I recently had to read Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’ for school. I was luckily able to find a modern translation of it online, so I was not burdened with the task of reading it in old english and pretending I knew what was going on.
First of all, let me say, I did enjoy it quite a bit. I found it intriguing and wanted to read more of it as I went along. But I also found parts of it incredibly unrealistic. I mean, aside from the magic Prospero possessed and the spirits and Caliban the monster.
For example, Ferdinand and Miranda fell in love and were engaged to be married in less than three hours! Honestly, it made me mad. Love doesn’t happen that way. Love is a slow process that takes time, and more than three hours, three days, or even three weeks.
Then there was the bit about the infant Miranda being taken away with her father. There are plenty of records in history of children being manipulated so that they never even know they have any claim to the throne. Especially since Miranda was a girl, she could easily have been placed with a peasant family and never remembered her real father or where she came from. We know all she remembered was being tended by many maids, and that could easily have been dismissed as a dream. I know they probably didn’t want to risk her finding out, but still.
Now we move on the the quick repentance of Alonso, and the others shipwrecked with him. True, Prospero used magic to get it out of them, but if you spend so much time against someone, one is not likely to quickly hand over their kingdom that you took for yourself so quickly. We never actually see Antonio repent, but he doesn’t exactly try to stop Prospero from taking back the kingdom.
I also didn’t find any of the characters particularly likable, aside from perhaps Ariel and Gonzalo. Prospero was manipulative, and put off freeing Ariel for quite some time. Even when Ariel requested freedom, Prospero was quick to snap back and threaten the poor spirit with sending him back to the same condition he freed Ariel from. The whole time after, Prospero is saying things like, “Do this thing for me, and you shall be as free as a bird!” and “Soon, Ariel, you shall be free.” and “Complete this task, and I shall free you once and for all!” His words seem to me to be empty promises, since we are told that he has promised Ariel freedom before, and never gave it to him. He does not free Ariel until the very end.
I also thought there may be a few too many side-plots from different people around the island. For example, Antonio and Sebastian plotting to kill Alonso. They are interrupted before they can act on their thoughts, and aside from showing us that Antonio is still evil, with a heart for power, there was little point to it.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed almost every moment of reading it, and to watch it would be a treat. I’m just assessing it in terms of a novel. Obviously, if it were a book, there would have to be plenty of descriptions added that aren’t necessary for a script. Maybe just reading what everyone was saying, with little information as to what the actors would be doing on stage affected the way I read it. Plays are, after all, meant to be watched, not read.
I know I focused mostly on the negative things that popped out at me, but I suppose that’s human nature. Besides, there are plenty of other sites you can find that practically worship Shakespeare’s works, and when it comes to such a famous name like his, it’s difficult to find anything that explores the other side of the story.
Many consider ‘The Tempest’ to be Shakespeare’s farewell, both to the stage, and to life. At the end, for example, Prospero is giving up his magic. Does this represent Shakespeare giving up the magic he created with his pen? Prospero is fifty in the play, Shakespeare was fifty when he wrote it, and died only a few years later. Some think that Shakespeare might have played Prospero in the play before retiring. Also, at the same time he wrote it, his own daughter was in a relationship with a man he did not think quite trustworthy, which probably inspired him to write in Miranda’s and Ferdinand’s test of love. Therefore, some think he wrote ‘The Tempest’ as a sort of autobiography.
Despite all the analyzing and over-thinking of the meaning of the play, the fact remains: it’s a good play. And maybe Shakespeare didn’t actually want us over-analyzing it, and just wanted us to enjoy it.
This is The Raven, off in search of Inspiration.