In a context of confrontation between early modern European theatres, the Italian commedia dell'arte proves to be a fruitful ground of interpretation for Elizabethan drama, specifically for the case of Shakespeare's The Tempest. As noted by pioneer early nineteenth-century studies, and more recently by Louise George Clubb, Richard Andrews, and Rob Henke, the play's plot patterns, or better theatergrams, reveal some affiliation with scenarios from the Italian comedic improvisation pieces and prompt an investigation of shared thematic strategies between the two traditions. This adds to the import of Italian influences on early modern English theatre and adds to the reading of the play as the staging of Italianate court politics, as some recent criticism has suggested, in particular by evoking the name of Machiavelli. My contribution aims at offering a further exploration of The Tempest's possible isomorphism with the ‘arcadian enchantment’ of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian improvised comedy scenarios. In fact, the article investigates how Shakespeare may have looked at a common repertoire of recurrent motifs (a powerful magician), settings (a deserted island), and actions (the shipwreck, the castaways' reunion and their comic scheming), working them out into a different dramatic context. Attention will be specially drawn on the play's ending which seems to find an unsuspected equivalent in the scenarios.
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