English 431B: Advanced Shakespeare

A survey of the works from the second half of William Shakespeare's career

‘The Tempest’ Notes

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Misunderstanding about this play, it is not the last play Shakespeare wrote

At the end of his career he calibrated with a younger author John Fletcher.

Simplistic plot

Shakespeare didn’t observe: Classical unities of action (one story), time (24-hour time frame or less) and place (one setting/location) [except in The Tempest]

In later works, Shakespeare uses remote locations (sometimes mythical locals like in The Tempest)

No psychological complexity of characters

Providence divine is what Prospero says brought the ship to the island

It is a tragic comedy

This play should not work in the theater, but it has a long and strong stage history.

Opening scene starts with thunder and lightning

Problem with exposition: need more details, why are the people in the boat going where they’re going, who’s on the island, et cetera

Bermuda pamphlets: saved a ship during a voyage to the Caribbean in a hurricane

Ariel: Airy creature, moves quickly, more spirit than human

This play relates to the European settlements in the “New World” and comments on the treatment of the natives

Caliban is the opposite of Ariel, more Earthly creature, not entirely human

Caliban could possibly mean cannibal

Montaigne: “Of the Cannibals

Meaning of the play is never bound by the words of the script: it is the director and actor’s interpretations and what knowledge the audience brings to the performance

Act 2, Scene 1

Gonzalo’s comments: Line 52+

Antithesis of English life

Is it possible that Shakespeare was envisioning a new society because of the settlement of the “New World?” Would democracy evolved in Europe without the settlement of a “New World?”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Prospero’s magic is so powerful he can dominate native inhabitants and anyone else who comes to the island

Rebellion within the play: Caliban meets up with Trinculo and Stefano

He says he will devote himself to them if they can free him from Prospero

Act 3, Scene 2

Books that were handed from generation to generation became a thing of the past after the printing press came to prominence.

Lost cause for Caliban, can’t exit from servitude


Stage History

Pleasures for the audience: Sound and sight

Reading this as a script is not the same as watching it in performance

Stage directions are important cues (almost all stage directions in this play are important)

Act 2, Scene 1

Line ~186 – Enter Ariel [invisible] playing solemn music

Music is extremely important in the plot of the play, but also entertaining

Line 300 – Enter Ariel [invisible] with music and song

Caliban suggests in Act 3, Scene 2 at line 140 + that music exists all over the island

Audience gets a sense that this is a special place: like the island in Lost’


Line 17 + (stage directions)

Some stage directions were not included because they were inside Shakespeare’s head

Other stage directions were not included because it saved the printer money and allowed for cheaper scripts (non-essential stage directions)

Stage directions sometimes are literal, but (bringing in a banquet) can be interpreted metaphorically as well (banquet of life)

Don’t get to partake in any revelry (banquet)

Later stage direction of storm: Thunder and lightning are symbolic of divine intervention

Harpy: combination (part female, part bird) shows up when people do something wrong (malefactors) punishment to take something (typically food) away (withdraw something)

Resonance for classical and Elizabethan/Jacobean culture

This scene depends entirely on sound and sight

Dramaturgy: art of writing the play

Raked stage: slops down towards the audience, further away from audience (allows for good lines of sight)

Act 4, Scene 1

Iris: Classical mythological creature, messenger between Gods and human kind. Thought to travel along a rainbow. Iridescent is derived from Iris

Ceres: Cereal derived from this word, (Captain Crunch) representative of the Earth, all good things, food, plenty, et cetera

Juno: Queen of the God (married to Jupiter) gold crown and a scepter. Used to reference marriage. Month June derived from Juno. (June bride)

Prospero’s daughter is to be married to Ferdinand

Black Friars Theater: After King James ascended to the throne, the King’s Men became insistent on opening another theater besides the Globe. Dominican Monks (Friars) lived in a monastic community. Black because of the color of their garments.

James Burbage acquired the monastery. Public blocked the opening of the theater in 1590’s. His sons renewed his effort to create the theater. 1609 or 1610 was when the theater opened. Why did the King’s Men want another theater? Because The Globe was an open-air theater. Black Friars Theater was not subject to weather, rain, snow, cold or warm weather. In-door theater used for winter performances and during inclement weather. 1610 – 1642 it operated. Much smaller than The Globe. It could hold only about 600 patrons. Charged 6 times as much for basic (minimum) admission. Six pence was for the cheap seats. Different crowd than at the Globe more moneyed, social, literate, sophisticated crowd. Same plays were performed at The Globe and Black Friars Theater. Shakespeare began altering his later plays because of the opening of the Black Friars Theater. He emphasized sound and sight in his later plays. Lighting presented a new challenge for In-door Theater. No electricity, so they used candles and torches to light the theater. Candles had to be replaced during the performance during the play. There were small act breaks to replace the candles. King’s Men hired musicians to play music during the breaks.

Theater sets were not in use until 1660.

(Courtly) Masque: Dramatic theatrical-form in use. Poetry, elaborate costumes, masks, dance, set design. Plots were rudimentary. Based on classical mythology. Includes witches/devils.

Shakespeare democratized the masque. He uses it in his plays sheep-shearing scene (Winter’s Tale), (Tempest)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Final Exam

Tuesday, May 8
8 a.m. to 10 a.m.



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