YMMV / The Tempest

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Some versions have ... additional subtext on Prospero and Ariel's relationship.
    • Or Prospero and Miranda. A psychoanalytical (Freudian) reading would tell us that Prospero, Ariel and Caliban are in fact the same person and Prospero follows his inner desire (id, that is, Caliban) and goes to rape Miranda, stopping himself at the last moment. There's loads of "proof" of this throughout the play but as any English teacher will tell you there's loads of proof for whatever reading you choose, so ... your mileage may vary.
    • Ditto with Miranda and Caliban. Some versions imply that Caliban didn't rape Miranda, but just got caught having a torrid affair with her.
    • Caliban- nasty brute or Noble Savage? His appearance has been much debated with interpretations ranging from some kind of ape man to a fish person, to a normal, non-white human.
    • Prior to the events shown in the play, was Prospero a wise ruler who studied magic on the side, or was he just a deluded old man who cared more about magic than about his family and responsibilities? Is his antisocial personality the result of his righteous anger at everyone who wronged him, a byproduct of his years of isolation on the island, or has he been that way ever since he took up magic?
    • Antonio. Is he a self-serving bastard who only cares about power, or is he a pragmatic politician who understands the business of ruling far more than his Absent-Minded Professor brother?
    • What, exactly, Ariel is varies from interpretation to interpretation. He's certainly not human, but his actual species is unclear.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Caliban has grown in popularity and sympathy with scholars over the centuries, partly because the character's apparent subtext (as a vengeful victim of colonization who wants to take back his homeland) has only grown more timely. Next to Othello, he's probably the second most coveted Shakespearean role among Black actors.
  • Epileptic Trees: There are as many interpretations of the play as there are critics. Who and what Caliban represents takes up half the debates.
  • Moment of Awesome: Act 5, Scene 1.
    • All of Prospero's speeches.
  • Older Than They Think: This is the source of the phrases "nature versus nurture" and "thin air".
  • Values Dissonance: In modern times, the play seems like an early example of fantasy fiction and stands in contrast to Shakespeare's famously realistic settings. As a matter of fact, in the Elizabethan era, it was hardly an issue for audiences to suspend their disbelief in order to accept a wizard as a protagonist because many people did indeed believe in magic.
    • The character of Caliban, who has been interpreted more sympathetically in Postcolonial analyses than he was in Shakespeare's day.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: Ariel. In the text, he's male, but he's also a fairy, and most modern English speakers think Ariel sounds like a girl's name. He is most likely supposed to be androgynous, and is as often played female as male.