A History of British Irish and American Literature by Hans-Peter Wagner

By Hans-Peter Wagner

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Cymbeline, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale show a soul at rest with itself and with the world and may reflect something of the comfort Shakespeare found in his daughters Judith and Susannah. The Tempest is a romantic drama that has inspired numerous other works of art, including an incomplete opera by Mozart and music by Berlioz and Tchaikovsky. The play is set on a lonely island where Prospero, formerly duke of Milan, has spent twelve years with his daughter Miranda. By his knowledge of magic, Prospero has released several spirits imprisoned by a witch.

It focuses on the bitter enmity between the two chief families of Verona, the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo, the son of old Lord Montague, falls in love with Juliet, and she with him, when he attends in disguise a feast given by Juliet's father, Lord Capulet. Romeo wins Juliet's consent to a secret marriage, and they are wedded the next day by Friar Laurence. Complications ensue when Romeo's friend, Mercutio, quarrels with Tybalt, of the Capulet family, and Romeo, coming on the scene, kills Tybalt.

Contemporary playwrights, especially the University wits Greene, Peele, and Marlowe, did not always like the versatility of the newcomer from the provinces. They saw in Shakespeare a clever and ruthless opportunist hobnobbing with the rich and mighty, such as the earl of Southampton, and giving the public what it wanted, not what it ought to have. There was much self-interest behind such reproaches. William Shakespeare did satisfy public appetite for theatrical crime and violence in his first tragedy, Titus Andronicus, which provides a remarkable mixture of massacre, rape, torture, and cannibalism.

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A History of British Irish and American Literature by Hans-Peter Wagner
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