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Purging the Jesting Spirit in The Tempest


Maurice Hunt


Shakespeare evokes the essence of punning in The Tempest so that he can portray its retarding effect upon good understanding and communication. Once certain hazards inherent in punning are apparent, not only in this play but in the playwright’s earlier drama, audiences can better comprehend why Shakespeare performs a catharsis upon the punning spirit in this late dramatic romance. This purgation involves the suggestion that the jester Trinculo and Caliban are one monstrous being with two voices and that Stefano extracts the jester and his “backward” voice from the creature. Entailed here is the early modern association of jesters and monstrosity. That this purging occurs with reference to Caliban is important for Shakespeare’ subtle construction of this character’s human worth.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.