There is a myth that The Tempest is Shakespeare’s farewell to the stage, even that it is an allegory of his whole life. The poet Robert Graves (1895-1985) announced that “tradition has always identified Prospero with Shakespeare himself”. This is inevitable. Prospero, as an artist and illusionist, can be identified with a poet in dozens of ways. But in fact Shakespeare wrote another three plays with John Fletcher (1579-1625), his successor at Blackfriars, after The Tempest: The Two Noble Kinsmen, Cardenio (lost), and Henry VIII (or All is True).
IT WAS A PERFORMANCE OF HENRY VIII, WHICH INVOLVED SOME GUNPOWDER SPECIAL EFFECTS, THAT IGNITED THE GLOBE THEATRE AND BURNT IT DOWN IN 1613.
It was immediately rebuilt and continued to stage plays until it was closed down at the start of the English Civil War in 1642. Two years later it was demolished - in order to build cheap housing …
Shakespeare retired to Stratford and apparently abandoned writing. The only text from this final period is his will, which has provoked much speculation because of the strange bequest to Anne, his wife. Between two lines is added: “Item, I give to my wife my second-best bed with furniture”. This is the only mention of her in the entire document. Is it a deliberate snub and contrived to deny her control of any element of his estate?
SHOULD IT BE ASSUMED THAT AS A WIDOW I WILL TAKE ONE THIRD OF THE ESTATE … AND LIVE AT NEW PLACE WITH MY DAUGHTER SUSANNA AND SON-IN-LAW JOHN HALL.
So, is this simply a conventional way of expressing affection? The will also includes elaborate instructions for keeping Shakespeare’s male line alive through his daughter Susanna’s son - although in the event she never had a son and so the direct line was extinct by 1670. The will was also revised to provide for his daughter Judith, who had just married a ne’er-do-well named Thomas Quiney.