Purpose of the Epilogue in The Tempest by William Shakespeare

The Epilogue in The Tempest is a brief piece, but it has caused a big controversy among critics. Some critics doubt Shakespeare’s authorship of the Epilogue, perhaps for the following reasons:

  1. The Prologues and Epilogues and Elizabethan dramas were generally written by others. It is believed that the Epilogue in The Tempest was written by Ben Jonson.
  2. The rhythm and the style of the Epilogue are not Shakespearean.
  3. The Epilogue is quite a commonplace thing and a great dramatist like Shakespeare could not have written such a dull and weak thing.


We would, however, be justified in saying that the Epilogue was written by Shakespeare. Classical plays had prologues and epilogues. Shakespeare did not care much for classical rules. He has, however, followed the classical rules in The Tempest. He has observed the three classical unities of time, place and action. Why should he not follow the classical rule of writing the Epilogue? The authorship of epilogues in As You Like It, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and other plays are not questioned. Why should it then be questioned in the case of The Tempest? The epilogue in The Tempest has, of course, no poetic or Lyrical grandeur, but the rhythm is fairly delightful. The 1deas expressed in the Epilogue are worthy of Shakespeare. Prof. Dowden says:

In its playfulness, the Epilogue curiously falls in with the moral purport of the whole. Even the pardoner needs pardon.

The second controversial point about the Epilogue is its meaning. Critics say that the meaning is not clear and it is not as dignified as might be expected of Shakespeare. But perhaps Prospero is here Shakespeare himself bidding farewell to the stage. Prospero plays three parts in the Epilogue. He plays the part of a magician, an actor and the chief actor in the play, and to an extent, Shakespeare himself. As a magician, Prospero says-“Now my charms are also overthrown, and what strength I have is my own, Which is most faint”.

Shakespeare bids good-bye to the stage, to his magic art of writing and become a plain man. He asks himself whether he should continue on Prospero’s island i.e. the stage or whether he should go back to Naples, that is to Stratford in his case. Prospero as the chief actor begs the audience to applaud and appreciate the play.

Though the Epilogue seems weak, its authorship need not be questioned.

Also read: *Character analysis of Miranda in The Tempest

* Significance of the Comic subplot of “The Tempest”