The Tempest was almost certainly Shakespeare’s last solo-authored play. We do not know whether
he anticipated that this would be the case. It was also the first play to be printed in the First
Folio. Again, we do not know whether it was given pride of place because the editors of the Folio
regarded it as a showpiece – the summation of the master’s art – or for the more mundane reason
that they had a clean copy in the clear hand of the scribe Ralph Crane, which would have given
the compositors a relatively easy start as they set to work on the mammoth task of typesetting
nearly a million words of Shakespeare. Whether it found its position by chance or design, The
Tempest’s place at the end of Shakespeare’s career and the beginning of his collected works has
profoundly shaped responses to the play ever since the early nineteenth century. It has come to be
regarded as the touchstone of Shakespearean interpretation.
The Tempest is a romantic drama about a duke who is ousted from his throne and banished, with his daughter, to an enchanted island. He releases some spellbound spirits who help him to undo his usurper.
A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard. Enter a Shipmaster and a Boatswain
BOATSWAIN: Here, master. What cheer?
MASTER: Good: Speak to th' mariners. Fall to't yarely, or
we run ourselves aground! Bestir, bestir! Exit
BOATSWAIN: Heigh, my hearts! Cheerly, cheerly, my hearts!
Yare, yare! Take in the topsail. Tend to th'master's
whistle.—Blow, till thou burst thy wind, if room enough.
Introduction to The Tempest