A Selective Reading of The Tempest

Image result for the tempest

I give The Tempest 8 out of 10 magic brushstrokes. This play was shockingly readable for a Shakespearian comedy which sets out to fool the audience from the get-go. It was interesting to read AND I understood everything that was going on, so that’s 2/2 on my Shakespeare scale.

Question: who would win in a fight, Prospero and his magic cloak, Harry and his invisibility cloak, or Joseph and his amazing technicoloured dreamcoat? FIGHT OF THE CLOAKS!

A: This is a great idea for a new broadway musical.

ANYWAYS.

I read Peter Holland‘s introduction to The Tempest in my titanic edition of The Complete Pelican Shakespeare. At the time of writing the intro, Holland was the Director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham, so I guess this guy has some credibility. I should have waited until after I read the text to read Holland’s piece because as it stands I did not understand much of it (as I had no context for it) and remember very little of it. Hang on, I’m going to go scan it again…*scanning*…okay, to recap his article: colonialism, nationalism, performance, ambivalence, and time scale. My recap game is strong.

I can definitely see why the initial exchange between Prospero and Caliban in Act 1, Scene 2 is pilfered by po-co scholars for material. It’s awful and perfect! Especially English language po-co scholars: “You taught me language, and my profit on’t/ Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you/ For learning me your language!” (1:2:54). Right?! Full disclosure: I am choosing to privilege the ‘po-co/slavery is bad’ reading and ignore the fact that Prospero says he only enslaved Caliban after buddy tried to rape his daughter: “I have used thee/ Filth as thou art, with human care, and lodged thee/ In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate the honour of my child” (1:2:53). To which Caliban basically replies “But, babies!” I have to be honest, if I pay too much attention to that little detail, I start becoming WAY more sympathetic to Prospero than I want to be. Because Prospero is a selfish ass-hat and a terrible human being. It’s easier to just ignore details that don’t adhere to my overall sensibilities and preferred reading. I can do that here, because this is my blog, not an academic paper. SO THERE!

One thing I did not understand is how the play ends with Alonso, King of Naples, saying to Prospero: “I long/ to hear the story of your life, which must/ Take the ear strangely” (5:1:117). ERMMMMMM You know the story of his life. You banished him, remember? That was you and his brother, Antonio. You guys did that, together, as a team. Or do you just screw over so many people out of their dukedoms that you can’t remember this one who you put on a boat (with no sails) and set it out to sea (for him to die)? Look at buddy over here, making like this is the first time they’ve met, and Prospero is just going for it, letting it happen. I feel like there’s a murder in their future, for sure.

I digress.

Pro tip: do not watch The Little Mermaid before reading this play. If you do, you will have to constantly remind yourself that Ariel is a male nymph, not a red-headed mermaid who wants to be where the people are.

That’s all for now, I have to get back to research.

Grad research procrastination

Image Sources:
The Tempest: JY Productions, http://www.jyproductions.com/theatre-the-tempest.php
Homework vs Fly: College Xpress, http://www.collegexpress.com/articles-and-advice/grad-school/articles/life-grad-student/20-steps-graduate-researchtold-cartoons/

 

 

 

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One thought on “A Selective Reading of The Tempest

  1. Pingback: Now What? | catherine reads

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