Sunday, April 30, 2017

May 2017

Dear Shakespeare friends,
Today, 1 May, is the day for international solidarity. It’s needed more than ever. Things do not look good in the world at the moment. Racism, sexism, fear and hatred, religious fanaticism amongst followers of all the religions, environmental catastrophe and blindness and denial of science, all of this is frightening. But let us remember: ‘The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together,’ Shakespeare wrote in All’s Well that Ends Well. And surely together we can, in solidarity, counteract the ill and strengthen the good.

Meanwhile, again life has conspired against Hal and me and we have been unable to read any Shakespeare plays together. Hopefully next time!

As always I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer is, as I mentioned last time, a wonderful book. Here are some more sightings that are well worth repeating:
    • Shakespeare often mentions bad breath, which was indeed a big problem in Elizabethan England. There were many rotten teeth due to eating too many sweets.
    • Considering the vicious delight Elizabethans take in seeing bear baiting and other cruelty to animals, Mortimer wonders how they could also appreciate Shakespeare’s humanism.
    • One of the most famous bears in England’s bear-baiting enthusiasm was called Sackerson and Shakespeare mentions him in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
    • Seeing that Elizabeth loves to go to Paris Garden to enjoy the bloodshed of bear-baiting Mortimer finds it odd that she never went to the Globe to see Shakespeare.
    • Music plays an important part in Elizabethan society and Mortimer writes: ‘Although no one has yet conclusively proved that music is the food of love, there is little doubt that Shakespeare himself thinks it is. More than 170 passages in his plays allude to music or musicians…’
    • Many musicians live in the parish of Saint Helen Bishopsgate, as does Shakespeare.
    • ‘Shakespeare has given voice to so many of our feelings. Probably no other Englishman has been more influential. His influence is not militaristic or nationalistic, nor is it the discovery of a scientific phenomenon; it is simply that his writings are the biggest step ever taken along the path towards understanding the human condition. It is a path we are still following.’
    • ‘If Shakespeare is ‘for all time’, then so too is Elizabethan England.’
  • Norda Mullen, flutist for the Moddy blues, compares Justin Hayward’s lyrics to Shakespeare – ‘everyone can relate’. Well, I wouldn’t go that far.
  • In the musical film Singing in the Rain aspiring actor Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) tells silent star Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) that real acting is only done on stage such as Shakespeare and Ibsen. When she shortly thereafter pops up out of a cake as a dancing girl he asks her for Hamlet’s soliloquy or some lines by Juliet. Later in the song ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) sings that you could do Shakespeare but it’s better to make ‘em laugh. The song writer had apparently never seen a Shakespeare play.
  • On the TV quiz show Vem vet mest? (Who knows the most?) the question was who directed The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover? The answer: Peter Greenaway and the program leader said, ‘He also directed a film of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.’
  • On another TV quiz show Smartare än en femteklassare (Smarter than a six year student) one of the kids is going to be in a summer production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • In Dagens Nyheter Johan Hilton writes: ‘Without having a doctorate in the subject I can still claim that all political leaders in the world, now and historically, can find their role model in one of Shakespeare’s kings. Emmanuel Macron? Henry V, with a little luck. Theresa May? Henry VI. Vladimir Putin? Undoubtedly Richard III. With Donald Trump it’s harder. Richard II, the vain title role in one of Shakespeare’s best plays maybe? …History professor Rachel Weil writes that Trump is unpredictable, lives in a dream world and solves conflicts with the help of narcissistic impulses. He therefore risks, like the king, undermining the legitimacy of the whole administration. I don’t know though. Trump is closer to the swashbuckling liar Falstaff. Minus the charm.’ Hmmmm.
  • In Tana French’s novel The Secret Place Detective Stephen Moran finds a book amongst one of the suspects’ belongings: ‘…it looked old, Shakespeare old.’


Further since last time: Well, that’s it.

Posted this month
  • This report





Monday, April 3, 2017

April 2017

There has been little Shakespeare this month as life sometimes has other ideas. No plays or movies, few sightings. But one event has made up for it. Språklärarnas riksförbund (The National Association of Language Teachers in Sweden) invited me to give my presentation ‘Why Shakespeare?’ at their conference and what a pleasure it was! A keen audience, the chance to meet Shakespeare enthusiasts from round the country, and I even met up with old friends. Annette Å, whom Hal and I met in London in 2013 at the Shakespeare course arranged by Shakespearesällskapet (see my reports in June and July of 2013 here on the blog) was at the conference and we had a nice chat reminiscing about the great time we had then. Hal and I met Ingrid A, one of the arrangers of the conference, originally on a bus trip to England in 2011, on which we visited Stratford upon Avon and began talking over a book about Shakespeare. Ingrid was responsible for arranging for me to speak now at the conference. So, a wonderful Shakespeare day to round off the last month and begin this one. Thank you, Ingrid and Språkbad väst!

As always I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Belinda Bauer’s novel The Beautiful Dead  the police suspect that the serial killer will strike at a West End theatre during a performance of Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo collapses during the poison scene, and stays collapsed, the police rush to the stage but he revives, as the killer calmly murders the theatre manager…
  • In Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor in the episode ‘Sleep No More’ says, ‘Never shall Cawdor sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more. Shakespeare. He really knew his stuff.’
  • In Dagens Nyheter there was
    • a review of a satirical Hamlet which ‘must be seen…..’ This production is high quality nightmare theatre…’
    • an advert for the coming return to the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Rickard III with the brilliant Jonas Karlsson. Hal and I saw it the first time round.  In the advert it says, ‘He is manipulative, murderous and power-mad. You will love him.’ Yep.
  • In Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising she explains ancient pagan customs in Britain and quotes Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor: ‘There is an old tale goes, that Herne the Hunter…’ and continues by describing this frightening spirit.
  • The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer is a wonderful book. I’ve read it before and written about the Shakespeare sightings in it before but it’s well worth reading again, which I’m doing now, and some of the sightings are well worth repeating:
    • Shakespeare has reason to be proud when he buys New Place in 1597, ‘with its brick, glazed windows and chimneys – a far cry from the smelly house where he spent his boyhood (and where his aged father still lives). And you can see why William’s wife, Anne, is pleased to be living in New Place rather than the two-room farmhouse in Shottery where she grew up.’
    • The Mermaid in Cheapside is ‘the drinking haunt of William Shakespeare of Stratford’.
    • Writing books is not considered professional and Shakespeare is one of the ‘very few writers who manages to elevate himself from a relatively humble level to the status of a gentleman.’
    • Shakespeare is an example of those many who move to London to make their fortune before returning to the place of their birth.
    • It is the custom to kiss one’s hostess on the lips when greeting her and Cassio mentions this custom to Iago when greeting Emilia with a kiss.
    • Though a later portrait of Shakespeare shows him wearing an earring (in fact this is the portrait – which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London – used on the cover of Shakespeare calling – the book) it is highly unlikely to be accurate as few or no men in Elizabethan times pierced their ears. 

Further since last time:
  • ‘Why Shakespeare?’ in Gothenburg (see above) 

Posted this month
  • This report





Sunday, March 5, 2017

March 2017

We have yet to survive this year’s Ides of March but we’ve come this far. Much of our Shakespeare activity since the last report has involved Much Ado About Nothing. I’ve always loved the play but this time the darker side seems important, and that’s what I wrote about (see link below). We haven’t chosen our next play yet but it’s always an exciting moment to get started on a play.

Now, to the report for March.
As always I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Donal Ryan’s novel All We Shall Know Melody Shee is going to teach traveller Martin Toppy to read but realises that she only has such material as Shakespeare and Yeats.
  • Beloved Swedish actor Björn Granath has died. Dagens Nyheter informs us that he is known, amongst much else, as a Shakespearean actor and he was scheduled to play Buckingham in the upcoming repeat performances of Richard III with Jonas Karlsson. We were fortunate to have seen him in this role in 2014.
  • In Alison Weir’s fascinating biography of Elizabeth I Shakespeare pops up frequently. Here are some of the most interesting sightings:
    • Some of Shakespeare’s plays were performed at court, ‘usually at an average cost of £400 each.’
    • Employed by the queen was ‘Monarcho, an Italian fool, who is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.’
    • Elizabeth was ‘painfully aware that, since a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard II in 1597, some of her subjects saw in Essex a second Henry of Bolingbroke, who might overthrow her as Henry had overthrown Richard.’
    • In 1601 Essex in fact ‘paid a reluctant Shakespeare and his company of actors…forty shillings to stage a production of the inflammatory Richard II, with its banned abdication scene, at the Globe Theatre in Southwark.’
  • In Doctor Who, now played by Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor, the Doctor is undercover as a caretaker in Clara’s school and he thinks her colleague who wants to talk about Shakespeare is her boyfriend. The Doctor approves, but it isn’t her boyfriend at all.
  • In A Hard Day’s Night, recently watched for perhaps the twenty-first time, Paul hams it up with, ‘Oh that this too, too solid flesh…’ The first time I saw that in 1964 I had no idea it was Shakespeare. Probably not the next 19 times either.
  • In Ben Aaronovitch’s third Peter Grant novel, Whispers Underground, Peter’s mentor Nightingale speaks of wizards he knew who had given up their magic, calling it ‘breaking theirs staffs.’ Later, one of the suspects in Peter’s murder case, the annoying Zach, says smugly to Peter: ‘Let’s just say that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy,’ then informs him, ‘That’s Shakespeare, that is.’
  • In Dagens Nyheter there was a review of the ‘completely corny and freely improvised’ Henry V. Peter Viitanen’s Henry is described as ‘flopping about,’ skinny, cheeky with a crown that keeps falling down over his eyes. A clever satire, according to Pia Huss.
  • In English Society 1580-1680 by Keith Wrightson uneasiness over the threat of mob violence, which in reality was minimal, is described thus: ‘…fears and protestations were given some colour by reported expressions of class hatred worthy of Shakespeare’s Jack Cade.’
  • In Dagens Nyheter just today there is a review of Hamlet now on at Folkteatern in Gothenburg. It even quotes Jan Kott. Otherwise the review rambles. I think the critic Tomas Forser liked it. Frustratingly, the play will be going while Hal and I are in Gothenburg but it collides with my lecture on Shakespeare at the Language Teachers’ conference.


Further since last time:
  • Finished reading aloud with Hal: Much Ado about Nothing
  • Watched five versions of Much Ado About Nothing.


Posted this month






With friends like these... cruelty in Much Ado about Nothing

With friends like these…
The cruelty of friends in
in
Much Ado About Nothing


     That Don John is cruel is a given. That sweet Hero, valiant Claudio, noble Don Pedro and loving Leonato are also cruel is obvious, as well, isn’t it? But for some reason ignored.
     This time I can’t ignore it.
     Sweet Hero, knowing her cousin and dearest friend Beatrice is listening, she says the most hurtful things about her. Sweet Hero says:

Disdain and scorn tide sparkling in her eyes,
…her wit
Values itself so highly that to her
All matter else seems weak; she cannot love…
She is so self-endeared (Act III.1).

     Sweet Hero says, when Ursula comments that such carping is not commendable:

But who dare tell her so? If I should speak,
She would mock me into air. O, she would laugh me
Out of myself, press me to death with wit (Act III.1).

     Sweet Hero proposes:

I’ll device some honest slanders
To stain my cousin with (Act III.1).

     Disdain, Scorn. Self-endeared. Mocking. Thus sweet Hero describes her kinswoman and promises to spread damning lies about her. Is this not cruelty?
     Valiant Claudio, we see at the revels, is very quick to think the worst of his friends when he suspects Don Pedro of stealing Hero’s love though Don Pedro had explained what he was going to do, woo Hero for Claudio. When then Don John manipulates Claudio into believing Hero is unfaithful, Claudio is not only very quick to believe in Hero’s supposed infidelity before seeing any evidence whatsoever but almost immediately promises the cruellest of actions: ‘If I see anything why I should not marry her tomorrow in the congregation where I should wed, there will I shame her’ (Act III.3). and then he does it, our valiant Claudio:

There, Leonato, take her back again.
Give not this rotten orange to your friend.
She knows the heat of a luxurious bed:
Her blush is guiltiness…
[I will not] be married …
…to an approvèd wanton.
…you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus or those pampered animals
That rage in savage sensuality…
…fare thee well most foul… (Act IV.1).

     Oh, valiant Claudio! Rotten? Wanton? Savage? Foul? To the woman you profess to have loved? At the altar in front of family and friends? Is this not cruelty?
     The noble Don Pedro, who was so quick to help Claudio woo Hero, is just as quick to join him in condemning her. Immediately after Claudio announces, ‘I will shame her,’ noble Don Pedro declares, ‘And as I wooed for thee to obtain her, I will join thee to disgrace her’ (Act III.2). And he does. When Claudio has rejected Hero at the church and Leonato says, ‘Sweet prince, why speak not you?’ Don Pedro says:

What should I speak?
I stand dishonoured, that have gone about
To link my dear friend to a common stale (Act IV.1).

     He stoutly claims to have seen Hero with another man and that’s that. The gentlemen stick together and grievously regard themselves as the dishonoured ones. Not only cruel but stupid.
     Dear old dad, then? The loving Leonato?
     After Claudio’s accusation Leonato turns, not to his daughter, but to Don Pedro, then on Claudio’s challenge to ‘bid her answer truly’ does Leonato say, ‘I charge thee do so, as thou art my child’ (Act IV.1). He ignores her answer and cries, ‘Hath no man’s dagger here a point for me?’ When Hero then faints from the shock Leonato says:

Death is the fairest cover for her shame
That may be wished for (Act IV.1).

     When Hero revives he continues:

…doth not every earthly thing
Cry shame upon her?...
Do not live, Hero…
Why ever was thou lovely in my eyes…?
…foul-tainted flesh!
…Would the two princes lie, and Claudio lie,
Who loved her so that, speaking of her foulness,
Washed it with tears? Hence from her, let her die. (Act IV.1).

     Well, enough said. Not only a pact amongst the men against this young woman but unspeakably cruel words heard from a once loving father.
     This is a comedy, one of Shakespeare’s funniest and most beloved. Beatrice and Benedick are brilliant, and the only ones of Hero’s circle to believe her and defend her. Dogberry is wise and amusing and insistent that the wrong against Hero be righted in some of Shakespeare’s most entertaining scenes. For these reasons the play is also amongst the most often performed. As it should be. But the dark side should never be toned down and it almost always is.
     Beatrice forgives Hero her cruelty. Hero forgives less than valiant Claudio, ignoble Don Pedro and unloving Leonato their cruelty.
     I do not.

Films seen this time:
  
  • BBC, 1984. Director: Stuart Burge. Cast: Benedick – Robert Lindsay; Beatrice – Cherie Lunghi; Claudio – Robert Reynolds; Hero – Katharine Levy; Leonato – Lee Montague; Don Pedro – Jon Finch; Don John – Vernon Dobtcheff; Dogberry – Michael Elphick.
    • An enjoyable production in which the two leads provide a strong performance. Less enjoyable is Jon Finch's campy Don Pedro; it doesn't strike the right note. A pity, after his well-done Henry IV.
  • 1993. Director: Kenneth Branagh. Cast: Benedick – Kenneth Branagh; Beatrice – Emma Thompson; Claudio – Robert Sean Leonard; Hero – Kate Beckinsale; Leonato – Richard Briers; Don Pedro – Denzil Washington; Don John – Keanu Reeves; Dogberry – Michael Keaton; Margaret – Imelda Staunton.
    • What can I say? I love this movie. Oh Sir Ken, please make more Shakespeare movies! With Emma. You're still friends, aren't you?
  • Shakespeare Retold, 2005. Director: Brian Percival. Cast: Benedick – Damian Lewis; Beatrice – Sarah Parish; Claudio – Tom Ellis; Hero – Billie Piper; Leonato – Marvin Jarvis; Don John – Derek Riddell.
    • Fun and believably adapted. Especially Damian Lewis and Billie Piper do a good job.
  • 2011. The Globe. Director: Jeremy Herrin. Cast: Benedick - Charles Edwards; Beatrice - Eve Best; Claudio - Philip Cumbus; Hero - Ony Uhiara; Leonato - Joseph Marcell; Don Pedro -Ewan Stewart; Don John - Matthew Pidgeon; Dogberry – Paul Hunter; Margaret – Lisa McGrillis.
    • A mixed production. Edwards is good as Benedick. Best is, as usual, excellent in her contact with the groundlings but has an irritating habit of speaking almost all her lines to the upper gallery. Their interplay, though, is very entertaining. The rest of the cast are quite anonymous. Enjoyable but not a masterpiece. As so often, the Globe itself plays the best part.
  • 2012. Director: Joss Whedon. 
    • We were fortunate to see this film in London, at the Barbican, on its premiere in 2013. I gave it 5* of 5. I wouldn’t be quite so generous this time, but then we weren’t in London, in the Barbican, this time. The impressive and beautiful black and white cinematography can’t quite hide the flaws of some mediocre character interpretations and the altogether too jolly ending. Still, a wonderful film.   
    • http://rubyjandsmovieblog.blogspot.se/2013/06/much-ado-about-nothing-2013.html












Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 2017

As we move into February we are met daily with reports of racism and xenophobia both at the grass root level and the governmental. We can be encouraged that protests are strong and widespread and we have good reason to remind ourselves that Shakespeare, too, promoted humanism in the face of the fear and hatred of his time. Sir Ian McKellen, as many of you know, has done many stirring readings of the monologue Shakespeare wrote for his characterisation of Sir Thomas More. Please listen and share:


Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silenced by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you. You had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Feed on one another.
O, desperate as you are,

Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands,
That you like rebels lift against the peace,
Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet to kneel to be forgiven!
… You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in line,
To slip him like a hound. Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England,—
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the elements
Were t all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case;
And this your mountanish inhumanity.


Now, to the report for February.
As always I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Louise Penny’s The Cruellest Month the victim and the suspects had all been involved with a production of As You Like It in school and there are other references to Shakespeare throughout.
  • In Extras
    • One of the actors on set is reading Frank Kermode’s book on Shakespeare for his PhD work and Maggie is very impressed (as am I!)
    • Patrick Stewart is doing Prospero and Andy says to his nasty mate, ‘While you were studying Shakespeare, I was shagging birds’ (or something like that).
    • In the episode with Orlando Bloom, Barry, Andy’s agent’s other client, is mentioned doing his one-man version of Romeo and Juliet.
    • Andy demands a proper role from his idiot agent – in a Shakespeare play or something.
  • In the final episode of The Wire, during McNulty’s fake wake, Jay says, ‘From which no traveller returns…’ but since they were faking it, McNulty returns. 

Further since last time:
  • Watched The Globe performance of The Tempest with Roger Allam and Colin Morgan
  • Started reading aloud with Hal: Much Ado about Nothing


Posted this month






The Tempest - 'Sounds and sweet air'

‘Sounds and sweet air’
in
The Tempest

Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not:
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices.
That if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again (Act III.2).

     Are these the words of a brute? No, they are not. They are words said in kindness, to allay the fears of friends. They are words of wonder over incomprehensible beauty. They are words of longing.

O ho, O ho! Would’t had been done!
Thou didst prevent me: I had peopled else
This isle with Calibans (Act 1.2).

     Are these the words of a brute? Possibly. Spoken about Caliban’s unwelcome advances to Miranda, these are words, at least, of resentment.  Caliban had been alone on his island. His island. He says to Prospero:

This island’s mine by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou tak’st from me. When thou cam’st first,
Thou strok’dst me, and made much of me…
…then I loved thee
And showed thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle (Act I.2).

     Alone, lonely but free, master of the Isle. Caliban was overwhelmed by the arrival of Prospero and the child Miranda. Prospero has stolen the Isle from Caliban but accepted his generosity. Until Miranda grows up and Caliban makes mistaken – if understandable – assumptions.  In other words, Prospero’s attitude is, ‘We can take his Isle, accept his gifts, treat him kindly if patronisingly, but would you want your daughter to marry him?’
     And Miranda, who has taught him language, suddenly and to Caliban surely incomprehensibly, turns on him, because her ‘honour’ has been threatened. Shakespeare does not make it clear how this happened. Was it a kiss or attempted rape? We don’t know. Yes, Caliban then boasts he had thought to have babies with her but he might have meant that he was proposing marriage to her. And what choice did either of them have, isolated as they were? Miranda’s words cut deeply and keenly; he had believed in her affection for him:

Abhorrèd slave,
Which any print of goodness wilt not take,
Being capable of all ill. I pitied thee,
Took pains to make thee speak…
…but wouldst gobble, like
A thing most brutish…
…therefore wast thou
Deservedly confined into this rock, who hadst
Deserved more than a prison (Act I.2)

     Oh, cruel Miranda! To pity him and scorn his attempts at learning a foreign language! Let us suppose that Caliban had loved Miranda. Oh, cruel, cruel Prospero! Let us suppose, too, that Caliban loved Prospero. How easily that love would be manifested as hate at the painful, inexplicable rejection, enslavement and torture.
     So Caliban becomes not only a slave but an ill-treated slave, punished for the least infraction with physical pain and torture.
     And thus the story begins.
     Caliban now fears Prospero. This is clear in the scene in which he next appears. He is carrying wood.

His spirits hear me…
For every trifle, are they set upon me…
…bite and prick… and hiss me into madness (Act II.2).

     Is it any wonder, then, that with the intoxication of Stephano’s ‘celestial liquor’ and the fact that neither Stephano nor Trinculo use physical violence against him, Caliban falls to his knees in worship and offers up Prospero to these two buffoons with the plot to kill Prospero and give them the isle?
     Brutish? Of course, but pathetically human. And he pathetically believes that with these new masters he will no longer be a slave:

Freedom, high-day! High-day freedom! Freedom, high-day, freedom! (Act II.2)

     In the midst of the murder plot and Caliban’s dreams of freedom comes the ‘sounds and sweet airs’ monologue quoted at the beginning of this essay. Caliban loves music. His brutish heart longs for music just as it longs for freedom.
     The foolish plot to kill Prospero falls through and Caliban’s eyes are opened to the ridiculous reality of Stephano and Trinculo:

…I’ll be wise hereafter,
And seek for grace. What a thrice-double ass
Was I to take this drunkard for a god
And worship this dull fool! (Act V.1)

     Caliban obeys, one supposes, Prospero’s order to go to his cell and tidy it properly.
     And that’s that.
     Does Caliban get his music, his freedom? We don’t know. Shakespeare doesn’t tell us if Prospero takes Caliban with him when he and Miranda return to Milano.
     I hope not. I like to think of Caliban once again master of the Isle, no longer a slave, with no other companion but free Ariel and the spirits, delighting in the sounds and sweet airs.

Films seen this time:
·                The Tempest, BBC, 1980. Director: John Gorrie. Cast:  Prospero – Michael Hordern; Ariel – David Dixon; Caliban – Warren Clark; Miranda – Pippa Guard ; Ferdinand – Christopher Guard; Gonzalo – John Nettleton; Trinculo – Andrew Sachs; Stephano  – Nigel Hawthorne. A thoroughly lacklustre production!  What a shame for such a rich play.  Dixon as a dead-eyed, campy, nearly naked, lizardy strutting breathy Ariel is just so wrong. The only bright parts are when Trinculo and Stephano are on stage. Nigel Hawthorne is often very funny and it’s not strange that Stephano reminds me constantly of Manuel in Fawlty Towers.
·                The Tempest 2010. Director: Julie Taymor. Cast:  Prospera – Helen Mirren; Ariel – Ben Whishaw; Caliban – Djimon Hounsou; Miranda – Felicity Jones; Ferdinand – Reeve Carney; Gonzalo – Tom Conti; Trinculo – Russell Brand; Stephano  – Alan Cumming. By far the best film version.  Strong visual effects, strong acting (mostly) and powerfully set in Hawaii. http://rubyjandsmovieblog.blogspot.se/2014/11/the-tempest-taymor.html
·                The Tempest 2014.  Director: Jeremy Herrin. Cast:  Prospero – Roger Allam; Ariel – Colin Morgan; Caliban – James Garnon; Miranda – Jessie Buckley; Ferdinand – Joshua James; Gonzalo – Pip Donaghy; Trinculo – Trevor Fox; Stefano – Sam Cox. The overwhelming memory of having seen this at the Globe – our first! – is only heightened by the close-ups in the film.  The interpretation is more light-hearted than mine but I accept that utterly.  Roger Allam is just so good. He makes Prospero actually likable. Colin Morgan does a poignant, spritely, funny Ariel who leaps and flies about the stage and still projects with blinks and twitches a sensitive and magical character.  James Garnon as Caliban is a bit too much but Sam Cox balances that as a low key and very funny Stefano.  Jessie Buckley and Joshua James are good as the daft young lovers – finally a version in which they are not wimpy!  This is a production we are sure to watch many times just for the sheer pleasure of it.