Getting “The Tempest”

tempestI took my professor’s suggestion, sitting for several hours over the weekend with my copy of “The Tempest” and a pencil. I started back at Act 1, picking most of the descriptive notes from the bottom of the page and transferring them into the text. Reading through once more, with those in place, I made notes about the plot in the margins. As I made my way through Act III, it was obvious that I had learned much along the way. Still, I continued to transfer many of the notes, even if I didn’t think I needed them, because this made the double entendres far more apparent and enjoyable.

The difference between “getting the gist” and picking up the humorous subtleties brought a whole new dimension to life. The whole interaction about chickens and foul was lost on me the first time through. When seeing a performance, the actors’ physical cues and tone help identify Shakespeare’s play on language and the running jokes referenced throughout. In reading, I truly miss the cues. It was good to discover that the more effort I put in, the more I was rewarded with enjoyment. All this talk about Shakespeare being such a drag had me doubting how much I’d like him.

Beyond addressing the language, I did have some questions about what happened between some of the characters. In Act III, scene I, it seemed rather forward of Miranda to ask Ferdinand to marry her. Am I judging from a perspective outside the social norm for the day?

In Scene III, Caliban seems to finally speak without venom when he describes the island and his relationship to it. He talks of the noises that lull him and from what he finds comfort. Why does Shakespeare suddenly give us this new glimpse of the character in alight we?ve never seen and yet in the midst of convincing Stephano to kill Prospero?

Also, is Prospero really as magical as he boasts himself to be? It seems he has a genius mind for orchestrating events, but beyond lulling his daughter to sleep, becoming invisible, and freeing Ariel from the tree, he seems to rely much more on Ariel?s handiwork than his own.

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