The Folger Shakespeare Library

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

—Prospero meditates on the fleeting nature of life as he prepares to confront Caliban, who has threatened his life.

Act 4, Scene 1, lines 173-175

Read the full play.

From the Collection

Manuscript book of magic, with instructions for invoking spirits

At the end of the Tempest, Prospero relinquishes his magical powers by breaking his staff and declaring that “deeper than ever did plummet sound I’ll drown my book” (Act 5, Scene 1, lines 65-66). This type of magical book, inscribed circa 1577-1583 may have been what Shakespeare had in mind.

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Listen to Barbara Mowat discuss magic in Shakespeare’s plays on the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast.

Sketchbook of The Tempest

London book artist Sue Doggett created this artists’ book of The Tempest in 1995.

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See more of Doggett’s book in Erin Blake’s Collation blog post.

Percy Mackaye’s Caliban by the Yellow Sands

In 1916, artist Percy Mackaye created a modern “community masque” with dance and music based on The Tempest. Mackaye wrote the masque to commemorate the tercentenary of the death of Shakespeare.

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Learn about music in Shakespeare’s plays on the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast.

Read about 17th-century adaptations of Shakespeare in Claude Fretz’s Shakespeare and Beyond blog post.

Playbill for a performance of The Tempest at Windsor Castle

In February 1854, The Tempest was staged for Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. Charles Kean directed the production.


Postcard promoting a staging of The Tempest 

This postcard advertising a 1993 Folger Theatre production shows him as a hairy goblin. Studying these versions of Caliban can tell us how societies think about monstrousness and “the other.” Below, watch former Folger Mellon Fellow Surekha Davies discuss what Caliban tells us about how early modern Europeans considered what it means to be human.

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We will continue adding more to this page over time. Stay tuned! 


Buy your own copy of the Folger Edition of The Tempest