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William Shakespeare Quotes

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

– William Shakespeare

The Tempest, Act 3, Scene 2. This is one of the most poetic passages in The Tempest, spoken by Caliban, and the speech has a haunting and dream-like quality about it. It shows that Caliban is not just all monster and anger but a much more complicated and multi-sided character capable of eloquence and beautiful expression. He describes the magical qualities of his beloved island of which is a native, his deep attachment to it, and his own dreams. In his moving speech Caliban attempts to reassure the others, spooked by the invisible Ariel’s mysterious music resulting from Prospero’s magic, that the island is indeed full of sounds and music that give pleasure but don’t hurt. Does this poetic speech with its powerful imagery and calm and thoughtful language reflect the true nature of Caliban? Is his brutish and monstrous and side then a reaction to the cruel way he has been treated by his slave master Prospero – a case of nurture and not nature? If you treat a person like a monster, do they not sometimes become the monster? The Tempest is often seen as a critique on the cruel treatment of colonized peoples by their European colonizers, as depicted in Prospero’s treatment of Caliban and Ariel.

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.