Revels' End: The Tempest and After
The Tempest is Shakespeare’s final staging of the link between stage, stake and scaffold, which broke down after the Restoration. The indeterminacy of the play’s setting – Mediterranean, Caribbean, bare stage – tallies with the indeterminate nature of its native inhabitant, Shakespeare’s liminal figure par excellence. Caliban embodies the fluid threshold of human-animal distinction and poses a constant challenge to Prospero’s god-like mastery. This ensures the plot’s successful dynastic conclusion but fails to keep the common animality of all the island’s creatures at bay. Chapter and book end with the severance of the human-animal continuum caused by the ascent of Cartesian rationality, look ahead to the re-entry of the animal in Nietzsche’s critique of anthropocentric humanism, and conclude on the afterlife and eventual obsolescence of Renaissance blood sports, which our own time has replaced with industrial regimes of invisibilized violence.
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