Thursday, March 26, 2009
Book 20: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Title: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Pages: 187 (including commentary and notes).
How it was obtained: I do not remember where I picked it up. It's used, so either from the used bookstore in Columbia, or possibly from the library here in Elkins. I just don't remember.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 2-3 years.
Days spent reading it: 1 evening.
Why I read it: I was reading some sci-fi books (Illium and Olympos by Dan Simmons) that used characters and plot points from the Tempest as a major element of the book. I figured it was about time that I read a classic Shakespeare and figure out why these characters were used and why someone might use them again in a sci-fi story.
Brief review: What an odd play. The Tempest is about a storm that causes a ship to basically wreck on an abandoned island. As we get into the play, we are introduced to the main character Prospero. Prospero has apparently caused this storm to happen and has plans for the people whom he has shipwrecked.
It's difficult to say if I liked this play or not. It was very difficult to read. I find Shakespeare brutally difficult to understand, and this play was no exception. His sentences and syntax are so difficult to read its hard to follow what exactly a character is talking about.
A major part of this play is Prospero's plans. We are never told explicitly what Prospero's actual plans are. He apparently changes them at some points in the play. He has no advisors and no confidants. The critical introduction to my version of the play says that is what makes this play unique amongst Shakespeare's plays. Prospero is an enigma. He's ambiguous. He's hard to pin down. And what are we to make of his "monster" Caliban, who serves Prospero but also wants to overthrow him? He repents, but are we to believe his repentance? What are we to understand about love as represented by Miranda and Ferdinand? Can love be setup? Can we recognize our true loves in a matter of minutes? Or seconds? Shakespeare has some unique insights into the nature of humanity, but some of his ideas ultimately seem forced or unnatural to me.
I realized once again, I'm not a big fan of Shakespeare. I'm sorry. I just do not think the effort of understanding is worth the payoff. I know, blasphemous, but that's my take on the Bard. I'll stick with my greek tragedies please.
Caliban: "Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,/ Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not./ Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments/ Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices/ That, if then had waked after long sleep,/ Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,/ The clouds mehtought would open, and show riches/ Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked/ I cried to dream again."
Stars: 2.5 out of 5
Final Word: Ambiguous.