Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

"like one
Who having into truth, by telling of it,
Made such a sinner of his memory
To credit his own lie—he did believe"
The Tempest by William Shakespeare is just one of the many classic plays I know the basic premise of but have never actually read. When it turned out a book I was planning read, The Dream of Perpetual Motion, drew inspiration from The Tempest, I knew it was the excuse I'd been waiting for. For those unfamiliar with what is thought to have been Shakespeare's last play, The Tempest is the story of a powerful magician, Prospero, who is abandoned on an island with his beautiful daughter Miranda when his brother, Antonio, takes over his rightful place as Duke of Milan. When a ship carrying his brother, as well as his complicit Alonso, King of Naples, is traveling nearby Prospero has the perfect opportunity to regain his rightful place. Prospero creates a storm, resulting in his enemies arriving shipwrecked at the island where Prospero uses his magic to manipulate them. Helping Prospero with his plan is Ariel, a spirit, and Caliban, a man enslaved to Prospero after his witch mother gave birth to him on the island.

Although I have never seen a live performance of The Tempest, I found myself enjoying the play a surprising amount. The storyline was easy to follow, and the magical tint worked perfectly. I also found myself really involved with the characters, in particular Ariel who Prospero has promised to free if only he will perform these last tasks on his behalf. Prospero himself felt larger than life, and I had vivid images of him as I was reading. Overall, I felt I was really able to get into the play and enjoy it, with some help translating some of what was being said using "No Fear Shakespeare" of course. Like many of Shakespeares' plays, The Tempest also features a couple quickly falling in love when they are basically still strangers, but somehow it worked better for me in this instance than it has in the past (for example, Romeo and Juliet). I think that is mostly due to the sweet and naive exchanges between Miranda and Ferdinand, who is the son of Alonso, which felt charming rather than creepy.

Probably the weakest character of the play for me was Caliban, whose motivations I never really quite understand and who sometimes came across evil, for example trying to rape Miranda, but other times really just felt like a confused and abandoned child. Prospero was so cruel to Caliban, I felt difficulty hating him even if he was a bad person, and in the end I was unsure how I really felt about him.

Although the play itself is not a comedy, there were certainly a few comedic moments, especially when it came to exchanges between the shipcrew. For example:
ANTONIO: He misses not much.
SEBASTIAN: No; he doth but mistake the truth totally.
Conversations like that made me laugh, but overall it was the dark aspects of the play that stuck with me the most. I'm pretty sure The Tempest is the first Shakespeare I have read since graduating highschool almost half a decade ago, and I was honestly surprised how easy a read it was. Perhaps I've gotten a little smarter, but I think the key was just sitting down and enjoying the play without having to worry about over-analyzing every sentence. I'm sure there are plenty of subtleties I didn't pick up on, but I'm not getting graded on this and it didn't bother me. In the end I just relaxed and enjoyed The Tempest, a great piece of classic drama filled with Shakespeare's dark magic and a sensational story. 

Release Date: 1609
Pages: 218
: 5/5

Source: Online Ebook
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  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I read it last August and also kind of fell in love with it. It was definitely more believable as a love story than Romeo and Juliet. I also loved the magical aspect of it-probably while I enjoyed it nearly as much as Macbeth (the witches from Macbeth are my favorite). :)

    Are you going to read more Shakespeare soon? You should!

  2. @ Allie- I don't have any specific plans to read Shakespeare soon but I would like to read a few more plays this year and Shakespeare may be among them. There are a lot of his plays I have yet to read and I'd love to expand my knowledge of them. I'm thinking of picking up Hamlet next. Definitely me know if you have any suggestions :)

  3. I read King Lear his year for school and I found it okey. It is about father-daughters relationship and how Lear got fooled by his daughters. I enjoyed the play more when I heard it on audiobook. the intonation in the readers' voice helped me understand the play. Now I am considering reading The tempest and Romeo & Juliet.

  4. I am currently working on a written work about this play and it's reception. I actually liked it damn much and I can only recommend reading 'Tempests', which is a short story written by the Danish/English author Karen Blixen (even though you will rather find it by her synonym, Isak Dinesen). It's from 'Anecdotes of Destiny.
    If you want to read more Shakespeare, keep 'As you like it' in mind. It is really awesome and a bit more funny than 'The Tempest'.


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