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“This Thing of Darkness I Do Acknowledge Mine”: Revenge and The Tempest

Speaker: Joyce Johnston

This event is open to the public. For more information about the Lifelong Learning Institute, Manassas, visit

The deposed Duke of Milan, betrayed by his own brother, has survived by building a magical refuge: an island full of hidden glades, peopled by illusive voices, cared for by magical ministers. Yet Shakespeare’s title suggests another possibility. The Tempest is created by Prospero’s own resentment of his unjust fate, his seething desire for vengeance. For twenty years he has been sustained by his addiction to anger with its powerful energy and self-righteousness, but now questions arise. Are the island’s disembodied voices coming from inside his own head? And the supernatural minions—are they magical creations or projections of his desire for revenge? Most important of all, has Prospero protected his beloved daughter from worldly harm, or has he trapped her inside her father’s paranoid fantasies? Will Miranda ever be free to lead a normal life?  Join Joyce Johnston's class to discover the answers.

Joyce Johnston was trained as a Medievalist who reads Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, and Medieval French. While the English Department at George Mason does not have such a position available, the love lives on. These days, she specializes in online civility, digital intellectual property, and advanced researched writing, but she has never ceased to marvel at the intensity and excitement of early art and Renaissance drama, especially Shakespeare. She welcomes the chance to explore a long-held theory that his most extreme landscapes are not just exotic settings, but territories of the mind. For Shakespeare’s characters, wild woods and raging storms are all part of a single struggle: to find a place to belong, both to a supportive community and to their best selves.