By David L. Hirst (auth.)
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Additional info for The Tempest: Text and Performance
As Prospero completes his speech we feel the energy draining out of him; the verbs change to 'break', 'bury' and 'drown', sounding the heavy note of renunciation. And with a telling irony the speech ends with a recollection of Alonzo's determination to seek his son 'deeper than e'er plummet sounded, / And with him there lie mudded' [III iii1. It marks the turning-point in the drama and makes the most complex demands on both audience and actor. 41 PART TWO: PERFORMANCE 6 INTRODUCTION The following four productions have been chosen, among many, for description and comparison as contributing most usefully, in my opinion, to our understanding of key themes in The Tempest and of the range of possibility in staging and in the interpretation of character.
A world of difference separates the two earlier productions from the later ones. In 1957 Gielgud again played Prospero, this time in the Peter Brook staging at Stratford. He attempted to look like a figure from an El Greco painting, half-naked above the waist and wearing sandals. Brook had suggested the idea of a hermit and Gielgud developed this into the figure of a biblical anchorite with cropped greying hair. Brook's conception of the work as first and foremost a revenge play, and Gielgud's presentation of the agony of a tortured saint, were innovative and influential.
Such entertainments were vital to the life of the Renaissance court. Through their elaboration of symbolic meanings expressed in visual terms they gave deeper significance to the realities of politics and power. The Tempest may well have served as just such an entertainment: to celebrate the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth to the Emperor Palatine in 1613. Certainly the 'masque within the masque' reveals Prospero in the role of 'Presenter', stage managing the diversion which he has mounted for the benefit of Ferdinand and Miranda.
The Tempest: Text and Performance by David L. Hirst (auth.)