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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Caliban and Ariel
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1313  Monday, 26 July 1999.

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Jul 1999 16:46:41 +0100
        Subj:   Re: Caliban and Ariel

[2]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Jul 1999 11:47:03 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1303 Caliban and Ariel

[3]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Jul 1999 16:41:51 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1303 Caliban and Ariel

[4]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Jul 1999 20:27:52 +0100
        Subj:   Re: Caliban and Ariel

[5]     From:   Peter Hillyar-Russ <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 Jul 1999 11:11:52 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 10.1303 Caliban and Ariel


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Jul 1999 16:46:41 +0100
Subject:        Re: Caliban and Ariel

Stuart Manger asks,

>[b] Is there any evidence that Ariel was ever played by a boy in
>Jacobean times, given that he has a lot of songs, and is presumably
>expected to leap about gymnastically - I know that doesn't necessarily
>mean anything!?

Of the two 'fishy' costumes used in the original performances, one was a
close fit on the body of John Rice. So, either Caliban or Ariel was
played by a boy. See Michael Baird Saenger "The costumes of Caliban and
Ariel qua sea-nymph" Notes and Queries 240, 1995, pp 334-336.

Gabriel Egan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn Bonomi <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Jul 1999 11:47:03 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.1303 Caliban and Ariel
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1303 Caliban and Ariel

Stuart Manger wrote:

>[b] Is there any evidence that Ariel was ever played by a boy in
>Jacobean times, given that he has a lot of songs, and is presumably
>expected to leap about gymnastically - Iknow that doesn't necessarily
>mean anything!? What striking performances of Ariel can
>correspondents recall?

I've never been convinced that Ariel is either male or female... though
for me it's always been a more feminine than masculine entity.

Most memorable?  Back in the days when Bob Brustein directed the Yale
Repertory Theatre, the Rep mounted a production (I do not know the
director) in which Carmen DeLavellade (that is probably misspelled!) and
several other dancers inhabited a single large semi-opaque stretchable
envelope.  The choreography of each of the dancers was such that Ariel
became an amorphous shape, genderless and actually removed from human
form entirely.  Also amazingly effective.  I remember nothing else about
the casting and little about the production, though I do have several
mind-scapes of the visual effects including the wrecked ship at the
beginning.

Marilyn Bonomi

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Jul 1999 16:41:51 GMT
Subject: 10.1303 Caliban and Ariel
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1303 Caliban and Ariel

>A bundle of questions about The Tempest:
>
>[a] What are current views on how to interpret Caliband and Ariel on
>stage? Colonised Caliban? Ethnic Caliban? Superhuman ? Sub-human
>Caliban? Young? Old?

The range of possible representations is, of course, enormous.  The
Shared Experience Theatre Company in 1996 had Caliban young and virile,
faintly scruffy but otherwise undifferentiated, and staged a dumb-show
before Act1 in which Miranda and Caliban almost got it together before
Prospero intervened.  Tim Walker in Leeds this year inserted prominent
'fangs', and some disfiguring facial make-up, but had him speak in very
courtly style (as one taught by Prospero and Miranda might).  the
'colonial' Caliban seems to be somewhat out of fashion - a performance
at the Victoria Theatre Stoke on Trent last year had a Caliban in furry
costume that wouldn't have looked out of place in the early 1900s. The
recent fashion has perhaps been to transfer the narrative of oppression
from Caliban to Ariel - Simon Russell Beale's performance in Sam
Mendes's 1993 RSC staging (see Peter Holland's English Shakespeare's for
excellent review), Olwyn Fouere's in ESC Tempest of (I think 1992), and
the Ariel in the Shared Experience performance were all, in varied ways,
characterised as unwilling servants under duress.  In the most recent
Adrian Noble RSC performance the attempt was to convey to the audience
that Prospero never actually saw Ariel (an effect which most of the
audience clearly did not understand - though Gielgud in his
autobiography somewhere says that when he played Prospero he tried not
to look at Ariel, which might testify to something of the same idea).

>[b] Is there any evidence that Ariel was ever played by a boy in
>Jacobean times, given that he has a lot of songs, and is presumably
>expected to leap about gymnastically - I know that doesn't necessarily
>mean anything!? What striking performances of Ariel can correspondents
>recall?

There seems to me to be little evidence that he wasn't.  The casting of
the play for the standard company almost certainly requires that Ariel
be played by a boy actor - and the spirits also.

>[c] And the Act 4 Spirits? What kinds of voices would be expected for
>the music?

I would think that they would be boy's voices; the question is whether
Ariel played Ceres (it depends how you interpret 'when I presented
Ceres') with another singing boy playing Juno.  If, as Kermode suggests
(but I don't believe) Ariel played Iris, then a further singing boy
would be required.

At this date one assumes that the music might have been of a fairly
'advanced' declamatory style - something of which Robert Johnson, who
provided settings that survive for two of the songs, would certainly
have been capable.

>[d] I cannot find a cast list for the 1612-13 performance before James l
>- does it exist?

If it does I'd love to know!

>[e] is there anything beyond theatrical tradition that Ben Jonson was
>involved in that celebratory production?

Not as far as I am aware.

(Though the preface to Bartholomew Fair indicates that Jonson had a
pretty sniffy attitude to the 'servant-monster' and 'drolleries' of the
Tempest)

>[f] can I have advice about what Jacobeans meant by a 'banquet'?
>Presumably a small selection of goodies at the side of a hall on a small
>'banc' / bench or similar?

I think it could very well mean something much more substantial.

>[g] And that nightmare SD for any stage manager today - Ariel makes a
>banquet disappear with 'a quaint device'. What kind of 'device'?

Andrew Gurr suggests a 'reversible table top'.  The stage direction is
possibly  the scribe Ralph Crane's sophistication of a balder original.

David Lindley
School of English
University of Leeds

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Jul 1999 20:27:52 +0100
Subject:        Re: Caliban and Ariel

>[g]And that nightmare SD for any stage manager today - Ariel makes a
>banquet disappear with 'a quaint device'. What kind of 'device'?

It has been suggested - I cannot remember where - that use would be made
of what has become a stock magician's device: a table with flip-over top
on which the banquet was stuck.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Hillyar-Russ <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 Jul 1999 11:11:52 +0100
Subject: Caliban and Ariel
Comment:        SHK 10.1303 Caliban and Ariel

Stuart Manger asks:

>What striking performances of Ariel can correspondents
>recall?

1) The RSC production by Sam Mendes in 1992 had Simon Russell Beale as
Ariel to Alec McCowan's Prospero. The staging was in modern dress, and
Russell Beale was dressed like a modern day servant, in grey, tunic
style, suit. He played the role, in one critics description, like a
surly school-boy, obedient to his headmaster by force alone. The set was
dominated by a huge blue door on the back wall of the stage, never
opened through the play, until - having been released "Be free and fare
thou well", Ariel spat full in Prospero's face, and exited through the
door.

2) A couple of years later David Thacker toured a smaller scale
production, also for the RSC. This appeared at Stratford on the smaller,
thrust stage, of the Swan Theatre. In this Paul Jesson played Prospero,
and a young actress/dancer, Bonnie Engstrom, played Ariel with great
agility, not to say panache and 

 

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