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The Tempest: Drama and the Valorization of the Other

The Tempest: Drama and the Valorization of the Other

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Company, some of whose members Shakespeare knew and whose

experiences have clearly inXuenced what goes on in the play.68 Other

old world elements, ranging from overt references to Christian religion69 to systematic engagement with the Moors who dominated the

seas oV North Africa in Shakespeare’s day,70 are rigorously suppressed,

so that Virgil and colonialism, it seems, are the poles between which

our response to the play should oscillate.

This seems clear now, but it was not always so. In fact, as recently

as 1975, GeoVrey Bullough could omit the Aeneid from the sources

and analogues to The Tempest in his Narrative and Dramatic Sources

of Shakespeare and declare as well that ‘The Tempest is not a play

about colonization.’71 Since then, the growth of postcolonial studies

has virtually guaranteed that the readings of The Tempest to which

Bullough objects would proliferate, for as Howard Felperin has

noted, ‘It is perfectly consistent with the theory of a political unconscious that the ideological structures of a text should become visible

as such only when they have begun to break down in the ambient

culture.’72 Not all responses to the colonial themes of the play,

however, are recent: Trevor GriYths has noted that, by the nineteenth

68 Philip Brockbank, ‘The Island of The Tempest’, in On Shakespeare: Jesus, Shakespeare and Karl Marx, and Other Essays (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 327.

69 R. S. Conway, ‘The Classical Elements in Shakespeare’s Tempest’, in New Studies

of a Great Inheritance: Being Lectures on the Modern Worth of Some Ancient Writers

(London: John Murray, 1921), 178.

70 J. Brotton, ‘ ‘‘This Tunis, sir, was Carthage’’: Contesting Colonialism in The

Tempest’, in Ania Loomba and Martin Orkin (eds.), Post-Colonial Shakespeares

(London and New York: Routledge, 1998), 36; and Richard Wilson, ‘Voyage to

Tunis: New History and the Old World of The Tempest’, ELH, 64 (1997), 336–7.

71 GeoVrey Bullough (ed.), Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols.

(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, and New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1957–75),

viii. 241. Bullough was not alone in these opinions. Frank Kermode, in the introduction to his widely used Arden edn. of The Tempest (London: Methuen, 1954), asserted

categorically that ‘there is nothing in The Tempest fundamental to its structure of

ideas which could not have existed had America remained undiscovered’ (p. xxv),

and in 1972 Howard Felperin would refer unproblematically to ‘[t]he absence of a

literary source for The Tempest’ (Shakespearean Romance (Princeton: Princeton Univ.

Press, 1972), 247).

72 Howard Felperin, ‘Political Criticism at the Crossroads: The Utopian Historicism of The Tempest’, in Nigel Wood (ed.), The Tempest (Buckingham and Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1995), 45–6. See also Ania Loomba, ‘Shakespeare and

Cultural DiVerence’, in Terence Hawkes (ed.), Alternative Shakespeares 2 (London:

Routledge, 1996), 164–91.



century, the debates on evolution had begun focusing critical attention in this direction,73 and interestingly enough, George Washington’s one reference to Shakespeare is a description of the British army

as a Prospero whose plans were about to dissolve, leaving the rebel

colonists to take the position of a successful Caliban.74 Thus there are

still a few naysayers, but even the ideologically reluctant generally

acknowledge that colonialism is an important discursive context of

the play, if not the dominant one.75

Whether or not Virgil forms one of these discursive contexts

remains more debatable. That Shakespeare knew the Aeneid cannot

be questioned,76 and since James I both quoted from it in his

Basilikon Doron and was Xattered in Virgilian terms in a triumphal

73 Trevor R. GriYths, ‘ ‘‘This Island’s mine’’: Caliban and Colonialism’, Yearbook of

English Studies, 13 (1983), 159–80.

74 Hulme and Sherman (eds.), ‘The Tempest’ and Its Travels, 172.

75 Leo Salingar, ‘The New World in ‘‘The Tempest’’ ’, in Jean-Pierre Maquerlot and

Michele Willems (eds.), Travel and Drama in Shakespeare’s Time (Cambridge: CUP,

1996), 211–12, summarizes nicely the arguments against emphasizing colonialism in

The Tempest; Alden T. Vaughan, ‘Shakespeare’s Indian: The Americanization of

Caliban’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 39 (1988), 137–54, concedes that colonial readings

of the play bring it into contact with American culture in useful ways but argues that

it was unlikely that these readings square well with Shakespeare’s original intentions;

and Edward Pechter, ‘The New Historicism and Its Discontents: Politicizing Renaissance Drama’, PMLA 102 (1987), 292–303, disagrees vigorously with eVorts to place

colonialism at the centre of interpretation, but even he has to admit that ‘colonialism

is obviously relevant’ to The Tempest (296). More representative of contemporary

critical opinion is the conclusion that ‘The ensemble of Wctional and lived practices,

which for convenience we will simply refer to here as ‘‘English colonialism,’’ provides

The Tempest’s dominant discursive contexts’ (Francis Barker and Peter Hulme,

Cannibalism and the Colonial World (Cambridge: CUP, 1998), 198); see also Hulme

and Sherman (eds.), ‘The Tempest’ and Its Travels, 174–5; and Gerald GraV and James

Phelan (eds.), William Shakespeare, The Tempest: A Case Study in Critical Controversy

(Boston and New York: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2000), whose extensive treatment of the

colonial context of the play suggests how established this approach has now become.

76 J. M. Nosworthy, ‘The Narrative Sources of The Tempest’, Review of English

Studies, 24 (1948), 287–8 notes that trs. by Douglas, Phaer, and Stanyhurst made

Virgil widely available in Shakespeare’s time; that the Aeneid served as a frequent

source in literature of the period like Dido, Queen of Carthage and The Faerie Queene;

and that Hamlet even says clearly, ‘One speech in it I chieXy loved: ’twas Aeneas’s tale

to Dido’ (Hamlet, 2. 2. 447). For a survey of Virgilian allusions in Shakespeare’s plays,

see also T. W. Baldwin, William Shakespere’s Small Latine and Lesse Greeke (Urbana,

Ill.: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1944), ii. 456–96; for more recent work on Shakespeare and

Virgil, see Craig Kallendorf, introduction to Vergil: The Classical Heritage (New York:

Garland, 1993), 11–14.



procession a few years before the play was Wrst produced,77 there is

no reason it could not provide a reference point for what goes on in

the play. Yet critics are less than sure about what to do with all this.

Barbara Mowat sees the Aeneid as one of several texts echoed in a play

that lacks a ‘controlling infracontext’; J. M. Nosworthy and Jan Kott

feel that Shakespeare invokes, challenges, and then rejects the Virgilian material in his play; and Robert Wiltenburg concludes that

‘the Aeneid is the main source of the play . . . , the work to which

Shakespeare is primarily responding, the story he is retelling’.78 My

position is closest to Wiltenburg’s, so I shall try in this section to

provide the detailed justiWcation that has been lacking for this position.

In doing so, I shall also attempt to show that the Virgilian material

merges with the colonial discursive context to guide us towards a

reading of the play that respects the two interpretive poles between

which Shakespeare’s island world Xoats.79 Finally, I shall consider

77 At the end of Basilikon Doron, James took a line from Anchises’s prophecy: ‘And

being content to let others excell in other things, let it be your chiefest earthly glory, to

excell in your owne craft: according to the worthy counsell and charge of Anchises to

his posteritie, in that sublime and heroicall Poet wherein also my diction is also

included . . . Parcere subiectis, & debellare superbos’ (Charles McIlwain (ed.), The Political Works of James I (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1918), 52, qtd. in Gary

Schmidgall, Shakespeare and the Courtly Aesthetic (Berkeley–Los Angeles and London:

Univ. of California Press, 1981), 83 n. 19). James was Xattered in Virgilian terms in a

triumphal procession of 1604, where one arch invented by Ben Jonson carries the

motto ‘Redeunt Saturnia Regna’ (Ecl. 4. 6). Jonson explains the allusion thus: ‘Out of

Virgil to shew, that now those golden times were returned againe, wherein Peace was

with us so advanced, Rest received, Libertie restored, Safetie assured, and all Blessednesse

appearing in every of these vertues her particular triumph over her opposite evil’ (Ben

Jonson, The Works, ed. C. H. Herford, Percy and Evylyn Simpson, 11 vols. (Oxford:

OUP, 1925–52), vii. 100, qtd. in Schmidgall, Shakespeare, 78).

78 Barbara A. Mowatt, ‘ ‘‘Knowing I Loved my Books’’: Reading The Tempest

Intertextually’, in Hulme and Sherman (eds.), ‘The Tempest’ and Its Travels, 28;

Nosworthy, ‘Narrative Sources’, 291; Jan Kott, ‘The Aeneid and The Tempest’, Arion,

ns 3 (1976), 440; and Robert Wiltenburg, ‘The ‘‘Aeneid’’ in ‘‘The Tempest’’ ’, Shakespeare Survey, 39 (1987), 159.

79 Writing in 1998, Jerry Brotton could still argue that the Virgilian references in The

Tempest had not been situated within discussions of the colonial contexts of the play

(‘ ‘‘This Tunis, sir, was Carthage’’ ’, 23–42), and two years later Barbara A. Mowatt still

felt that the image of Prospero that is supported by references to Virgil and Ovid could

be perceived as ideologically at odds with texts that bring up the colonial implications

of the play (‘ ‘‘Knowing I loved my books’’ ’, 28–9). In the 1990s, however, there were

three serious attempts to bring the Virgilian and colonial interpretive discourses

together. Donna B. Hamilton, Virgil and The Tempest: The Politics of Imitation (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1990) identiWes a number of interesting new parallels



how our search for the voice of the colonial Other is aVected by the

generic switch from epic to drama.

Like the Aeneid, The Tempest opens in the midst of a storm, a point

of contact that opens out into a broad dialogue between the two

works.80 In both cases the storm that brings the characters together is

supernaturally inspired, and the role of Aeolus in Aeneid 1 is taken by

Ariel at the beginning of the play. All the human characters escape

drowning, and in both cases they come ashore in a deep cave with

fresh springs and nymphs. The points of contact between play and

epic, however, are not limited to geography and the weather. Ferdinand, for example, links the fury of the waves to his passion (The

Tempest, 1. 2. 393), and in an obvious sense the raging waves reXect

the raging emotions within Prospero as well, as he recalls his expulsion from Milan and begins his plan to redress his grievances. Indeed,

although Prospero would prefer to assign rage to the lower creatures

like Sycorax (The Tempest, 1. 2. 276), he Wnds himself provoked by

Caliban, and each curses the other (The Tempest, 1. 2. 319–29).81 As

he struggles to control the furor (‘rage’) within himself, he begins to

between the Aeneid and The Tempest, but in trying to situate the Aeneid within both

constitutional and colonial contexts at the same time, the book fails to develop a clear

colonial reading of the play in Virgilian terms. The same problem arises in Heather

James, Shakespeare’s Troy: Drama, Politics, and the Translation of Empire (Cambridge:

CUP, 1997), here in part because James Wnds the challenge to Virgilian imperialism not

in the Aeneid itself, but in Ovid’s rewriting of it. Finally, Margaret Tudeau-Clayton,

Jonson, Shakespeare and Early Modern Virgil (Cambridge: CUP, 1998) from my perspective overstates Shakespeare’s challenges both to Virgil and to the power structures

of his own day, in part to emphasize a contrast she sees between the Virgilianism of

Jonson and Shakespeare. The discussion below, I hope, will make clear my debt to all

three of these books along with the diVerences in my own approach, which is intended

to provide a more synthetic analysis of the play around the issues of Virgilian

colonialism than these three scholars have done.

80 I have relied primarily on the following sources, none of which is anywhere near

complete, for parallels between the Aeneid and The Tempest: Nosworthy, ‘Narrative

Sources’; Wiltenburg, ‘The ‘‘Aeneid’’ in ‘‘The Tempest’’ ’; and Kott, ‘The Aeneid and

The Tempest’. In order to avoid overburdening the notes, I acknowledge my dependence

on these three articles here. Citations are from The Arden Shakespeare edn. of Frank

Kermode (London and New York: Methuen, 1954).

81 P. Brown, ‘ ‘‘This Thing of Darkness I Acknowledge Mine’’: The Tempest and the

Discourse of Colonialism’, in Jonathan Dollimore and Alan SinWeld (eds.), Political

Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, 2nd edn. (Manchester: Manchester

Univ. Press, 1994; repr. of 1985 edn.), 315–46. See also Barbara J. Bono, Literary

Transvaluation: From Vergilian Epic to Shakespearean Tragicomedy (Berkeley–Los

Angeles and London: Univ. of California Press, 1984), 220–4.



take on the role of a new Aeneas in Shakespeare’s play. The disorder

in individuals, by extension, is transferred to a disorder in the state,

for ‘tempest’ in Shakespeare’s day also signiWed ‘great trouble, business, or ruZing in a common weale’.82 The ‘common weale’ aboard

the storm-tossed ship is clearly troubled, for the boatswain rages at

his noble passengers as violently as he does against the storm (The

Tempest, 1. 1. 11–48). The ship of state in turn is equally storm-tossed

for, as Prospero explains, he has lost his kingdom (and almost his

life) to the rebellion of his brother Antonio. There is a possible

allusion here to book 1 of the Aeneid. These themes are the same

ones raised in Virgil’s storm, which is compared in a famous simile to

a political disorder that is calmed by an orator ‘pietate gravem ac

meritis’ (‘remarkable for righteousness and service’, Aen. 1. 151).83

This description Wts Gonzalo, who is described in the list of characters at the beginning of the play as ‘an honest old councillor’ and who

is challenged by the boatswain to restore order: ‘You are a councillor;

if you can command these elements to silence, and work the peace of

the present, we will not hand a rope more—use your authority’ (The

Tempest, 1. 1. 20–3). He cannot do so, so that at this point the forces

of fury clearly have the upper hand, for the storm rules the waves, the

boatswain rules the ship, and Antonio rules Milan.

The corollary to this political theme is the play’s colonial subplot.

The matter comes up almost as soon as we meet Caliban, for he

inhabited the island before Prospero came and still considers it his:

This island’s mine, by Sycorax by mother,

Which thou tak’st from me. When thou cam’st Wrst,

Thou strok’st me, and made much of me; wouldst give me

Water with berries in’t, and teach me how

To name the bigger light and how the less,

That burns by day and night: and then I lov’d thee,

And show’d thee all the qualities o’th’isle,

The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:

Curs’d be I that did so! All the charms

82 Schmidgall, Shakespeare, 156–65, quoting Thomas Thomass 1588 Latin/English


83 Viktor Poăschl, The Art of Vergil: Image and Symbol in the Aeneid, tr. Gerda

Seligson (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1966), 23.



Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!

For I am all the subjects that you have,

Which was Wrst mine own King, and here you sty me

In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me

The rest o’th’island.

(The Tempest, 1. 2. 333–44)

This is the story of colonization as it was played out again and again

in the new world84 and, as Stephen Orgel notes, Caliban’s claim to the

island is reasonable according to the international law of the day.

Prospero, of course, sees things diVerently, but he never addresses

Caliban’s arguments; his claim, too, is legally defensible,85 so that a

space opens up between them, the space that invariably separates

colonizer and colonized.86 Caliban is helpless against Prospero’s

magic, leaving him only the option of cursing his oppressor, just as

Dido could only curse Aeneas as he sailed oV to conquer Italy.

The Wrst act also begins rewriting the Dido-and-Aeneas subplot

from the Aeneid. When Ferdinand Wrst sees Miranda, he greets her

with a literal translation (‘Most sure the goddess’, The Tempest, 1. 2. 424)

of Aeneas’s greeting to the disguised Venus (‘O dea certe’, Aen. 1. 328)

after he came ashore near Carthage,87 and their relationship quickly

becomes one of the most important aspects of the play. Ferdinand

plays Aeneas to Miranda’s Dido, and by putting Ferdinand into

Aeneas’s place here, Shakespeare is splitting that role between Prospero and Ferdinand, for as we noted above, Prospero takes over from

Aeneas the role of political leader and the burden of struggling to

impose ratio (‘reason’) over furor (‘rage’). There is, however, precedent for this division in previous Renaissance rewritings of the

Aeneid: we recall that Sforza in Filelfo’s epic functions as Aeneas

except in the relationship with Lyda, where Carlo Gonzaga temporarily assumes this role. The same thing had happened in Petrarca’s

84 Patricia Seed, ‘ ‘‘This Island’s Mine’’: Caliban and Native Sovereignty’, in Hulme

and Sherman, ‘The Tempest’ and Its Travels, 202–11.

85 Stephen Orgel, ‘Prospero’s Wife’, in Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan,

and Nancy J. Vickers (eds.), Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual DiVerence in Early Modern Europe (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1986), 58.

86 Peter Hulme, Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492–1797

(New York and London: Methuen, 1986), 124–5. See also John Gillies, Shakespeare

and the Geography of DiVerence (Cambridge: CUP, 1994), 143–4.

87 Hamilton, Virgil and The Tempest, 21.



Africa, presumably to keep the hero from being tainted with amatory

failings.88 How, we wonder, will Ferdinand handle this challenge?

It is worth pausing here to note that Shakespeare’s Virgil is bound

to his age, not ours, in several other ways as well. The idea that Virgil

was a magician, which Comparetti put forth as typical of the Middle

Ages,89 remained alive in later centuries as well and accounts at least

in part, I believe, for the role that magic plays in this drama. It may

well be true that this association would have been stronger with the

less well-educated members of the audience, but we should remember that the emerging principles of scientiWc empiricism had not

generated explanations for everything and that the well-educated

people who knew the Aeneid best often still retained some sympathy

for the older way of seeing things.90 Prospero’s magic reXects aspects

of this very ambivalence, for it works on the island but not oV of it

and can do almost anything except ensure the day-to-day survival of

Prospero and Miranda.91

Several other important Virgilian details that are likely to escape a

modern reader may well be linked to Cristoforo Landino, whose late

Wfteenth-century commentary remained inXuential in England

through (inter alia) Gavin Douglas’s partial appropriation of it.92

88 See the preceding chapter, pp. 40–1, 55 for discussion of this point and

references. I am not suggesting that Shakespeare had read Filelfo or Petrarca, only

that this division of roles is reasonable within the mental framework of the time. On

Ferdinand as an alter Aeneas, see Hamilton, Virgil and The Tempest, 40.

89 Domenico Comparetti, Virgilio nel Medioevo, ed. Giorgio Pasquali, 2 vols. (Florence:

La Nuova Italia, 1982; repr. of Florence, 1937 edn.), pt. 2: ‘Virgilio nella legenda populare’,

tr. by E. F. M. Benecke as Vergil in the Middle Ages and repr. with a new intro. by Jan

M. Ziolkowski (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1997); see, however, Pasquale’s

preface, i, pp. xv–xxxiv for a discussion of how modern scholarship has modiWed

Comparetti’s Wndings. I am grateful to Rita Wright for Wrst stimulating me to pursue

this point.

90 Tudeau-Clayton, Jonson, Shakespeare, 7–8, 94–101, rightly emphasizes this

point, referring to Gabriel Naude´’s Apologie pour tous les grands personnages qui ont

este´ faussement soupc¸onnez de magie (Paris, 1625). See also Frances Yates, Majesty and

Magic in Shakespeare’s Last Plays: A New Approach to Cymbeline, Henry VIII, and The

Tempest (Boulder, Colo.: Shambhala, 1978), 93–102.

91 Hulme, Colonial Encounters, 128.

92 Tudeau-Clayton, Jonson, Shakespeare, 25–6, 192, 209–11. It is diYcult if not

impossible to ‘prove’ that Shakespeare knew Landino’s commentary, but a growing

number of scholars suspect that he did, and the fact that extracts from Landino

appeared in English in Douglas’s version of the Aeneid makes it likely that at least the

basic points of Landino’s approach were circulating widely in Shakespeare’s England.



In this commentary and the reworking of it in books 3 and 4 of

Landino’s Disputationes Camaldulenses, Aeneas’s journey is seen as

marking a movement from the active to the contemplative lives. This

in fact is the very journey Prospero had made in Milan: ‘thus neglecting

worldly ends, all dedicated j To closeness and the bettering of my mind’

(The Tempest, 1. 2. 89–90), he left a power vacuum into which his

brother stepped. As part of this journey, ratio (‘reason’) must overcome

furor (‘rage’); the storm scene in Aeneid 1 was allegorized in this way in

Landino’s commentary,93 and Shakespeare’s rewriting in The Tempest,

as we have seen, is compatible with this allegorization. Landino’s

allegory may also explain another puzzling aspect of Act 1 of The

Tempest. As part of how he manipulates Ferdinand, Prospero attempts

to cast him as a usurper on the island who wants to steal control of it

(The Tempest, 1. 2. 454–7). He wants to see if he can arouse political

ambition in him this way, and it is worth noting that, in Landino’s

allegory of Aeneid 4, Aeneas’s attraction to Dido is also linked to the lust

for political power.94 Prospero, in other words, is simply casting Ferdinand into the role of Aeneas as he was understood in Shakespeare’s age.

Thus by the end of Act 1, Shakespeare had initiated a rewriting of

the Aeneid in which the storm reXects both the magic of Prospero

and his fury at the characters from his past, along with a determination to work through once again the political and amatory values

of Virgil’s poem in a colonial setting. In what follows, I shall try to

show that Shakespeare takes from Virgil not the precise substance of

his colonial vision, but the process by which imperialism is questioned and qualiWed by ‘further voices’ that emerge in the drama.

In Act 2 the dialogue with the Aeneid proceeds in two principal

directions. First Gonzalo addresses one of the other castaways in a

speech that is designed to lift their spirits: ‘Beseech you, sir, be merry;

On Landino’s commentary, see Craig Kallendorf, In Praise of Aeneas: Virgil and

Epideictic Rhetoric in the Early Italian Renaissance (Hanover, NH: Univ. Press of

New England, 1989), 129–65, with bibliography.

93 Cristoforo Landino, Disputationes Camaldulenses, ed. Peter Lohe (Florence:

Sansoni, 1980), 159–66.

94 Ibid. 166–98. This explanation, I believe, explains the problem articulated in

James, Shakespeare’s Troy, 207, about why Prospero seems to be trying to rouse in

Ferdinand a passion he does not have. The association of Dido with political power

was an unusual feature of Landino’s commentary, so the glance in this direction in

The Tempest increases the odds that Shakespeare knew something about it.



you have cause, j So have we all, of joy; for our escape j Is much beyond

our loss’ (The Tempest, 2. 1. 1–3). This speech resembles in tone and spirit

the famous ‘O socii . . .’ (‘O comrades . . .’) address at Aen. 1. 198–207, in

which Aeneas made similar arguments to his men when they found

themselves in a similar position;95 Gonzalo’s speech, however, does

not appear to do much good—a ‘further voice’ that calls into question

both the Virgilian subtext and its eYcacy in the world of this play.

Shortly afterwards comes the infamous ‘widow Dido’ exchange, a

passage which is obviously referring to the Aeneid but which has resisted

a fully satisfactory explanation.96 Gonzalo refers to Dido as a widow,

which starts a series of arguments, Wrst about whether or not she

remained a widow, then about whether Dido’s Carthage was the same

city as Tunis, to whose king Claribel had just been married. The passage

is diYcult to unravel, but two things at least are reasonably clear. First, as

Donna Hamilton has pointed out, the argument over ‘widow Dido’

cannot be separated from the discussion that triggered it, Claribel’s

marriage.97 Sebastian upbraids Alonso for marrying his daughter

to the king of Tunis, for reasons that in themselves are important:

Sir, you may thank yourself for this great loss,

That would not bless our Europe with your daughter,

But rather lose her to an African;

Where she, at least, is banished from your eye,

Who hath cause to wet the grief on’t.

(The Tempest, 2. 1. 119–23)

95 D. D. Carnicelli, ‘The Widow and the Phoenix: Dido, Carthage, and Tunis in

The Tempest’, Harvard Library Bulletin, 27 (1979), 389–433.

96 Ibid. 389–433, oVers the fullest analysis of the scene, which unfortunately still

does not explain it very satisfactorily. See also J. M. Hooker, ‘Widow Dido’, Notes and

Queries, ns 32 (1985), 56–8; Malcolm Pittock, ‘Widow Dido’, Notes and Queries, 231

(1986), 368–9; and John Pitcher, ‘A Theatre of the Future: The Aeneid and The Tempest’,

Essays in Criticism, 34 (1984), 201. Adrianne Roberts-Baytop, Dido, Queen of InWnite

Literary Variety: The English Renaissance Borrowings and InXuences (Salzburg: Institut

fuăr Englische Sprache und Literatur, Universitaăt Salzburg, 1974), 10418, lists the other

allusions to Dido in Shakespeare’s plays and provides a brief discussion of them. James,

Shakespeare’s Troy, 198, suggests that the ‘widow Dido’ jokes unleash a bawdy and

derisive revision of the Aeneid and any overly optimistic attempts to appropriate it into

new contexts; this is the most insightful comment I have found on the scene.

97 Hamilton, Shakespeare and The Tempest, 40–2. Hamilton approaches Claribel’s

marriage in relation to the discussions circulating at the time about how James might

marry his children; this is certainly reasonable, but I think there is at least one other

point of reference here as well.



In a play in which the relationship with the non-European Other

becomes central, the fact that the king of Tunis is African cannot

be overlooked. A sexual relationship with someone from this area

proved a disaster for Aeneas, and Sebastian is arguing that the same

will be true for Claribel; it is worth noting that, just days after the

wedding, Alonso already agrees (‘Would I had never j Married my

daughter there!’ The Tempest, 2. 1. 103–4).98 The other point that

seems clear here is that Virgil’s version of the Dido story has become

contested ground by this point. In the Aeneid, Dido began as a widow

but sacriWced her chastity on the altar of libido; this version, however,

had existed for centuries alongside another one in which she never

met Aeneas, but chose death rather than remarry a neighbouring

king.99 Since the Ferdinand–Miranda subplot has been set forth as a

retelling of the Dido story, which version becomes authoritative

matters in this play, and the argument in this scene suggests that it

may well not be Virgil’s.

Some of the same diYculties that we encounter in the ‘widow

Dido’ exchange also emerge in interpreting the famous ‘Siena Sieve’

portrait of Queen Elizabeth (see Figure 7). Dido was also called

‘Elissa’ or ‘Eliza’, a fact which Elizabeth panegyrists exploited regularly,

98 Harry Berger, Jr., ‘Miraculous Harp: A Reading of Shakespeare’s Tempest’,

Shakespeare Studies, 5 (1969), 253–83. Patricia Parker, ‘Fantasies of ‘‘Race’’ and

‘‘Gender’’: Africa, Othello, and Bringing to Light’, in Margo Hendricks and Patricia

Parker (eds.), Women, ‘Race’, and Writing in the Early Modern Period (London and

New York: Routledge, 1994), 96–8, notes that the ‘widow Dido’ discussions recall a

similar rewriting of the Dido and Aeneas story in Othello, which is also about a

marriage between a European and an African Other. Leslie Fiedler, The Stranger in

Shakespeare (New York: Stein & Day, 1972), suggests that Claribel’s marriage reconciles the worlds that fell apart when Aeneas Xed and Dido committed suicide (201),

but I suspect that David Norbrook is more on target when he concludes that the

eVorts to discuss Claribel’s marriage through the lens of Aeneid 4 actually highlight

how diYcult it is to bridge the historical and cultural diVerences involved in the

exercise (‘ ‘‘What Cares These Roarers for the Name of King?’’: Language and Utopia

in The Tempest’, in Gordon McMullan and Jonathan Hope (eds.), The Politics of

Tragicomedy: Shakespeare and After (London and New York: Routledge, 1992), 45).

Finally, David Scott Wilson-Okamura focuses on Carthage rather than Rome as a

template for colonization and notes that Shakespeare’s rewriting of the Aeneid

therefore serves as a warning against intemperance; see ‘Virgilian Models of Colonization in Shakespeare’s Tempest’, ELH 70 (2003), 713–16.

99 Basic information about the other, non-Virgilian Dido tradition may be found

in Lida de Malkiel, Dido en la literatura espan˜ola; and Kallendorf, In Praise of Aeneas,




Figure 7. The ‘Sieve Portrait’ of Queen Elizabeth I. Attributed to Federico

Zuccaro (Siena, Pinacoteca)

and this name in particular evoked the non-Virgilian Dido who died

in order to preserve her chastity. The sieve, which was said to be

Elizabeth’s favourite device, reinforces this point, alluding to Tuccia,

a vestal virgin who established her chastity by carrying water to the

Tiber in a sieve. The Siena painting was one of several ‘sieve’ portraits

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