The Tempest pp 82-84 | Cite as

New ‘readings’

  • David Daniell
Part of the The Critics Debate book series (TCD)


The attempt to make Prospero and Caliban into polar opposites, with one — either one — as cause and the other as effect, is always bound to be defeated in the end by Shakespeare. To touch on the current fashionable insights, he deconstructs such ‘objective’ polarity, allowing the reader to occupy the space. Much very modern criticism in this area is so densely written as to be fairly impenetrable, which is a pity. Francis Barker and Peter Hulme try to be open to many ‘readings’ of The Tempest identifying ‘in all texts a potential for new linkages to be made and thus for new political meanings to be constructed’ (Barker and Hulme 1985, p. 193) and rejecting both ‘politicised intertextuality’ and ‘the autotelic text’, with its single fixed meaning. By means of the theory of discourse, and focusing on the themes of legitimacy and usurpation, they are able to examine two plays, The Tempest and ‘Prospero’s play’, which is not quite the same thing. Prospero imposes his construction of events on the others. When Caliban accuses Prospero of usurping the island [i.ii.333–4] Prospero’s


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© David Daniell 1989

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  • David Daniell

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