The Tempest

Audience, Actors, and Directors: Meta-Theatricality in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus College

A play can have power over its audience, whether it simply captivates them with its plot or makes them question their beliefs with its commentary. Though while the actors are the ones directly exercising this power over the audience, it is the writer or director that has power over everything. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and William Shakespeare’s The Tempest are meta-theatrical plays in that their characters parallel this power structure of the theater; the plays’ main characters can all be classified as either being the audience, an actor, or a director, and it is the character representing the director in each play who has power over the characters which represent the audience, through the characters who the director uses as actors. The plays differ, though, in terms of how the director maintains power over the audience; in Doctor Faustus, Mephistopheles is the true director, but convinces Faustus that he is a director to keep him unaware of his role as the audience. On the other hand, Prospero in The Tempest flaunts his theatricality and keeps his audience aware that they are an audience viewing a performance, which more closely resembles real theater in which the audience is aware of the fact that they are...

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