Monday, December 20, 2010

Twelfth Night Act III scene i

I found this class to be one of my favorites this semester, not only for the classes liveliness but, of course, for the content. In the past i've read Shakespeare before but i never really READ Shakespeare, like it was an i know whats going on moment but very briefly. I've always had a biased view of Shakespeare too: he's not THAT amazing. But i stand corrected: Shakespeare's pretty bad ass. And i just had an argument with my friend about this, he still says he isn't.

But from looking back at what we read so far My favorite has to be Twelfth Night. It was just so humorous, and my imagination just blew it up for me. My favorite scene of course was Act III Scene i (if i wasn't stage shy or if i actually remembered about it i would have atleast suggested it as a scene to act out) when Cesario returns to talk to Olivia. It's funny i didn't imagine this scene when reading it in the garden, i guess i imagined it more in a modern building apartment or in a mansion. In a very lavishly comical way.

Olivia for me was just so desperate and in my own imagination her desperation is acted out very physically, as in when Cesario tries to leave she throws herself at him, holds onto him pleading for his company (this of course could become slightly problematic since Cesario is a girl...she might accidentally find some feminine curves in those hugs) and he tries desperately in every way to get away from her. I sort of think of a more tame version of the Elephant Scene in Moulin Rouge. Though i could see Olivia trying that one out on Cesario too. But i can just imagine her throwing herself against doors blocking his way out and chasing him around tables and things.

It's like 'Lost' meets 'Harry Potter'!

(I was having a difficult time trying to post the video, but it can be seen here.)

I am sure many of us studying Shakespeare are very excited for the release of Julie Taymor's new film adaptation of 'The Tempest'. Making the most of today's cinematic technology, the previews seem to make it look, as Stephen Colbert so eloquently put it, as if "it's like 'Lost' meets 'Harry Potter'". Fancy computer-generated fire aside, what I am more interested in is that Helen Mirren is taking on the role of Prospero (a). I was wondering how a female lead would affect the tone of the film, and if any dialogue would be added or cut. In this interview, Julie Taymor comments on the role of Prospera, and how since the lead is now a woman, the relationship between Prospera and her daughter Miranda has significantly changed; the relationship between a mother and daughter is quite different than that of a father and daughter. Obviously, I will have to see the movie to see the actors' chemistry, but I thought it was an engaging idea. Would a mother's concern for her daughter's future be based more on the welfare of her child? I would think so. I think this could be a comment on the original Prospero's sense of ownership of his daughter; Miranda was more of a prize, or something material - she is, after all, his "rich gift" (iii.iii.8). Hopefully, I'll be able to see the movie over the break!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

IT'S ALL A DREAM! (Hamlet Act 1)

Though I don't necessarily agree with interpreting the Ghost of Hamlet's father to be an inner manifestation of Hamlet's mind (because how would the guards see them [well, I guess they could be a part of the dream too]?), it is interesting to look at act one, scene five in the perspective that the Ghost is only satisfying the part of Hamlet's mind that sees the marriage of Claudius and Gertrude as an injustice.

Before Hamlet even hears of the Ghost, its plain that he is in continual mourning and of "dejected haviour" because he refuses to accept the death of his father and move on. The marriage of his mother to Claudius renders him impotent in all matters and he rejects the unrighteous marriage of uncle to mother. yet he has no power or direct cause to vow vengeance on either of them.

With the infusion of the Ghost in the plot, Hamlet is given a cause for his anger and is pushed towards vowing revenge by his father's spirit. Viewing the Ghost as an agent of Hamlet's subconscious, it becomes an agent of justification for Hamlet's aforementioned mourning and resentment. Since Hamlet was more than hesitant after learning of the supposed murder, without that knowledge, he probably never would have fully revenged Claudius.

"O my prophetic soul!" cried Hamlet when the Ghost told Hamlet of Claudius' betrayal. He takes a moment to commend himself of suspecting foulness in the ascension of Claudius. Is Hamlet a prophet? Or is he only hearing to an inner demon that denies anything beyond the thoughts that have been tormenting Hamlet since his father's death?

Either way, he died satisfied.

Don John...What a Bastard

No time was wasted on Shakespeare's part in immediately giving a strong characterization to the villainy and antisocial behavior of Don John. While the previous two acts dealt with the joyous news of characters coming together, scene three in act one introduces a bastard who expresses pleasure in the very thought of strangling the upcoming union of Claudio and Hero.

Don John's "sadness is without limit," and also without reason. He never gives a reason for his disposition besides being confined within his social position and a displeasure for common civility with others. There is a selfishness within him that he will never attempt to hide from others: "I must be sad / when I have cause, and smile at no man's jests; eat when I have / stomach, and wait for no man's leisure." Though this exudes arrogance, Don John's words mark a truthfulness in him that reminded me of the character Alceste in Moliere's The Misanthrope if anyone has ever read that before. That character similarly does not appreciate false faces and common manners, and will not hesitate to tell a character exactly what he is thinking. However, both characters take the virtue of honesty to an extreme and twist it into an ugly merit.

When Borachio announces the jointing of Claudio and Hero, Don John shed light on what his role in the plot of the play will be. He is looking for just the occasion to cause a vengeful disruption when he asks if it "will serve for any model to build mischief on?" This mischief is what fuels Don John's pleasure and lifts his earlier mentioned "sadness". When he learns who exactly is to be wed, it fills him with even more delight that the"proper squire" and the "very forward March chick," complimentary titles, are to be the subjects of his injustice. The more righteous the occasion is, the more Don John will revel in whatever his disruption comes to form.

The Bastard of Much Ado About Nothing is a proper outcast and villain to provide the conflict of the play. In a play of flattery (in Claudio and Hero) and hidden feelings (in Beatrice and Benedick), Don John is complacent with being the necessary "plain-dealing villain."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Importance of Act V in A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night Dream is a play that could arguably be considered to be completed fully in the first four acts, yet Shakespeare included a fifth. Why is this? The climax of the play is presented to the audience in act three and then a fair enough conclusion is given in act four. Act five is short and sweet not much happens but a strong point is made to the viewers in explaining that all the themes of love that and chaos that were depicted as being so serious in earlier the play are actually not at all and that in reality it should be perceived as good natured and rather hilarious.

Thesus summons for Egeus to give a performance before everyone is off to bed. Egues reluctantly tells a story of Pyramus and Thisbe after giving warning that Thesus will not like it. Thesus says he wants this performance as long as there is something of value in the story. The stroy is acted out in a very strange and awkward manner, each character was acting ain a seemingly joking manner especially Bottom. This was to send a message to the viewers of the scene as well as the actual audience that not all is so serious that there can be fun and love is not always such a dramatic tense emotion. To even further this at the end of the performance the audience was given the option to hear and see the epilogue or a bergamask dance. To show the acceptance of the comical performance Thesus chooses to see the dance which is performed by both Flute and Bottom.

After all this Puck comes in to end the play and a good note. He says that the fairies will come and bless the castle and the lovers that they will remain in love and be happy and have beautiful children. Everyone goes off to bed feeling good and far less tense in comparrison to the other acts in the play. The need of Act five was to show that love is not something that people should get overly worked up about, and that is can be a good happy think and should be more often that not.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Make-Up Blog Post: a peek back to Much Ado

This semester we have been introduced to several characters that are strong but held back by that which they cannot control: their gender. Let’s take a look back to Much Ado About Nothing when Hero is accused of being unfaithful to Claudio. Her virginity gives her status and while the men in her life will assert their control over her, only she truly has control over her actions and likewise virginity. This being said, isn’t it strange how she herself is not able to convince her fiancĂ©e of her innocence? Hero (and unmarried women in general) are given so much status and are so coveted in this society but they are given no authority over this treasure which they possess. It is also easy to question the “love story” between Hero and Claudio. Why is it that Claudio immediately trusts the slander he hears rather than trusting his soon to be wife whom he “loves”? In his upsetting speech to Hero, Claudio comments on her blushing cheeks. How is Claudio to know exactly why she is blushing? It could’ve been because she is a maid, or guilty, or scared, or perhaps she was just hot. Besides who wouldn’t turn red when accused of something so serious. I found it sad and highly ironic how Claudio twists her own complexion against her. This is yet another example of the ridiculous power men have over women in this social structure. Surely when someone possesses something as precious and easily tarnished as Hero’s virginity, someone would be plotting to destroy it for one reason or another. In this case an awful trick turns to tragedy for Hero. Luckily for her, a plan is devised that will prove that Claudio loves her and bring the liars to confess out of guilt. Everyone is told that Hero is dead, but what if the plan shouldn’t work? If the plan shouldn’t work the backup is to send Hero to a nunnery. This hardly seems like an even alternative for an innocent woman but sadly it is the only choice Hero has left. Because this play is a comedy the plan to redeem Hero works but I cannot help but dwell on the daunting possibility that it could’ve failed. Hero’s story makes me very glad that I’m not a woman in that time period.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Politics! Monsters! And a foreign island of magic!

Politics, monsters, a foreign island of magic and a epilogue/prayer, wow Shakespeare has certainly changed up the usual format of his plays for The Tempest.
It was interesting to see Prospero’s transition between each type of control. First having political control of Milan (losing it through distractions and manipulation) to harnessing the magical powers of the island and taking servants of Caliban and Ariel and imprisoning Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian. To finally releasing control of the island and handing his freedom to the audience was quite a compelling switch.
Has his treatment of others changed for each new position? Also who is he placing in responsibility for his actions? By asking the audience to applaud him I felt it was reminiscent when he asked his brother Antonio to rule Milan for him.
(The epilogue also reminded me of Puck, at the end of Midsummer, when he asks the audience to think of the play as a dream.) If the magical play of island forces and spirits was only a dream, who is held responsible for the actions (pain to Prospero’s prisoners and servants? )

Reflection left over from last week: Politics! As we talked about in class last week The Tempest offers a TON of political commentary! It sure was interesting to hear how it was a commentary on the times! Our class question of "Can you take the social structure of England and put it in a new place?" is super interesting- especially considering how we have historical answers/examples to this question.
I continued thinking about the question and then asked myself is the social structure that England (and other world powers) recreated in colonized lands still there?

I also wonder:
Did Prospero give up the right to rule his country when he left his brother with all of the legwork of running a nation?

One of the most interesting things I noticed while reading was how many of the men hoped to create a society where there was no structure and they did nothing but lounge around all day! Gonzalo's "commonwealth" was a place of major relaxing, is this about convenience or more representative of the lack of government on the island?

How do we further historical traditions of imperialism and slavery today? Just as Prospero used the island and Caliban for his advantage do we take similar steps today unknowingly?
This video has very little to do with Shakespeare but might help in understanding our original question of “Can you take the social structure of England and put it in a new place?", maybe it addresses the result of trying to transplant and support certain places.
A note on commodities trading: At the end of the play Antonio notes how Caliban can be marketed.

Prospero's Epilogue

In the reading questions this week we were prompted to examine the epilogue delivered by Prospero. Throughout this play Prospero has been a strong, driving force as well as an empowered character. He has magical powers and it seems that he can manipulate his island world in most any way in order to reach his goals. Despite all the power he possesses, Prospero is still held on the island against his will. It was never his choice to be a magical island ruler and therefore he is captive as well as powerful. Here in this epilogue we get a completely different style and feeling from him. Prospero is reduced to pleading for his freedom. He beseeches the audience to forgive him as they would all like to be forgiven, so that he can be free.
I also stumbled across a strangely animated BBC presentation of the Tempest. Enjoy

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Journey Versus the Destination

The Journey Versus the Destination

Throughout our reading of The Tempest, Prospero’s character has made it a challenge for me to like the play. He is the hero of the story, undoubtedly, and unlike the tragedy of Hamlet, where we can rest assured that the main character of questionable morality will meet his end, this play qualifies as a comedy. It’s difficult for me to like the fact that Prospero’s story ends more-or-less happily when he’s such a controlling and manipulative character.

I admit, Prospero does have his reasons for acting the way he does. He was Duke of Milan, so he probably grew accustomed to being treated as royalty and having people obey his every whim. Then, as he explains to Miranda in Act I, “In my false brother/Awaked an evil nature; and my trust,/Like a good parent, did beget of him/A falsehood, in its contrary as great/As my trust was” (1.2.64-64). He refers to the time when he was uprooted from his place as Duke by his brother Antonio, which is meant to arouse our sympathy as readers. However, Prospero states in the same passage that he was immersed in his own studies of magic and was “thus neglecting worldly ends,” so it seems he was a negligent Duke and might not have deserved his position in the first place. I’m sure he feels justified in trying to regain his power, but I’m not sure I agree with him.

Aside from the betrayal by his brother, I don’t know if Prospero has a lot of justification for his actions. It is admirable that Prospero rescues Ariel, who the witch Sycorax confined “By help of her more potent ministers,/And in her unmitigable rage/Into a cloven pine” (1.2.276-279). However, after this rescue he demands that Ariel act as little more than a slave. Prospero also basically enslaves Caliban, Sycorax’s son and the owner of the island, and while Caliban is not a very likeable character, I don’t think he deserves to be “subject to a tyrant, a sorcerer, that by his cunning hath cheated me of the island” (3.2.40-41). Prospero didn’t think Antonio was right to take over in Milan, so I don’t see why he thinks his subjugation of Caliban is any better.

Even if we rely on the shaky reasoning that Ariel and Caliban are less than human and it is all right to treat them as slaves, it is hard to justify Prospero’s dominance over and manipulation of Miranda and Ferdinand. Prospero manipulates them in such a way that Ferdinand ends up taking over Caliban’s duties, acting the part of a slave himself. As the son of the King of Naples, Ferdinand should be well above the level of a monstrous native or a familiar spirit. Yet Prospero claims he doesn’t believe Ferdinand’s claims about being the heir to Naples and treats him the same as any other servant. Even in Shakespeare’s time, this treatment should have been problematic.

At the end of the play things are apparently set right. Prospero, regaining his place as Duke of Milan, forgives the men who stole the title from him. He says he will give up the magic he used to manipulate everyone in the play, agrees to let Ferdinand marry Miranda, and releases Ariel and Caliban from their duties. We may end with order, but it feels more like a “end justifies the means” situation. Consenting to Ferdinand’s marriage to Miranda and setting Ariel and Caliban free at the end of the play doesn’t justify Prospero’s treatment of them until that point. It doesn’t feel like he learns the error of his ways and feels remorse; instead it sounds more like he feels he’s justified in treating the other characters so horribly and only changes the way he treats them because he’s in a good mood after reclaiming his dukedom. Of course, the idea that a journey matters more than its destination probably wasn’t as prevalent in Shakespeare’s time, so it might just be a modern reading that makes the play problematic. I do have to wonder about how Prospero’s character would have been received when The Tempest was first written, though.

the power of magic

This is not the first time that we have seen a shipwreck in Shakespeare’s plays this is the first time that we know the cause. We know that Prospero and his magic were the cause of the storm, “If by your art, my dearest father, you have /Put the wild water in this roar, ally them” (1.2.1-2). We also know that he doesn’t let the storm develop too much or allow anyone to get hurt, “No harm. / I have done nothing but in car of thee,…”(1.2.15). We soon learn the reasoning behind Prospero’s actions, revenge. Which I don’t blame him for wanting to get revenge, his own brother, Antonio dethroned him and had him and Miranda taken out of Milan. Depending on how you look at the situation you can view Prospero’s magic as good or bad. For example it is the reason that he is on the island , Antonio who managed the state had control and power over the people, he was winning them over while Prospero was studying , “I, thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated/ To closeness and the bettering of my mind” (1.2.89-90). His magic is what got him into trouble and landed him on the island in the first place but it is also helping him out of the island. You may look at his use of magic as manipulative, however isn’t all magic manipulative. He has Ariel make sure that Ferdinand sees Miranda first, so that things can work out according to plan; Ferdinand fall for Miranda and they could get married. Which I don’t blame him for wanting to get back at his brother and regain is power and authority to the throne.
On the island the rules are different than those of England, there is no hierarchy, they are removed from Europe and the politics of Europe. Yet every person on the island is plotting and devising ways to gain power and control. Stefano and Trinculo want to kill Prospero , they want to grab his books and burn them, and Stefano want to make Miranda his wife; “Monster, I will kill this man. His daughter and I will/ be king and queen –save out graces! –and Trinculo and thy-/ self shall be viceroys. Dost thou like the plot, Trinculo?” (3.2.101-103). We also know that Antonio and Sebastian want to kill Gonzolo so Sebastian can be king. Everyone on this island is after power, because they know that in Europe that is all that matters. Prospero has his magic as an advantage.

The Tempest

I chose to write my blog about the beginning of the play because it is so different than what we are used to and what we have read in other Shakespeare plays. The opening scene is the most dramatic and interesting. It opens with a sound (thunder and lightening) which is immersing and forboding. Is this an act of fate? It is out of human control and it gives the audience the actual experience of what is going on and what the characters are experiencing. We are taken out of the theater and brought onto the ship and the island. As we discussed in class, we are taken out of Eruope and transported into other geographic place, we are removed from politics just as they are in Europe. There is also a sense of magical realm happening in this play. Both Stephano and Trinculo are influenced by the magic of the island thinking that that they are beyond the realm of their own morality. Although Prospero succeeds by bringing Ferdinand and Merinda together by magic, their union is not meaningful in any way. The religious aspect of their union and the traditions are more important than the accomplishments of Prospero's magic. However, Ferdinand feels that Miranda and him were meant to be and that it was fate, but would they have found each other if it weren't for Prospero's magic? I think it is interesting that Prospero is the only character who wants to replicate society on the island and also has the most control. Maybe it has to do with the fact of his brother dethroning him and sending him and his daughter away to the island.

When thinking about the ship, it can be compared to a community. There are a lot of people and everyone is different, everyone looks different, serves different purposes and has different duties. There is no authority and the ship relies on people doing particular jobs, division of labor. This play is about a shipwreck, but is also a comedy. One may say it is a disorder because the play opens with a destruction of community. Disorder can also be known as class, confusion and/or error.

Forbidden Planet

As an avid movie buff i love watching film adaptations of things and Shakespeare is no different for me, so i looked through the back of the play and caught sight of something i didn't really expect to be there as a modern adaptation of the Tempest: Forbidden Planet. I've seen the old 50's scifi before but i didn't really think of it as i started to read this (probably because i haven't seen it in years) But as i sit here and watch this classic film over again (and it is definitely a fun watch if you ever get the chance) it most certainly is a modern take on the play.
What i find really interesting though is that a Shakespearean play could ever be transformed into a science fiction... poetry and science? they seems so opposite from one another...yet it works fabulously. Here you have the classic tale covered up by all the modern day scifi glitz and glamour. Plus Robby the Robot (as Ariel) is just so fun (especially when you watch a lot of old films and you see him pop up everywhere, on a side note...look for the Wicked Witch of the West's hourglass too, its all over old hollywood)

I don't really want to get into the plot for the movie here in case you haven't seen it and i really think that its a great watch and as Shakespeare fans you'd probably really enjoy seeing the connections between the two. But i will say this: Prospero is Morbius, Miranda is Altaira, Ferdinand is Commander Adams, Ariel is Robby the Robot and Caliban is the monster Id.

It really shows you though how timeless Shakespeare can be and just how far his work can extend. I think this story works really well for a sci fi though because the magical element in it allows for a great level of versatility within stories. Plus the isolation of the island allows for the ability to pick the story up and place it within any setting you wish.

Conversion of Power

We have discussed in class how The Tempest is a play about political control and power. Prospero loses his dukedom over Milan after he mistakenly gives his brother the responsibility of looking over government affairs. In this play Prospero is compensating for this mistake by exerting an almost obscene amount of control over everyone around him through the use of magic and speech in order to take revenge on his brother and the others who helped plot against him.

It comes as a surprise to see Prospero in the beginning of Act V surrendering his control over the super natural beings on the island. The conversation between Ariel and Prospero at the beginning of this scene is rather touching; Ariel comments on the power of Prospero's conjectures saying “Your charm so strongly works 'em/That if you now beheld them your affections/Would become tender” (17-19). You might expect Prospero upon hearing this comment to punish Ariel or condemn him for saying something so bold. Prospero instead treats Ariel as an equal asking “Dost thou think so, spirit?” (20) who responds by saying “Mine would ,sir, were I human” (21). Prospero then decides “And mine shall” (22). He seems easily swayed by Ariel to end his streak of terror upon the visitors on the island and instead begin to make amends with them for how they have wronged him. This act greatly juxatopes with act IV, where we see Prospero display ultimate control over his daughter and future son in law in addition to Caliban, Trinculo, Stefano, as well as Ariel and the spirits who perform for the young couple then attack the three conniving clowns.

Was this Prospero's intention all along? He does not clearly state to the audience or any of the characters what he ultimately plans to do with the people on the island in the acts prior. I believe he did intend to have some “fun” with the other characters and show off his meticulous control and master of his magical powers. In the beginning of Act V he sees that his "project" has gathered "to a head" (1) and that Ariel has perfectly performed all the tasks that had been commanded of him. He releases Ariel earlier than planned. He forgives his brother for usurping his dukedom and the other characters who helped Antonio in doing so. Prospero gets his dukedom back and is to return to Milan. In the last lines of the epilogue Prospero says “As you from crimes would pardoned be,/Let your indulgence set me free” (19-20). So far this play has been about attaining and exerting control, but the end of the play signifies a different message about power. Prospero gains power by conversely surrendering his power, and the power of forgiveness and kindness has set him free from the confining world of the island.

"The Tempest" closes in the face of A Brave New World

Miranda's reaction upon being unveiled to Prospero's captives and seeing even more people on the island for the first time, "How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world / That has such people in’t!” (3111) is of course an expression of her naivety, but I suspect it is also a wry statement of Shakespeare's injected here. Miranda is receiving traitors, fools, and honest men all together in equal delight; I interpreted this moment as a positive affirmation that humanity, capable of as much baseness as virtue, is something one must marvel at (and forgive, as Prospero did), rather than condemn.

I don't know if I'm on track with this interpretation- that one should wonder at humanity's vastness and not just curse its deficiencies- because it seems like too gargantuan a statement to make for this play. However, our last class discussion touched upon the idea that Shakespeare might have intended to have The Tempest stand out from the others. The Tempest is unique in that it stays grounded in one location, in real time.
I did some light research and found that in the assumed chronology of his plays, The Tempest was first printed much later in Shakespeare's career in 1623, whereas one of his earlier plays, Henry VI, was supposedly printed in 1594. Judging from this, I would venture to think that after decades of creating a medley of characters and people, from the fantastic to the degenerate, Shakespeare might have been in a sentimental mood and was sitting at his desk ruminating on the nature of mankind in general. (I also imagined a candle flickering beside his quill and Shakespeare gazing into the face of the moon.) In any case, I found this final act to be an intriguing one.

As for the epilogue, Prospero seems to begin by stating he no longer practices magic, "what strength I have's mine own" (3115), yet he pleads for the audience to praise and love him. My first reaction to this epilogue and appeal from Prospero was confusion- does Shakespeare need to stoop to begging to get an applause? (Kidding.)
My only guess of the meaning of this epilogue comes from Prospero's lines, "Now I want spirits to enforce/ art to enchant/...unless I be relieved by prayer/ which pierces so, that it assaults/mercy itself/ and frees all faults..." (Lines 13-18, 3115) Again, this might he an overly sentimental interpretation, but where we have just witnessed Prospero demonstrate some sweeping acts of forgiveness among the men who betrayed and imprisoned him in Act V, Prospero seems to be using the epilogue to spotlight the power of mercy as the closest force next to magic that has the power to free men. Prospero has no more spirits, imps, and magic spells, but he as well as all people can get along without magic as long as we practice goodwill and forgiveness.


The Calm After the Storm

The Tempest opens and the audience is in no doubt it is outside of its known existence. In this world a boatswain can boldly say, “What cares these roarers/ for the name of king? To cabin! Silence; trouble us not (1.1.15-16),” to the King’s counselor. This storm is no storm that rises suddenly, we discover, it has been brewing for a long time. The tempest, of the title, can be taken literally and figuratively.

The play begins in the middle of this violent weather condition. The seamen are fighting the elements for their lives and quite possibly their souls. The first scene of Act I ends violently with the mariners crying out, “Mercy on us!/ We split, we split! Farewell, my wife and children!/ Farewell, brother! We split, we split, we split! (1.1.54-56)” This is a chaotic moment as Miranda cries out to her father, Prospero, who she feels he is inflicting his powers upon a helpless vessel traveling on the sea- “The sky it seems would pour down stinking pitch,/ But that the sea, mounting to th’ welkan’s cheek/ Dashes the fire out (1.2.2-5).” Prospero comforts her about the fate of the men but he cannot ease the discomfort of this storm.

The storm has been building for years we discover as Prospero confesses his identity to Miranda. The tempest began when Prospero confesses that, “The government I cast upon my brother,/ And to my state grew stranger, being transported/ and rapt in secret studies (1.2.75-77).” This transference of duty upon an unworthy brother is the ill wind which sets this storm on its course. Even his description of how he was thrust out of his kingdom reads like a dark-and-stormy-night tale. “… A treacherous army levied, one midnight/ fated to th’ purpose did Antonio open/ The gates of Milan; and, i’ the’ dead of darknes,/ The ministers for th’ purpose hurried thence/ Me and thy crying self (1.2.127-132).”

Antonio and crew face the same fate as Prospero and Miranda twelve years after this deed. They are set out on a cruel sea and find themselves washed up on the same island as Prospero. Antonio, Alonso, and Sebastian, who all prospered from the Antonio’s greed, experience the same confusion and grief that Propero and the young Miranda would have during their voyage. The same kind of confusion felt by the seamen on the ship continues once the main cast is set on the island. Shakespeare skillfully puts the innocent sailors to sleep leaving us with the raging emotions of the rest of the players.

During the feast, in which Alonso, Antonio, and Sebestian are confronted with their past sins against Prospero, Shakespeare continues with the storm imagery as the three men draw their swords against Ariel who is described as descending disguised as a harpy. Ariel mocks them saying, “You fool! I and my fellows/ Are ministers of fate. The elements/ Of whom your swords are tempered may as well/ wound the loud winds, or with bemocked- at stabs/ Kill the still-closing waters…(3.3.60-64)” Their swords are useless against the impending judgment they set in motion in the city of Milan twelve years earlier.

It is interesting that it is Alonso, Prospero’s sworn enemy, who is the first to understand the meaning of this storm. “Me thought the billows, spoke and told me of it,/ The winds did sing it to me, and the thunder,/ That deep and dreadful organ-pipe, pronounced/ The name of Prosper. It did bass my trespass (3.3.96-99).” It is the acknowledgement of this crime that culminates in the calming of the storm.
The tempest is not a destructive force but one of redemption. Prospero, in taking his rightful place as Duke of Milan returns the audience to a recognizable world. In a wonderful touch, Shakespeare has Prospero, in the epilogue, grant the audience the power to send this story back to the world of the familiar. “Now I want/ Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;/ And my ending is despair/ Unless I be relieved by prayer,/ Which pierces so, that it assaults/ Mercy itself, and frees all faults./ As you from crimes would be pardoned be,/ Let your indulgence set me free (Epilogue13-20).” Prospero finds a benevolent wind in the applause of Shakespeare’s audience for his voyage home.

Sympathy for Caliban

I think this play was probably one of the more humorous comedies we've read this semester, and yet, it still ends with a bit of uneasiness that ran throughout the play. While reading, I found myself always feeling sorry for Caliban and, at the end, wondering what was going to come of him.

Prospero seemed to trick Caliban by teaching him the English (or maybe Italian language since Prospero is Italian) and taking care of Caliban (picking him berries, etc.) only to usurp all the land from Caliban and then enslave him. It's just like the Spanish did when they invaded Central and South America. They enslaved the Native groups after they were taught how to work the land. When they knew enough, they killed many and forced the remaining natives to work extremely hard for them (probably also resulting and death and coming with horrible punishments). I'd probably be as angry as Caliban was, too, and try to find a way to ruin Prospero. While it is true that Caliban planned to rape Miranda so he could have strength in numbers, I still found myself hoping that something good would happen for him. Prospero constantly mistreated Caliban - always threatening him with horrible curses that would pinch him, sting him, cause cramps or aches of the bones. The treatment of Caliban is no better than the was in which slaves were treated in the United States later and how the natives were treated by Spanish explorers (and I'm sure other explorers attempting to conquer other countries).

I think part of the reason I find myself feeling sympathetic toward Caliban is because he has this childlike naivety in parts of the play. He was so willing to help Prospero because he only knew the people who previously lived on the island. He never thought that Prospero would take advantage of him and take over the island. Caliban is once again portrayed as being innocent when he meets Trinculo and Stephano. At first he is afraid that Prospero has sent a spirit after him, but when he realizes that isn't so, he believes the men to be Gods (just like the natives are said to have done in Central/South America when explorers came on their ships). Caliban, knowing what evil is already on the island, is only looking for a little bit of hope and help to rid him from the chains that Prospero has him in. He begs these men to help free him; he is even willing to lick their feet/kiss their feet, and says he will serve them as long as they free him from the tyrant, Prospero. You would expect Caliban to know better, but is he so desperate that he is willing to trust in complete strangers? Is he only trusting in them because they got him drunk (like the settlers did to the Indians?). His naivety once again seems to pose a problem for Caliban. He plans to kill Prospero with Trinculo and Stephano, but that plot fails and Prospero is extremely angry. But what will Prospero do to Caliban? The play doesn't really make it clear. Will he take Caliban back to Milan with him and keep him as a slave/servant? Will he leave him in peace, finally? Is Caliban finally going to get his land back, or is Prospero going to run it from far away (much like the idea that Claribel would need to rule Naples from Africa if Ferdinand was dead)? I guess we will never know.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Prospero's Power

Throughout this play, Prospero has been an interesting source of power among the list of characters. He begins as the Duke of Milan, but does not seem to realize just how important it is (for himself and for his daughter) to hold tight to the control that he has, and to make sure that he fully trusts all of the people he delegates his duties to. We quickly find out that he has not done this and has suffered the consequences by being sent out to sea with Miranda to fend for themselves.
Oddly enough, the thing that destroyed his dukedom actually redeems him on the island and allows him to be a leader: his books. The magic that he possesses with the use of these books allows him to gain power when it comes to Ariel and Caliban, and then allows him to regain power when it comes to members of his former royal party. At first I thought that Prospero must have learned his lesson: that he should pay more attention to the responsibilities he has as a leader. I realized, however, that his dedication to his books put him on the island in the first place, and he actually did not change anything about his actions to have success there. This puts me in a strange position – I am not sure whether I think that Prospero has learned his lesson and has become a better leader, or if him remaining absorbed in his books just happened to finally work out for him without him learning or becoming a stronger person.
I’d like to think that he became a smarter individual, and I think there is a bit of evidence of that in how, even though he does continue to use magic, he seems to more thoroughly plan his actions. He thinks about how his magic can benefit him and his daughter and has a clear idea of how to use it. Instead of abandoning his people in order to work with his books, he finally uses these books to bring some order to his life and get what he wants. Because he has changed the way he uses his magic, I do believe that Prospero has evolved a bit and has learned that the way he was using his power before was destructive to him and his daughter.
In Act V of The Tempest it just goes to show us how smooth Prospero really thinks he is. He has had control of all the people on this Island for so long. Now that the people are starting to question what is going on, he is trying to turn the truth around. He used his magical powers for nothing good and is going to use them one last time and then throw his book of magic deep into the sea. Ariel who has been nothing but his little pet throughout the entire play is hoping to be set free after Prospero's last request, but we know that this isn't his last request for Ariel. When Ariel brings in Alonso, Gonzalo, Sebastian and Antonio they have all been charmed and are willing to stand in the circle. Prospero takes special notice to Gonzaro and thanks him for his loyalty. Everyone he has come in contact are very confused as to what is happening and what has been happening. Ariel once again is set to do more work for Prospero, buy getting his clothes from his cell which he wore when he was the Duke of Milian. Once Prospero has released Alonso and everyone from the spell that they were just under, Alonso then notices that Ferdinand is missing and this is where the slick Prospero throws in that he too is missing a child, his daughter Miranda because of the tempest. But them Prospero pulls back a curtain and shows Alonso that Ferdinand and Miranda are behind it playing chess. Doesn't that just seem like a coincidence. To me it seems he is still using his magic even though Prospero says he is done with all of that and willing to throw his magic into the sea . It's like the appearance of both Ferdinand and Miranda are a magical reappearing act. Even though the people have been released from their spells, Prospero is still having them do things for him. He tells Ariel to get Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano to return to the cell and give back the clothing they have stole and to clean the cell up. Prospero has taken a different approach to the way he treats people in Act V. Prospero seems kinder and like he has a heart but, it still very persuasive to get what he wants. He offers to Alonso that him and his company can spend the night and to pass time he will tell them the story of the past twelve years. He then tells them that in the morning they will be headed off to Naples where Ferdinand and Miranda will marry. When Prospero gets back to Milan he will spend the rest of the time contemplating his life. Prospero knows Ariel wants to be freed before everyone leaves so his last request is to make sure when they travel back home the seas are calm and that they travel so fast they can catch up with the royal navy. I don't foresee Arial being freed anytime soon. I found the epilogue in Act V to be very interesting. As I was reading it, it didn't even seem like Prospero. At this point he seems like a changed person and is asking for forgiveness and is wanting a chance to be freed. I also found it interesting how important the applause is that he gets from the crowd. The more applause's he gets the wind from that will cause his ship to sail. At this point the only power he has is his own, which he says is very weak. He also does a great job in guilting his audience in feeling bad for him saying they have the choice weather or not he stays imprisoned there. I found The Tempest to be one of the most interesting plays I have read from Shakespeare. For me this play is in a completely different category from the others we have read this semester. I think I found the magic to be the most interesting. Also the idea of trying to replicate an entire old way of life into the new word was quite interesting to read. Shakespeare does a great job at taking a real life story and making it into his own rather then coming from other plays and stories.

Prospero: Always like a god, now like Jesus too

Toward the beginning of Act V, Prospero delivers a rather poetic soliloquy announcing that he is relinquishing his magic:

But this rough magic
I here abjure, and when I have required
Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.

Throughout the play, Prospero has been in control of all of the people and spirits on the island as an all-powerful, omniscient-type presence. He has made the Europeans confused and terrified (perhaps justifiably so?), treated Caliban as a slave, and has been in command over all of the island’s spirits. Basically, he’s been the god figure of the island.

And while we’ve seen these all-powerful godlike qualities of Prospero in the first four acts of the play, it is in this act that we see another godlike quality of the Christian sort: forgiveness. Making a Jesus-like move, Prospero has mercy upon the men that have betrayed him, telling Ariel:

Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to th' quick,
Yet with my nobler reason 'gainst my fury
Do I take part.

This serves as further evidence of Prospero emulating a European society on the island, as he is transferring his own Christian moral ideology. Even Caliban, the man who only hours before had plotted to kill him, Prospero forgives with a mere slap-on-the-wrist type punishment that a parent might give a misbehaving child: “Go, sirrah, to my cell. Take with you your companions. As you look to have my pardon, trim it handsomely” (5.1.306).

While the incredible sense of forgiveness Prospero has in Act V could serve as evidence of his likeness to God on the island, it can also serve as evidence that he is very much human, especially since this forgiveness is paired with the relinquishment of his powers. However, he continues to use his magic until the very end of the play, when he asks the audience to “release” him; therefore, in the created environment of the island he is always all-powerful. The end of the play serves as the end of his magic, therefore we never see him as a mere mortal. Without his magic, the play couldn't end smoothly: the ship would still be wrecked and the Europeans would still be confused and distraught. But Shakespeare can create anything in his fictitious world, therefore his character can too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Tempest - A New Approach?

While one can find many similarities throughout Shakespeare's literary works, power of language, unrequited, forbidden love, betrayal etc. there are also many distinct differences in the style and message he tries to portray through each play. The Tempest takes on a whole new element of magic, illusion and imagination not seen as evident in Shakespeare's other works. The Tempest has a lot of imagery that allows the audience or reader to escape into a whole different world, when reading the play there in no doubt that the readers imagination is at work. The play starts with imagery of a storm and shipwreck that screams drama, chaos, confusion and almost foreshadows tragedy. The strong use of storm imagery gives the audience a feel for the play right at the start, conflict. While a storm appears to be a natural disaster as you read on you find out things aren't always as they seem.