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Book Review: The Tempest by William Shakespeare (3/5)

19 Dec

This might not have been the best book to ‘read’ as an audiobook. It was a bit hard to follow aloud and I’m not sure how well I would have followed it on stage, to be honest. I’d like to see it on stage and see if I follow better, though. This book did help me complete a reading challenge and entertain me on my first ever 10K run!

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Summary from Goodreads:

In The Tempest, long considered one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays, Prospero—a magician on an enchanted island—punishes his enemies, brings happiness to his daughter, and comes to terms with human use of supernatural power. The Tempest embodies both seemingly timeless romance and the historically specific moment in which Europe begins to explore and conquer the New World.

Its complexity of thought, its range of characters—from the spirit Ariel and the monster Caliban to the beautiful Miranda and her prince Ferdinand -its poetic beauty, and its exploration of difficult questions that still haunt us today make this play wonderfully compelling.

The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place, using illusion and skilful manipulation. The eponymous tempest brings to the island Prospero’s usurping brother Antonio and the complicit Alonso, King of Naples. There, his machinations bring about the revelation of Antonio’s low nature, the redemption of Alonso, and the marriage of Miranda to Alonso’s son, Ferdinand.

I got really confused about the characters. Listening to the play, I would get Alonso and Antonio confused and forget which was Prospero’s brother. I think that would be easier watching it on stage and be able to follow actors instead of the litany of names that I was given before the narrator started reading the play. Truth right now, I just read the SparkNotes summary and I’m not surprised I had trouble following the plot. It’s a Shakespearean comedy to be sure and I love the twists and turns the Bard takes. Prospero changes his mind about things very quickly, though. which makes him frustrating. Though after being Kind of an island for 12 years, I might not be the most agreeable person either.

Of course, Shakespeare’s comedic characters are only just believable enough to keep reading. They do silly and ridiculous things all through the play but the things they pine after (women, power, freedom) are universal. I understood why Ferdinand didn’t mind working for Miranda’s sake or why Sebastian and Antonio might consider killing their King to gain status themselves or why Ariel appeases Prospero’s every wish to hopefully gain his freedom. Their motivations are enough to make their absurd actions justified.

I liked Ariel. He seemed reluctant but he was also having fun in how he tricked the sailors. He didn’t like being forced to serve Prospero (because let’s face it, Prospero was kind of a huge jerk) but he was thankful to be free of the tree where he was trapped and he liked the degree of freedom he was given to do what Prospero bid him. Causing chaos is always fun, right?

Miranda reminded me of myself in middle school. There’s a boy interested in me?! Let’s get married! It was endearing to see her young and sudden love with Ferdinand and I thought it was cute. I was a little surprised Ferdinand returned her affections so quickly but if she is as beautiful as described, I guess he can fall in ‘love’ in the same quick moment.

William Shakespeare Image via Wikipedia

William Shakespeare
Image via Wikipedia

Ferdinand and Miranda made my favorite scenes of the book. I think that the young Romeo and Juliet style of love is so fun to see on stage and it’s something I love about Shakespeare. I’m glad that things worked out for them, though! I don’t know if I could have taken a sad ending between the two.

The relationship between Ariel and Prospero bothered me most. Prospero, who I take as the hero of the story, is very rude and demeaning toward Ariel and it made it hard for me to like him. Ariel did everything Prospero asked and Prospero still kept him a slave, stretching out his servitude a bit each time. It was like he was reneging every scene!

Oddly, the name of the narrator for this audiobook isn’t listed in the file information and I couldn’t tell you what he said! It’s from Saddleback Educational Publishing. I wish the narrator had used more voices for the different characters. This would have been hard with the many characters but the only voice that was at all different was Miranda, which took on a more feminine tone. I think I got many of the characters confused because of this. Even though their names were said before each line, I would get the names confused without them having their own voice.

Prospero is power-hungry and wants to be the puppet master of the island but the task is too much for him and he has to rely on Ariel and Caliban for a lot of the work. I think Shakespeare was writing a comedy about what happens to those that try to control everything. It never works out exactly as planned. I know I can be like this in my life and I’m sure many of you can think of examples. I don’t even have magic to make it easier!

Writer’s Takeaway: Though I usually like Shakespeare’s twists and turns, I felt like this one was a little too complicated for my liking. Simple plots are easier most of the time and while a little twist is good, making things too complicated can confuse readers (such as myself). I’ve tried to keep my plot and subplots as simple and straightforward as I can but it’s something to revisit, especially considering my audience.

The format brought this book down for me. Three out of Five Stars

This book fulfills the 1600-1699 time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge and just like that, I’m done! Woo!

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
The Tempest is Coming | Bell Shakespeare
Works Inspired by The Tempest | The Tempest UCM
Chicago Theater Review: ‘The Tempest,’ with Magic by Teller | Variety