Shakespeare’s dramatic units in The Tempest 


The Tempest is a play written by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), a literary giant in the field of drama. It is comedy like Shakespeare’s other comedies, the play ends happily, with the promise of a wedding between Miranda and Ferdinand. In The play, Shakespeare violates classical dramatic three unities as Unity of time, unity of place, and unity of action. Time, Place, and Action in The Tempest 

In the play, the question of Time, Place, and Action means the Classical three Unity; unity of time, unity of action, and unity of place. 

More Notes: The Tempest

Unity of time: 

It refers to the action, scene, or story of the play that must end within twenty-four hours. But we see that the play begins on an island and the action on the island spans about four hours. though for the Unity of Time, the play can be performed within two to three hours. But the length of the play is more. Here, the attention of the audience frequently turns to the time of an occurrence.  For example, in the conversation between Ariel and Prospero about the shipwreck audience draw their attention to this story: they say; 

Prospero: “What is the time of the day?” 

Ariel: “Past the mid-season”. 

Prospero: “At least two glasses. The time betwixt six and now” 

From this conversation, we can assume that the duration of the storm is four but solving various problems takes more time than the necessary time. As the storm scene takes four hours so Shakespeare combines the time nicely with the tempest. 

Unity of place: 

According to The Classical Three Unity, unity of place means that the whole scene of the play should be the same. But here Shakespeare breaks the tradition. Many events take place in different parts of the island. Ariel tells Prospero that she has taken care of those involved in the shipwreck. He spread the troops among the islands. Thus, we come to know that there are several groups scattered about the island. And all these groups are performing all the actions being directed by Prospero. Here too Shakespeare has well combined the unity of place. 

More Notes: Suggestions

Unity of Action: 

 Unity of action refers that the story of the play must perform in a single location or plot. Regarding the Classical Three Unity, In the play The Tempest, there is a single plot—where Prospero attempts to regain his dukedom. Although there are some minor plots (such as the episode of Stephano and Trinculo, the episodes. involving the masque, etc.) But these plots have no direct relation to the central theme of the play. So, we see here Shakespeare’s well-matched unity of plot or action in the tempest. 


From the light of the above discussion, we can say that Shakespeare does not use time, place, and action in a traditional way in the tempest. But to make his play realistic and unique, he follows the classical unities very closely but not strongly. 

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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