Shakespearing #37.1: More on The Tempest

 Shakespearing #37.1 by John King

 The Tempest

Miranda_-_The_Tempest WaterHouse

I adore The Tempest.

David Foley was entirely right last week: the drama of this play is peculiarly light and strangely weighted.

The wizard Prospero’s grievances seem unfathomable, and his sense of family, of relationships, is both intense, yet distant, pushed through his mind like a vicious abstraction trying to form itself into something like love.

Nicholas Rowe Tempest 1709

The trap that Prospero sets for the brother and king and the other conspirators who betrayed him feels like a pageant of robots who know their crimes, but are incapable of feeling anything about them, not even a stoic callousness that denies morality or loyalty.

The love story between Miranda and Ferdinand seems passionlessly bland—the meeting of almost unbearable innocents–a retread of a fairy tale or Greek myth (Psyche and Eros) turned on its head.

Miranda and Ferdinands Log

The alcoholic antics of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo have a difficult time seeming funny.

Few productions can live up to this illustration.

Only Prospero’s relationship to Ariel, the enslaved sprite, feels emotional throughout the play.

Prospero and Ariel

David said, “the island is a created world, and it’s created through language, and you need to pay attention to that.”

The words are the world of The Tempest.

And it is a world that will return the fantastic to the ordinary, through a deliberate leave-taking of magick and the transcendent. Propsero vows,

[T]his 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.

This is the last play Shakespeare wrote solo, and its farewells fill me with sadness, this sense of the ending that Shakespeare had before the ending. Four to five years before his death in 1616, Shakespeare said goodbye as a thaumaturge.



John King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.

One response to “Shakespearing #37.1: More on The Tempest”

  1. […] John King wrote two weeks ago, there’s sadness in The Tempest. The notion that, in Prospero, Shakespeare is […]

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