August 16, 2021

#08-122: The Tempest

an angel with a lute hovers inthe air above (left to right) a young man pleading, hands together; an old man looking dotingly at an innocent-looking young girl; and a monstrous brute carrying firewood. All are in a natural setting and wearing Renaissance-clothing.
Ferdinand, Prospero, Miranda, and Caliban, with Ariel above

Note: Prospero the magician and his daughter Miranda have for twelve years been stranded on an island by his brother, Antonio. But all will be set right, as we shall see.

Get Ready: Two characters in this play represent the higher and lower "natures" of humans. Which do you think is usually more powerful? Why?

The Tempest ranks as one of my favorites plays by William Shakespeare. It was probably one of his last, and reflects both the magic of creativity--and the burdens it brings.

On a lonely isle somewhere in the Mediterranean lives the magician Prospero and his lovely daughter Miranda. These two are the only humans in residence--for now--but they are attended on by the sprite Ariel and the grotesque brute Caliban (whose name suggests "cannibal").

Prospero had once been the Duke of Milan, but he was so engrossed in his magical studies that, twelve years before the play begins, his brother Antonio was able to usurp his office (with the help of the King of Naples). Prospero and Miranda were set adrift in a boat, but they washed up on the island, where they freed Ariel. With many other good spirits, Ariel had been trapped in a tree by the wicked witch Sycorax, Caliban's mother, for refusing to perform the evil tasks she demanded of him. But Sycorax died just before the two castaways arrived.

As the play begins, a mighty storm has blown up--through Prospero's magic, with Ariel's help--and has driven aground a ship carrying Prospero's brother Antonio; Alonso, King of Naples; Alonso's son Ferdinand, Prince of Naples; Gonzalo, one of Prospero's faithful servants; and many others.

The stranded parties have been separated. The ship is safely hidden in a harbor, where the captain and his crew sleep through most of the play. Several groups wander the island, and one of these includes the king's jester, Trinculo, and the king's drunken butler, Stephano. These two provide the play's "comic relief" as they join up with the disgruntled Caliban and hatch a poorly-planned plot to overthrow Prospero and rule the island themselves.

Meanwhile, the separated Alonso and Ferdinand weep as each thinks the other is dead. But Prospero has contrived that Miranda and Ferdinand should meet and fall in love. Eventually he has Ariel bring Alonso and Antonio to him and, both penitent, they restore Prospero to his dukedom. Furthermore, Alonso, overjoyed at seeing his son alive, agrees to the marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda. All sail back to Naples under fair weather provided by Ariel, who is now set free by Prospero.


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Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. adrift
  2. aground
  3. brute
  4. comic relief
  5. contrived
  6. disgruntled
  7. grotesque
  8. jester
  9. sprite
  10. usurp

  1. humor in an otherwise serious story
  2. a king's private clown
  3. a beast; an animal-like person
  4. sailing without purpose
  5. take power away from
  6. planned; devised
  7. onto the shore
  8. unhappy; discontented
  9. unnaturally shaped; hideously ugly
  10. an elf; a fairy

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 16, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. d; 2. g; 3. c; 4. a; 5. f; 6. h; 7. i; 8. b; 9. j; 10. e