A-Z Shakespeare: The Tempest

“O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!”

William Shakespeare

I have a feeling I’m going to be reading quite a lot of Shakespeare over the next couple of weeks, and I thought this might be a fun way to do it. Of course, I might be wrong, but here we go.

Awesomeness: 9/10

Because…storms at sea. Magical flying spirits. Humorous drunk people. Pretty language. True Love and High Adventure.

Colour: (Because books have colours in my head.) Green

Date: 1610-11

Events: The ship of King Alonso of Naples is shipwrecked during a storm on a remote island. It transpires that the island is home to Prospero, usurped Duke of Milan, whose brother and usurper happens to be on the wrecked ship, and that Prospero has engineered the storm using magic to get back at his brother. Cue fireworks.

First line: “Boatswain!”

Genre: My Complete Oxford Shakespeare files it under “Comedies”. Most scholars will tell you that it’s a “Problem Play”, because it isn’t easily categorised. Personally, I’d call it Fantasy and leave it at that.

High point: The bit where Prospero breaks his staff at the beginning of Act Five.

Interesting fact: This is probably Shakespeare’s last play.

Joke: “Look, he’s winding up the watch of his wit. By and by it will strike.”

Killed: Remarkably, no-one. Is a Shakespearean miracle.

Laughed at: Trinculo and Stefano, a couple of sailors who nick a barrel of wine and get drunk on delusions of grandeur after being worshipped by devil-type man Caliban.

Musical: Yes. Spirit of the air Ariel likes singing sea-songs to trick people into following him. Look, it’s theatre, it doesn’t have to make sense.

Number of scenes: 9, spread over five acts; really quite short for Shakespeare.

Obscurity: 3/10; relatively accessible, I’d say.

Place: A Desert Island off the coast of Italy.

Quote: “Be not afear’d; the isle is full of noises.”

Role I’d play: Well, Miranda, Prospero’s daughter, is the only female character. But I wouldn’t mind playing Ariel, either.

Stolen from a letter about a famous shipwreck written by a would-be American colonist, William Strachey, whose ship got washed up on the island of Bermuda. They all survived and made it to America in the end.

Time: Er…hard to say, but possibly around Shakespeare’s time.


Voiced in my head by: Gandalf Ian McKellen for Prospero.

Would I see it in a theatre? YES.

X: The Tenth Line: “I pray now, keep below.”

“Yes? Hello? What?” (The Snappy Quip): “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”

Z: The Last Line: “Let your indulgence set me free.”


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