The Tempest Quotes

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

– William Shakespeare

The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1. This famous speech spoken by Prospero to Ferdinand is often regarded as Shakespeare’s retirement speech. With beautiful use of metaphors and similes, he talks about life, mortality and the inevitability of death. We are said to be made of the stuff of dreams and life is a cycle, beginning and ending with sleep. Here Prospero has staged a masque performed by spirit actors as an engagement present for Ferdinand and Miranda. He suddenly remembers Caliban’s plot against him and abruptly cuts short the masque performance, and the spirit actors melt into thin air as does the imagined setting – the "baseless fabric". In his speech Prospero says that the performance is all an illusion, a dream that will disappear like the natural order of things in this world. He is speaking about the illusory nature, not just of the theatric performance and magic, but of life itself. The irony of what Shakespeare says here is that his theatrical and literary legacy has endured more than any other writer in the English language in history. Four centuries after his death, Shakespeare is still the most famous name in English literature and theater.