“T” is for “The Tempest”
I’d like to tell you about a tragic event, a shipwreck that happened some years ago – quite a number of years ago, actually; it was in 1609.
A ship named the “Sea Venture,” which was on its way to Virginia, was caught in a tempest, something that we today would recognize as a hurricane, and crashed on a dangerous island, a spot feared by all sailors of that day because of the rocks that surrounded it – they called it the “Isle of Devils.”
The ship was destroyed on the rocks, but all hands – 150 people and one dog – got ashore and lived to tell the tale.
They had landed on, of all places, Bermuda.
I have to admit that the place has changed a bit since then.
At any rate, the ship’s passengers learned, since they spent months there, that it wasn’t an isle of devils at all; in fact, it was a pretty great place to spend the winter. There was plenty of food: all kinds of edible animals and birds, and the sea around the island was chock-full of fish. The future governor of Virginia was in that group, as was the future husband of Pocahontas.
The ship’s crew used the timbers from their wrecked ship to build a different, much smaller ship, which they named “Deliverance.”
They waited till spring to set sail for Jamestown, Virginia.
Try to picture this situation. It was assumed by everyone, after nine months passed, that the folks on the “Sea Venture” had all died, and then they sailed into Jamestown, hale, as the saying goes, and hearty.
It would be as though we in our time were to lose a large crew in a spaceship that crashed on the dark side of the moon, and then they were to arrive back home, half a year later, in fine condition.
The news about the Sea Venture, when it got back to England, created a sensation. Will Shakespeare read about it and sat down to write a play, named, as you may by now have guessed, “The Tempest.”
For the playwright, the island was a magical, mysterious and enchanting place…
And he filled it with magical, mysterious inhabitants.
The main character of this play is Prospero, who lives with his daughter on this island. In exile, far away from everyone, he has somehow managed to acquire the power of magic to help him in his daily existence.
Beautiful young Miranda, his daughter, sees the shipwreck. She will fall in love with a young man, a survivor of the wreck. Why shouldn’t she? He’s just about the only man she’s ever seen, except for her father.
“The Tempest” is one of the most original and wildly creative of Shakespeare's productions. The human and imaginary characters, the dramatic and the grotesque, are blended together in a genuine work of art. Some scholars suggest that Prospero is really Shakespeare; when he gives us his thoughts and beliefs, he is speaking for the playwright. Well, I suppose it’s possible.
At any rate, this is the last play Will S. wrote, so when Prospero “signs off” at the end, it does indeed sound like Shakespeare saying good bye.
Prospero: “I have be-dimm'd the noon-tide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds, and 'twixt the green sea and the azur’d vault set roaring war. But this rough magic I here abjure; I'll break my staff, bury it certain fathoms in the earth, and deeper than did ever plummet sound – I’ll drown my book.”
And some time later that’s just what William Shakespeare did: as in “The Tempest,” he drowned his book, writing no more plays and retiring to his home in Stratford.
1 year ago