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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: August ::
My Reading of "The Tempest"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0742  Monday, 28 August 2006

From: 		Nabie Swaray <
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Date: 		Saturday, 26 Aug 2006 21:08:23 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 	My Reading of "The Tempest"

As a native of Sierra Leone and from Africa, Shakespeare's "The Tempest" 
has a historic and Political significance for me. My re-reading of the 
late Samuel Beckett's play: "Waiting for Godot" forced me to adapt this 
play under the title: "Waiting for Beckett" to reflect the horrible and 
ridiculous existence of Man and his/her relationship to a God that 
hardly interferes in the condition of our existence. Witness the natural 
disasters that are present in our daily lives: The Tragedy of Kathrina, 
the September 11 catastrophe, the genocide of the Jews, and very 
recently that in Rwanda, and the outrageous civil wars in Sierra Leone 
and Liberia. In my adaptation, the characters are not all Europeans as 
Beckett's intended. Instead, I created a mixed cast of characters that 
consists of an Arab (the slave dealer) an African (the slave) and two 
whites and a child who turned out to be a suicide bomber. This play will 
have a stage reading this fall. Does God matter or do gods really matter 
in our lives? Euripides, in his excellent play: "The Bacchae" had 
questioned our relationship with the gods, or in our today's world, with 
God. In my adaptation of "The Tempest," I have chosen to write a 
trilogy: The First Play: "Caliban, The Rap Man;" The Second Play: 
"Caliban's Island;" and The Third Play: "The Return of Prospero." In 
these three adaptations, my objective is to examine and re-examine the 
very nature of Caliban and why he lost his Island to Prospero. This is 
also an attempt to answer the vexing question: How did the Africans Lose 
Africa to the Europeans? One has to examine the very outrageous and 
frivolous nature of the ancient and modern Africans. The tragic flaws of 
Caliban greatly remind me of the lofty and tragic flaws of the African 
race. The second critique is the failure of Caliban to learn a rational 
and moral code that would have prepared him on how to manage his Island, 
or at least give us the impression that once Prospero leaves the Island, 
he would do a masterpiece job. We in Africa, both from Franco-phone and 
Anglo-phone Africa, have inherited the language of the master, and 
sometimes have all the verbal skills to express ourselves. But is 
inheriting the colonial language enough? Caliban has learnt how to use 
his master's language and does nothing but swear and curse. The futility 
of language will simply lead to rhetoric and Utopia. The result is 
nothing but the future of an illusion. Is this not what Rap is all 
about? Ariel knows how to make Caliban very uncomfortable and irritable. 
The Rappers in turn use language to upset and make the Caucasian race 
and other ethnic groups angry and uncomfortable. But what is the 
objective and outcome? This is what Coleridge once said of Iago's 
revenge as "Purposeless malignity." Or as a well known British Historian 
once referred to a European event as "a piece of sublime nonsense and 
sonorous nothing." Third, will the gross failure of black leadership in 
Africa prompt the return of Prospero, in this case, the Colonial 
masters? These are questions that I hope to answer in my three 
adaptations of "The Tempest." In fact, it is ludicrous for those 
misguided Caribbean scholars to have regarded Caliban as a hero and a 
freedom fighter. In all attempts to overthrow Prospero, Caliban failed 
miserably; he cannot conquer his nature or overcome Hobbes' stereotype 
of Man as nothing else but "an appetitive creature." Caliban exemplifies 
the very suits of woe and trappings that inhibit the African from 
freeing himself/herself from the bondage of the will and as an 
appetitive creature.  Man is created for a higher purpose and not simply 
to eat, drink, have sex and then die. To achieve what Nietzsche refers 
to in his little book: "The Use and Abuse of History" as the longing to 
create "Monumental History." This Trilogy will be a critique and 
re-examination of the fate and nature of Caliban, and to answer the 
larger and hardly asked question: What is really wrong with the African 
Race? Cassius' reflection in his attempt to woo the noble Brutus in his 
conspiracy to kill Caesar said thus: "The fault dear Brutus is not in 
our stars/ But in ourselves that we are underlings." To end this 
self-re-examination, I would like to restate the very statement that 
Brechet's Galileo reminds his pupil, Andrea:

Andrea: Unhappy is the country that has no hero.

Galileo: Incorrect; Unhappy is the country that needs a hero.

One must not make one's island or continent a couch for luxury, incest 
and damnation; one must reach for the impossible. Shakespeare's "The 
Tempest" is an excellent analysis and discourse why it is so easy for 
others to set themselves up as guardians; it is so easy not to become of 
age.

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