A Critic's Meta Review: 5/5
The Tempest by William Shakespeare (REVIEW)
“Here ye, here ye! Come one, come all, and witness this tale of love and death, of betrayal and forgiveness, of the supernatural and the all-too-real. ‘Tis indeed a tale as old as time, and yet here it is - told in such a timeless way.”
This is how I imagine The Tempest would have been introduced to wandering Britons by the town crier standing outside of the Globe back in the day.
What a play, though, for real. The one thing that I absolutely love about reading Shakespeare (which is something that I am going to start making a habit of doing more often, especially after finishing this), aside from the insanely quotable dialogue (more on that in a bit) is the fact that I always seem to come away from each scene having learned something new.
For instance, I now know that the term “hag-seed” is synonymous with “son of a bitch”, that “kiss the Bible” is a euphemism for taking a swig from a bottle of liquor, and that a fathom is a unit of measurement, equivalent to six feet in length; furthermore, I did not know that the use of the word “pickle” to signify a predicament dated back to Shakespearean times until Alonso, King of Naples (who I will henceforth refer to only as “King Lonzo” for the sake of brevity and because it sounds like it could be the name of Chicago’s latest trap phenomenon) asked Stephano - the drunken butler, part of Caliban’s league of morons - “How camest thou in this pickle?” (5.1.281).
Speaking of quotes, can we talk about the quotes? I think we should talk about the quotes. Yes, let’s talk about the quotes.
Very well then.
Some of my favorites:
PROSPERO: “If thou more murmur’st, I will rend an oak and peg thee in his knotty entrails till thou hast howl’d away twelve winters.” (1.2.293-295); I plan on using this threat at the next available opportunity to do so. However, given that I typically do not engage with beastly monster-servants, it is unlikely that this opportunity will arise in my vicinity anytime soon.
STEPHANO: “For my part, the sea cannot drown me” (3.2.14-15); this is a great way to tell people you can hold your booze, and I have a feeling that the opportunity to use this line will come a lot quicker than the previous one.
Also from STEPHANO (in the same scene, no less): “one word further, and, by this hand, I’ll turn my mercy out o’ doors and make a stock-fish of thee” (3.2.77-79); I love the idea of asking your mercy to leave the room before doing someone dirty so as to avoid it getting in the way of your ability to unleash the most vicious brutality you could possibly muster up. I can picture ol’ mercy now, solemnly donning his evening cap and slowly sauntering on out the door with his hands tucked in his pockets (Bette Davis style).
KING LONZO: “Even here I will put off my hope and keep it no longer for my flatterer” (3.3.6-7); again, another great mental image. Yet not really one that I needed to have as I, too, have had to do this exact thing in a number of situations, in order to avoid being blinded by misplaced optimism regarding my circumstances. You’ve got to keep it real with yourself, or you won’t be able to keep it real at all.
PROSPERO: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” (4.1.157-158); couldn’t have said it better myself, mate.
Then there’s another great threat from PROSPERO, upon catching Caliban and his band of drunken fools in the midst of their half-baked plot to kill him and take the throne, in which he commands his goblins (sure wish I had me a few of those at my disposal sometimes) to “grind their joints with dry convulsions, shorten up their sinews with aged cramps, and more pinch-spotted make them than pard or cat o’mountain” (4.1.258-261).
PROSPERO, again - when conjuring up the spirits to cast off the spell he had King Lonzo and his crew under, he at one point addresses “you whose pastime is to make midnight mushrooms” (5.1.38-39); the last time I felt so directly spoken to by a fictional Italian man, I was being lambasted by Luigi for failing to save Princess Daisy in time for her to avoid capture by Bowser.
And then there’s this gem from MIRANDA - the only female character in this whole play that isn’t an apparition: upon witnessing Ferdinand and his father King Lonzo reunite with his son, she utters what I often find myself thinking during a nice afternoon stroll through the park after eating a few of those midnight mushrooms Prospero was talking about: “O’ wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in ‘t!” (5.1.181-184); on a side note, it appears as if Aldous Huxley was a fan of this play, too.
Finally, one more from PROSPERO:
“Every third thought shall be my grave (5.1.311)
Same here, mate.