Hello again! Your homework this week is to read Act I of The Tempest, watch my videotaped lectures below, and then post a comment about the assigned reading at the bottom of this page. The speeches that I refer to in my lectures are printed below each video. At the bottom of this page, below all of the videos, I give you some simple study questions to help you formulate a post. The study questions follow up on things I say in my lectures, so you may want to watch the videos first. Leave your post in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
Speeches of note from The Tempest Act 1: Miranda watches the shipwreck, 1.2.1: If by your art, my dearest father, you have Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them. The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch But that the sea, mounting to th'welkin's cheek, Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffered With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel (Who had no doubt some noble creature in her) Dashed all to pieces! O, the cry did knock Against my very heart! Poor souls, they perished! Had I been any god of power, I would Have sunk the sea within the earth or ere It should the good ship so have swallowed and The fraughting souls within her. Prospero explains what happened to him twelve years ago, 1.2.66: My brother and thy uncle, called Antonio-- I pray thee mark me--that a brother should Be so perfidous!--he whom next thyself Of all the world I loved, and to him put The manage of my state, as at that time Through all the signories it was the first And Prospero the prime duke, being so reputed In dignity, and for the liberal arts Without a parallel; those being all my study, The government I cast upon my brother And to my state grew stranger, being transported And rapt in secret studies... Caliban describes his initially warm relationship with Prospero, 1.2.330: I must eat my dinner. This island's mine by Sycorax my mother, Which thou tak'st from me. When thou cam'st first, Thou strok'st me and made much of me; wouldst give me Water with berries in't; and teach me how To name the bigger light, and how the less, That burn by day and night; and then I loved thee And showed thee all the qualities o'th'isle, The fresh springs, brine pits, barren place and fertile. Cursed be I that did so! All the charms Of Sycorax--toads, beetles, bats, light on you! For I am all the subjects that you have, Which first was mine own king; and here you sty me In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me The rest o'th'island.
Write a comment on The Tempest Act 1 and post it in the comments section below. Be sure to quote the text of the play at least once in your post. Consider answering any of the following study questions:
1.) As I explain in my videos, The Tempest is a thinly-veiled allegory of early European efforts to colonize the Americas. Caliban, Sycorax, and to a lesser extent Ariel figure as the indigenous population of a new land, while Prospero and the other Italians play the role of European colonists. Unusually for his time and place, Shakespeare is critical of the exploitation and ethnocentrism practiced by colonial regimes. Can you detect signs of that criticism in Act 1 of The Tempest?
2.) Caliban is an especially important and ambiguous character. Depending on how you cast and direct him in performance, he can come across as an evil monster, a heroic victim, or something in between. Look closely at Caliban’s scenes for clues about how to understand him. What are the key moments or questions in the play that determine our interpretation of Caliban? In your opinion, what is the most coherent and consistent way to interpret his character? How would you cast him?
3.) You know that Shakespeare always uses a character’s language to signal things about the character. In The Tempest, Prospero and Caliban each have a distinctive speaking style, which not only enriches their characterizations but also establishes them as antitypes of each other. What do you notice about Prospero’s and/or Caliban’s language? How do their speech patterns depict them as opposites of each other?
4.) In keeping with the genre of romance, The Tempest has a distinctive atmosphere that is magical, exotic, and pageant-like. How does Shakespeare create this atmosphere?