A hilarious story of romance and rivalry thought to be Shakespeare’s first play – penned before he came to London.
The Letterpress The Tempest
Limited to 3,750 hand-numbered copies
The most powerful sorcery is Shakespeare’s language. Complex, personal and unsurpassably lyrical: rediscover one of Shakespeare’s most finely nuanced plays.
You taught me language, and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!
- Act 1, Sc. 2
Limited to 1,000 hand-numbered copies
Hand-bound in goatskin leather, blocked in gold with hand-marbled paper sides
Gilded top edge, ribbon marker
16pt ’Monotype’ Baskerville, with Caslon display
Set in hot metal and printed letterpress on mould-made paper
Oxford University Press text under General Editor Stanley Wells
14˝ x 10¾˝
This includes the text of the play with full explanatory notes
Bound in buckram
8¾˝ x 5¾˝
Bound in buckram
15˝ x 11˝ x 2¾˝
Shakespeare’s farewell to the stage?
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in ’t!
- Act 5 Sc.1
The Tempest was Shakespeare’s last play. After 1611, other than contributing occasionally to Fletcher’s plays for the King’s Men, Shakespeare appears to have retired from the stage. For many readers, it has been tempting to identify Prospero, the ageing magician who resigns his powers, with Shakespeare, the playwright who is also leaving ‘the great globe itself’ and all ‘this unsubstantial pageant’. Prospero is a kind of playwright, putting on a ‘masque’ and manipulating all the characters to play their parts in his dramatic plan.
The moment when Prospero offers to break his staff is one of great ambivalence. Do we rejoice at his return to political power or mourn the loss of his magical powers? Shakespeare too, retiring to the comfortable wealth of his property and business interests in Stratford, might well have missed the applause he alludes to so feelingly in the epilogue: ‘And my ending is despair/ Unless I be relieved by prayer’.
A play whose themes have never dated
Shakespeare’s age was one of exploration. The New World, as described in the books we know Shakespeare read, seemed at once a paradise and a savage wilderness. The inhabitants had equally contradictory reputations. Many commentators have perceived in Miranda and Prospero’s attitude to Caliban a reflection of European views on slavery and colonisation.
Yet Shakespeare gives Caliban some of the most powerful lines in the play – his articulate defence of Prospero is almost heroic, while his speech ‘Be not afeared. The isle is full of noises’ displays a far from ‘monstrous’ lyricism and sensitivity. Usurpation and betrayal run throughout the play: First Antonio takes Prospero’s dukedom, then Prospero rejects Caliban’s claim to the island and lastly Stefano attempts to make himself ‘king o’th’isle’. Shakespeare surely invites us to make comparisons – and judgements – between them.
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