Paul Brown Essay

367 WordsOct 17, 20122 Pages
Paul Brown “'This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine': The Tempest and the discourse of colonialism”, in Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, Political Shakespeare: New essays in cultural materialism. Ithaca and London: Cornell U.P., 1985, pp. 48-71 [NOTE: page numbers are at the bottom of each page.] It has long been recognized that The Tempest bears traces of the contemporary British investment in colonial expansion. Attention has been drawn to Shakespeare's patronal relations with prominent members of the Virginia Company and to the circumstances of the play's initial production at the expansionist Jacobean court in 1611 and 1612.-13. Borrowings from a traditional and classical stock of exotic stereotypes, ranging from the wild man, the savage and the masterless man to the tropology of the pastoral locus amoenus and the wilderness, have been noted. Semi- quotations from contemporary propagandist pamphlets and Montaigne's essay on cannibals have been painstakingly logged. 1 However, a sustained historical and theoretical analysis of the play's involvement in the colonialist project has yet to be undertaken. 1. This chapter seeks to demonstrate that The Tempest is not simply a reflection of colonialist practices but an intervention in an ambivalent and even contradictory discourse.3 This intervention takes the form of a powerful and pleasurable narrative which seeks at once to harmonise disjunction, to transcend irreconcilable contradictions and to mystify the political conditions which demand colonialist discourse. Yet the narrative ultimately fails to deliver that containment and instead may be seen to foreground precisely those problems which it works to efface or overcome. The result is a radically ambivalent text which exemplifies not some timeless contradiction internal to the discourse by which it inexorably undermines or deconstructs its 'official'

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