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Book Name: The Tempest: The Oxford Shakespeare The Tempest (Oxford World's Classics)

Author: William Shakespeare

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Overall Rating: (3.82/5) View all reviews (total 11 reviews)
Description

'a fascinating, challenging and highly original volume' Cahiers Elisabethians'Stephen Orgel is an inspired choice as editor of this play ... he produces a clean, modestly innovative text with brisk, informative annotation ... wide ranging, speculative introduction' Martin Butler, University of Leeds, Notes and Queries

Reviews

Classic

by Adella
(4/5)

The Tempest is one of my all time favorite plays by Shakespeare. This edition includes extra annotations and notes that I found quite helpful, not to mention the BEAUTIFUL cover.


Bard Bids Globe Fans Adieu

by Bill Slocum
(4/5)

"The Tempest" is treated by many critics as the equivalent of a home run during an aging legend's last turn at bat. It's a solid outing, no doubt, but after years of thinking this one of William Shakespeare's greatest plays, I regard it now more as moving curtain call than homer.Prospero is a banished nobleman who has learned magic while stranded on a mysterious island. With his faithful daughter Miranda, his obedient fairy servant Ariel, and his disagreeable slave Caliban, Prospero waits for the chance to confront those who left him for dead years ago."We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep," Prospero declares. Here the focus is on the fantasy part of life, the parts undreamed of in another Shakespeare character's philosophies, and the notion of imaginative power as the wellspring of transformation. It's all the more powerful coming from Shakespeare, writing what scholars say was his last play (circa 1611) and presenting himself in the character of Prospero breaking his staff, burying his books, and asking the crowd to release him with a final round of applause. How can that not be great?I thought it was one of Shakespeare's best, in part because it's such a great summing up of the Bard's life work when you get to it at the end of a college course on Shakespeare. But this time, reading it as standalone, I noticed more the flaws. Take the dullish romance between Miranda and Ferdinand. Or that rather odd play-within-a-play that elongates Act IV with verse so ring-ding some experts claim it was inserted after the fact by another hand to stretch what is otherwise a shortish eight-scene comedy. There's not a lot of plot in this play, and the lack of dramatic tension is missed.But what's stirring about "The Tempest" still stands out. The intoxicating atmosphere established from the first scene on the island sustains through the body of the play. I'm still amused watching Caliban deal with his two drunken "liberators", haughty Stephano and hapless Trinculo - Abbott and Costello in iambic pentameter. And there's something remarkable in the development, however flat dramatically, of the central message of forgiveness, particularly when bestowed on characters who never deserve it. Shakespeare often worked well outside the framework of religious orthodoxy, but this seems to me his most Christian of plays, and a success that way."The Tempest" is a great play to watch when performed well, like it was on Shakespeare On The Sound three years ago in my town. But it's a hard play to read. The Signet Classic edition strikes the right balance between illumination and overexplanation, though the puns and metaphors seem more lost in time than they do in other Shakespeare plays.Everyone should read "The Tempest" themselves. There's the classic language, the beauty of its lines and phrases that echo down to us in common usage like "sea change", "what's past is prologue", and "O brave new world/that has such people in't!" And definitely try to see it performed on stage; it really comes to life there. Only if you're like me, just be aware a second reading might leave you a bit disappointed.


A 'God' Who Learns To Forgive

by Bradley Headstone "Sean ARES Hirsch"
(4/5)

This review is dedicated to my father. Along with "Macbeth" and "Midsummer Night's Dream," this was one of his favorites. The play begins with an unfortunate ship being caught in a storm. In the next scene, we move from the ocean to a nearby island. There, we learn that the tempest was not from natural causes, but from the magic of our hero Prospero. Prospero has a grudge against certain passengers on that ship. (Miranda is in her teens, but she sounds much younger. Possibly because she has lead such a sheltered life.) Prospero's brother Antonio usurped Prospero's dukedom andhanded control over to King Alonso. Prospero and his daughter were banished, and the benevolent Gonzalo furnished them with books Prospero loved. (Prospero has been called the greatest representation of Shakespeare himself.) We may note though that while Prospero is the hero of this play, he has a major fault. (He loves playing God.) One example is when Ariel, (his fairy servant) asks for her 'promised freedom of air,' rather than just politely asking for some more time, Prospero threatens her.Moving on, we meet the deceased Sycorax's son Caliban. (Prospero defeated Sycorax) Prospero tried to be nice to Caliban, but Caliban repaid him by trying to rape Miranda. But since he enoys playing God, Prospero subjects Caliban to a torturous slavery. We later meet Ferdinand (the son of the king on the ship). He sees Miranda and loves her. But Prospero decides that he can not let his daughter be won too easily, and like Caliban, ferdinand is made to do hard labor.Moving on, we understand that the king (Ferdinand's father) is Prospero's enemy. But we are allowed generous sympathy for him when he is sorrow struck over his missing son. And even Ariel (Prospero's servant) stops an attempt by Antonio and Sebastian to kill the king.Later, caliban meets Stephano and Trinculo. the 3 become friends (throughsome comical use of wine) and join together to defeat Prospero and take over the island.Onto Act 3. ferdinand and Miranda express their love for each other, and Prospero (watching from an unseen location) is pleased. Antonio and Sebastian make another plan to kill Alonso. At this point, we can infer that Ariel has warned Prospero of the Caliban/Stephano/Trinculo plot. But Prospero sees another chance to play God. Antonio, Sebastian, Alonso, and Gonzalo are starving. Ariel and Prospero make an image of a banquet appear before them only to vanish. (This is kind of below the belt.)In Act 4, Prospero shows a gentler side when he consents to the marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda. Like a reasonable father, he asks Ferdinand to 'wait' until the wedding is performed. In a beautiful "Midsumer Night's Dream" nostaliga moment, there is a dance of fairies. Another interesting thing worth pointing out is that Prospero DID NOT tell Miranda of the murder plot against him. Either he is confident of being able to quell it himself, or he thinks it is beyond Miranda's comprehension. Perhaps he has played 'God' for a while and feels an attempt on his life is laughable.Moving on, Prospero gives his most famous speech. And it is tempting to suspect that Shakespeare is getting ready to say farewell to his art. (He only wrote one more play after this.)In 5.1, Prospero gives yet another beautiful speech on his accomplishments, and with the help of Ariel, Prospero realizes that revenge IS NOT a virtue. (Rather, forgiveness is!) It is VERY interesting that someone who enjoyed playing God fianlly realizes that forgiveness is the true measure of a man or god for that matter.Well, Prospero reconciles with the King and Gonzalo. (Even Antonio and Sebastian are forgiven.) Prospero informs the king that his son is safe and will soon be married to Miranda. Even Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo are forgiven.Overall, it's a wonderful play that shows that the greatest power in the world is forgiveness.


a saccharine bagatelle

by Caraculiambro
(1/5)

The "Tempest" shares the distinction -- along with "Love's Labor's Lost" -- of featuring a plot mostly contrived by Shakespeare himself. And it shows. Thank God for Amazon reviews, since it would be suicidal for somebody in the academy to point out all the obvious flaws of this crud. So allow me:1. We're constantly being reminded about Ariel's upcoming freedom: Was this meant to be the real tension of the play? Because even at final curtain, we never actually see him freed. This is dramatically unsatisfying.2. Prospero breaks his staff and drowns his books before sailing back to Milan. So what's to prevent him from being stabbed, thrown overboard, or dispensed with once everybody reaches the shore? He's made tons of enemies - and now he hasn't his magic to protect him. Admit it: this was in the back of your mind as the play ended, marring its grace.3. Doesn't anybody in this play ever have a look around before jumping to three pages of high-blown philosophical conclusions? (E.g., "This is some monster of the isle...")4. On this island, what has Miranda been using for tampons and stuff?5. You get leery when thinking what a cruddy job Prospero does of vetting his daughter's future husband. I suppose the idea of having him make Ferdinand's pursuit of Miranda fraught with difficultly so's he'd appreciate her more was serviceable enough, but all it really amounts to is making him schlep some logs around for an afternoon.6. It would appear that Prospero was usurped with good reason. He apparently had his nose in books all the time, whereas his brother evidently has the wherewithal to manage affairs of state with a more hardheaded realpolitik. (He's just concluded, for example, a valuable alliance-by-marriage with Tunis.) If Prospero really had the makings of a Prince, he would have demonstrated same by offing Alonso and company right there and then, since permitting them to live is bound to lead Milan into civil war later, when they regroup.7. That sappy, stilted, and pretentious "masque" scene doesn't belong there. Or at least not at such length. The young lovers aren't even married yet! That's another thing:8. The subplot between Ferdinand and Miranda is resolved far too early in the play, making the ending intolerably long.9. The introductory shipwreck scene is totally unnecessary! What does it add? It's like Shakespeare was trying to show off his command of nautical terminology.10. Most of the poetry is forgettable. Some of it blows outright. E.g.: "You sunburned sicklemen, of August weary, / Come hither from the furrow and be merry. / Make holiday; your rye-straw hats put on, / And these fresh nymphs encounter everyone / In country footing." Uh, you're joking, right?11. What's up with Prospero having Ariel maliciously taunt the bereaved Ferdinand about his drowned father? What did Ferdinand do to deserve that?12. Seems like there more characters than are really needed. If this has been bandied about as a script these days, any Hollywood studio would have immediately made the obvious decision: combine Antonio, Sebastian, Adrian, and Fransisco into fewer, or delete them. And that studio would have been right.13. Uh . . . has anybody noticed that the entire five-minute scene between Prospero and Miranda just after the shipwreck scene is nothing more than bald, unimaginative exposition? Master playright, eh? Heck, same thing goes for the scene just after that with Ariel, now that I think about it.Oh, you're being too literal, too realistic, you might complain. You've been ruined by the 19th century. Okay, then let's take the play on its grander meanings. Here's what it teaches us:12. Usurpation is bad. Everybody should know their place in society and not rock the boat by getting uppity. Caliban was wrong to have pursued his freedom: he should have known his place as a slave.13. It's the height of wisdom to marry somebody you just met yesterday without investing a greater effort in trying to get to know them.14. Women must not have their "virgin knots" broken, or they are impure and will not make acceptable wives.15. Getting drunk helps you make stupid decisions.16. Big psychological insight: Instead of endlessly justifying themselves, people have sudden epiphanies where they immediately and clearly perceive their guilt, causing them to change their worldview and lives on the spot (e.g., "Therefore my son i' th' ooze is bedded.")17. As always in Shakespeare, prophecies always come true, so it's pointless to try to change one's destiny. Just once I'd like to see some withered old hag utter some omen of doom, then at the end of the play it turns out to be nothing. That, at least, would constitute some insight into the human condition: people can't tell the future!So literally the play is a flop. And as for the play's deeper meanings - can somebody tell me why such sentiments are thought to be worth our time these days?I think people find this play gratifying because the setup (i.e., a remote, green, magical island; a shipwreck; a benign magician; a beautiful and innocent daughter; a misshapen fish-like beast) is such an alluring daydream: people like to picture themselves in such a setting. Hard for me to play along, though: apparently that island won't shut up long enough for you to take a nap.


The stuff dreams are made of

by C. Fletcher
(5/5)

I took this play with me out on my morning walks this week, and I feel that at the same time I was excercising my body I was also giving my mind and my imagination a pretty good workout.Like any form of excercise, reading Shakespeare isn't always easy, especially when you're just getting started. But if you stick with it, you're apt to find that it gets easier and the benefits become more apparent. Shakespeare's metaphorical language forces your mind to stay nimble and alert and his rich imagery gives you no other choice than to reconnect your soul to the world around you."The Tempest" is a lot of fun to read and it's not as weighty or ponderous as some of Shakespeare's dramas. It's a good choice to start with if you haven't read Shaksepeare before, or if you haven't read him since high school. The story involves Prospero, a duke who has been banished to a deserted island, along with his young daughter, Miranda. Propsero uses his magic to shipwreck a party of ex-compatriates who were originally responsible for his ousting. The ensuing drama deals with issues of loyalty, treachery, forgiveness, freedom, and the mind and body dichotomy. But the best part of it all is the vivid imagery. In the play's best moments, the words glow on the page.


Shakespeare's play of the early 1600s gains immensely from contemporary readers' post-colonial lens

by Christopher Culver
(5/5)

Shakespeare's play THE TEMPEST is, much like THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, a play where one is not quite sure whether to ascribe characterization to the ethnic stereotypes of the time or laud the playwright for looking beyond the prejudices of society to the universal equality of human beings. The plot of THE TEMPEST is generally about exiled duke and magician Prospero luring his enemies to his island to wreak vengence is entertaining enough, what remains with me after every reading is the interaction between Prospero and the indigenous islander Caliban. How, as Shakespeare has the reader ask, can Prospero blast his fellows for overthrowing him if the magician has done the same to Caliban? THE MERCHANT OF VENICE had Shylock giving a moving defence of his humanity before the jeers of Elizabethan society, but then he went back to being the Jewish villian that contemporary audiences would love to hate. Caliban gets that too, for although a European character muses on the possibility that primitive societies are superior to his own, Caliban is mostly exploited for a sort of comedy: watch as Prospero harasses and torments the foreigner!Over the years I've seen certain conservative writers blast the tendency of contemporary readers to focus on the Prospero-Caliban relationship, seeing it as a manifestation of political correctness. Still, that's what makes THE TEMPEST intriguing and saves the play from being a fairly goofy account of conspirators getting their comeuppance through an elemental spirit playing tricks on them, and then two young people falling in love but being commanded not to get frisky.I read the Bantam Classic edition of this work, which features some fine supplementary materials. The chapter on The Tempest in performance tracks the play's remarkable staging history, for Shakespeare's original work was usually extended operetta-style with music and dancing until the 20th century. Bantam also includes extracts from the 16th century works which served as an inspiration for Shakespeare's setting: Sylvester Jourdain's "A Discovery of the Bermudas", William Strachey's account of the same incident, and Baron Montaigne's essay on cannibals.


Shakespeare's 'intellectual' play

by ilmk "ilmk"
(5/5)

'The Tempest' was the last of Shakespeare's plays and contains all of the finest elements of his comedies, tragedies and histories. Indeed, one wonders as to the autobiographical makeup of Prospero, 'The Tempest' coming across as a signatory piece.The play deals with a shipwreck on an island inhabited by three people - the 'sorcerous' Prospero, his daughter Miranda and the 'beast' Caliban.As such the play is probably the most thematic of all Shakespeare's plays, there being sub-themes of revenge (Prospero was banished from Milan), slavery (Ariel and Caliban), ridiculous material gain (Trinculo and and Stephano) whilst the main themes are those of innocence, baseness of character and intellectual impartment. Each of these comes into contact with 'civilisation' in the form of the princely shipwreckees with the inevitable innocent Miranda being seduced by Ferdinand and Prospero both separating and sending off the various parties around the island to manipulate the desired outcome. He gets it of course, but the primary focus is on his relationsip to his two 'slaves' Ariel the spirit and Caliban, the beast. The relationships are markedly different, the former being ethereal, intangible; the latter earthy and brutal.This is certainly Shakespeare's finest play, if not the most poular, simply because it is a microcosm of everything that has gone before. It has romance, brutality, comedy, history, tragedy, pyschology, despair, laughter, the sublime, the ridiculous. None of the rest of the plays are as complete and, to echo George Eliot, you could say that 'The Tempest' was 'performed with [his] own best blood'.Sure, Macbeth, King Lear or Hamlet - greatest tragedy, A Midsummer's Night Dream or Romeo and Juliet - greatest romance, Two Gentlemen of Verona or The Merchant of Venice - greatest comedy, Henry V or Richard III - greatest history ; I am sure there are many arguments for all of his plays to be classed as the greatest in the individual genres.But, 'The Tempest' was his last play, the one that blends all of the above, and as such, when you really study it, it has to be his finest.


"The Tempest":

by James Yanni
(5/5)

First off, let's clarify one thing: when rating Shakespeare, I'm rating it as opposed to other Shakespeare. Otherwise, the consistent "5 stars" wouldn't tell you much. So when I rate this play five stars, I'm saying it's one of Shakespeare's absolute best.It's a real shame that the language has changed so much since Shakespeare wrote that his plays are no longer accessable to the masses, because that's who Shakespeare was writing for, largely. (Especially in his comedies.) Granted, there is enough serious philosophizing to satisfy the intelligensia, but the action and bawdy humor would surely satisfy any connouiseur of modern hit movies, if only they understood it. Unfortunately, while the plots are good enough to be lifted and reworked into modern movies (and they frequently are, sometimes more subtly than others) once you change the language, it's no longer Shakespeare, until and unless the rewriter can be found who has as much genius for the modern language as Shakespeare had for his own. So far, that hasn't happened, and I don't expect it to any time soon.As Shakespearean plays go, "The Tempest" is a fairly easy read. There are a few places where the footnotes are absolutely essential, and a few others where the main thrust can be grasped without them, but a double-entendre might be missed. But by and large, the play is readable for the literate modern reader. Granted, the romance element is as shallow as it usually is in Shakespeare, and there really isn't much drama: there's never any real doubt that Prospero and Ariel have matters well in hand. Still, it's an amusing comic romp, and that's all it was ever really intended to be. Don't try to read too many levels of symbolism and allegory into this play (or any other of Shakespeare's comedies, for that matter). You might as well do serious, in-depth analysis of the deeper meaning of "Men In Black II".


A review by Dr. Joseph Suglia

by Joseph Suglia "The Greatest Author in the World"
(1/5)

A Review of THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeareby Dr. Joseph SugliaGeorge Bernard Shaw inked the following (in 1913, "The Quintessence of Ibsenism"):"Reflective people are not more interested in the Chamber of Horrors than in their own homes, nor in murderers, victims, and villains than in themselves; and the moment a man has acquired sufficient reflective power to cease gaping at waxworks, he is on his way to losing interest in Othello, Desdemona, and Iago exactly to the extent to which they become interesting to the police."George Bernard Shaw is making the excellent point that Shakespeare's plays keep the spectator in the jury box. I endorse this thesis 100%. Shakespeare never inflicts guilt on the spectator. I feel guilty, at times, when reading Strindberg. I sometimes feel guilty when reading Ibsen. There are passages in Shaw that fill me with guilt. There are guilt-inflicting and -afflicting scenes in the films of Ingmar Bergman. But Shakespeare? Shakespeare is incapable of infusing anyone with guilt. There are enchantments, entertainments, and enticements in Shakespeare, but there is never a guilt-inspiring moment. Guilty characters (think of Alonso in THE TEMPEST or of Lady Macbeth). But no guilty spectators, ever.* * * * *The plot of THE TEMPEST, such as it is, should already be familiar to most. It is centered on Prospero, magus and erstwhile Duke of Milan, who is marooned on an island -- more than likely, one of the Bermudas, which were explored by the English in the early seventeenth century, the time of the play's composition. A shipwreck brings phantoms from Prospero's past, the promise of revenge and reinstatement, the promise of freedom to Prospero's slaves, Ariel and Caliban, and the promise of marriage to his daughter Miranda. Revenge comes swiftly and easily, Prospero's dukedom is restored, freedom is won, and marriage is inevitable. Since all of the protagonist's desires are fulfilled, THE TEMPEST is a comedy in the Shakespearean sense. I will return to this point below.It might be useful to survey some of the dramatis personae.Caliban is a cheetah-speckled fish-beast and the Earth-Spirit of the play. His name is anagrammatic of "can(n)ibal." Shakespeare read of South Seas cannibals in Montaigne, and the English of the early seventeenth century did believe that the South Seas islanders were cannibals, devils, evil spirits, fantastic creatures. Caliban is the whelp of the North African witch Sycorax; his god is Setebos. "Setebos" is the name given to a Patagonian "devil" by one of Magellan's companions. You can see that this is indeed a text that reflects the age of the European seafaring expeditions, the Age of Exploration.Caliban is not merely uneducated -- he is not educable, not civilizable, not humanizable. His naturalness, his earthiness, his childish stupidity are what make him so dangerous. It does seem that he is the one character who escapes, if only for a moment, Prospero's power. Thus Prospero's power is not absolute. The ex-Duke is so unsettled by the breach in his power that he takes a walk to clear his head. Then again, Prospero's dazedness is nothing more than an interlude of impotence, an interruption of senescence or senility. As Miranda says of her father: "Never till this day / Saw I him touch'd with anger so distemper'd" [IV:1].No one has ever seemed to notice before that Caliban's desires mirror Prospero's own desires. Caliban expresses his desire to burn Prospero's books [III:2]; Prospero drowns his own books (or "book") toward the close of the play. Caliban expresses the desire to violate Miranda. Does Prospero have the same desire? Am I alone in believing that Prospero has incestuous feelings for his own daughter? Here is what the magus says about Miranda:"...I visit / Young Ferdinand, whom [his fellows] suppose is drown'd, / And his and mine lov'd darling" [III:3].In the lines quoted above, Prospero does not separate his fatherly feelings from Ferdinand's erotic feelings for Miranda.Ariel is the air sprite who does nothing without Prospero's directive, but it also might be said that Prospero does nothing without Ariel's assistance. Ariel's name means "The Lion of God" in Hebrew. Despite what Harold Bloom says, the etymology is neither accidental nor irrelevant to the pith of the play. Ariel releases a leonine roar in the second act and is the serf of Prospero, who is indeed the deific figure of the island. Ariel is endlessly promised a freedom that seems to be forever denied to him.Miranda means "She Who is Admired." Before she meets Ferdinand, her soon-to-be-husband, the only man she knows is Prospero, unless we consider Caliban to be a "man" (he is a hybrid of man and fish, a fish-man or a man-fish. As Trinculo says, Caliban is "[l]egg'd like a man, and his fins [are] like arms" [II:2]). Prospero is more than mother and father to Miranda -- he is the very model of manhood. And of womanhood.Miranda is a gift -- perhaps a potlatch -- from the former Milanese duke to the presumptive King of Naples, Ferdinand. It is the gift of his daughter that will lead to the restoration of Prospero's lost dukedom. Marriage is always a political transaction, in Shakespeare:[T]hou shalt find she will outstrip all praise,And make it halt behind her...[A]s my gift, and thine own acquisitionWorthily purchas'd, take my daughter [IV:1].Note the nastiness that Prospero showers on his daughter in absentia, discussing her as if she were a horse.Ferdinand is a big beefy beefhead. He is a Keanu Reeves type. In fact, Keanu Reeves was most likely born to play the role of Ferdinand. This is how he describes himself (to his fiancee):"[F]or your sake / Am I this patient log-man" [III:1].He Log Man lift logs good.* * * * *The play was first performed for the amusement and bemusement of James I in November 1611. This explains why usurpation is one of the play's leitmotifs and why it contains a wedding masque in the style of Ben Jonson. The presence of the wedding masque is not accidental: THE TEMPEST is itself a masque and has nothing in its pretty little head other than the desire to beguile, to enchant, to entertain, and to reassure the King, his minions, and the groundlings of the Globe that the King shall always prevail. The usurping of Prospero's power by Antonio is the antimasque; the fifth act represents the restoration of the Duke's (and the King's) power. In ULYSSES, usurpation takes on a world-historical AND a personal significance--here, it is nothing more than a regal anxiety to be pacified.There is magical poetry to be found in the play, but also some very lenient and lazy writing. Take, for instance, the following. Gonzalo, the court lawyer, intones at the close of the first scene of the first act:"Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground -- long heath, brown furze, any thing. The wills above be done, but I would fain die a dry death."Well, that is a wasted bit of dialogue, isn't it? Who ***wouldn't*** want to die on dry ground rather than in a shipwreck, as the ship one is in is wrecking?And here is one of Ariel's excruciatingly stupid songs:Before you can say `come' and `go,'And breathe twice, and cry `so, so,'Each one, tripping on his toeWill be here with mop and mow.Do you love me, master? No? [IV:1].I could quote more senile singsong, but it would make me sick. There are those who can read such lines and still consider Shakespeare to be the greatest writer in the English language. I am not one of them.There is too much tawdry bawdry in the play, too much of what we would call today "comic relief." With the exception of a botched assassination attempt, the entire second act is wasted on laughless comedy. The comedy is the poetic nadir of the play. It is not that the raillery is dated, nor that it has long since been drained of any humor it might have had. The problem is that it is fluff, filler -- empty pages and too much empty time, time wasted idly and emptily on the stage.* * * * *Why, exactly, should we believe that Prospero ought to be reinstated as the Milanese duke? Prospero was ridiculously inept as a duke. He explains to Miranda how his brother, Antonio, usurped control of the Milanese dukedom:The government I cast upon my brotherAnd to my state grew stranger, being transportedAnd rapt in secret studies...I thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicatedTo closeness and the bettering of my mindWith that which, but by being so retir'd,O'er-priz'd all popular rate, in my false brotherAwak'd an evil nature... [I:2].The neglectful and inadvertent duke, absorbed in the dark arts, loses his material power. We won't have to wait very long before he wins it back again. Despite all of his flaws, and of these there are many, Prospero emerges as "The Favored One," as his name implies. He does this so effortlessly and smoothly that there is no space to wonder about the outcome. Prospero wins, without even trying to win, a game that is rigged in advance, and this (as I stated earlier) is what makes THE TEMPEST a Shakespearean "comedy."A Shakespearean comedy is not a play that makes us laugh, but a play in which the unlikable main character is easily victorious and the principals are married off, even if they don't want to be married off.All Shakespearean comedies project utopias. They are not frictionless utopias, to be fair. There are discordances in every one of Shakespeare's utopias. Antonio, the usurping brother, and Caliban, the rebel slave, provide the discordances in THE TEMPEST. And yet these disharmonies, these frictions, only exist in order to make the triumph of favored Prospero all the sweeter. The Duke is deposed, then reinstated. The Duke is dethroned, long live the Duke!Some commentators have mused: Why are Prospero's adversaries so threatened by the magus ***after*** he abjures his art? Why don't they rise up and slit his throat (which Caliban intended to do earlier)? That they do not do this is nonplussing. On the contrary, they stand in fear of the demystified mage. Even after the abjurement of his magic, Sebastian says that the "devil speaks" in Prospero and Caliban worries that his master will "chastise" him [V:1].It is difficult to say why Prospero's enemies are meekened and weakened at the close of the play. Perhaps, as Harold Bloom proposed, the magus does not need any of the external signs of magic. Perhaps he has interiorized all of his powers. He can break his staff, drown his book, and shed his mantle, for his power now comes from within. Or is it merely the case that Prospero's enemies -- Sebastian, Antonio, Caliban, Stefano, Trinculo -- are unaware that the magus has abjured his art?While reading the play, there was a pleasantly unpleasant thought I could not quite suppress: I wished that Caliban would rise up and sodomize all of the inhabitants of the isle, kill them, skin them, cannibalize them, and wear their carcasses. This is more or less what happens in Peter Brook's dramatization. But no, instead, Prospero wins and forgives every one of his adversaries in a proto-Nietzschean affirmation of his power.Indeed, forgiveness is the final phase of Prospero's revenge plot. Prospero calls his perfidious brother "wicked" and "unnatural" in the very sentences through which he forgives him:"I do forgive thee, / Unnatural though thou art" [V:1].The "rarer action" [Ibid.] is to forgive rather than to avenge. But my question is thus: Can forgiveness not be a form of vengeance?* * * * *In the Epilogue, the actor who plays Prospero steps onto the stage one last time to beg for applause: "[R]elease me from my bands / With the help of your good hands." He asks for the spectator's "indulgence." He says that his project was to "please." Only applause can free the actor from the isle of mirages over which the mage presides.Here we have a pitiful plea for approbation from an attention-hungry actor-dramatist. It is a Pathetic Appeal in two senses of the term: On the one hand, it is the attempt to stimulate the pity of the spectators and to provoke within them the pity-driven need to clap. On the other hand, it is an appeal that is, well, ***pathetic***, in the colloquial-American sense of the word. But then, the Actor himself is yet another mask. One mask conceals another mask conceals another mask conceals another mask... and so forth ad infinitum.(Long parenthesis: Here we have the Shakespearean conceit that life is theatre and theatre, life. The island is an island of illusions where no man is his own [V:1]. The characters on the stage, of course, are nothing more than dramatic illusions - and are themselves illusioned. We -- the audience, the spectators, we human beings -- we ourselves are illusions, according to Shakespeare: "We are such stuff / As dreams are made on; and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep" [IV:1]. Each character is seduced by simulations or seduces by simulation: The shipwreck is described as a "spectacle"; Ariel assumes the shape of a water-nymph and then a harpy; Prospero camouflages himself throughout the play in various disguises; Caliban, Trinculo, and Stefano are seduced by garments hanging from the bough of a tree, etc., etc.)To please the audience, to appease the audience, to entertain the audience was also Shakespeare's only goal. I should here make the point that Shakespeare was a panderer, a jongleur of the court. His plays always pander. They seek to assuage their audiences' fears. They never provoke their audiences. To return to my opening point: No one has ever been made to feel guilty by a Shakespeare play.At the end of the day, THE TEMPEST does bear one redeeming facet: The play sparked some of the most exciting works of literature of the twentieth century. The hallucinatory wonderlands of J.G. Ballard, for instance (by way of Joseph Conrad) would have been unthinkable without the tempestuous bluster of Shakes the Pear.Dr. Joseph Suglia


The Tempest: Ambiguous

by Patrick J. Jones
(3/5)

Title: The Tempest by William ShakespearePages: 187 (including commentary and notes).Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 2-3 years.Days spent reading it: 1 evening.Why I read it: I was reading some sci-fi books (Illium and Olympos by Dan Simmons) that used characters and plot points from the Tempest as a major element of the book. I figured it was about time that I read a classic Shakespeare and figure out why these characters were used and why someone might use them again in a sci-fi story.Brief review: What an odd play. The Tempest is about a storm that causes a ship to basically wreck on an abandoned island. As we get into the play, we are introduced to the main character Prospero. Prospero has apparently caused this storm to happen and has plans for the people whom he has shipwrecked.It's difficult to say if I liked this play or not. It was very difficult to read. I find Shakespeare brutally difficult to understand, and this play was no exception. His sentences and syntax are so difficult to read its hard to follow what exactly a character is talking about.A major part of this play is Prospero's plans. We are never told explicitly what Prospero's actual plans are. He apparently changes them at some points in the play. He has no advisors and no confidants. The critical introduction to my version of the play says that is what makes this play unique amongst Shakespeare's plays. Prospero is an enigma. He's ambiguous. He's hard to pin down. And what are we to make of his "monster" Caliban, who serves Prospero but also wants to overthrow him? He repents, but are we to believe his repentance? What are we to understand about love as represented by Miranda and Ferdinand? Can love be setup? Can we recognize our true loves in a matter of minutes? Or seconds? Shakespeare has some unique insights into the nature of humanity, but some of his ideas ultimately seem forced or unnatural to me.I realized once again, I'm not a big fan of Shakespeare. I'm sorry. I just do not think the effort of understanding is worth the payoff. I know, blasphemous, but that's my take on the Bard. I'll stick with my greek tragedies please.Favorite quote:Caliban: "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 sometimes voices/ That, if then had waked after long sleep,/ Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,/ The clouds mehtought would open, and show riches/ Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked/ I cried to dream again."Stars: 2.5 out of 5Final Word: Ambiguous.


Great introduction to Shakespeare for Children

by Rebecca of Amazon "The Rebecca Review"
(5/5)

"Hell is empty and all the devils are here."Not only is this story appropriate for children, it has fairy tale like qualities which also include a happily ever after conclusion.While Shakespeare painted his scenery with words, this book has been beautifully illustrated by Elena Livanova.This story is based on the Animated Tales as seen on HBO and is abridged especially for children. Not only was it prepared under the direction of Shakespearean scholars, it contains an introduction to the play, information about Shakespeare?s life and interesting description of the theater in Shakespeare?s time."The Tempest" is a rather mysterious play filled with monsters, spirits, clowns, lovers and villans. It starts with a magical tempest and ends happily. It is a magical love story between Miranda and Ferdinand filled with adventure and humor. This story was written when Shakespeare was about forty-seven and was his last completed play.Strangely enough this book helped me understand a book by Henry David Thoreau. He was talking about a "harpy" and there is a picture of one in this book.The companion video is available separately from Random House Home Video.Also look for: Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night?s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night.A readable volume for kids of all ages. Love the pictures...~The Rebecca Review


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