Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Tempest (c.1610–11)

Author: William Shakespeare  |  Page Count: 128

"Hell is empty, and all the devils are here."

Reading Shakespeare for pleasure, outside of an academic environment, takes considerable pressure off a reader. You won't be asked to give an opinion or answer difficult questions. Maybe you don't need to know what every little nuance represents, or care nothing about sociopolitical context and postcolonial concerns. Sometimes all you ask is a good story be told in a language praised for its beauty, and there's nothing wrong with wanting that.

The Tempest isn't a play that gets chosen often by people who just want to dip a toe, but it's one that I return to time and again. Many of the themes within its pages he's used before, but in a different way. A shipwreck gets the players to where they need to be, as in Twelfth Night (c.1601–02). Someone who's been wronged seeks revenge (too many too mention). The fantastical is there, but it's less comical than his other famous work that makes use of it, A Midsummer Night's Dream (c.1590–96). There's still a lot of laughs to be had, however, because it does after all have elements of tragicomedy, but there's a lot of weight to it, too. It's also a romance, proving that one thing can be many if the author intends it.

It's been suggested that the valedictory epilogue from the play's most memorable character, Prospero the magician, also the father figure, is in essence the author's own farewell to his audience and to the stage at large. It's believed that Shakespeare retired to Stratford some time afterwards, around 1613. No one will ever know for sure, but there's no doubt that it's one of the most well-written scenes in the entire play, suggesting it was of utmost importance to the bard.

3½ strange bedfellows out of 5

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