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nating to a child ; there is the true picture of life, full of interest to all healthy minds at all times; there is the fine delineation of character and the sound expression of feeling through which we learn to understand better both ourselves and others; there is the genial spirit of love and the lesson of moral truth to guide us in action, the philosophic thought which helps us to understand why things are as they are, the clear sight which sees with hope the end to which things are working, and above all the faith in God which strengthens our own.
And on the surface of the play lie the neat little sayings in which great truths are so compactly wrapped that we can use them as household words, while in the text itself the grammarian and student of language find a field in which they may work again and again.
It will be impossible, therefore, to give any idea of a play of Shakespeare's by merely telling the story, yet the stories are in themselves so beautiful and full of interest, that though they are only as it were the outside dress of the play, they are charming as pictures, and delightful to dwell upon in the imagination. We will therefore take one of Shakespeare's plays and just show his manner of treating a story, and it shall be one the story of which was created, as far as we know, by Shakespeare's own powerful fancy. The play of The Tempest opens with a violent storm at sea, in which a ship is seen in extremest danger. On board the ship are Alonzo, King of Naples; Ferdinand, his son; Sebastian, his brother ; Antonio, Duke of Milan ; Gonzalo, an old counsellor ; and other lords and servants. They are returning from Tunis, where they have been to the marriage of the king's daughter Claribel. The ship is drifting towards the shores of an unknown island. Presently it strikes upon the rock and breaks to pieces. This tempest, which gives its name to the play, is not an ordinary storm; it is the hinge, as it were, on which the whole play turns, and is necessary to the inner truth of it.
We have seen how Shakespeare delighted to show the way in which right overcomes wrong, and that even in this world evil is not triumphant, but good. He does not make the evil itself the subject of his dramatic art, but he begins the action of his play at the point where, after some wrong has been done in the past, the good begins to work and the wrong is set right; and it is this final subjection of evil to good which he takes as that portion in the whole series of events most worthy to be dramatised and placed in detail on the stage before the
of men. The purpose of the tempest is to bring together a number of persons who have been concerned in a great wrong which has been done twelve years before the play begins, and by their meeting together on this island, the wrong is to be at length set right; it is at this point, therefore, that Shakespeare begins to work his drama. The storm has been raised by spirits under the command of a magician, Prospero, who with his daughter, Miranda, and a monster, Caliban, are the only inhabitants of the enchanted island.
In the next scene we are told of what happened twelve years before, as Prospero is relating it to his daughter. She hears for the first time that her father was once Duke of Milan, but being wholly devoted to study, he neglected the duties of his position and left the management of his dukedom to Antonio, his brother. Whilst Prospero was shut out from the world in which his work lay, and absorbed in his favourite studies, his brother made an agreement with the King of Naples that he would become his vassal and pay him tribute, if he would help him to take possession of the Duchy and get rid of Prospero. The king sent an army to Milan, and at midnight Antonio opened the city gates to the soldiers. Prospero was seized and placed with his little child, then only two years old, upon a rotten old ship which
was driven out to sea. Through the pity of Gonzalo, one of the Neapolitan nobles, Prospero's books and clothes were put into the ship. Prospero had sought leisure to indulge his love of study without regard to his duty in the world as Duke of Milàn ; now, on this island, he could gratify his own tastes without interruption. There were no duties to call him from his books. Caliban, a monster whom he found there, was his slave, and did all the menial work; and there were spirits on the enchanted island, whom he had learned to command, and they were ready to do his bidding at a word. But it is not all of life to exercise the intellect: there are relations to our fellow-men which cannot be shunned; and Prospero found this out upon his desert island, and now would restore himself to his lost place in the world, and heal the wrong done to him by his brother and the King of Naples.
Among the spirits on the island is one called Ariel. He is a bright, gay little spirit, whose ideal of life is to live merrily among the blossoms in perpetual summer.
He can make music, poetry, and songs as readily as heavier beings think and speak. He can "come with a thought," ride on the clouds, fly with the wind, but he knows nothing of the joys and sorrows of life which arise out of its human relationships. He is of the air, with all the pure sweetness and swift energy of the summer breezes or the autumn wind, and like it, touching the surface for a moment and passing quickly on. Caliban, the monster, on the contrary, is of the earth earthly; all the finer elements are wanting in him. He takes a drunken butler for a god: he is incapable of any service but slavery, has no perception of honour or loyalty, and is too lazy to enjoy work either as duty or activity.
Ariel, who has power over the winds, has raised the storm by which the ship is cast upon the island ; and the first step in healing the old wrongs, and overcoming the evil by good, is the bringing together of Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples, and Miranda, Prospero's daughter. This is done by Ariel. He first gets Ferdinand separated from the rest of the passengers and crew, and then he makes himself invisible, and flies before him in the air, singing
“Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands :
(The wild waves whist),
And, sweet sprites, the burthen beur.” Ferdinand follows the magic song, and Ariel leads him towards Prospero's cave. As he approaches it, Ariel sings-
“Full fathom five thy father lies ;
Of his bones are coral made ;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
The thought of his father calls up rrow into Ferdinand's face; and just at that moment Miranda lifts her eyes and sees him. She is touched at once by pity for him; and the pure love which springs up in the two young hearts is the beginning of that higher feeling which at last joins all the discordant elements into sweet harmony.
Prospero sees that the charm will work; but first he tests the love of Ferdinand for Miranda by sacrifice, humility, labour, and obedience. He refuses to believe he is the young prince. He treats him as an imposter, and sets him to do Caliban's work of carrying heavy logs of wood, and piling them up before the cave before the sun sets. Ferdinand has never done any work before, but he forgets he is a prince, and toils cheerfully to accomplish the task Miranda's father has set him, for his love for her makes the labour light and pleasant, and he bears patiently Prospero's hard words.
In the meantime the rest of the passengers in the ship are dispersed in two groups over the island. These two groups represent the world in which Prospero is now seeking again to live and do his work. And it is not an ideal world, in which it is delightful to live and in which there is nothing to do, but it is the world as Shakespeare saw it around him, and in which he strove to do his work. The first group represents the courtly world of the day, with its ambition, its selfish plotting, its bitterness and satire; the second stands for the lower side of life, with its stupidity, coarseness, and drunkenness.
The first group consists of the King of Naples; Sebastian, his brother; Antonio, brother of Prospero, and usurping Duke of Milan; Gonzalo, and other courtiers. As they wander through the island, and the king is mourning for Ferdinand as dead, a plot is laid by the king's brother Sebastian, and Antonio, Duke of Milan, to kill the king while he is asleep. Sebastian is then to be made King of Naples, and Antonio is to hold his dukedom free from tribute to the king. But as the king and Gonzalo sleep, and Antonio has drawn his sword ready to kill them, Ariel wakes them with a song.
In the midst of thunder and lightning, Ariel, in the shape of a harpy, sets before “the three men of sin ” the wrong which has been done to Prospero. The thought of their misdeeds presses so heavily upon them, that they are driven to the verge of madness, and their deep repentance is the second step towards the overcoming of evil by good. The other group is composed of Stephano, the king's butler; Trinculo, his jester; and Caliban. In their coarseness and ignorance for them, too, self-interest is the principle of life. The height of their ambition is to possess the barren, desolate island, in which the drunken butler is to be king; but it is ambition still. They plot to kill Prospero, and take the island for