In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

In a recent paper critical of the logical discrepancies between "new historicist" theory and practice, Robin Headlam Wells argues that a true historical approach to The Tempest would focus on the mythological topos of Orpheus as the conventional prototype of Prospero rather than on modern views of colonialism and demonized otherness.1 In response to this important suggestion, I shall discuss here the conflation of two such traditional topoi in Shakespeare's tragicomedy: (1) the benevolent and thus successful ruler as Orpheus, a magician in control of Nature and the poetic civilizer of barbaric peoples, and (2) the ideal commonwealth as a melodious and fruitful garden. Since my iconographic materials will be taken from the political discourses of the Renaissance itself, and not from Foucault or Greenblatt, they will help to historicize Shakespeare's tragicomedy rather than theorize it in the usual postmodern fashion. Moreover, I reject the fallacious either-or logic of Foucault who implies that artistic works like The Tempest must be either for or against state power.