Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Tempest (through fresh eyes, for me!)

On the 400th Anniversary of the death of the man from Stratford, I thought it appropriate to write a review of a wonderful production of ‘The Tempest’ that we saw on Wed (20th April 2016) at the Rudolf Steiner House in London. Now, whilst we knew about the great work of Steiner, and indeed, Glenn taught this when he was a lecturer in Education Studies at the University of Northampton, we knew nothing about the existence of this House. It is just by Baker Street, and is very easy to find. It is the headquarters of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain and was built in the 1920s and 1930s. There is a lovely theatre there, as well as meeting rooms, a small library, a bookshop and a cafĂ©. It is truly wonderful.

Now, on to the play! This is the first ‘Shakespeare’ play that we have seen live, since Glenn and I both became convinced that Edward De Vere wrote all those plays, and not Shakespeare. I have now bought the whole BBC DVD collection – in 1978 the BBC decided to make productions of all of the 37 Shakespeare plays. I have already watched quite a lot of them, and they all make much more sense and are far more enjoyable to me now that I am looking at them through the eyes of the actual author!

Still, I read some summaries beforehand of 'The Tempest', by way of preparation. They were of some help, but they were also rather confusing, because they did not have a clear overview and perspective and there was too much detail.

Now, really on to the play, which was wonderful. Great acting, fantastic and colourful costumes, very lively etc. etc. But the main thing was that we knew clearly what was going on! Glenn and I both felt exactly the same about it all. Much of the play is about magic, alchemy and paganism. It was one of the last plays, but this is a wonderfully optimistic play as opposed to ‘King Lear’ (another of the last plays), but which is so pessimistic. This is De Vere trying to make sense of, and come to terms with his life, as he knew he was nearing the end. King Lear is about him giving everything away, losing everything to his daughters, and how this got him depressed and then sent him mad (as 2 of Leer's 3 daughters were rotten). De Vere also had 3 daughters.

‘The Tempest’, in contrast, is very optimistic. Here, De Vere manages to get control over things, with the help of magic, alchemy and pagan rituals. Prospero (De Vere/John Dee) was the Duke of Milan, but whilst he was reading books and studying his brother took the Dukedom away from him. He was banished to an island, with his only daughter.

Then, there is a shipwreck. Prospero created the storm with his magic powers (which he got from his books, which he was able to take with him to the island). Why did he do this? Because Alonso (the King of Naples), and his brother and son are on the ship. Alonso supported Prospero’s brother, in helping him to take over the Dukedom in Milan and Prospero wants to confront him.

As the play progresses we learn that there are now plots to kill 2 people on the island – Prospero (lead by Caliban, the beast) and Alonso, the King of Naples (lead by Sebastian, Alonso’s brother, who wants to take over and become the King of Naples in similar fashion to what happened with the Milan Dukedom). In ‘Hamlet’, also, we see the brother taking over the kingdom after his brother's death, and marrying his brother’s wife.

On the positive side, Ferdinand (Alonso’ son) falls in love with Miranda (Prospero’s daughter). But this is tricky stuff – 2 houses potentially ‘at war’ with each other (as in ‘Romeo and Juliet’). But all comes good.

Prospero, with the help of Ariel, his magic fairy, stops the plots to kill Prospero and Alonso and rejoices in the marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda.

So, with his magic Prospero brings peace and tranquillity. He can now leave all this behind and be at peace. This is De Vere realising that he is soon to die, I feel sure, but being at peace with himself and with all those about him (as opposed to Lear). We are left with a sense of community and of well-being.

So, Edward De Vere at the end of his days was in conflict with himself - with Lear (the negative side) and Prospero (the positive side).

See also my blog entry 'Anonymous' on 20th Novermber 2015 in regard to who wrote the plays

No comments:

Post a Comment