Even those sympathetic to source studies may well feel that enough has been said about the sources of The Tempest. More than most of the plays, it seems to be a rich confluence of elements drawn from Shakespeare’s diverse reading, conversation, and theatrical experience. So many things float to the surface here: contemporary excitement over the exploration and colonization of the New World; bits of Italian and Spanish history and fiction involving usurpations, flights, islands, and returns; scenes and techniques from the ongoing human comedy of commedia dell’arte improvisations; some of Montaigne’s reflections on nature and society, anger and restraint; and a fascination with magic, man’s power to influence, and perhaps control, nature outside and inside himself and others, by the power of his ‘art’. Yet no one of these predominates, or presents a sufficiently strong matrix of incident and character to constitute a primary source. Kenneth Muir spoke for many readers, I suspect, when he concluded that, whatever the variety of his materials, ‘it seems . . . likely that for once he [Shakespeare] invented the plot’.
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