William Shakespeare



One may find it ridiculous to contrast between Shakespeare and existentialism in its 20th century form,

however one must keep in mind, that existentialism does not appear as a single philosophical system. It is

more an attitude of life, a general vision - existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre is known to have stated that

existentialism was never invented, it has always existed as the ultimate foundation. Upon that light, why not

seek the foundations from the work of the forefather of all dramatists?

It is above all na?ve to claim Prospero?s Epilogue in Shakespeare?s play The Tempest a mere conventional

appeal for applause or the stripping of the imaginary glamour built up by the plays magic. Even the greatest of

artists would rather give away his life than surrender his art to be judged solely by the public. Art for an artistic

genius is practised for its own sake; art for the purpose of art. Existence for the sake of existence itself -

stripped of meaning, of value and of subjective interpretation. In its bear meaningless form, something still

remains: the necessary Natural Law, a philosophical concept considered the basis of human well-being, a

system of the values that determine human existence.

Throughout The Tempest Prospero?s character portrays an image of a nearly Nietzchean superhuman capable

of disclaiming authority, killing God. He is in control of every situation and event as if the chain of causes and

effects would be a conductible melody waiting for an artist?s touch. On the other hand he is very human: a

wronged duke and a father, a symbiosis which Shakespeare displayed with the use of Prospero?s garment as a

theatrical tool. An artist is the creator, the maker of realities yet he remains human, an animal with feelings

and urges, ties only waiting to be cut. The view implied is not far from the ideologies that emerged from the

great suffering of the second world war: a man is capable of constructing himself a framework of personal and

social meaning, but his true animal nature remains unchanged. In the heart of existence, life has no predefined

meaning, it is a mere passage of survival from necessary birth to necessary death. Prospero's and his

daughter's situation on the island was hopeless, however Prospero had chosen a function for his life - revenge.

Prospero created a meaning for his life, built a synthetic reality to keep him sane on the path towards the

finality of human death. Early existentialism begins to appear.

The literatory image behind The Epilogue of The Tempest greatly involves the attitude and interpretation of art.

Having constructed a window or more or less a door to an imaginary world for the audience, Shakespeare has

succeeded in fusing art and reality. Upon that light it is incomprehensible to assume his need to address the

subjective yet neutral third party, the audience - shatter the synthetic reality. However, The Epilogue is a

beautiful and humble ending to a story filled with strong magical elements - the control is given to the audience,

they are given Prospero?s magical garment. The passive third party is given a choice of interaction, chance to

rise beyond spectatorship. An interesting aspect to The Epilogue of The Tempest is the fact that it was

Shakespeare?s last play - the final words of a great artist. Due to the lack of historically trustworthy

biographical information of Shakespeare?s character, it is difficult if not impossible to determine the effect of his

life situation to the message itself. Whether justified or not, The Epilogue seems like a farewell - a humble

artist handing over his life to the audience to which he has dedicated his entire life.

When examining The Epilogue with the restriction of intertextuality, one is forced to focus on the character of

Prospero. Why does he leave a farewell, why does he become the ultimate link from the world of the play to

the world of the third party, the audience. His importance as the narrator of The Epilogue creates a third

dimension to his character traits, he becomes the God-figure that seems limited to living on a island yet he can

perform metaphysical leaps between dimensions. The person speaking is the author himself, for in his art he

has become God.

Rhythmically and structurally The Epilogue follows the same style and pattern as the entire play; rich in rhyme

and in wording.