Monday, January 16, 2017

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

The Tempest was one of Shakespeare’s final plays, believed to have been written 1610-1611. It is the tale of Propspero the rightful Duke of Milan, who was supplanted by his brother Antonio, with help from the King of Naples Alonzo, and the King's brother Sebastian.

Prospero, along with his infant daughter Miranda, are set adrift at sea. Uknown to any of their betrayers, they land on an enchanted isle, where Prospero learns sorcery, and is aided by airy spirits on the island and the deformed and treacherous son of a witch who previously inhabited the island.

Some years later – I’m sure it gives the specific time span but I’ve forgotten, Miranda was three when they were exiled and is now a beautiful young woman – some years later fate brings a ship bearing all the betrayers close to the island, and Propsero conjurs – a tempest – to drive them ashore.

Now, you had to know, since I mentioned Miranda being a beautiful young woman that someone is going to fall in love with her. Indeed, none other than Ferdinand the son of the king.

Propspero, with the aid of his chief spirit, Ariel, separates the castaways into various groups and adventures.

This is a comedy, not a tragedy. In the end, Prospero forgives all his betrayers and all sail for Naples, anticipating the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand.

I’d like to see this performed – you know, as plays are meant to be experienced. Still it reads pretty easy, once you have the characters memorized.

As in most of Shakespeare’s works, there are phrases taken from this play that have made their way into 21st Century vernacular.

Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows

We are such stuff as dreams are made of

And of particular note, when Miranda sees all the handsome young men, a sight she has never seen before, she remarks:  O Brave New World that hath such people in ‘t!

From which Aldous Huxley derived the name of his 1931 novel.



  1. I saw this performed years ago, when I was taking the History of Drama in college. It was performed by a semi-professional troupe at a theatre in the round, which was very cool. I really want to see the movie version that stars Helen Mirren.

  2. I really need to get to this play. Been meaning to for ages now.

    I love seeing common phrases when reading through Shakespeare. A nice reminder of how much these plays influenced our language.

    1. Yes...there's really FAR more in our everyday speech from Shakespeare than we realize.

  3. I have not read Shakespeare since high school, although I keep telling myself that I will. We had a son that took to reading some of it during his teen years, and I wish that I had read it with him.
    On my shelf sits a beautiful edition of his complete works which I received as a gift. I really must crack it open.

    1. I wonder if it's the same complete works that I have. Lovely leather binding, gilded pages, borders classic I got when they were going out of business. I have it for several years...and Yep, finally decided to crack it open. Give it a try.

  4. My kids and I just read this this year (in several YA versions, not play form). I read a few resources that made a connection of the "brave new world" to America (Jamestown). And another resource made reference to El Dorado. I guess everyone has their own special interpretation.

  5. I've seen many productions of The Tempest and it used to be one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare, although now I tend to favor the histories, but I think that's just a phase. Anyway, if you can catch either Helen Mirren or Patrick Stewart as Prosperous, those are my favorite film versions.

    1. Yep...I'm planning to get to the Helen Mirren film. There is a classic Sci-Fi, Forbidden Planet, based on The Tempest as well.


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