Shakespeare Resource Center - Speech Analysis: The Tempest
The speech 'Our revels now are ended' is famous as Shakespeare's to the theater audience by the retiring magician Prospero near the end. What greater last words could there be for the genius from Stratford than that famous speech about how "our revels now are ended", or his final. The story of the play is nearing its end, Prospero is preparing to give up both his our play" to Puck's "If we shadows have offended" speech from A Midsummer joke of Twefth Night's "If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an marriage and Prospero's story arc at this point in the play, the speech can.
A real character: Is Prospero Shakespeare? | Books | The Guardian
An emphasis on the evanescence of all things is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Buddhism. The language is plain, simple, and direct so that it won't distract from what Prospero is doing. The world of the play has "melted into air," was made of "baseless fabric," and was an "insubstantial pageant. The stage void stands in for the ultimate void.
Shakespeare's Parting Words
Likewise all of creation, even the listed most substantial examples, will some day "dissolve. The speech is delivered as an aside after a play-within-the-play.
Prospero breaks away from a fit of anger to address the speech to his new son-in-law. At its end, Prospero breaks away from the speech when he suddenly feels faint. That the speech is an aside isolates and emphasizes it, which suggests the importance of its theme to Shakespeare.
He is not necessarily saying there is no God or afterlife or that life isn't worth living because of the devouring void. He's simply saying that someday, eventually, any material thing that you can imagine will be just as it was before it came into existence.
Everything that has a beginning has an end. It is a truth profound, obvious, and irrelevant to any practical human concern. It is also, today, potentially scientifically provable. And as a result, few historical figures feel closer than the man who created them. Except, of course, we know next to nothing about him. It's often said that we know SIX definite things about Shakespeare: Even some of those "facts" are open to dispute. Was his father indeed illiterate, or did he just put a cross for his signature on the records we have of him — as plenty of his contemporaries seem to have done — for speed and convenience?
How soon after William was born was he baptised? And yes, some people even say he didn't write the plays Once you get involved in such disputes, you quickly come to see how little we know about the real man. Prospero conveniently fills that vacuum.
He gives us a sense of someone we desperately want to know: So I understand the temptation of seeing Shakespeare wielding that staff — even though there's no more hard evidence that he felt close to Prospero than there is that he identified with Caliban, or Ferdinand or Miranda.
But here's an interesting thing. In a fascinating University of Oxford podcast about the folly of linking Prospero and Shakespeare, the academic Emma Smith points out that for a few hundred years after it was published in the First Folio, most critics assumed that The Tempest was Shakespeare's earliest play.
It appeared first in the table of contents and so was generally accepted as the first to be written. As a result, hardly anyone mentioned the parallels between the playwright and Prospero. They thought it was the work of a young man and didn't think Shakespeare was trying to say anything about himself through the old wizard. But these varying approaches to the play across the generations also show how partial the business of interpretation really is.
For what it's worth, I don't entirely follow this line. Pretty much the first thing I read after listening to Smith's lecture was Coleridge's famous essay on The Tempest.
A real character: Is Prospero Shakespeare?
This was written before people began to theorise that it was a later play, but Coleridge also calls Prospero "the very Shakespeare himself, as it were, of The Tempest". He too made the link if only in passing. That's not to detract from the broader point Smith makes: She also cites Frank Kermode's introduction to the Arden edition of The Tempest in which the illustrious critic writes: