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|Friday, 22 April 2005 06:17|
The Tempest: Miss Brown as Miranda, Mr. Mattocks as Ferdinand. London, Covent Garden Theatre, 1776. Note the costumes of Ferdinand and Miranda on their desert island.
STAGING THE TEMPEST
This play is among Shakespeare's most popular with modern audiences, particularly in America, where it is seen as his American play because of allusions picked up from accounts of the Virginia voyages in William Strachey's manuscript Sea Adventure and Sylvester Jourdain's A Discovery of the Bermudas, which contribute details to Propero's island. Caliban's name is an anagram of "cannibal," which derives from the fierce tribe of Caribs who also gave their name to the Caribbean Sea (6.2.25; see also Gallery 10.g). The script also appeals to modern radicals (like Manoni, below) who find Caliban to be an example of abused natives in the colonized zones of America, though Prospero's island clearly lies within the Mediterranean. This sympathy is reinforced by the comic misconduct of the clowns (3.3.24). However, great audience appeal lies in the innocent loves of Ferdinand and Miranda, fostered by Prospero's benevolent magic (6.2.24). The play is also sentimentally seen as Shakespeare's last, so that Prospero's surrender of his magical powers becomes a figure for Shakespeare's own retirement. However, he was involved in several other scripts thereafter, particularly Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, though scholars attempt to assign the former partly to his successor John Fletcher, and much of the latter to Fletcher too. Modern staging of The Tempest exploits the scenic enrichment developed in the script (as with other late Shakespearean romances) by the King's Men's use of an indoor theatre at Blackfriars. Modern staging tends to the spectacular (5.3.36), particularly through the magical effects of Ariel, as in the elaborate Masque of Ceres.
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The Tempest at Talkin' Broadway.
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Robert Atkins as Caliban. UCB Shakespeare Program Collection.
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