‘An Isle Full of Noises’: The Perception & Influence of Sound in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Paul A. Di Salvo '13, Gettysburg College


Since the play’s authorship in 1610, actor-managers and directors alike have struggled over staging the opening scene of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The physical presence of the ship, the sounds and lighting effects of thunder and lightning, the dialogue of the actors, and the use of music have varied from the early 17th century to the present in an effort to appeal to the audience. The presentation of these elements, especially sound cues and music, prepares audiences to understand the dynamics of Prospero’s powers and transformation as a character. Depending on how sound and stage technologies were implemented in performance, directors have been able to present audiences with a Prospero that is depicted as either more or less of a sympathetic character.