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Why should you read Shakespeare's "The Tempest"? - Iseult Gillespie

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Claps of thunder and flashes of lightning illuminate a swelling sea, as a ship buckles beneath the waves. It is no ordinary storm, but a violent and vengeful tempest, and it sets the stage for Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play. Why does this play still resonate with modern readers? Iseult Gillespie investigates.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Designer Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Art Director Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Storyboard Artist Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Illustrator Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Character Designer Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Layout Artist Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez
Additional Resources for you to Explore
The play remains one of Shakespeare’s most thematically ambiguous, especially because it is unclear whether any of the characters truly get what they want by the end. But its magic and ethereal language have resulted in some of the most stunning interpretations and reimaginings of Shakespeare.

One interpretation which has been heatedly discussed through time is the Tempest’s relationship to colonialism,
when European nations including England explored and exploited large areas of the world. Read more about this interpretation in this article. The character of Caliban is at the center of this debate, given the ways in which he is dehumanized and portrayed as a native to the island who is denied his rights. Learn more about this haunting creation here.

Magic is an important part of the character’s obsession with power and control - listen to a podcast and read about the role of magic in Shakespeare’s worldview here. The wonders of the island have been compared to
natural resources
such as timber and water, as well as knowledge and learning as indicated by Prospero’s attachment to his books.

Comparisons have also been made between Shakespeare himself and Prospero in the way the magician refers to his power as his “art”, and seems to act as a puppet-master over the other characters. At the same time, both Ariel and Caliban have their own type of magic and knowledge - making the question of who has control all the more murky.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Designer Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Art Director Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Storyboard Artist Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Illustrator Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Character Designer Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Layout Artist Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez