Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book 20: The Tempest by William Shakespeare

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

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.

Favorite quote:

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."

2.5 out of 5

Final Word:


Elizabeth said...

Go see them in person & your mind may be changed. Easier to understand in many ways & what you can't "understand" word for word, you pick up in meaning.

Patrick said...

I have seen a few Shakespeare plays in person (Othello, Taming of the Shrew are the two that come to mind). I had a hard time following them in that context as well. Once again, for me, its just a matter of is it worth the time and investment to understand the genius, and for me its not. Just not a particular priority. I recognize the genius, I just can't enjoy it.