In September 1610, a sensational story reached London of a storm that had engulfed the Sea Venture, a ship carrying settlers to Jamestown, Virginia. All 150 aboard were washed onto a reef off Bermuda. There found an exotic island, seas teeming with fish, and skies filled with gorgeous birds. Helped by the natives, the survivors lived on the island while they built a new ship. That Shakespeare was partly inspired by this story is clear, and The Tempest has been called the “American” play. Even though Prospero’s island was in the Mediterranean.
There was a Spanish empire in the Americas at the time that, in the 15th century. It had enslaved the indigenous people with the godlike power of its technology. Whether Shakespeare intended it or not, the play has found such a resonance with the colonial past that this has become a key thread in many interpretations. Caliban, not Prospero, is often the focus. Black actors have been cast to emphasize the way European colonials enslaved native populations. (An American play?)
In accordance with the character of Shakespeare’s Play, Giacomo’s soliloquy as he creeps around Innogen’s chamber has a tenderness that seduces the ear. Some critics argue, makes the audience complicit in the act. Having emerged from a trunk in her room, he describes the sleeping Innogen in memorably exquisite poetic language: “Tis her breathing that / Perfumes the chamber thus: the flame o’ the taper / Bows toward her, and would under-peep her lids, To see the enclosed lights, now canopied. Under these windows, white and azure laced / With blue of heaven’s own tinct”