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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: April ::
Re: The Tempest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0305  Friday, 3 April 1998.

[1]     From:   Ted Nellen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Apr 1998 07:52:30 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0297  Re: The Tempest

[2]     From:   Charlie Mitchell <
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        Date:   Thursday, 02 Apr 1998 08:13:02 -0700
        Subj:   Tempest

[3]     From:   Jennifer Jones <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Apr 1998 10:58:07 EST
        Subj:   The Tempest

[4]     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Apr 1998 11:08:32 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0297  Re: The Tempest

[5]     From:   Dana Spradley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Apr 1998 09:16:03 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0297  Re: The Tempest

[6]     From:   Kristen McDermott <
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        Date:   Thursday, 02 Apr 1998 12:45:08 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0295  Q: The Tempest

[7]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 Apr 1998 00:22:34 +0100
        Subj:   The Tempest


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ted Nellen <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Apr 1998 07:52:30 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.0297  Re: The Tempest
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0297  Re: The Tempest

The spirits must be in the air.  I, too, have taught Tempest for the
first time in over ten years.  I'm using it in a high school junior
English class as part of the fare for American Lit.  New world and all
that.  In addition we are doing everything online: reading it,
discussing it, and writing about it.  We use the MIT online version of
Tempest, which we have also made local on our own hard drives for ease
of downloading.  I have a tape and a video to augment the reading.
Discussion is on an in class list and finally they are now creating a
hyper text essay on Prospero.

I have missed having Shakespeare in my online class for these last four
years, after teaching a drama class devoted to his work, that I have
just had to find a way to infuse him into our hypertext work in the high
school Cyber English class.  This year I have begun with The Tempest,
appropriately enough. It is a slow process, but it will work. I am
anxious to see the VRML Dream as I see that as another way to bring
Shakespeare alive for us in this brave new world of hypertext and the
Internet.  As the sign of thirteen years on my classroom wall reads:
Shakespeare Lives!  Indeed he does.

Let your indulges set me free.....

Ted

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charlie Mitchell <
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Date:           Thursday, 02 Apr 1998 08:13:02 -0700
Subject:        Tempest

Here's an opening volley for the Tempest.  Where is the Captain of the
ship in the first scene?  We have a curt and beleaguered Boatswain and a
Master (who disappears almost immediately) but no Captain.  Later, are
we to assume that there was no Captain because Prospero was symbolically
fulfilling that role?  Is the Duke the Captain?  If he is, he doesn't
have much interest in the job.  Is this Shakespeare's way of painting a
society as the ship of state with no one at the helm (which an audience
in a port town would recognize immediately), or am I missing some nuance
of early modern maritime hierarchy?

Charlie Mitchell

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jennifer Jones <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Apr 1998 10:58:07 EST
Subject:        The Tempest

I'm interested in modern interpretations of 'The Tempest', with special
focus on Prospero/Caliban in respect to humanity, knowledge and death.
Also, if anyone has worked with or seen a modern film/production using
Tempest itself as a source story, or is planning to show such a
production, I would love to here from you.

Please send a CC all messages to my mailbox as well as the group.

--Thank-you!

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Apr 1998 11:08:32 EST
Subject: 9.0297  Re: The Tempest
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0297  Re: The Tempest

What strikes me about the Tempest is not the 20th century revisionist
view that tells us that colonialism is bad, but the fact that this is
the only Shakespeare play whose climax is forgiveness.

Billy Houck

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Spradley <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Apr 1998 09:16:03 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 9.0297  Re: The Tempest
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0297  Re: The Tempest

Judging by Scott's reply, it doesn't seem that the "colonialist
imperative" thing has died down yet, Dale. When I used to teach The
Tempest I tried to move away from it in the direction of political
allegory - the island as a reduced representation of England, getting
this across to students on the analogy of Gilligan's Island (okay, so
I'm not above a little crass humor myself).

Looked at in this light, the question of Prospero's purported "god-like
control" and actual lack of it, Lisa, seemed to me to have something to
do with an oblique critique or fantastical subversion of the divine
right of kings. It's like a little thought experiment: what if kings as
god's representative on earth actually *did* have some measure of
godlike power. Wouldn't that make them something like Prospero is in the
play? And even given his limitations, if kings do have similar power,
shouldn't they be able to control events much more than they actually
seem to be able to do? But on the other hand, if this is a valid analogy
of divine right, then why does it look so much like its reverse -
demonology?

Well, put so baldly and a distance of some years from my active
engagement in the thesis, it may look like trumpery at first glance.
But there are some fairly explitic approaches to political theorizing in
it - for example, the utopian "order all things by contraries" speech.
And I'm assuming it operates at the level of the dreamlike symbolic
economy on which ideology (which itself seems mere trumpery when exposed
to rational scrutiny, since it by definition has no basis in reality)
relies for support. Does anyone else think approach bears looking into?

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kristen McDermott <
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Date:           Thursday, 02 Apr 1998 12:45:08 -0500
Subject: 9.0295  Q: The Tempest
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0295  Q: The Tempest

Yes, please continue the Tempest line --

I teach Shakespeare at Spelman College, a Historically Black Institution
for women, and have to struggle with a unique phenomenon here- The
Tempest is taught to all first-year students as part of an
interdisciplinary core course called "The African Diaspora and the
World."  The play is taught within the post-colonial Caribbean context,
but unfortunately *only* within that context, as most teachers of this
course come from non-English disciplines.  Thus, when our majors arrive
in the (required) Shakespeare course, they are convinced that the *only*
possible interpretation of *The Tempest* is the imperialist/colonialist
one.

Thus, I lean more heavily on the Prospero-as-stage-manager line than I
would normally like to, for balance.  We were fortunate this semester to
have a visit from Erroll Hill, Trinadadian author of "Shakespeare in
Sable" and a product of the Royal Academy, who pretended gentle
astonishment at the students' suggestion that Caliban was "black"-a
pedagogical performance some of my students are less likely to accept
when it comes from an obviously Anglo teacher.

All this said, I would never teach Shakespeare without The Tempest, and
especially not here at Spelman. I'd like to hear from other professors
who hear a lot of Prospero-as-European-oppressor interpretations from
their students.

Kris McDermott
Spelman College, Atlanta, GA

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[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Friday, 3 Apr 1998 00:22:34 +0100
Subject:        The Tempest

As I raised it, maybe I have to pick up and run with it?

IMHO, Tempest is at the other end of the line that starts with Marlowe's
Faustus. In F, Marlowe postulates the man, sophisticated, subtle. the
polymath's polymath, who was over-dosing on that most Renaissance of all
addictions- knowledge, the simple greed to know the cosmos, 'God's
privetee' as Chaucer has it. He sees that through conventional means -
the traditional trivium of the university's discipline matrix - he can
proceed no further. yet he sees the heavens: he knows there is more. He
knows that lurking just beyond his reach, but not his consciousness are
new knowledge, new power, brave new worlds. He thinks. Then he is
offered the price of that knowledge. Marlowe lets him take it, and then
we watch him accelerate towards self-destruction, wracked by guilt,
arrogant defiance, almost Promethean hubris (cf Frankenstein??), and
blind terror in case what might be is, and God wil judge and destroy him
in Hell for all eternity. A thumbnail sketch. Sorry for trivialising.
Then, Propsero: does the typical Shakespearian sin - abdication in all
but name - cf KL, R2, 'fantastical duke of dark corners' in M for M -
BUT Gonzalo compensates him with ' as good a thing'. His books - the
kind of books we may surmise that Faustus was presented with by Meph?
For is Prospero's magic white, black or grey? Is Ariel his will writ in
fire and creativity, or some enslaved principle of white magic that
ultimately revolts and shows Prospero 'the rarer action' that is in
'virtue than in vengeance'? Propsero ends Act 4 at the zenith of the
kind of absolute power that man has dreamt of since his arrival on
earth. The kind of power that Faustus went to to Hell for? Prospero very
nearly uses this power to destroy, very slowly, and very teasingly, his
enemies. Are they the creatures he created by his dereliction of power
in Milan? So whom is he really killing/ torturing? Is Shakespeare's
suggestion that only when man abdicates from the search for power itself
is he truly free, truly human, truly allowed back into Milan to rule - a
tricksy paradox?- to provide a role model- as if saying: I, like you,
grubbed for power and influence, but I learnt to renounce in order to be
free, to find myself 'where no man was his own'? Ferdinanad and Miranda
are his new world, but the three old men have something to say here too:
Prospero, Alonso, Gonzalo. Watch Gonzalo - key player. and that
wonderful first 80 lines of Act 5 - for me that's where the play
happens. In fact, it's where an awful lot of Shakespeare suddenly
resolves itself, isn't it? Scott Crozier, did you have stillness, or
rumbling of earthquakes unfolding, or music or what to underscore this
moment, in which Shakespeare suddenly turns his back on the tragedies,
the late romances (partic Leontes?), and gets his hero to come out with
open hands and a loving kiss to Ariel? I believe that Ariel is the one
thing he will miss. Why? Ah, well.... that's another posting! Thanks for
staying with this one.

Stuart Manger
 

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