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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

The Tempest

The TempestIt’s been way too long since I’ve read any Shakespeare. I love reading Shakespeare as much as I love going to see it. The language is always so beautiful! This is my first experience with The Tempest – I’ve never seen it or studied it before, but I knew the basic story.

Prospero is both a magician and the rightful Duke of Milan… His brother is jealous, and plots with the king to get rid of Prospero. So he (Prospero) and his daughter (Miranda) have been stranded on an island for twelve years. There are very few other beings on the island, but they have a slave named Caliban, a deformed man, who is rumoured to be fathered by a devil. There is also the spirit Ariel that Propsero commands.

Prospero discovers that his brother and the king, as well as a number of men in the court are passing by the island. He creates a massive storm that causes a shipwreck on the island. The play is the story of what happens when these characters are all on the island – the King’s son meets Miranda and they fall in love; Caliban meets a few of the King’s servants and plots Prospero’s downfall; a few of the King’s court want to kill the king and usurp the throne. Prospero has his hands involved in most of this, and manipulates a lot of it so that the outcome is to his liking.

I definitely thoroughly enjoyed this! I would read it again, and I definitely hope that I get the chance to see it some day.

I have to say that Caliban was my favourite character in this play. While he was treated horribly by Prospero and Miranda, while he did attempt to rape Miranda, I have to wonder whether this is his nature to act this way on his own… He wouldn’t have known exactly how wrong rape was, if he’s never been in human company (other than his mother’s before she died). Not that it excuses him, but… And at that point Prospero started treating him like a slave, started beating him… A lot of what he was, he learned at the hand of Propsero – hence his resentment, the cursing… So, his character is not completely horrible, or if it is, then it’s partially learned. Plus, he has some wonderful lines and such that show you that there is SOME sort of good in him. Like this, which is possibly my favourite passage in the play:

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

It’s just very evocative. Gorgeous, and gives a bit of a thrill to the imagination!

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 8:29 pm April 27, 2009.
Category: Plays

  • That’s the Book!

    Great summary and review of The Tempest. Caliban is perhaps my favourite character in all of Shakespeare plays, for the reasons you like him.

    It’s too bad you didn’t see William Hutt’s Prospero. I saw him play the role twice and it was truly amazing.

  • Chris

    I LOVE this play :) My favorite line begins with “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” ;)

  • Court

    Aaron – in all of Shakespeare’s plays? That’s high praise indeed, as there are SO MANY wonderful characters!

    Chris – yes, I thought of you when I read that line. I believe the exact thing I thought was, “OH! So THAT’S where Chris got his blog title!”

  • Vega

    I haven’t read/watched much of Shakespeare myself (shame, shame!), but your post reminds me of Ilium by Dan Simmons, a retelling of Homer’s Iliad in a SF future. It’s focused on the Iliad of course, but Simmons has also incorporated The Tempest into the plot, particularly the chars of Prospero, Ariel and Caliban. I don’t know how accurate Simmons’ retelling of The Tempest is, but it sure was fascinating — both his use of the chars and the way he worked it into the novel — and maybe I ought to check out Shakespeare’s play too. Maybe Ilium is another science fiction novel you may want to read sometime. I’ve reviewed it on my booklog. =)

  • Court

    Vega – oooh! I’ll add that to my TBR list. Thanks for the rec!