‘A World Elsewhere’: Magic, Colonialism and Exile in The Tempest

  • Jane Kingsley-Smith
Part of the Palgrave Shakespeare Studies book series (PASHST)


‘Hence from Verona art thou banishèd / Be patient for the world is broad and wide’ (3.3.15–16) — the Friar in Romeo and Juliet is unable to make good this consolation. The play conceives of the world as a narrow place, defined by the walls of one or two Italian cities. By contrast, in Shakespeare’s late plays, for example Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline and The Tempest, we find the exile ranging across countries and seas (imaginatively extending to continents and oceans) and through time. Towards the end of his career, Shakespeare invests dramatically in the prospect of new worlds, responding to a popular taste for the extravagant and romantic while also reflecting England’s material commitment to exploration and colonization.2 Yet a reading of The Tempest suggests that, in terms of Shakespearean exile, little has changed. Though older, wiser and at the other end of the Shakespearean canon, Prospero, like Romeo, imaginatively dismisses worlds that lie beyond his native place, remaining closed to their imperial or national possibilities and yearning only for his lost origins. In what is perhaps Shakespeare’s final vision of banishment, he confronts the new expansiveness of the world but translates it into distance-as-loss, defined on both a horizontal and a vertical scale.3 Thus The Tempest considers exile not only in terms of geographical separation, describing Claribel in Tunis as ‘dwell[ing] ten leagues beyond man’s life’ (2.1.251–2), but also as a movement on the hierarchical ladder of creation, either upwards towards divinity or downwards towards the beast, but always away from humanity. When the Friar condemns Romeo’s response to exile with the words ‘Art thou a man? […] thy wild acts denote / The unreasonable fury of a beast’ (3.3.109–10), he anticipates the larger creational as well as cartographic map on which The Tempest locates the banished man.


Magical Power Spanish Colonialist Colonialist Project Narrow Place Dark Aspect 
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  1. 15.
    Jonathan Bate, ‘The Humanist Tempest’, in Shakespeare: La Tempête: Etudes Critiques, ed. Claude Peltraut (1993), 5–20, 12–3.Google Scholar

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© Jane Kingsley-Smith 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane Kingsley-Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of HullUK

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