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The Stuff Dreams Are Made On…

We’re inaugurating a new tradition around the homestead, Shakespeare Saturdays. This Saturday we’ll be screening Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest. In the story, the magician Prospero, and his daughter Miranda, have been stranded on an island for 12 years. Prospero raises a tempest on the sea to cause a passing ship to run aground. Among the passengers are Prospero’s rivals from the time before the island, Antonio and Alonso, King of Naples. It’s in the midst of this wild storm the story begins…

Written in 1610, the play continues to be regularly performed and adapted. The Tempest has also been the inspiration for whole range of work from operas and symphonies to poetry and post-colonial literary analysis. Quotes from the play turn up in the most unexpected places.

Samuel Beckett’s Endgame has the character Hamm speaking a line from one of Prospero’s most memorable speeches: “Our revels now are ended.”

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And—like the baseless fabric of this vision —
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. …”

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

John Gielgud called Prospero his favorite role. He played it many times in the theater, but he was never able to mount a film version of the project. The closest he came was in Peter Greenaway’s adaptation Prospero’s Books.

Caliban is another fascinating character— a beast, a brute, the son of Sycorax, a witch who was also banished to the island, but has died several years before the action of the play begins. Caliban provides the counterpoint to Prospero, where Prospero sees that he must wake from the dream he’s created; Caliban suffers so thoroughly in his daily existence that he cries out to dream again.

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 sometime 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.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

There are 38 of Shakespeare’s plays and collaborations in existence and there are film versions of most of them. Not every Saturday will be Shakespeare Saturday, but I’m looking forward to immersing myself in a very foreign world that is not so unlike our own.

Published in culture performance theater