Great Books 102: Renaissance to Modern

Shakespeare's Tempest: The Liberating Art of Reconciliation


The Tempest—a work that carries the weight of all of Shakespeare’s talent, imagination, and genius—explores the indispensable human act of reconciliation. The play opens with a ship caught in a tempest at sea, which has been conjured by the powerful Prospero. Along with his daughter Miranda, Prospero has been trapped on a nearby island for twelve years. As the play unfolds, it considers the themes of political order and disorder, the execution of one’s duty in the world, and, more broadly, how the ability to act well rests on a foundation of proper contemplation.


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Discussion Questions

  • What is Prospero’s desire for his daughter Miranda? 
  • Why is it important to employ contemplation properly?
  • What role does reconciliation play in Prospero’s plan?    

Q & A Session

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David M. Whalen is a professor of English at Hillsdale College, where he also serves as provost. Dr. Whalen obtained his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Kansas. He has taught at the University of Kansas and Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina. He teaches courses on the great books as well as Renaissance literature, the English novel, and the history and literature of liberal education. Dr. Whalen has written articles on numerous topics, including Victorian prose, Renaissance poetry, educational philosophy, and the writings of John Henry Newman. Among other honors, he has received a Salvatori Fellowship from The Heritage Foundation and a Weaver Fellowship from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He is also a recipient of the Daugherty Teaching Award from Hillsdale College.