The Tempest as Mystery Play

Uncovering Religious Sources of Shakespeare’s Most Spiritual Work


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About the Book

Comparison of Shakespeare’s works to their likely sources is one way to deepen our appreciation. Sources for The Tempest, however, have long eluded the grasp of scholars, who have unearthed only bits and pieces that resemble minor elements of the play. Few traces of the special qualities of The Tempest have turned up in any works so far considered as sources.
This author is the first to identify a strong biblical basis for The Tempest. Further, she demonstrates that the play’s use of biblical imagery, characters, and concepts echo the way these elements were interpreted in the English Mystery Plays. Thus Hall is able to trace the links between The Tempest and the best known religious works of Elizabethan society: the Bible, the Mystery Plays, and the 1559 Book of Common Prayer. These links reveal The Tempest as a profoundly spiritual work, allowing the modern reader to experience the play as a harmonious religious vision.

About the Author(s)

Grace R.W. Hall is a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Women’s League and editor of its newsletter and activities guide. She has contributed papers to seminars of the Shakespeare Association of America. She lives in Naples, Florida.

Bibliographic Details

Grace R.W. Hall
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 224
Bibliographic Info: 3 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014 [1999]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9354-8
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5103-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Preface      1
Introduction      3

I. Bardic Shards, Artifacts and Sources      13
II. The English Cultural Climate and Mystery Play Scholarship      25
III. Shakespeare’s Turbulent Overture      41
IV. Shakespearean Typology: The Several Identities of Characters in The Tempest      49
V. Biblical Fabrics: Ludus Coventriae and Descriptive Portraits in The Book of Common Prayer and the Bible      73
VI. The Language of Belief: Wordplay in The Tempest      93
VII. Shakespeare’s Paronomastic Plot      107
VIII. “All the Tuned Spheres”: A Cosmological Framework      121
IX. Weaving the Tapestry: Themes, Focus, and Design      135
X. Golden Hours, Yellow Sands: Time and Place in The Tempest      147
XI. Beyond This “Little Life”: A Vision      169

Notes      179
Works Cited      195
Index      201