WHEN Prospero suddenly interrupts the nuptial masque in Act IV, Scene i of The Tempest, he speaks the now-famous lines that begin ‘Our revels now are ended’ (148ff).1 In the course of the speech, he compares the end of the masque to that of the world. It is an apocalyptic vision, where ‘the great globe itself, / Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve’ (153–54). Naseeb Shaheen has suggested that a possible analogue of these lines can be found in a passage in the Second Epistle of Peter: The heauens shal passe away with a noyse, and the elements shall melte with heate. … Seing therefore that all these things must be dissolued …[at] the day of God, by which the heauens being on fire, shalbe dissolued. (2 Peter 3. 10–12)2 As ‘the elements shall melte with heate’ in the Epistle of Peter, so the goddesses and nymphs in Prospero’s masque ‘[a]re melted into air’ (IV. i. 150). ‘[T]hat all things must be dissolued’ is not unlike ‘all which it inherit, shall dissolve’ (154). Moreover, as Shaheen points out, the key-word ‘dissolve(d)’ occurs twice in the Epistle.3 Among recent scholarly editions of the play, the latest New Cambridge Shakespeare (2002) incorporates Shaheen’s idea in a footnote. However, I would like to suggest that a closer analogue to Prospero’s speech can be found in the third line of Psalm 75, which reads: ‘The earth and all the inhabitans [sic] thereof are dissolued’.4 Neither Shaheen’s Biblical References nor major critical editions of The Tempest including the Oxford, New Cambridge, Arden 2nd and 3rd refer to this apparent parallel between Psalm 75:3 and Prospero’s ‘great globe’. Footnotes 1 All references to this play are to David Lindley (ed.), The Tempest, The New Cambridge Shakespeare (Cambridge, 2002). 2 Naseeb Shaheen, Biblical References in Shakespeare’s Plays (Newark, NJ, 1999), 747. 3 Ibid., 748. 4 The Geneva Bible: A Facsimile of the 1560 Edition (Peabody, MA, 2007). © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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