Monday, October 24, 2011

Tempest Spectacular

I'm really excited to see The Tempest on Saturday.  The play is fascinating to me, with its dearth of real plot and heavy focus on human interaction.  Almost like a lot of movies that seem to come out nowadays.  Still, The Tempest is a compelling play, and the sheer extravagance of it is astounding to the modern reader, and must have been more so to the viewer of Shakespeare's day

A harpy.  I looked for a long time for
a blog-appropriate picture, by the way.

I especially enjoyed both Ariel's denunciation of Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio as a harpy, and the appearance of Juno, Ceres, and Iris to Ferdinand and Miranda.  Part of the appeal of this play, to me at least, is its power to create images in the mind, just like any other good novel.  So is it better to read or see the play? 

There's no question that Shakespeare was meant to be watched and not just read.  But when it's performed, I feel almost the way that I do when I see a movie after reading a book.  For example, whenever I read Lord of the Rings, I still picture in my mind the actors and characters from the movies (which were great, by the way.  Not disparaging them). 

Ceres, goddess of
the harvest. 
Juno, queen of the Roman
Pantheon (originally named Hera)
It just seems to me that any visual interpretation of a text forces its imagery onto the mind.  Perhaps it is just me, but for my English 251 class last semester, I read a selection by Wayne Boothe (here is an annotation of the essay) about how ethical reading involved interaction with the author and mental submersion in their work, in essence visualizing and recreating the work inside your own head.  So is watching the movie or play before reading the text an unethical reading?  Is it simply accepting another's interpreation?

1 comment:

  1. Justin, I really like that you pointed out the fact that seeing a play or a movie can ruin your reading of the text. I agree with this. However, the great thing about Shakespearean plays is that there are so many of them being performed that you can watch several different productions of the same play, with them all leaving different images in your mind.

    It can be different from watching something like Harry Potter. After watching the first movie, who could ever picture Harry Potter as anyone but Daniel Radcliffe? This is a book-image ruiner. Yet, I was able to see Macbeth as a movie as well as a live performance and they were so different that I'm now able to form an even better picture in my head by drawing experience from both of these.

    So, my tip form this long comment is to be encouraged to see productions or movies of your plays, just make sure that you see more than one.