Inspriteful Ariels: Transversal Tempests

  • Bryan Reynolds
  • Ayanna Thompson


The Tempest has been a homage to art, an autobiographical farewell to theater, a colonialist celebration of English expansion, an exhortation on early modern (mis)understandings of racial differences, and an expression of patriarchal power, to name just some of the diverse interpretations that have marked its progress through “Shakespace.”1 Debates over the play’s meaning have spanned topics ranging from geographical determinations to identifying various characters as humans, symbols, or monsters.2 Consistent with the play’s hermeneutic history is the now popular assertion that the play in fact invites conflicting responses. Defending and complicating new historicist readings of the play, for example, Paul Brown reads The Tempest as an “ambivalent text,” which struggles “to produce a coherent discourse adequate to the complex requirements of British colonialism in its initial phase.”3 Stephen Orgel has also championed the notion of the text’s inherent ambivalence. Declaring, “Historically, there has been a consistent tendency to ignore [the play’s] ambivalences, sweeten and sentimentalize it,” Orgel goes on to use the terms “ambivalent” and “ambiguous” no fewer than fifteen times to describe the play.4 Mixed meanings have come to characterize The Tempest’s ideological coordinates, for which it serves as a magnetic sociopolitical conductor, attracting its opposites and propelling those with strong similarities into perhaps more confusing territories. The difficult task at hand is how to assess the influential power and directional inclination of its ambivalent forces, forces that neither necessarily subvert “coherent discourse” nor necessarily lead to indeterminacy.


Racial Identity Subjective Territory Official Culture Artistic Rendering Future Existence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Bryan Reynolds 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bryan Reynolds
  • Ayanna Thompson

There are no affiliations available

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