of blessings do the goddesses wish on the couple?

What does Ferdinand mean when he says: “Let me live here ever;/So rare a wondered father and a wise/Makes this place a paradise” (4.1.123-5)?


How & why does the masque end?

How does Prospero comfort Miranda and Ferdinand? Is he successful?

How does Prospero snare the conspirators?





Banqueting House, Inigo Jones, 1619


Media. 8 Sept.



Act two provides us with a series of rhetorical/figural responses to nature. They include joke work-puns, taking-the-piss, & slapstick; lists, measure, quantification, commodification; and repetition; allusion; and tragedy juxtaposed against comedy.

Building off of both Danny and Kira’s comments towards the end of class on 9/3, we might also ask of The Tempest:

  • What do individuals or smaller groups of people lack that government supplies?
  • How are Shakespeare and his characters readers of a literary historical tradition and/or political the context in which they find themselves?


MLA citation

Berensmeyer, Ingo. “Shakespeare and Media Ecology: Beyond Historicism and Presentism.” Poetics Today 35.4 (2015): 515-533.

Before we work on the essay, can we quickly discuss the following:

  • What is a primary source?
  • What is a secondary source?
  • How can we assess the validity of secondary sources?

Berensmeyer, Ingo. “Shakespeare and Media Ecology: Beyond Historicism and Presentism.” Poetics Today 35.4 (2015): 515-533.

Part I. Group Activity

Please get into the groups that follow, introduce yourselves to your peers, and then respond to the prompts below. Write down as much as you will need to participate in discussion and be prepared to cite specific instances from the text.

  1. Ainee, Hannah M., Nicholas, & Robert
  2. Alexandra, Jeffery, Danny, & Angeline
  3. Kelsey, Beau, Caroline, Chan, & Thomas
  4. June, Sun, Isabelle, Patrick, Shamala, & Bailey
  5. Kira, Sarah, Madison, Tony, & Hannah P.
  • What are Berensmeyer’s main claims or goals?
  • Point out 1-2 of conceptual frames he deploys, and describe how he fits those frames to The Tempest. EX: Presentism, Historicism, Media Ecology. 
  • How does Berensmeyer’s essay and/or The Tempest expand or challenge ordinary expectations about human agency? Do you agree?

Part II. Mini Writing Workshop

  • Get into pairs
  • Exchange blog posts–either online or trade hard copies
  • In 3-5 sentences convert your partner’s blog post into a short “paper”


RQ: Tempest, Act 2 & Berensmeyer



Keep the following questions in mind as you read The Tempest, Act 2 and the second 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 Act 2, Reading Questions

  • What does the Island look like? Where is it? Why can’t the nobles cannot agree on what should be object facts?
  • Who’s Dido & what purpose does the classical reference serve?
  • If Gonzalo had a plantation on the island, what would it be like? What assumptions does Gonzalo’s vision of his “plantation” make about “nature”? (2.1.143-59).
  • Is Alonso, the King of Naples, a good leader/administrator? Compare Alonso’s leadership with some of the other characters and their leadership skills: Prospero, Gonzalo, Sebastian, and Trinculo. Who’s kingdom would you most like to live in? Why does Ariel save Alonso from assassination?
  • What does Caliban look like when Trinculo meets him for the first time? How does Trinculo react to his first meeting with Caliban?
  • Compare Caliban’s description of the Island to other descriptions.
  • Where does Trinculo get the “sack” (fortified wine) that he and the rest of the conspirators drink?
  • Do the two scenes in act two suggest that conspiracy to overthrow the king is natural?
  • What sorts of monsters do the Europeans believe inhabit the island? What sorts of monsters actually inhabit the island?
  • Why does Caliban agree to help Trinculo and Stephano? Can he ever really be set free?
  • What key words, phrases, or images that get reptead in this act?

“Shakespeare and Media Ecology” Questions:

  • According to Berensmeyer, how have ideas about Shakespeare as an author shifted over the years & why? Is ‘history’ in The Tempest politically mediated and if so, why and/or how?
  • How does Berensmeyer’s definition of “media ecology” help account for supernatural elements in The Tempest?
  • Berensmeyer cites McLuen definition of media as “extensions of man” (520). When do we see media or technology as an extension of a character in The Tempest?
  • What does Berensmeyer mean when he says “Costumes provide a good example of this multilayered process of medialization” (524)?
  • What does Shakespeare expect from his audiences?
  • What’s a masque? why does it mean different things to early 17th c. audiences than it does to early 21st century audiences according to Berensmeyer? Why does Berensmeyer connect the fourth act nuptial masque with the 2012 London Olympics? Is he successful?

Discussion. 1 Sept.



Before we move begin class discussion of The Tempest, act 1 and the first half of Ingo Berensmeyer’s “Shakespeare and Media Ecology” (515-523), I want to review some basics of literary analysis and the rhetorical gestures required for successful discussion.

Why Discuss?

Discussion in the literature classroom is an oral and collaborative form of close reading. Close reading, a skill that makes possible all of literally study, is a sort-of tacking back and forth between global, general claims about a text and local, linguistic features. Discoveries made at the local level–revelations about meter, repetition, metaphor, synonym, vehicle, tenor, tone, or unusual features.–shape the claims you make at the global level. The claims at the global level eventually attract key textual patterns that you then shape into a reading. So in discussion we perform the skills required for successful close reading and argument, driven analysis. Discussion also helps us make connections between textual elements and commit new information to memory. For these reasons class discussion is the most widely used pedagogical tool.


Good discussions requires participants to engage one another’s ideas. Sustained, collaborative engagement requires the following skills: listening, paraphrase, synthesis, and creativity, i.e. saying again or revoicing. As we discuss the question that follows, I’ll ask you to speak to one another’s ideas about The Tempest.

Take 5-8 minutes to respond and be prepared to cite specific evidence in the text to support your answer.
Does Prospero cause the storm?

Discussion Templates (For more discussion templates seeGerald Graff and Kathy Berkenstein’s They Say; I Say)

Try using some of the templates listed below to engage one another’s ideas:

Paraphrase: “I hear Jimmy saying______ about topic_________”

Synthesize: “Kelly has supported her point, which is_________, with_________ example from the text.”

Contribute: “To build on what Charlie just said, I think_________”

Apply: “The conclusions that Ted draws can also be applied __________”



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?

Shakespeare’s Climate Crisis



Read the passage; summarize its meaning in a sentence or two; and briefly explain how a passage like this one might help modern people think about the environment:


The speech that follows is an interjection. During the wedding masque he conducts to celebrate the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand, Prospero remembers he is urgently needed elsewhere. He offers the following as an explanation:

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

The Globe Theater(s) (1500-1613 & 1614-1632) housed Shakespeare and his acting companies: the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and later the King’s Men. The word globe can, of course, be put to more use than just the proper one. That the term globe could also signify a heavenly body, an eyeball, an emblem of sovereignty, the new world, and women’s breasts, was certainly not lost to on early modern author, least of all Shakespeare. As enthusiasts from around the world prepare to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we do so in dire circumstances: inescapable climate shifts, constant species extinction, relentless resource depletion, and the final adulteration of air, water, and land. In the years since Ben Jonson declared the “drooping stage” mourned Shakespeare’s loss “like Night,” his audience is haunted by more than just his ghost. Here at the end of the world, we take up Shakespeare, his ghosts, and his sphere of influence to mourn, produce, and eventually prosper. The globe on which we live and the one for which Shakespeare write his plays have a lot to say to one another. For instance now and then we engage with the plays at a time of fabulous technological possibilities. The apocalyptic landscapes through which Shakespeare and his friends forced their characters to range shows they knew they were writing after the end of the world. Over the course of the semester, we will read Shakespeare’s plays and poems in order to predict the shape of the world to come.