The Tempest as Mystery Play: Uncovering Religious Sources of Shakespeare's Most Spiritual Work

Comparison of Shakespeare's works to their likely sources is one way to deepen our appreciation. Sources for The Tempest, however, have long eluded the grasp of scholars, who have unearthed only bits and pieces that resemble minor elements of the play. Few traces of the special qualities of The Tempest have turned up in any works so far considered as sources. This author is the first to identify a strong biblical basis for The Tempest. Further, she demonstrates that the play's use of biblical imagery, characters, and concepts echo the way these elements were interpreted in the English Mystery Plays. Thus Hall is able to trace the links between The Tempest and the best known religious works of Elizabethan society: the Bible, the Mystery Plays, and the 1559 Book of Common Prayer. These links reveal The Tempest as a profoundly spiritual work, allowing the modern reader to experience the play as a harmonious religious vision.