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 Shakespeare Plays 
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[Note: It should be remembered that Shakespeare never wrote 'Shakespeare'. Instead the illiterate man was largely just a business front for suspected British spy Christopher Marlowe.

Readers should consult The Marlowe Society ( ) for more information on this subject.

Also, a helpful link is:

- Admin]

Shakespeare Plays
by: Jennifer Stover

Among the to be performed this summer in the Midwest is "The Tempest". The Michigan Shakespeare Festival will be performing "The Tempest" on July 14, 17, 19, 23, 25, and August 1st. To give you a little background on "The Tempest", I have included this very informative article.

The Tempest is the last complete play, which Shakespeare is believed to have written. In many ways it is unlike any other of his works. It is the only play, which faithfully observes the "unities" (time [less than 24 hours], place and plot-structure) described by Aristotle in his Poetics. The entire play (with the exception of the very first scene) is set on a fictional island, which almost seems alive with magic, both visual and aural. This dream-like setting provides the perfect atmosphere for the play's fantastical happenings.

While the island is a natural place, it is also otherworldly. By creating dream-like and semi-real images, Shakespeare evades representation of the world of materiality. This setting is utilized to explore themes ranging from social order and the supernatural to the conflict between 'civilized' man and nature. This can also be taken to represent the cruelty of the European colonists of the New World, which was beginning to become more accessible to settlers at the time the play was written. Few of Shakespeare's plays have plots so driven by the supernatural as The Tempest. Magic is the agent, which creates the conflict between the different characters or factions, but it is also the method by which the conflict is ended and Prospero achieves his goal. It can represent the characters denial of human rights and ignorance of the importance of uninfluenced human emotion, but also the dangers of self-indulgence and hunger for power. As well as being used to drive the plot and keep interest among the readers, it illustrates the basic themes of love, power and politics. Also, it helps us understand some deeper themes in the play, such as the blurring of the line

between illusion and reality. This effect is well illustrated by Alonso's words: 'If you be he [Prospero] or no,' near the end of the play, when he has been so tormented by the visions induced by Prospero's magic he has little ability to differentiate between what is real and what is not. Contrasts and reflections play a major role in The Tempest One good example was how some characters in the first act had their counterparts. Ariel had Caliban, and Gonzalo had Ferdinand. The relationship between Ariel and Caliban could clearly be seen throughout Act I, scene II. Ariel was the "airy spirit" that could assume different shapes, such as the lightning flames seen on the ship (Shakespeare 31), and who had quickness, lightness, grace, and total control over his actions. On the other hand, Caliban who represented the body, couldn't control his actions and thus made him the opposite of Ariel.

He even tried to rape Miranda once, but was stopped by Prospero in the process. In fact, it might even be safe to say that Caliban was anti-Ariel, being slow, stupid, and lazy. Gonzalo and Ferdinand were also contrasted in this act. In Act I, scene I lines 28-33, Gonzalo made fun of the boatswain by saying that he didn't look like the type to drown; instead he resembled more of the type to be hanged. Thus, implying that no one on the ship would drown. This gesture by Gonzalo showed that he was an optimistic person. On the other hand, after landing on the island in Act I, scene ii, Ferdinand grew worry of his father and immediately presumed he was dead. He even says that he was now the new King of Naples. Ferdinand's pessimism is evident in this regard.

From the contrasts between Ariel - Caliban, and Gonzalo - Ferdinand, one develops a character profile of the four and starts to recognize some ideas that Shakespeare was trying to bring about in The Tempest. Reflections in The Tempest can be seen as a pattern For instance, in almost every respect, Gonzalo's ideas on how best to govern an island relate directly in some form to Prospero's existing reign. Gonzalo, an honest sage, aging councilor first openly asserts his vision of a perfect society while meandering with his comrades on the sandy beach of some uninhabited, distant isle. Prospero's own notion on how a society should be set up and governed is evidenced most clearly through his current rule over the island he had long before washed ashore on. In William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Gonzalo's vision of ruling and maintaining a commonwealth mirrors that of the actual rule of Prospero. Caliban, in the beginning of the play, was the ruler of the island who is later overthrown by Prospero.

But he later tries to take revenge on his suppressor by killing him and never quite succeeds. Prospero mirrors Caliban's behavior. He was expelled from his dukedom and he later tries to take revenge but never quite succeeds. Such instances are many in the play. There are many different themes in the play. It would be prudent to look at a few themes and issues in this essay. The main themes in The Tempest are charity and reconciliation. Gonzalo is a key example of charity in the play. Initially, Gonzalo aids Prospero, when he is expelled from his kingdom, by providing him with food, drinks, and books on magic. When Alonso bewails that his son is allegedly dead, it is Gonzalo who consoles him by saying the island may yet be nice to them. Prospero also is considerate and forgiving. In the end, he demonstrates no vengeance to his enemies but instead amiably forgives them for their wrongdoings, after they ask forgiveness.

This theme of forgiveness is seen in act four, scene one almost immediately with the words of Prospero to Ferdinand "If I have too austerely punish'd you, / your compensation makes amends". It is also far from Prospero's initial attitude. Prospero goes through the motions of forgiveness, but his sincerity sometimes is lost. We see a grand masque after the forgiveness of Ferdinand in act four, and in the next act, we see a rather lame apology and acceptance. The comparison of nature and society in The Tempest is another essential subject. Caliban embodies a beast from nature and when compared to the just and civilized Prospero, one realizes the definite differences. However, Antonio and Sebastian, have been shaped by society and Caliban measures more favorable when compared to these two. A civilized man is favored over a crude beast, but a natural beast outshines a wanton outcome of society. The masque element of the play is also a very important theme, which incorporates the musical and visually stimulating elements that the reader sees throughout the play.

The use of flowery images such as "Ceres, most bounteous lady, thy rich leas/ Of wheat, rye.../ Thy turfy mountain" adds to the pleasure of the spectacle. The masque also breaks up the action for the reader and eliminates the notion of the play being morbid. This positive feel foretells of a happy ending. There is a human issue to consider. Prospero is a master and a Duke, but above all, he is a father. He demonstrates his love for his daughter by his constant warnings "if thou dost break her virgin knot before/ All sanctimonious ceremonies may/ with full and holy rite.../ no sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall.../ but barren hate". This indeed sounds like a threat, but it is easy to note that a father who loves his daughter is worried about her well-being. This human element propels the play to another level; that of empathy.

The use of magic throughout the play is very prominent and in this scene, the rest of the play's mild evidence of it is all brought together - "Spirits, which by mine art/ I have from their confines called to enact/ My present fancies". Prospero is clearly letting us know here, halfway through the masque, that this amazing spectacle is the pinnacle of his magical career. Throughout the play we have been treated to the tempest storm itself and now we see almost the climax of Prospero's magical ability. A feeling that could have been persistent in the reader's mind throughout act four (that of Prospero's power only reducing), is shown in act five where Prospero says in conclusion "Now my charms are all o'erthrown". A striking note in the play is that there is a relationship between each theme and the rest of the play.

Shakespeare chronicles the play through a very poetic style of writing which brings a very happy and enchanting mood through most of the play. For the most part the nobles speak in verse. Ariel, as a spirit, shows more variety: in giving information to his master, he will also speak in the conventional blank verse, as he does at length in condemning the "three men of sin" in III, iii. In other situations, or when he is expressing himself more spontaneously, Ariel will employ short lyrics, which we may suppose (from other characters' responses) to be sung or chanted. Caliban, surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), is also very poetic in language for the most part. It is clearly seen when he curses Prospero and when he contemplates about the pros and cons of language and its use to him.

At certain times, though, the tone becomes more serious, such as when Antonio and Sebastian plot murders, and the mood can also get quite comical, such as when the reader follows the drunken Stephano. In all the scenes involving interaction between Miranda and Ferdinand, there is a more romantic style of writing. For example, Ferdinand exclaims to Miranda, I, beyond all limit of what else I the world, do love, prize, honor you? (Act.3 Sc.1). Shakespeare's graceful style of writing gives a smooth tone throughout the play.

If you found this synopsis of "The Tempest" peeking your interest to attend a season, and will be traveling to the Midwest, make sure to make arrangements to attend The Michigan Shakespeare Festival.

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Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:35 am
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