Piergiorgio Donatelli

Compassion and Desire: Notes on The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Keywords: Shakespeare, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Self-Transformation, Stanley Cavell.

The article presents the discussion of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They are both read after Stanley Cavell’s lesson as plays that work on self transformation produced by the power of words to bring back to the self what the self has denied and disowned. The Tempest is seen as working on the acknowledgement of the conditions of human existence, of finitude, desire, and the necessities of the body. A Midsummer Night’s Dream involves a different kind of transformation which requires to acknowledge the power of what estranges us from the conditions of existence, of what comes from the strange aristocracy inhabiting the woods, from the disquieting dreams of the kingdom of the night.

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