“…thunder and lighting heard.”on February 17, 2012 at 12:01 am
A tempestuous noise of thunder and lighting heard. Enter a Shipmaster and a Boatswain.
And so begins Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest, the tragicomic romance that follows the efforts of the magician Prospero to avenge himself on his enemies, regain his dukedom and, perhaps most importantly, find a husband for his only child, Miranda. When the curtain rises on the first scene, the play, quite literally, screams to life with howling winds and crashing waves as The Tempest‘s tempest takes center stage and spins the play into motion.
It’s a beautiful play, if however strange. As Shakespeare’s last play (that he wrote exclusively by himself), it can easily be read as autobiography. Prospero, as a magician, shapes the world by words—incantations, spells and enchantments that dazzle, confound and transform. His will and intention are behind every chance meeting and sudden encounter—there is nothing on Prospero’s island that happens without his wanting it. The analogy to the role of the playwright is an easy one. And like Shakespeare, Prospero is retiring himself—from magic and solitude to the muggle world of men.
But like I said, it’s a strange play. Prospero’s behavior is either erratic or glacial. What he seems most concerned with as the play progresses is less revenge on his enemies or even his ducal coronet, but rather that his daughter remain a virgin until her wedding night. To reinforce his daughter’s chastity, Prospero goes so far as to summon the gods of Olympus to perform a masque about the importance of virginity. In both reading or watching the play, it’s a glaring, disjointing scene that I still don’t—and most likely will never—understand.
But that said, it’s still my favorite. Moreover, The Tempest has, I think, the most beautiful, perfect piece of poetry I’ve ever read.
Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich & strange
And clearly, since I’m spending so much time talking about it, The Tempest must be important for our little story. Forewarned is forearmed.
Happy Friday and see you on President’s Day, where Tony and I will be celebrating all the Presidents (except Taft, that son-of-bitch. He knows why) with page 15 (of 20) of Chapter One!