In The Tempest Shakespeare takes on all the hostility in the world and uses the extraordinary magic of his art to transform hostility into love- then and now! This is in fact the signature of all his comedies and romances and maybe even the implied cathartic outcome of that series of desperate tragedies (Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet…), all prompting us never to go there! But in The Tempest the magic is immediate and is applied with extraordinary conviction in an outcome filled with joy and hope. This was Shakespeare’s very last play and it was the play which celebrated the transformative power of his art through Prospero’s capacities. As the old retainer Gonzalo affirms in the last act:
Beyond a common joy! And set it down
With gold on lasting pillars: in one voyage
Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis,
And Ferdinand her brother found a wife
Where he himself was lost; Prospero his dukedom
In a poor isle; and all of us ourselves
When no man was his own. (5.1.209-216)
So family enmity has been transformed and each person has discovered a right relationship to themselves and to those around. This has all been produced by Prospero’s theatrical magic, creating an event that has brought warring parties together, and symbolically regenerating them through a baptismal dunking on the shores of this island.
It is no wonder that the incarnational words of Miranda have resonated through the centuries since Shakespeare’s time as a reminder that where there is humanity there is still hope for the world:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in’t! (5.1.184-187)
And on a more homely note, it is the spirit of the air, Ariel who, at the end of the play, summons up the qualities of an English summer, redolent of that sense of awakening freedom that comes with being released into the countryside around Stratford into which Shakespeare was himself to return at the conclusion of this play, stepping off the stage, like his alter ego, Prospero:
What an amazing play that continues and continues to arouse a sense of hope in the creative capacities of human beings and of being human!
BLOG TOPICS FOR WEEK 10
1/ in a short paragraph describe the character that you are playing in your performance of a segment from Shakespeare.
2/ Take a line from Ariel’s song and create your own song expressing your vision of what is most valuable and beautiful in the life around you.
3/ At the end of Sonnet 65, Shakespeare writes “… unless this miracle have might/ That in black ink my love may still shine bright”. Shakespeare is asking the question of how, in a world of such ceaseless destructiveness, can evanescent beauty, human goodness, be preserved. How is his answer in this sonnet similar to the answer that he gives in The Tempest?
4/ Remember always you can create your own topics, building on what we have done in class this week. I am looking forward to seeing your blogs on The Tempest.
Don’t miss the link at the very top of this post to Bell Shakespeare’s production of The Tempest in August this year!!! Don’t miss it!!!
Also, if interested in getting the very best guidance into Poetry, download the following: The Princeton Dictionary of Poetry and Poetics. You will need to download the free Kindle Reader onto your mac or pc. It will cost you around $50 AU, but it is certainly a very valuable piece of equipment for Literature Majors.