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The Tempest

75 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1420926217
ISBN-10: 1420926217
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England’s Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children—an older daughter Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare’s working life was spent in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright and poet, but also as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Although some think that sometime between 1610 and 1613 Shakespeare retired from the theater and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616, others believe that he may have continued to work in London until close to his death.

Barbara A. Mowat is Director of Research emerita at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Consulting Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, and author of The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s Romances and of essays on Shakespeare’s plays and their editing.

Paul Werstine is Professor of English at the Graduate School and at King’s University College at Western University. He is a general editor of the New Variorum Shakespeare and author of Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare and of many papers and articles on the printing and editing of Shakespeare’s plays. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Tempest

An Introduction to This Text

The Tempest was first printed in the 1623 collection of Shakespeare’s plays now known as the First Folio. The present edition is based directly upon that printing.I For the convenience of the reader, we have modernized the punctuation and the spelling of the Folio. Sometimes we go so far as to modernize certain old forms of words; for example, when a means “he,” we change it to he; we change mo to more, and ye to you. But it is not our practice in editing any of the plays to modernize words that sound distinctly different from modern forms. For example, when the early printed texts read sith or apricocks or porpentine, we have not modernized to since, apricots, porcupine. When the forms an, and, or and if appear instead of the modern form if, we have reduced and to an but have not changed any of these forms to their modern equivalent, if. We also modernize and, where necessary, correct passages in foreign languages, unless an error in the early printed text can be reasonably explained as a joke.

Whenever we change the wording of the First Folio or add anything to its stage directions, we mark the change by enclosing it in superior half-brackets (< >). We want our readers to be immediately aware when we have intervened. (Only when we correct an obvious typographical error in the First Folio does the change not get marked.) Whenever we change either the First Folio’s wording or its punctuation so that meaning changes, we list the change in the textual notes at the back of the book, even if all we have done is fix an obvious error.

We regularize a number of the proper names, as is the usual practice in editions of the play. For example, the Folio once names the Boatswain the “Boson,” a form that is interesting for its reproduction of the word’s pronunciation; nevertheless, we regularize this spelling to boatswain. The Folio often employs the spelling Anthonio for Antonio in stage directions and speech headings, but this edition is consistent in using only Antonio.

This edition differs from many earlier ones in its efforts to aid the reader in imagining the play as a performance rather than as a series of actual events. Thus stage directions are written with reference to the stage. For example, many earlier editions add the following stage direction to the play’s last scene to describe an important piece of stage business: “Prospero draws a magic circle with his staff.” Because, in a stage production, the circle drawn by the actor is, of course, not “magic” at all, we instead print the following stage direction: “Prospero draws a large circle on the stage with his staff.” Whenever it is reasonably certain, in our view, that a speech is accompanied by a particular action, we provide a stage direction describing the action. (Occasional exceptions to this rule occur when the action is so obvious that to add a stage direction would insult the reader.) Stage directions for the entrance of characters in mid-scene are, with rare exceptions, placed so that they immediately precede the characters’ participation in the scene, even though these entrances may appear somewhat earlier in the early printed texts. Whenever we move a stage direction, we record this change in the textual notes. Latin stage directions (e.g., Exeunt) are translated into English (e.g., They exit).

We expand the often severely abbreviated forms of names used as speech headings in early printed texts into the full names of the characters. We also regularize the speakers’ names in speech headings, using only a single designation for each character, even though the early printed texts sometimes use a variety of designations. Variations in the speech headings of the early printed texts are recorded in the textual notes.

In the present edition, as well, we mark with a dash any change of address within a speech, unless a stage direction intervenes. When the -ed ending of a word is to be pronounced, we mark it with an accent. Like editors for the past two centuries we print metrically linked lines in the following way:


    But are they, Ariel, safe?

ARIEL                                       Not a hair perished.


However, when there are a number of short verse lines that can be linked in more than one way, we do not, with rare exceptions, indent any of them.

The Explanatory Notes

The notes that appear in the commentary linked to the text are designed to provide readers with the help they may need to enjoy the play. Whenever the meaning of a word in the text is not readily accessible in a good contemporary dictionary, we offer the meaning in a note. Sometimes we provide a note even when the relevant meaning is to be found in the dictionary but when the word has acquired since Shakespeare’s time other potentially confusing meanings. In our notes, we try to offer modern synonyms for Shakespeare’s words. We also try to indicate to the reader the connection between the word in the play and the modern synonym. For example, Shakespeare sometimes uses the word head to mean “source,” but, for modern readers, there may be no connection evident between these two words. We provide the connection by explaining Shakespeare’s usage as follows: “head: fountainhead, source.” On some occasions, a whole phrase or clause needs explanation. Then we rephrase in our own words the difficult passage, and add at the end synonyms for individual words in the passage. When scholars have been unable to determine the meaning of a word or a phrase, we acknowledge the uncertainty.

I. We have also consulted the computerized text of the First Folio provided by the Text Archive of the Oxford University Computing Centre, to which we are grateful. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1420926217
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420926217
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #483,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King's New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet ( who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585. By 1592 Shakespeare had gone to London working as an actor and already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as "an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers." Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later under James I, called the King's Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain's Men built and occupied the Globe Theater in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare's plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Robert Armin. In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare had a hand in others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His 154 sonnets were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609. In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford, though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613. He died on April 23 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his life-time, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Dear Reader on December 27, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First, let me say I'm a great fan of Shakespeare, and there's no reason to offer a review of The Tempest here. If you want to know what The Tempest is about, there's plenty of places to find that out. This is a review of the Kindle edition of this edition of The Tempest.

I bought this edition, paying $4.95 for the Kindle version, because I thought that it would be the Folger Shakespeare Library version of The Tempest. It's not. The Folger editions of Shakespeare's plays are handy study aids. Each right hand page of text is accompanied with a left hand page of annotations, including illustrations contemporary with Shakespeare. The spelling has been updated but the language has not been changed.

This Kindle edition includes the memorial verses to Shakespeare found in the First Folio. These can be found in many places. It does not include the Folger's introductions to Shakespeare, or to this play in particular, nor does it include the essays that accompany the Folger editions of the plays.

I have already loaded my Kindle with the Complete Works, for which I paid, I believe, $0.99--a remarkable price for the greatest literature in the English language. There was no reason at all for me to pay $4.95 for something I already have available on my Kindle.

Buyer beware! The Product Description for this edition of The Tempest DOES NOT apply to the Kindle edition. Too bad.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Ralph White on May 16, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Folger Shakespeare Library presents the optimal format for reading Shakespeare's single plays. Each book provides the background and context of the play, a brief description of the theater as Shakespeare would have known it, and a brief bio of the writer himself. But the most useful feature is the notation on the page facing the text, explaining Shakespeare's usage of words and phrases. There is a wealth of scholarship embedded in these brief notes. An experienced reader of Shakespeare may skip them, to maintain the momentum of the play, but even we may tarry to ascertain his ken.

The Tempest is the birthplace of "there's nothing ill can dwell in such a temple," "he receives comfort like cold porridge," "what's past is prologue," "misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows," "Oh, brave new world*," and "his complexion is perfect gallows." It is Shakespeare's farewell to London, and it is imaginative and enlightening. It is also timeless, often giving rise to contemporary settings in its production.

Prospero's supernatural powers, permeating the action of the play, will take an additional effort at the "willing suspension of disbelief" which we always take to the theater. Yet we are not at all reluctant when, in his epilogue, he boldly asks us to applaud his players.

* This phrase, "...brave new world..." was penned in 1611, and should not seem so "new" to our modern ears as it does.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kari Hutchens on January 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This edition is NOT the Folger Edition that has notes and definitions like the other reviewers have stated! It is just the text. I bought this for a class based on the reviews and was very disappointed. If you want the Folger Edition that these reviews are talking about, click on the link above their review. I now have to buy a different edition for the notes!!! Waste of money!!!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A+Everything on December 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Shakespeare story I have nothing to complain about. It is the way it was compiled in this form. Many of the headings are not in place so you think the wrong person is speaking. There are few of the required stage directions needed to understand the story. The person who put it in the kindle form did a horrible job of following Shakespeare's original play.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater on November 18, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Guide for the Perplexed time (since Amazon's listing of Formats seems designed to generate confusion):

This is a review of the Mass-Market Paperback edition of "The Tempest" under the label of "Folger Shakespeare Library," published by Washington Square Press, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. It was first issued under the present label, with the yellow-and-mottled cover depicted on the page, in 2004. With its rich set of aides to the reader, it is a good introductory text, and contains much that will be useful to the more advanced student (although not intended to rival, say, the Arden and Norton Critical editions), and at this writing it is still attractively priced. It is part of a series of similar editions covering the complete canon of the plays.

The OTHER formats (paperback, Kindle, Audio) currently listed by Amazon are of completely different editions of the same text, without the facing-page notes, period illustrations, and other features of the Folger/WSP editions; some of them without even line-numbers, to judge from previous reviews.

Calling the newest version of the series just "Folger Shakespeare Library" somewhat confuses matters, since that is also the name of the actual sponsoring institution in Washington, D.C., which houses a major collection of Shakespeare editions, and related and period works of all kinds. Earlier printings of this text and notes, etc. (1994 and following) were under the label of "The New Folger Library Shakespeare," and differed only in having a pictorial cover by Kinuko Y. Croft. This edition is listed on Amazon, too, but its reviews are lumped together with those of numerous other editions. In addition, Amazon also lists a hardcover edition as being edited by Mowat and Werstine (not seen).
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