Ways Of Reading The Tempest Essay Research

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Ways Of Reading The Tempest Essay, Research Paper WAYS OF READING THE TEMPEST: Greenblatt Vs Schneider Shakespeare criticism has long been recognised as a touchstone to shifts in our critical discourses. The following paper constitutes an examination of two conflicting discourses. The analysis will be confined to the views presented in Stephen Greenblatt’s article entitled “Martial Law in the Land of Cockaigne” and Ben Ross Schneider, Jr’s “Are We Being Historical Yet?”: Colonialist Interpretations of Shakespeare’s Tempest – a contest, if you will, between two different theoretical positions as to where the text lies. In his article entitled “Are We Being Historical Yet?”: Colonialist Interpretations of Shakespeare’s Tempest, Ben Ross Schneider, Jr

extends Carolyn Porter’s critique of new historicism to recent work on The Tempest. Included in Schneider’s study of eight recent analyses of The Tempest, is Stephen Greenblatt’s article “Martial Law in the Land of Cockaigne.” Schneider argues that by choosing colonialism as a frame, and then “reifying” it as if it were “coterminus with the limits of discourse in general,” the new historicists marginalize not only a large field of relevant contemporary discourse, but also The Tempest itself (Schneider 121). Schneider maintains that the great variety of theoretical underpinning in the set of essays fails to produce a corresponding variety of interpretation (Schneider 122). He then proceeds to highlight those areas of the play which provide the common ground for

new historicist interpretation. It is not, however, the aim of this paper to analyse the five different areas mentioned by Schneider. What is more important for the author, is the contest that exists between the different theoretical positions as to where the text lies. The new historicists will be represented by Stephen Greenblatt, the opposing theoretical discourse will take the form of Ben Ross Schneider, Jr. Schneider’s search for a timeless meaning to The Tempest ( a goal, which is remarkably similar to that of the old autotelic historicist) rests on an extensive field of early modern European discourse, whose roots can be traced back to Roman and Greek source documents. In his attempt to establish a specific causal relationship, something that Greenblatt’s circulation

of social energy threatens to erase, Schneider maintains that we must examine the past. He argues that “before we declare the Jacobean position on colonialism, shouldn’t we know what ethical tools the Jacobeans brought to the task of judging it?” (Schneider 130) This strikes at the heart of Greenblatt’s argument, as his anecdotes and subsequent affirmations stem from the Jacobean position on colonialism. Greenblatt uses the relationship between The Tempest and one of its presumed sources, William Strachey’s account of the tempest that struck an English fleet bound for the fledgling colony at Jamestown, as a model in order to demonstrate the complex circulation between the social dimension of an aesthetic strategy and the aesthetic dimension of a social strategy

(Greenblatt 147). The play was performed long before Strachey’s narrative was printed, but scholars presume that Shakespeare read a manuscript version of the work, which takes the form of a confidential letter written to a certain “noble lady”(Greenblatt 147). Greenblatt highlights the significance of the relation between the two texts, or rather what he refers to as “the institutions that the texts serve” (Greenblatt 148). According to Greenblatt, William Strachey was a shareholder and secretary of the Virginia Company’s colony at Jamestown. Apparently, his letter on the events of 1609-10 was unpublished until 1625 because the Virginia Company was engaged in a vigorous propaganda and financial campaign on behalf of the colony, and the company’s leaders found