Musing on Shakespeare: The Tempest

I’ve started to read the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and instead of writing one book report at the end, since this could take years, I’ve decided to post my thoughts on each play as I finish it. Of course, it will still only count as one book on my annual reading count in 2020 because I’m silly that way.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare starts off with this play, one of his more familiar comedies. The book actually runs all of his comedies before all of his tragedies, which might make reading slower in the middle of the book than in the beginning or the end, but time will tell.

In it, a deposed ruler of an Italian city-state and his daughter live on a deserted island with only the son of a native witch and some spirits, including Ariel, which is a male spirit in this book (which is hard to remember because of the The Little Mermaid thing). After years, Prospero, the deposed ruler, uses his magic to seperate a fleet and bring his brother (his deposer), the duke of another city-state, and the duke’s son to the island where he hopes to get his revenge. But it’s not a bloody revenge; he just wants justice and his position back.

So the new arrivals are separated and they spend time pondering their fates while Prospero plans a little show for them using the fairies and spirits to tell his story. At the end, the duke’s son and Prospero’s daughter fall in love, and their marriage is that that appears in the final act.

The play gets its knocks because the current interpreters of fiction can fixate on the slave and link him to American slavery and to blacks, but that’s not really supported in the text. And Shakespeare comedies are more amusing to us now than laugh-out-loud funny, but while a trained reader can recognize the jokes within, they don’t necessarily prompt the laugh response. Unless, perhaps, one is a professor of literature and is steeped in it.

For the most part, it hangs together pretty well. The play has some subplots–the romance of the son and daughter, the duke lamenting his lost son, a couple of shipmates who plan with the slave to depose Prospero as ruler of the island–but given the conceit that the people are separated, it works. The subplots fit in.

At any rate, that’s what I thought of it. It’s an amusing read, coupled with the umami of it being fine literature that I can be proud of reading (as opposed to the men’s adventure paperbacks, which I only take pride in how many of them I have read which alludes to my high literary pain threshold). I hope you weren’t expecting a more reasoned, thoughtful comment on the play, but I left college a long time ago and don’t have a grade riding on my rehashed novel academic insights.

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