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Shakespeare's The Tempest as Comedy

This study will provide an analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest, focusing on the elements of comedy in the play. The study will primarily discuss ways in which the play fits into the comedic theory of Northrop Frye as expressed in his work Anatomy of Criticism, but will also very briefly consider ways in which the play does not fit into that theory of comedy. Where romance and comedy come together in The Tempest, Frye's theory is most applicable and rewarding. This conjunction occurs in terms of the generally positive and happy outlook on life which the play describes and clearly endorses. The essence of both romance and comedy (as opposed to tragedy), or romantic comedy, is that all ends well, with love fulfilled and past sins forgiven, and evil ways of behavior cast off forever.

This play is open to many interpretations, and there are beyond a doubt many elements which are not comic in any way. For example, the exile of Prospero on which the play is based is not comic. The theme of vengeance, undertaken with relish by Prospero, is not comic. The enchantment of Caliban by Prospero is not comic. Nevertheless, with our eye on the elements of the play which do generally conform to Frye's theory, we find many such examples. If one were to argue that the play is an out-and-out comedy, there would be little to defend such a claim. However, we are on reasonably safe grounds when we argue that there are clearly elements of comedy in a play which is complex and variegated in form and content.

Frye notes that one element of comedy is the "erotic intrigue between a young man and a young woman which is blocked by some kind of opposition, usually paternal, and resolved by a twist in the plot" (Frye 44). This is precisely a description of the conditions which exist in the relationship involving Prospero, his daughter Miranda, and Ferdinand, the son of King Alonso, who had long ago conspired with Prospero's brother Antonio to take away Pros...

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Shakespeare's The Tempest as Comedy. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:03, March 19, 2019, from