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Rather like a dream than an assurance
Posted by E. A Solinas on 7/4/2010
Many consider "The Tempest" to be the final play that Shakespeare wrote solo, which gives a certain bittersweet flavor to its story -- especially since the main character is a sorcerer who manipulates others to get the ending he desires. Shakespeare juggled a trio of main stories before tying them off in rare style, but it's Prospero and his final speech that are truly intriguing.
For many years, the exiled Duke of Milan Prospero has lived on a remote island with his young daughter Miranda. But when he discovers that his treacherous brother Antonio and his similarly treacherous friends are nearby on a sailing ship, he summons a storm that causes the ship to crash on the island.
And like a puppet-master, Prospero arranges this as he wants -- he sends his servant Ariel to haunt the men who betrayed him, he thwarts the machinations of his evil servant Caliban, and he pretends to treat Alonso's son Ferdinand badly while secretly matchmaking him with Miranda. In the end, everything will be as he desired.
"The Tempest" is a play with two different dimensions. On one hand, we have a simple story about a mage whose power allows him to manipulate everything in his little domain. And on the other, we have the story of a brilliant storyteller who arranges his own little worlds as he sees fit, and bids farewell to his role ("Now my charms are all o'erthrown/And what strength I have's mine own...")
And appreciated on its own, "The Tempest" is a brilliant play -- Shakespeare juggled the three main plotlines nicely, and brought a solid sense of resolution to the story. His rich dialogue is stunning ("But doth suffer a sea-change/Into something rich and strange/Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell..."), especially during Ariel's songs and Prospero's speeches. Even the insults are brilliant -- just try yelling "A pox o' your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!" at someone you don't like.
Prospero is a rather unique character -- he rules over his little island with magical powers, sort of like a local demigod. Everything that happens on the island is because he wants it to be so, but he's a sad, benevolent figure rather than a tyrannical one. And Shakespeare sketches up an intriguing cast of characters, both mortal and immortal -- the ethereal, puckish Ariel and grotesque Caliban, the naive Miranda, and the contemptible trio of onetime conspirators.
The annotated edition is a very good one, especially for people who are just starting out on Shakespeare -- a couple of well-written, respectful introductions and extensive annotation that is useful but not intrusive.
"O brave new world, That has such people in't!" cries Miranda at the end of "The Tempest," and while not every character in it deserves a "brave new world," the play itself feels like a weekend trip into a magical world.
Posted by Debora D. Kaiser on 8/8/2009
We are collecting as many Sparknotes as possible. When you are required to read Shakespeare, you must have a guide. It's that simple. There is no guide better, in our opinion as teachers, and students of literature.
Posted by Linda Sanchez on 4/4/2000
this might at first be a tough book to understand but this version makes it all the most better to read and comprehend!
its a must buy, plus its Shakespeare's final play and its his way of saying good-bye to his audience!
The stuff dreams are made of
Posted by C. Fletcher on 11/7/2000
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.
Posted by Voren on 8/16/2008
As Shakespeare's final play, The Tempest is appropriately a culmination of his motifs and themes amassed beforehand in previous work. You have the jester, the underhanded political aspirants, the outcast, the young naive fools hopelessly in lust, and the omniscient schemer behind it all. What may have disappointed Elizabethan audiences may have actually been this mix, since it was such a combination that it felt more as if the plot was just regurgitating old plot devices but rest assured, the Bard works up a fine troupe of spirits under a firm lead to work our minds.
The story involves the shipwreck of Italian nobles that leaves them unscathed and in even better condition than on the ship save the fate of King Alonso's son Ferdinand. Meanwhile, the wizard Prospero calls upon his spiritual underling Ariel and receives confirmation that his revenge upon those who sentenced his exile has begun.
Like all Shakespearean characters, they're real to the point that you may be disgusted at them and later realize how close you are with their vices. With a seeming reunion of all his characters, this makes for a perverse tale. Prospero commands a wide array of spells to delight and fright but once his tale of woe is told, it's pitiful that his learned nature led him to exile and pettiness and by the story's end he's the same. Antonio and Sebastian are heartless fiends who've only a mind for power by any means and even knowing this, we laugh at their sniping witty wordplays with their fellow nobles, particularly the saintly Gonzalo. Caliban is a tragic figure demonstrating the evils of colonial enslavement and even then his misadventures with the drunken self-proclaimed celestial monarch Stephano and Trinculo, the smart fool, so to speak, make great comedy.
There's a great scene where Prospero realizes that Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo want to kill him, comic characters all against a wizard, and he takes it seriously. It's rightfully absurd but when his previous dictatorial behavior towards his deluded and imprisoned servants is recalled, it calls to mind Of Mice and Men, where Slim says, "Take a real smart guy and he ain't hardly ever a nice fella."
When Stephano says to Caliban, "Come, kiss the book!" with a booze bottle, we realize just how intoxicating the Bard was and are tempted to leave it at that. But when bookworms and literary professors are observed in the throes of their obsession, maybe it's not such a ludicrous comparison after all.