Interpretation Alternatives of The Tempest
A production of The Tempest should emphasize the idealized methods in which Prospero uses magic to solve the problem of revenge which is so prevalent throughout his tragedies, perhaps the production might be a direct allegory for the magic of the theatre itself. In this conception of the play, the scattering and bringing together of the characters in the script is significant in that theatre also could be said to bring people together and allow them to share in an experience of emotion, magic, and finally, of resolution. In this way the production could be used as a vehicle for conveying the idealistic virtues of forgiveness, compassion, and of course knowledge. In his book, A Buddhist's Shakespeare, James Howe draws attention to Prospero's epilogue saying,
"In his epilogue this master, Shakespeare, has the character Prospero ask us, the audience, to confirm our collusion with both the master and his creature. Indeed the two relationships are reciprocal. We are asked to release Prospero from our "spell" by "prayer." Becoming white magicians, offering a supplication to God, we reenact the righteousness of Prospero's power, and thus confirm it. This confirmation, in turn, acknowledge's the power of Shakespeare's play to transform us into Prospero's image. We are not only to be consciously complicit in Prospero's character and action, but also to be fully aware of their author." (191)
It seems to me that this final transformation in the audience is a very worthy goal to strive for in a production of this play. While being entertained by the magic and splendor of the production itself, I think it is possible for an audience to also be aware of the inherent ideals in the script and, finally, to mentally take part in the realization of those ideals through their own "release" of Prospero.
To make such a production work, it seems to me that a large degree of spectacle and illusion are in order, but falling short of any sort of attempt at realism. Keeping a sense of wonder at the spectacle and the unlikely action taking place through the play could keep the audience thoroughly absorbed and yet still aware of the demonstration of the ideals being conveyed. When I consider this as a possibility, I think of a movie I saw recently called American Beauty. In this film, most of the characters start out highly stylized and almost stereotypical. As the film progresses, these stereotypes begin to break down. The action becomes more and more absurd and at times, to me, almost surreal. In this film, comedy is used to keep the audience entertained and involved with the story. But throughout, they remain aware that there are deeper issues at work. Only near the end did I truly realize that I was witnessing what was essentially a stylized parable. This realization near the end caused a desire in me to better demonstrate the ideals at issue in the film within my own life. I think that The Tempest...