The Tempest

  • Ralph Berry


Given that metaphor is the pursuit of meaning via association, The Tempest is the supreme Shakespearean model of metaphor in action. The play demonstrates this not through the accumulation of figures classifiable as metaphor (Troilus and Cressida is the major instance) but rather through its dramatic essence, which is the experience of half-perceiving, half-grasping for truth. It is natural that this quality of The Tempest should lead to so much allegorical criticism. Dowden observed a long time ago that the play ‘has had the quality, as a work of art, of setting its critics to work as though it were an allegory; and forthwith it baffles them, and seems to mock them for supposing that they had power to pluck out the heart of its mystery.’1 That is an observation of fact. But today’s critics have largely renounced the task of describing a finite system of correspondences, which is what ‘allegory’ indicates. Nuttall’s position, ‘The mystery is never allowed to harden into an ontological dogma’,2 is in harmony with current thinking. I agree with this, and would merely stress that the possibility of allegory is part of the intellectual experience of the play that we still acknowledge.


Sexual Guilt Intellectual Experience Total Play Great Globe Colonial Mentality 
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The Tempest

  1. 3.
    Caroline Spurgeon, Shakespeare’s Imagery (Cambridge, 1935) pp. 300–4.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Reuben A. Brower, The Fields of Light: An Experiment in Critical Reading (New York, 1951) p. 97.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Witold Ostrowski, ‘A Forgotten Meaning of The Tempest’ in Poland’s Homage to Shakespeare ed. S. Helsztynski (Warsaw, 1965) p. 166.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Frank Kermode, in the Introduction to his New Arden edition of The Tempest (London, 1954) p. xlvii.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    See generally Mark Rose, Shakespearean Design ( Cambridge, Mass ) 1972.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 13.
    G. Wilson Knight, The Shakespearian Tempest (London, 1968) p. 258.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    Philip Mason, in his Foreword to Ottave Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization (New York, 1964) p. 12.Google Scholar
  8. 24.
    D. G. James sees Prospero as returning to his real work. The Dream of Prospero (Oxford, 1967 ) p. 126.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ralph Berry 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ralph Berry
    • 1
  1. 1.York UniversityCanada

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