Category Archives: tragi-comedy/romance

Friday Film Focus: Forbidden Planet, 1956

OK, it’s Friday, and this is the day of the week that Hollywood loves to open a new flick, but I have something else in mind: one of the many productions of The Tempest that are available on video. This week, I’m taking a look at a not-quite Shakespeare adaptation: 1956’s sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet.

Continue reading Friday Film Focus: Forbidden Planet, 1956

Friday Film Focus: The Tempest, 2010 film, directed by Julie Taymor

OK, it’s Friday, and this is the day of the week that Hollywood loves to open a new flick, but I have something else in mind: one of the many productions of The Tempest that are available on video. This week, I’m taking a look at the first of our videos that is a purely cinematic version–shot on location, as opposed to on a soundstage or stage set: the 2010 cinematic theatrical release, directed by Julie Taymor and starring Helen Mirren as Prospera.

Continue reading Friday Film Focus: The Tempest, 2010 film, directed by Julie Taymor

Friday Film Focus: The Tempest, 1979, by BBC (Complete Works)

It’s now fall and the time of good movies released to theaters (in theory), and this being a Friday, it’s time to take a look at a video version of our play under discussion. Thus, let’s take a look at The Tempest from the BBC’s Complete Works, an entry from 1980.

Continue reading Friday Film Focus: The Tempest, 1979, by BBC (Complete Works)

Friday Film Focus: Shakespeare Uncovered – The Tempest by BBC

OK, so it’s not quite a film, but it is a The Tempest-related viewing experience.

I checked out Shakespeare Uncovered: The Tempest with Trevor Nunn, an hour special, hosted by the famed British director, focusing on the last romance.

Shakespeare Uncovered: The Tempest with Trevor Nunn (photo courtesy PBS)

Continue reading Friday Film Focus: Shakespeare Uncovered – The Tempest by BBC

Podcast 161: The Tempest — Plot synopsis and introduction

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This week’s podcast kicks off our two-three-month discussion of The Tempest. We have a jumbo, economy-sized plot synopsis, plus a little bitty introduction to the play.

Continue reading Podcast 161: The Tempest — Plot synopsis and introduction

Unity at the beginning and end

I love bookends. Not the physical, tangible kind, but the framing devices for works of literature. There’s just something about it that makes it seem at least that the creator had this all in mind…that it’s of a piece. And no, The Tempest does not have a framing device.

But–in a sense–it itself is the back half of a framing device.

Continue reading Unity at the beginning and end

The Tempest — Act Five Plot Synopsis: forgiveness and release

Previously, in The Tempest

Act One begins on a ship in the midst of our titular storm; the ship, carrying a royal party is wrecked. Meanwhile, on a nearby island, Miranda watches the storm out at sea with her father, Prospero, who has created the storm. He assures her that no one has been hurt. We learn Prospero’s servant, Ariel, carried out the tempest for him. The royal passengers have been placed on the island in different locations, all in groups–except for the king’s son. The island’s other inhabitant, Caliban, is also now Prospero’s servant, though Caliban believes the island is his because it belonged to his mother. Prospero sends Caliban off to gather firewood, and Ariel re-enters invisibly, leading the king’s son, Ferdinand. Miranda sees him as a thing divine; Ferdinand thinks she is a goddess. We begin to see Propsero’s endgame: love between the young people. Of course, Prospero can’t let this happen too easily, and he plays the role of obstacle himself.

Act Two begins in another part of the island, where the main group of royal passengers have been placed. Ariel plays music, putting all but two to sleep. Antonio convinces Sebastian to become king through murder. Sebastian agrees, but Antonio would need to do the killing. Antonio agrees, but Sebastian needs to kill Gonzalo. Both men draw, and Ariel wakes the sleepers. The would-be killers explain their drawn weapons reasonably, and the party moves on. In another part of the island, Caliban encounters Trinculo and Stephano, whom Caliban promises to show all the island has to offer.

The third act begins with Ferdinand, laboring to bring in logs as fuel for Prospero. The king’s son is more than willing to do this labor if it means being near Miranda; Miranda bemoans the labors her father has put this young man to, and wants to help him. Compliments then exchanges of love then promises of future marriage are made. On another part of the island, Caliban reveals a plan to his new masters: kill Prospero. Meanwhile, the royal party is beguiled by a vision created by Prospero, while Ariel accuses them of being three sinful men for usurping Prospero as Duke of Milan.

Act Four begins with Prospero apologizing to Ferdinand for treating him harshly, and states that he hopes his gift of his daughter to the young man will make amends. Prospero calls for Ariel to create a spiritual show for the young couple. But Prospero breaks off the masque as he remembers Caliban’s conspiracy. Then he and his sprite watch as Caliban and the men enter. Caliban tries to keep the others quiet as they near Prospero’s cell. The men become distracted by the clothes they find. Prospero’s  spirits descend upon them in the shapes of hounds and hunters, driving them off.

The relatively long single-scene Act Five of The Tempest takes us back to Continue reading The Tempest — Act Five Plot Synopsis: forgiveness and release

The Tempest — Act Four Plot Synopsis: a masque for lovers

Previously, in The Tempest

Act One begins on a ship in the midst of our titular storm. The sailors, attempting to keep each other from panicking, are joined by some royal passengers. Two of their party, Sebastian and Antonio, are jerks, insulting and cursing the sailors. On the other hand, a third, Gonzalo seems kindly enough. And as the chaotic scene ends, the ship wrecks. Meanwhile, on a nearby island, Miranda, a young woman, watches the storm out at sea with her father, Prospero, who has created the storm. He assures her that no one has been hurt, and begins to tell her her history. They came to the island twelve years ago when she was only three years old. Previously, he had been the Duke of Milan. who had been betrayed and usurped by his own brother, Antonio. Father and daughter were taken and put aboard a small boat, but before they were cast away, Gonzalo provided the boat with garments, linens, food and Prospero’s beloved books. We meet Prospero’s servant, Ariel, who carried out the tempest for Prospero. We learn the royal passengers have been placed on the island in different locations, all in groups–except for the king’s son. We also meet the island’s other inhabitant, Caliban. According to Caliban, this island is his because it belonged to his mother. Prospero sends Caliban off to gather firewood, and Ariel re-enters invisibly, leading the king’s son, Ferdinand. Miranda sees him as a “thing divine” (I.ii.419); Ferdinand thinks she is a goddess. We begin to see Propsero’s endgame: love between the young people. Of course, Prospero can’t let this happen too easily, and he plays the role of obstacle himself.

Act Two begins in another part of the island, where the main group of passengers have been placed: King Alonso, his brother Sebastian, Prospero’s brother, Antonio, the Duke of Milan, and the good Gonzalo. Ariel plays music, putting all but two to sleep. Antonio tries to convince Sebastian to kill his brother to become king. Sebastian says he willing to become king, but Antonio would need to do the killing. Antonio agrees, but Sebastian needs to kill Gonzalo. Both men draw, and Ariel wakes the sleepers. The would-be killers explain their drawn weapons as protection from wild beasts; this sounds reasonable, and the party moves on. In another part of the island, Caliban gathers wood for Prospero. When he hears someone coming, he lays down and covers himself with his cloak. Enter Trinculo, who uncovers a portion of Caliban, and finds himself unable to describe it. He then imagines taking this thing back to England and making money of the creature. Thunder roars, and to protect himself, he dives under the cloak as well. Then enter Stephano, who uncovers Caliban’s head, and immediately has a similar idea as Trinculo. When Caliban pleads for kindness, Stephano gives the beast a drink. Trinculo recognizes the voice and reveals himself. They are thrilled to not be the only solo survivors. Caliban promises to show Stephano all the island has to offer, and leave Prospero’s tyranny.

The third act begins with Ferdinand, laboring to bring in logs as fuel for Prospero. The king’s son is more than willing to do this labor if it means being near Miranda. Miranda enters (with her father watching from afar); she bemoans the labors her father has put this young man to, and wants to help him. He chivalrously refuses. Compliments then exchanges of love then promises of future marriage are made. On another part of the island, Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban are running out of alcohol. When Ariel enters, Caliban tells his new masters that he is “subject to a tyrant” (III.ii.42) and reveals a plan to his masters: kill Prospero. Meanwhile, the royal party is being slowed in its trek across the island. Antonio and Sebastian plan to rid themselves of the older men at “the next advantage” (III.iii.13). Prospero brings forth shapes and spirits to create a banquet for the hungry royals. Ariel enters as a harpy, and makes the banquet disappear, saying that there are “three men of sin” (III.iii.53) who must be punished. When they draw their swords, Ariel makes those weapons too heavy to wield. Prospero, watching, is happy with Ariel’s work, now that his enemies are “in [his] power” (III.iii.90). And thus ends Act Three of The Tempest.

The single-scene Act Four of The Tempest begins with Continue reading The Tempest — Act Four Plot Synopsis: a masque for lovers

The Tempest — Act Three Plot Synopsis: music and shapes

Previously, in The Tempest

Act One begins on a ship in the midst of our titular storm. The sailors, attempting to keep each other from panicking, are joined by some royal passengers. Two of their party, Sebastian and Antonio, are jerks, insulting and cursing the sailors. On the other hand, a third, Gonzalo seems kindly enough. And as the chaotic scene ends, the ship wrecks.

The second scene of Act One puts us on a nearby island, where Miranda, a young woman, watches the storm out at sea, and and worries that her companion–her father, Prospero–has created the storm. She fears for the ship and any souls that may have been on it. He puts aside his magic robe, assures her that no one has been hurt, and begins to tell her what he’s never told her before: her history. When they first came to the island twelve years ago, she was only three years old. Previously, he had been the Duke of Milan. Prospero had been betrayed by his own brother, Antonio, who took advantage of Prospero’s study of his magical arts and neglect of his office, and usurped power from Prospero. Father and daughter were taken and put aboard a small boat; but before they were cast away, “a noble Neapolitan, Gonzalo” (I.ii.161) provided the boat with garments, linens, food and Prospero’s beloved books.

Before she can ask any follow-up questions, and on the power of suggestion, Miranda falls asleep. At this point, Prospero’s servant, Ariel arrives. This was the sprite who carried out the tempest for Prospero. We learn the sailors are still on their ship, in its hold as it’s moored in a harbor. The royal passengers have been placed on the island in different locations, all in groups–except for the king’s son, who is alone on the island. Prospero has more for Ariel to accomplish in the next hours.

And we learn more about the history of the island. Once there had been a witch Sycorax on the island. Ariel had been her servant, but the witch imprisoned Ariel in a tree. After a dozen years, Sycorax died, and the sprite was left trapped in the tree, and the island’s only other inhabitant was the witch’s son, Caliban. Upon arrival, Prospero released Ariel from the tree, and then put both the sprite and Caliban into his own service. Prospero promises to release Ariel in two days if all his commands are acted out.

Ariel exits to do his job, Prospero wakes Miranda, and father and daughter visit Caliban. According to Caliban, this island is his because it belonged to his mother. The way he sees it, when Prospero arrived, after Caliban showed him all the gifts that the island has to offer, Prospero enslaved him. Of course, this isn’t how Prospero remembers things: he says that he housed Caliban in his own cell until Caliban attempted to rape Miranda…and Caliban doesn’t deny that.

Prospero sends Caliban off to gather firewood, and Ariel re-enters invisibly, leading the king’s son, Ferdinand: a handsome but heart-broken young man (as he thinks his father is dead). Miranda sees him as a “thing divine” (I.ii.419). Ferdinand sees Miranda, and thinks she is a goddess. When she says that she is but a maid, he is astounded she speaks his language. Prospero obviously approves of how this is going, and we begin to see Propsero’s endgame: love between the young people. Of course, Prospero can’t let this happen too easily, and he plays the role of obstacle himself.

Act Two of The Tempest begins in another part of the island, where the main group of passengers have been placed: King Alonso, his brother Sebastian, Prospero’s brother, Antonio, the Duke of Milan, and the good Gonzalo. The king is disconsolate, thinking his son is dead, and Gonzalo attempts to cheer him. To no avail.

Ariel plays music, putting all but the two jerks to sleep. And we learn that Antonio is more than a mere jerk, trying to convince Sebastian to kill his brother to become king (as the heir Ferdinand is most likely drowned). Sebastian says he willing to become king, but Antonio would need to do the killing. Antonio agrees, but says that as he kills the king, Sebastian needs to kill Gonzalo. Both men draw, and Ariel wakes the sleepers. The would-be killers explain their drawn weapons as protection from something “bellowing / Like bulls, or rather lions” (II.i.310-1). This sounds reasonable, and the party moves on.

The second scene of the act takes us to another part of the island, where we find Caliban gathering wood for Prospero, whom he curses as he works, and describes the punishments Prospero has laid on the slave. When he hears someone coming, he believe it’s a “spirit” (II.ii.15) of Prospero’s, so he lays down and covers himself with his cloak. And enter Trinculo. He uncovers a portion of Caliban, and finds himself unable to describe it: “man or fish? Dead or alive?” (II.ii.24-5). He then imagines taking this thing back to England and making money of the creature. Thunder roars, and to protect himself, he dives under the cloak as well. Then enter Stephano, a drunken shipwreckee. He uncovers Caliban’s head, and immediately has a similar idea as Trinculo, presenting this “monster” (II.ii.64) to some king. When Caliban continues to plead for kindness, Stephano gives the beast a “taste from [his] bottle” (II.ii.73. Trinculo recognizes the voice and reveals himself. They are thrilled to not be the only solo survivors; and Caliban sees in them “fine things…a brave god and bears celestial liquor” (II.ii.114, 115-6), and kneels to Stephano. Caliban promises to show Stephano all the island has to offer, and leave Prospero’s tyranny. Trinculo finds this ridiculous–“to make a wonder of a poor drunkard!” (II.ii.162-3). But the three leave together, as the second act ends.

The third act of The Tempest begins with Continue reading The Tempest — Act Three Plot Synopsis: music and shapes

The Tempest: sources? We don’t need no stinking sources!

We’ve already determined that The Tempest was all Shakespeare’s work, the writing of it–and the last one he did write solo. But what about where he pilfered the story? I mean, the Bard was also the Thief of Avon, as we’ve seen many, many times before.

So where’d he get this story?

Continue reading The Tempest: sources? We don’t need no stinking sources!