Considered by many scholars as the last play written solely by Shakespeare, I found the Tempest an interesting mix of genres. While other plays are more obvious about their genres (be it tragedies, comedies, or romance/coms), this is considered a romance. While the romance of Miranda and Ferdinand does feature in a couple of scenes, I would not consider it a romance as compared to Romeo and Juliet. It is comedic, but also very subdued and serious at parts. Prospero is very manipulative; he seems to be in control of everything, even the courtship between his daughher Miranda and Ferdinand. There are images and themes of colonialism, servitude, and slavery, even in the romantic scenes between the lovers. Indeed, Prospero’s control of the events in the play are even meta especially in regards to the ending where he asks the audience to applause. The island’s magic and phantasmagorias can be viewed as a play within a play. I did not warm towards Prospero early on because he did not seem like a real character in the play, more a conniving puppet master moving characters toward his goal. He controls how one views the past and how the outcome will be. I think about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series interpretation of Shakespeare as he wrote The Tempest. A reflective, older man who has spent his life connected to the themes of stage, dreams, imagination and creation, moving characters and stories around, but keenly aware like Prospero at the twilight of his life.
It has been a few years since I read a Shakespeare play. While I have reread one since high school, I have not taken time to read one on my own. I actually miss being taught Shakespeare especially the tragedies where there is so much going on. Othello has high drama, and at first, I liked the Othello character because he seemed innocent, honest, and devoted, but since this is a Shakespearean tragedy, he also has to be in some way foolish and/or mad. He believes too easily that Desdemona is cheating on him; he has some self-hatred and doubt about his love for her as well. The play is rather chaotic with its deceptive machinations by Iago and uncontrolled end, not to mention the narrative’s time issues. Once Othello stops loving Desdemona and thinking the worse of her, it really is the climax and all order seems to go out the door in the scenes that follow:
Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul,
But I do love thee! and when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again.
Everyone seems to be contradictory or double-sided. Iago is obviously not honest. Othello has integrity and strength in public life or batle, but can not control his jealous and violent rage. Emilia is oblivious to Iago’s nature, but seems to be aware of gender relations and disparities. Desdemona is both faithful and submissive, but at times, independent and lively. Iago is annoying. He’s manipulative, calculating, and is a bit of a loon really. He does all this because he is jealous of Othello; jealousy drives many of the characters in this play. I feel sorry for all those caught in Iago’s web of lies: Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, and even poor stupid Roderigo. Why does he even listen to Iago in the first place? The end left me dissatisfied. Even more than other Shakespeare tragedies I’ve read. Maybe it’s because we do not even see Iago die, but he does not repent or even any suffer weakness. I doubt I will reread this play as much as Hamlet or even King Lear, but I think it would be fantastic to see as a play form. The play is wonderfully dramatic with its jealous and violent characters.