I don’t think I’ve read The Tempest by William Shakespeare before, but in my head it was about a magician on an island. Briefly, the play is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda were ship-wrecked years before. Prospero plots to restore himself to his rightful place. He is a magician and has control over the spirits of the island, including his main helper, Ariel. The island sole other inhabitant who was there before Prospero is Caliban, a monstrous person who acts as a slave to Prospero, but speaks beautifully. A storm brings to the island Prospero’s usurping brother Antonio and the complicit Alonso, King of Naples. Prospero can finally gain his revenge, but chooses forgiveness instead. In the end, Prospero will to return to his place in Milan, Miranda will marry Alonso’s son, Ferdinand, and Ariel is freed. I’m not sure if Caliban will be left on the island on his own or will go to Italy with Prospero.

I enjoyed reading this play, but I am definitely glad I chose an annotated version. I’m sure I got more out of it reading the introduction first and then having the definitions of the words I was unfamiliar with. Like any play, though, I’m sure actually seeing it performed would have been preferable, but that’s not always possible.

Prospero was an interesting character, almost all-powerful on the island, even the water obeyed his commands. But in the end he chooses forgiveness over revenge and, before departing for Milan, renounces his magic, breaking his magic staff and buries his book. It’s like he’s going to return to reality from this enchanted island. I like him, even though he could be nasty to Caliban, but even that I understand. After all, Caliban attempted to rape Miranda at some point before this story takes place. I know that some critics have equated Prospero’s magic with the theater, and his leaving it behind equalling Shakespeare saying farewell to the stage, as this is one of his last plays, if not the final one.

This play has a bit of everything, music, magic, romance, even a bit of comedy. And a happy ending to top it all off.

And some quotes, because really Shakespeare’s writing is simply beautiful.

Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices,
That if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
(3.2.131-139), Caliban

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
(4.1.156-8), Prospero

Where the bee sucks, there suck I,
In a cowslip’s bell I lie,
There I couch when owls do cry,
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily, shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
(5.1.88-94), Ariel singing

5 out of 5 stars

Category: Classics- Play

Amazon | IndieBound | Read on-line

First published 1611
192 pages

Book source: Library

Shakespeare Reading Month is hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey.