Friday, April 18, 2014

Group Presentations Next Week!

It's finally here--the moment you've all been waiting for!  You get to present on the play of your dreams to audience of gregarious groundlings!  Please sign up for one of the times below--first come, first serve--or e-mail me with  your request.  I will discuss the complete schedule on Monday.  Remember that at least 2 groups can present each day, but no more than that.

W 23: No Class--Work on Presentations
F 25: Twelfth Night; Much Ado About Nothing

M 28: Titus Andronicus; Othello
W 30: Macbeth; Hamlet
F 2:  Taming of the Shrew; Romeo and Juliet; A Midsummer Night's Dream

* We won't be able to do 3 presentations in one day, so one of these will probably have to finish on our Final Exam day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

For Friday: Cesaire, A Tempest, Act III

Answer the following question as a Comment below:

C├ęsaire reduces most of Acts III-V of The Tempest to a duel between Caliban and Prospero (his Act III).  Far from fleeing the stage and promising to be good, as he does in Shakespeare’s version, Caliban has a tremendous speech (pp.61-62) which changes the entire scope of the play.  Why does Prospero decide not to leave the island, and what do you make of the line, “Well, I hate you as well!/for it is you who have made me/doubt myself for the first time” (63).  How has Caliban challenged Prospero’s power in this Act, and is Prospero “beaten” by the end of the play?  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

For Wednesday: Cesaire, A Tempest, Acts I and II

Answer TWO of the following as a Comment below:

1. Cesaire’s language (in translation, at least) hews close to Shakespeare’s original, though he is happy to modernize expressions and ideas to make them closer to the audience’s experience.  Where do you feel the play is most successful in modernizing (without changing the essentials) of The Tempest?  Why does this work?  How might it help us read/understand this scene in the original? 

2. How does Cesaire re-write (or expand upon) the relationship between Ariel and Caliban?  Why does he give them a scene alone, whereas in the actual play they are always in the presence of Prospero or Stephano/Trinculo?  Do you feel this is a plausible reconstruction, or is this a full-scale re-interpretation by Cesaire? 

3. Discuss the scene between Prospero and Caliban in Act I, Scene 2.  How does he make the characters and relationship between the two less ambiguous?  Additionally, how does this scene betray the author's own identity and politics?  

4. How does A Tempest compare to the other Shakespeare inspired poetry we read this week?   What ideas/interpretations does Cesaire offer that might have echoes in Browning’s poetry—or Hughes’ (for example)?  What might this say about how the late 19th/early 20th century experiences The Tempest?  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

For Friday: Criticism on The Tempest

Read ONE (at least) of the Articles below and answer 2 of the following questions:

David Lindley, "Music, Masque, and Meaning in The Tempest" (187)
Stephen Orgel, "Prospero's Wife" (201)
Peter Hulme, "Prospero and Caliban" (233) 


1. What "problem" is the author responding to in the play?  That is, how is his/her essay trying to address a specific issue that needs to be resolved in staging The Tempest that would help modern audiences "get" Shakespeare's intention?  What makes this issue so problematic?

2. Do you think this essay offers a more historical or a theoretical approach to Shakespeare?  In other words, do you feel that the author offers a more "back to the text" approach in understanding how to reach Shakespeare's intentions, or is the author trying to use modern theoretical approaches/influences to "resurrect" the play?  What makes you think this, and how successful do you feel this approach is?  Be specific.  

3. Do you feel like the essay would agree with a more radical interpretation of The Tempest as we saw in the Chinese opera production?  How would the ideas/thesis of this essay be realized in a more theatrical production?  Or do you feel the more orthodox BBC version is more in keeping with the author's views?  

4. How does the essay help you understand or appreciate The Tempest in a new light?  What ideas does the essay reveal that you either didn't consider before, or didn't 'see' from this perspective?  Be specific and reference a particular scene, moment, or character that connects to ideas in the essay. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

For Wednesday: The Tempest, Act V

Answer TWO of the following as a Comment below:

1. At the beginning of Act V, Prospero swears to “break my staff,/Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,/And deeper than did ever plummet sound/I’ll drown my book” (Norton, 67).  Though he releases everyone from his magic and offers mercy, do you think he makes good on this promise?  He never does it in the play, but how should you stage the ending of the play to reflect what he does—or doesn’t do?  Has he finally retired from the ‘stage’ as the Epilogue suggests?  Or are these just words, a way to end the play in a ‘comedy’?

2. After all the business of the previous acts, Act V is very cursory and somewhat anti-climactic (as is As You Like It).  How do you think Shakespeare intended us to experience this?  Why are all the plots to murder Alonso/Prospero dissolved so quickly?  What might this suggest about the nature of the play itself?  Is this why the play is a ‘romance’ rather than a comedy or tragedy? 

3. Caliban is more or less silenced in the final act, though his final words are notably penitent: “I’ll be wise hereafter,/And seek for grace” (Norton, 76).  How should we interpret his sudden change?  Is this the forced conversion of a Shylock?  Or the practiced guile of a servant who will attempt murder and revenge again?  How should you instruct the actor to play this scene in keeping with the previous acts?  

4. Since this is Shakespeare’s final play, and there seems to be some resemblance between Shakespeare and Prospero, what other elements of the play might we be tempted to read autobiographically?  How might the characters and events of this play work as metaphors for some aspect of his life or ideas?  In other words, what might we learn about the playwright based on what he wrote—and how he developed previous themes—in this play?  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

For Monday: The Tempest, Acts III & IV (sorry for the delay!)

1. After the pageant of Juno, Ceres and Iris (a scene that is often heavily cut), Prospero informs Ferdinand that

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-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

How might this scene, and indeed much of the play, be a metaphor for a stage performance itself?  In Shakespeare’s last play, why might he push the boundaries of actors playing actors playing actors even further than usual?  How might this help us read or perform The Tempest

2. Much of The Tempest is clothed in dramatic effects and spectacles: Ariel entering with thunder and lightning; the dance of the shapes with the banquet; and the song and dance of Iris, Ceres, and Juno.  These are all reduced to a mere stage direction in the text, yet have to be realized dramatically in performance.  Some productions cut these entirely, or at least to a bare minimum.  How important are these moments in the play?  Why might they not work when reading, and why might underperforming (or ignoring) these moments damage Shakespeare’s vision?

3. Caliban is a very contradictory character in these Acts: on the one hand, he licks boots and plots revenge and murder; on the other, he speaks divine poetry and is certainly more sensible than his Italian lords.  Consider his famous speech when Trinculo and Stephano are terrified by the unearthly music:

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.

Does this speech humanize Caliban?  Is this his “Hath not a Jew eyes” speech?  Do we see him speak in this vein elsewhere in these acts?  Dramatically, why would he create a monster that attempts rape and murder, yet speaks in harmonious verse?