Shakespeare’s The Tempest 1

Today we broached Shakespeare’s last great masterpiece The Tempest, the play which presents some of his greatest poetry within a story that can stand as a model for humanity’s quest for harmony within a world of chaos. We watched the opening act of the play in The London Globe Theatre’s latest performance. The link for this performance is right here: Enjoy!

Here is the content of today’s lecture in both Audio and Visual format:

Tempest 1

In tutorials we looked closely at Ariel’s descriptions to Prospero of how he set the tempest in train and how Shakespeare manages to endow his language with dramatic Razzamatazz. Here are some of the visual conclusions we came to:

And here is the audio of our discussions:

Blog Topics for this week: 

We looked especially today (in the tutorial) at how Shakespeare’s language (choice of words, phrases, rhythms, chiming sounds, punctuation) helps to bring his characters so vividly, texturally to life. Here for example is this amazing speech of Ariel’s who tells Prospero how he has managed to encircle the ship and bring its mariners to shore.:


Hast thou, spirit,
Perform’d to point the tempest that I bade thee?


To every article.
I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement: sometime I’ld divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join. Jove’s lightnings, the precursors
O’ the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary
And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks
Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune
Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble,
Yea, his dread trident shake.


My brave spirit!
Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil
Would not infect his reason?


Not a soul
But felt a fever of the mad and play’d
Some tricks of desperation. All but mariners
Plunged in the foaming brine and quit the vessel,
Then all afire with me: the king’s son, Ferdinand,
With hair up-staring,–then like reeds, not hair,–
Was the first man that leap’d; cried, ‘Hell is empty
And all the devils are here.’

As the first Blog Topic for this week can you explain how Shakespeare seems to be able to make Ariel’s activities so physically, sensorially available to the reader and the audience? What is it about the word selection, the word placement, the punctuation, the rhythm, the allusions, that brings this text so amazingly, vividly to life?

2/ What are your first impressions of the The Tempest?

3/ In the role of any one of the characters you have met in the play so far, give a brief account of what it is like being who you are.

4/ Say whose side you are on in the contest between Prospero and Caliban as it appears at the end of Act 1 Sc 2.

5/ Remember you can always create your own topics

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