The Tempest (W.W. Norton, 2019)
by William Shakespeare [edited by Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman]
England, c. 1610
I hadn't read any Shakespeare in about 20 years so I thought it was time for a reboot. While maybe a little bit more of a mixed bag entertainment-wise than I'd remembered, The Tempest didn't really disappoint in spite of a non-canonical dull stretch or two. I was secretly tickled, for example, to be reminded right off the bat just what a coarse, crass fellow the Greatest Writer in the English Language could be. I mean, he doesn't even get out of Act 1, Scene 1 before the "honest old councillor" Gonzalo opines that the boatswain of the sinking ship that's going down probably won't die from drowning even "though the ship were no stronger than a nutshell and as leaky as an unstanched wench" (1.1.41-43). Oof, a vivid but not necessarily the most "family-friendly" image! Similarly, Antonio, "the usurping Duke of Milan," whose unlawful moves against his brother Prospero, "the right duke of Milan," have set the romance's whole shipwreck + magic + revenge machinations in motion, also doesn't wait long before exclaiming that he wishes that same ill-regarded mariner "mightst lie drowning the washing of ten tides!" (1.1.52-53)--what the notes to my edition helpfully explain as "an exaggerated form of the sentence passed on pirates, who were hanged on the shore at low-water mark and left there until three tides had flowed" (6). Wow, King James' England is in the house! Culture and civilization are in the eye of the beholder, of course, and in this light one of the most interesting/least superficial things about The Tempest for me this time around was coming to grips with how cleverly the play's events unfold at a crossroads between the dream or magical world of the action, itself influenced by classical literature at times, and the modern world contemporaneous with the writing of the play. A few words about the "man-monster" Caliban (3.2.11) should help explain what I mean. Although Caliban is said to have been "hag-born" of the witch Sycorax (1.2.283), he lives in perpetual fear of Prospero because Prospero's magic powers are greater than those of Caliban's own god Setebos (1.2.372). Setebos, the editors of the Norton edition explain, was "a devil of the Patagonian natives, according to Richard Eden's 1555 translation of Antonio Pigafetta's account of Magellan's circumnavigatory expedition" (19). Caliban, who is elsewhere feared as somebody with connections to "devils...savages and men of Ind" (2.2.54-56) at a time when the people of England were laying out coins to see "a dead Indian" for the novelty of the spectacle (2.2.31), is hence a link to the New World of the Age of Discovery just as surely as Prospero's "Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves" speech in 5.1.33-50 textually riffs on a Medea incantation from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Shakespeare, not too shabby a playwright for a guy not above an uncouth reference to an unmarried woman's "virgin-knot" (4.1.15) nor a syphilis joke or two!
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Good to see you back. My French is limited, so I attempted that one, but my Spanish is non-existent, so I didn't even try with that post.ResponderBorrar
I tend to reread Shakespeare before seeing a play or movie version these days, so I've read the Tempest a couple of times over the last few years because it's a popular one.
Thanks, Reese, I appreciate that. My French is pretty limited too, but I've decided to use it or lose it for a post or two and see what happens just for "fun."Borrar
Your version of keeping up with Shakespeare might actually be a tactical improvement for me. I don't see too many official Shakespeare productions or film adaptations these days, but I did watch Kurosawa's Throne of Blood at long last not too long ago, which would have forced me to reread Macbeth at least. Cheers.
Writing posts in French is a good way to keep it up, I should think.Borrar
Throne of Blood's a great movie & would have been a good excuse to reread Macbeth. This strategy does mean I never reread Two Gentlemen of Verona or Henry VIth part 2, though.
I guess that could be a fly in the ointment strategy-wise. Yes, I too loved Throne of Blood as with most Kurosawa.Borrar
Nice. I had not read Shakespeare since college either, and finally figured out last year how to really get into Hamlet, make myself really understand each line. Check it out, https://readin.com/blog/?id=3641ResponderBorrar
Nice to hear from you, Jeremy. I'll try and check out your post this weekend. I've always enjoyed Shakespeare (I had a really good Shakespeare teacher in high school, which I'm sure helped with the enthusiasm) so I'm not sure why I've gone long stretches in between reading him over the years. Short attention span, I guess. Hopefully I'll do better in the future.Borrar
I'd be interested to know what you think. I "never really got" Shakespeare and I think that is because I never read closely enough. The exception that proves the rule was Troilus and Cressida, which I read pretty closely in 8th grade when my English and History classes devoted a couple of cross-disciplinary months to it, and loved.Borrar
I really dug Hamlet this time through, but it was hard work, not sure when I'll try again. The Tempest is high on my list though.
I'm not sure that I found what you wanted me to see--just a note about reading Shakespeare out loud. Was that it or is there a review hidden somewhere as with other plays of his you wrote about?Borrar
Huh, does the embedded doc not show up? What happened was I noticed it came pretty naturally while reading the lines and rephrase them as dactylic tetrameter (Dr. Seuss meter/higgledy piggledy) -- I started doing that as a lark and it really pulled me into the text. A couple of months later I had 5 acts, a mix of close quotation with the line breaks moved/ unstressed syllables inserted or removed, full paraphrase, and occasional editorial commentary. direct link to the document https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KyWbaaAabWEc6U_o-kS6uKSFHllo5cX-5dl4a-xpFEoBorrar
interesting. Whatever works for you sounds good to me, though for my part, I'm much more interested in what Shakespeare has to say than how he says it (meter-wise at least) in his plays. To each hsi own, of course!Borrar