Category Archives: Images and Figures

Caliban and Sambo

At the height of the American Civil War, the debate on slavery raged in the American North and South. The North supported the abolition of slavery whereas the South wanted to keep the institution of slavery to sustain their plantation-centric economy. Where Shakespeare’s The Tempest enters the fray is with a political cartoon published at the midpoint of the war: January 24, 1863.

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Compositional Analysis of Romney’s “Tempest”

engraving copy

The shipwreck in Act I, Scene 1, after George Romney. Engraved by Benjamin Smith

In 1790, George Romney received a commission to paint the first act of The Tempest. Although the finished painting has apparently not survived, a 1797 engraved copy of the work by Benjamin Smith as well as multiple preparatory studies of the work are readily available on the Internet. Continue reading

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Well, it’s not exactly an angel…

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, after being shipwrecked on an island, Antonio, Sebastian, and Alonso seek food and shelter. Unbeknownst to Alonso, his two followers seek to murder him in his sleep, eager to increase their own political power. Stumbling across a banquet full of food placed by invisible spirits , the travelers sit down and begin to feast. Out of the blue, a harpy (a female monster with a human head and a bird body), crashes their treat-laden party by landing on the table and castigates the villains for their terrible deeds. Continue reading

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Imagine The Tempest

Imagine the tempest… not Shakespeare’s play itself, but the actual storm described. Do you imagine a dark, chaotic scene filled with powerful, crashing waves? Do you see sailors scurrying around, trying to keep the ship from sinking?

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Kirk’s “Measure for Measure – Act V, Scene 1”

Shakespeare - Measure For Measure - Act V, Scene I.

In the English painter Thomas Kirk’s “Measure For Measure – Act V, Scene I” painting, he renders the last dramatic scene of the play as a powerful moment of moral vindication. By the end of Act 1, the themes of mercy and justice, vice and piety, appearance and reality have been established but collide in the last scene of the play. Kirk expresses this sense of dramatic tension by capturing the moment of the Duke’s reveal, if the Duke’s bared head and the looks of shock or shame on the faces of the bystander are anything to go by.

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Angelo: The Counterfeit “Golden” Boy

For a play about justice and mercy, Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure focuses a lot on currency and forgery. While it’s not exactly The Merchant of Venice, the story involves people and their comparisons to money. And Angelo, our selfish and typical villain, is smack dab in the center of it.

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Patroclus the ‘Strutter’

In the events of the Trojan War, Patroclus figures as a minor character of small importance. Yes he is a great warrior and yes he is of high command for the Greek’s camp, but in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, he inhabits the role of the dutiful companion of Achilles and is a comic foil to the rest of the Greek heroes in the camp. Only his death spurs Achilles to become the enraged and aggressive fighter that he is known throughout the land to be.

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Let’s talk about venereal disease

Troilus and Cressida has been read as a tragedy, a history, and a black comedy.  It has a dual plot line featuring a tragic love story and a political war drama.  But what you won’t find in the Sparknotes summary of Troilus and Cressida is that it’s really a story that’s part mystery, part cautionary tale about Pandarus’s syphilis.
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