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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0557  Tuesday, 26 February 2002


[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Feb 2002 08:46:40 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0534 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest

[2]     From:   Todd Lidh <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Feb 2002 14:58:51 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0534 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Feb 2002 08:46:40 -0800
Subject: 13.0534 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0534 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest

The reliably wise Se n Lawrence wrote,

>Todd Lidh comments that "Theatrically, it would be a remarkable
>achievement," to show a Prospero who is not powerful.  I'm wondering if
>Prospero's power can be doubted so easily because it is presented
>theatrically in the first place.  How would one stage him cleaving an
>oak and pinning Ariel in it?   How could one show him making a storm?
>You'd need some pretty fancy, even cinematic, effects.

I'm not sure if the *him* of *How could one show him making a storm*
refers to Prospero or Ariel.  Prospero asks Ariel if s/he/it created the
storm at Prospero commanded, so the question should be how you can show
Ariel do this.

I think Se n must have meant how can this have been done *in
Shakespeare's time*?  One solution for modern (post-modern?) times was
in Ron Daniel's 1983 production for the RSC.  At the end of the first
scene, the ship split in two and the parts moved to the sides of the
stage.  This revealed Derek Jacobi's Prospero, now out of the hold of
the ship, in his cloak and holding his staff, controlling the storm.
Not very textual perhaps, but breathtakingly theatrical.

Another solution was in Sam Mendes RSC production in 1993.  As the play
opened, the stage was dressed by a trunk.  A lantern was lowered on a
rope as Ariel came on stage.  Ariel stood on the trunk, and set the
lantern swinging.  The storm was created this simply.  Since there were
no thunder or water sound effects, for the first time I could understand
the dialogue during that scene.  It was a wonderfully simple and elegant
solution.

For more on these productions see David Lindley's forthcoming book on
the play as performed in Stratford, mostly since World War 2. It is part
of the new *Shakespeare at Stratford* series, and will be published by
Arden/Thompson Learning, with whom, alas, I am not affiliated.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Todd Lidh <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Feb 2002 14:58:51 -0500
Subject: 13.0534 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0534 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest

Thomas Larque writes,

> If Prospero had no power then it seems likely that
> Ariel would not obey him
> - for loyalty or any other reason - and Ariel acts as servant
> or slave entirely because Prospero has the magical power to
> keep him bound and to make him perform tasks on his behalf.

"It seems likely," indeed. The equivocal nature of your response is the
gap in which I make my argument. Now, don't let me purport to be an
expert on Renaissance perceptions of magic either (and I acknowledge
that I am still working out the argument), but I don't think what Thomas
said here really disagrees with my approach; after all, if Prospero's
one power was the ability to control Ariel, we have no actual
manifestation of that power then.

The power is that of language (the "books"), but what kind of magic is
that really? It doesn't match up with the theatrically-presented
Prospero who wears sorcerer's robes, a staff with a glass sphere on top,
sound effects to highlight his chanting and spell-casting. No, the
Prospero Thomas envisions differs little from the one I also envision. I
simply take that characterization a step further by complicating the
relationship between Ariel and Prospero based on the belief that
Prospero's words are just that and *not* magical. Thus, Ariel's
remaining as Prospero's magical servant is *Ariel's* choice, not
Prospero's.

Todd M Lidh
Flagler College

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