Saturday, 11 May 2013

'The Tempest' by William Shakespeare (1623)

Synopsis: Prospero is the exiled Duke of Milan and he's lived on a remote, enchanted island for many years. The only people he has for company are his teenage daughter Miranda and his servants Ariel and Caliban. But then Prospero finds out that the men who betrayed him - his usurping brother Antonio and Alonso, the King of Naples - are sailing on a ship nearby. Prospero has learnt magic on the island and he uses his powers to summon up a tempest that makes the ship crash on the island. He has the men from the ship scattered across the island and then proceeds to manipulate everyone in order to achieve his goals. He sends Ariel out to haunt the men who betrayed him and pretends to distrust Alonso's son Ferdinand whilst secretly matchmaking him with Miranda. Prospero has also got to deal with Caliban, who is now plotting against him with the aid of Alonso's servants Trinculo and Stephano.

The Tempest is believed by most to be the final play that Shakespeare wrote by himself. It's widely considered to be one of Shakespeare's best too, due to its maturity and beautiful language. The Tempest was also drawn on when Kenneth Branagh read a piece from it during the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. During the play Miranda utters the phrase "Oh brave new world that has such people in it" which inspired the title of Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World. And an alien race was named after the Sycorax (Caliban's mother) in the Doctor Who episode The Christmas Invasion. The Sycorax were referred to again in a Doctor Who episode where the Doctor actually meets Shakespeare, The Shakespeare Code. These are just some interesting facts I thought I'd mention!

I've been wanting to read The Tempest for a while but it wasn't until I booked a ticket to see a production of it at the Globe Theatre that finally spurred me onto reading it. The production has Roger Allam and Colin Morgan starring in it and I'm very excited about it! I wouldn't call The Tempest one of my favourite Shakespeare plays though, at least not just yet. I suspect that this play is probably a lot more fun to see live.

It's not that I didn't enjoy reading The Tempest but there are other Shakespeare plays that I enjoy more. The play is supposed to be a comedy but it's not really laugh-out-loud funny like Much Ado About Nothing. Also, the whole true-love-at-first-sight romance between Ferdinand and Miranda is sappy and annoying. I'm not a fan of love-at-first-sight romances anyway but their romance was just so sickly-sweet and roll-your-eyes-inducing that it was hard to stomach. They meet, fall in love, swear their undying affection for each other, and get married on the very same day!

There is a lot that I liked about this play though. There are other Shakespeare plays that I like more but there are other Shakespeare plays that I like less. The Tempest has got a very interesting story and the magical island setting is really cool. Prospero, Ariel and Caliban are all very interesting characters. Prospero's final speech in the Epilogue is very bittersweet and there are hints of Shakespeare's retirement in it. The outcome of the play is nice and cheerful too. Prospero could have very easily used his magic to kill his enemies but instead he just wants to teach them a lesson. At the end everyone lives and all is forgiven. As you'd naturally expect from a Shakespeare play The Tempest is brilliantly-written too and there are some fantastic quotes:

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.” 

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.” 

Rating: 3/5


Anonymous said...

"twangling". What an awesome word

Indigo Montoya said...

It is but I prefer "afeard" myself : )