The Tempest First Performed
As was the case earlier with Othello , The Tempest was first performed before King James and his court at the theatre set up within the old banqueting hall in his Palace of Whitehall.
Shakespeare ’s own company, The King’s Men, frequently provided entertainments for the monarch, and the bard knew how to tailor subjects to the tastes of patrons. The Tempest apparently drew on the story of a shipwreck on Bermuda, that accident being the talk of the town only recently, though literary sources are offered by scholars too. And James was well-known as the author of a book on witchcraft and the inspiration for the craze that saw such events as The Samlesbury Witch Trial the year after The Tempest debuted; the powers of Prospero would have interested him greatly.
As is often the case with other Shakespearian pieces, the date when the Tempest was written and performed is hotly disputed by academics, certain parallels in the works of rivals appearing before 1611 seen as evidence of a much earlier genesis for the play, along with its supposed greater suitability for staging at the Blackfriars Theatre. Prospero, however, may have been based on John Dee the mathematician, fellow of Trinity College Cambridge , and dabbler in alchemy and magic who died in 1608, a man whose royal connections might have put off imitation in his lifetime.
The Tempest is probably the last solo creation of Shakespeare, thus arguably the writer at his peak able to produce a play not comedy nor tragedy nor history but which has inspired actors, writers, artists and musicians since it first appeared.
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