Blog Response – The Tempest (ENGL329B)

1. William Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, was the author’s (probably) last play. Shakespeare, perhaps aware of his inability to continue writing, imbued Prospero with several abilities that seem to coincide with the abilities that the Bard himself wielded. Prospero’s “magic,” or lack thereof, commands the characters in The Tempest akin to how Shakespeare commanded the emotions, feelings, and attention of the audience. The differences between the character and the writer seem to disappear by the end of the play when Prospero gives his monologue directly to the audience. No fairy dust or magic wands are necessary when Prospero gets the audience to fill his sails with their applause. In the same vein, Shakespeare uses the control Prospero has over Caliban, Ariel, and the rest of the island’s inhabitants to analyze and very minutely comment on the English Crown’s doctrine and methods of colonization (keeping in mind that negative speech directed towards the King was a very serious offense at the time).

2. The film version of The Tempest seems to focus on stylized visuals to intrigue the viewer. An emphasis on the varied locales (Caliban and Trinculo’s rocky meeting place, the strange stairway/door structure Prospera lives in, etc.), well-known actors, and a female Prospero all lend credence to this idea. Ariel’s magic is shown through computer generated images and its asexuality is prominently depicted with a mixture of female breasts and (relatively) masculine facial features. Caliban’s makeup and mannerisms make him a spectacle of a character and interesting to watch.

3. Shakespeare’s injection of his “powers” into The Tempest via Prospero’s “magic” are lost in the adaptation. It is difficult to subtly influence the viewer to feel or think certain things in this day and age when the industry has the capability, and more importantly the precedence, to show true magic. In fact, judging by the marketing for the movie it would seem that the movie focuses on the fantastical capabilities of the players as opposed to the implications and control Prospero asserts over his minions. This could have been caused by the production company determined the best way to make money from the film was to capitalize on CGI or some other factor. But the end result is that the theme of the film shifts from Shakespeare showing off his mastery of the medium to a film that reproduces the play with a 20 million dollar budget.

This is from a New Jersey news website and acknowledges the obvious racial implications of casting an actor whose breakout role was as a slave in Amistad.

There is a quote in this review from Helen Mirren where she says Prospera, is “a human woman … who dabbles in the black and the white arts of mysticism and of magic,” which completely negates any chance that Prospero/a’s powers are figments of the imaginations of the other characters.

This site has three posters for advertisement campaigns in the USA, Russia, and Japan. The focus of the US poster is on the visual aspect of the movie. The three most “radical” characters (visually) are shown with hyper-stylized visuals and beg the inference that the movie has loads of CGI. This was most likely done to draw a loose demographic, earning more money. So it is not a leap of logic to assume that the creation of the film was plagued by similar interference from the powers that be to make the movie more commercial, drawing it from the source material.’

EDIT: Answer 5 added

5. The increase of celebrity awareness due to the information sharing aspect of the Internet forced the creators of the movie to focus on the visual aspects of the film, drawing it away from the source material. Julia Taymor in an interview talks about how the information-sharing of the Internet had plagued her production of her Spider-Man Broadway show, because when the Internet did not exist, her production of the Lion King did not suffer the same scrutiny, even though it went through similar troubles. The public’s knowledge base of celebrities and their movie roles led the crew to pick actors that were well-known and well-known for their flair. Julia Taymor goes on to talk about how she came to choose Russel Brand for Trinculo, but starts her story with an admission that she did not know him from anything but his chat show interviews on the Internet. She chose him based on the character he portrays outside of movies, which he is expected to continue when actually acting in movies. This then leads the audience to now focus on Russel Brand’s comic nature as opposed to the original purpose of Trinculo, which was to comment on the layman’s perception of the colonization of foreign people. The same can be said of Djimon Hounsou as Caliban, as his breakout role in Amistad leads the audience to think of Caliban as representing the colonized peoples of Africa, when in the play Caliban could have very well have represented the people of Ireland.


One thought on “Blog Response – The Tempest (ENGL329B)

  1. Joseph E. Byrne

    This a very good first effort at the blog response post assignment. Your analysis of the play, the film, and the adaptation is quite insightful and well put. The online research is good, though you might want to try searches at the UMD library database in the future, described in this link:

    The critical argument paragraph is particularly good, because your thesis is quite provocative: by engaging social-networking-based celebrity culture with her film, Taymor slights the source material. Good stuff.

    So keep it up. I look forward to reading your future blog response post assignment entries.

    10/10. Joseph Byrne. ENGL329B.


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