on March 11, 2011
I looked over the 48 other reviews of this book and found that just one of them reviews the Arden edition, which is the page all these reviews are on, and the page this review of mine is meant for.
First, anyone who looks at what Amazon reviewers think of Shakespeare before deciding to buy a Shakespeare play is going about it wrong. I can't even fathom what motivates people to write an Amazon review and say things like "I read this play and it sucked." Good grief, people, this is Shakespeare, the preeminent artist of the English language. You're welcome to your opinions, but I think Shakespeare's reputation will withstand the amazon.com review page.
As for the Arden edition: I've looked at many and read a few different editions, and this one wins for several reasons. The notes are outstanding even for Arden's generally high standards. The editors do a wonderful job not just of clarifying the language but also highlighting in an unobtrusive way the subtleties of the drama.
Better still is their long introduction, which is beautifully written and comprehensive. A very fine work (you'll want to read it *after* you've read the play, of course.)
And I also want to mention that the book itself is incredibly sturdy -- I am hard on books and like all the Ardens, this is one tough book. Very strongly bound with good paper and covers. It seems kind of silly, but that sort of thing matters to me in a book I intend to read more than once.
on February 1, 2007
The Tempest is rightly regarded as being one of the Bard's greatest works, containing some of his deepest thoughts on the nature of power and the relationship between rational man as controller of nature, and the animal man always to be at the mercy of the passions both of himself, others, and the world around him. In fact, this play could be thought of as representing Shakespeare's final and definitive statement on topics that he had explored throughout his cannon. But profound as the philosophy is, and despite the beauty of the poetry and the many magical elements contained within the play, the fact is that as far as the average attention lacking teenager is concerned, not a lot happens. This is why this Cambridge schools edition scores over most others. It is almost entirely activity focused, the expressed aim being to 'bring the play to life'. With at least one suggested activity beside each page of Shakespeare's text (as well as a decent amount of background notes and interpretation), every teacher armed with this book should be able to enthuse his charges with the very real relevance of this play to the world which we have bequeathed them.
on November 17, 1999
Book Review For The Tempest, by Shakespeare
The Tempest is a play like no other works of Shakespeare. The play starts out with an array of colorful characters, which are easy to loathe or become friendly with through out the play. Page after page of reading, you find out more about the characters lives and roles in the play. The play has, in the beginning, almost all of the characters trapped on a boat in the middle of a tempest (a storm)-hence the name of the play. This being Shakespeare's last play, he hid some messages in the speeches of Prospero. One of these speeches is in the epilogue. The other is in a speech that Prospero recites from a play which Shakespeare took from the famous Greek playwright, Ovid. Shakespeare shows this by saying that he will, "Drown his book" and, " Break his staff" as well as, " Let your indulgence set me free" to hint of Shakespeare's retirement as a playwright. Prospero was my favorite character in the play. He had shown a large display of trickery, genius, and brainpower, to be able to set up the whole scenario of placing the people on the island in such strategic places. I recommend this play because it is one of my favorites, of all the works of Shakespeare. The Tempest is a wonderful play for people of all ages to read, act out, or to just have some fun.
By Andrew Katz, Grade 9
on August 14, 2000
Comedy, in the strictest sense, is concerned with ultimate forgiveness and reconciliation. In Shakespeare's play, "The Tempest," the protagonist, Prospero, must come to terms with his brother Antonio, who conspired to have him driven from his duchy in Milan, and with the world of social interaction in general.
Magic, Power, and Conspiracy are the foundational thematic elements through which Shakespeare effects Prospero's reintegration into human society. Thrown into a boat with his infant daughter Miranda, Prospero comes to live on a nearly deserted island in the Mediterranean Sea. Prospero's concentration on developing his proficiency in Magic caused him to become alienated from his political and social responsibilities in Milan, leading to his expulsion. His brother Antonio conspired with Alonso, king of Naples, and seized the power Prospero forsook for book-learning.
Prospero hears of a sea voyage undertaken by his enemies, and, using his Magic, whips up a storm, a great tempest, which causes his enemies to be shipwrecked on his island. On the island, Prospero exercises total power - over the education of his daughter, his slave, the deformed Caliban, and now over his enemies. He engages Ariel, a sprite, to orchestrate the division of the traveling party, and to put them through various trials to exact vengeance and ultimately, submission from them.
"The Tempest" is a fine effort from Shakespeare, but the power relations in the play are problematic. Prospero's insistent dominance over the action of the play is extremely troubling. Although he is presented as a benevolent character, Prospero's relationships with Miranda, Caliban, and Ferdinand, King Alonso's son, complicate his overall worth as a man and an authority figure. The dynamic between the slave Caliban and the drunks, Trinculo and Stephano, is also very unsettling.
Overall, "The Tempest" remains a whimsical flight of imagination, while exploring intriguing themes of education, political intrigue, and romance. Certainly, it is still a well-constructed and entertaining play after nearly four hundred years.
on January 20, 2014
Great edition of the only original play of William Shakespeare. The RSC has a great introductions, wonderful explanations of words at the bottom of each page, general summaries of each scene, and interesting essays on several productions. Highly recommended.
I have a newly developed theory, which is that the audiobook is the worst format to consume a Shakespearean play with which you are not familiar.
There are three ways to consume a new play: read it, listen to the audio production, or watch it (either as a film or a play). If you read it, then the name of each character is written in, and stage directions characterize the action. If you watch it, you have both faces and voices to tell you who is who, and the scenery reminds you what is going on. In the audiobook, you basically have voices and some sound effects (thunder, wind). If it's a play with which you are familiar, that may be sufficient. But if not, it can be pretty tough.
I listened to the Naxos Audio unabridged production of The Tempest, with Ian McKellen (who you might know as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings or Magneto in most of the X-Men films) as the main character, Prospero. Oh, and there were other people's voices, which I did not recognize. I read the Wikipedia entry on the play, so I had a basic sense of the plot. I enjoyed the dialogue, and I caught much of the action, but I missed a lot as well. (I look forward to watching the Hellen Mirren film to fill me in.)
The performances were great, and I could listen to Ian McKellen talk all day. Shakespeare's language is just lovely, and I'd like to consume more of it. So if you're a fan of The Tempest, this production would be a great addition to your repertoire. If you've never experienced it, then I'd read along while listening; you can read it on-line here.
Here are three pieces that I enjoyed:
1. A new folk origin for Taylor Swift's über popular song: "PROSPERO: Shake it off" (Act I, Scene II).
2. Ferdinand, in love with Miranda, rebuffs her offer to work while he relaxes, in language I could imagine employing in a moment of flourish (Act III, Scene I):
No, precious creature;
I had rather crack my sinews, break my back,
Than you should such dishonour undergo,
While I sit lazy by.
3. At the (spoiler alert) wedding of Ferdinand and Miranda, various divine creatures pronounce lovely blessings (Act IV, Scene I):
Honour, riches, marriage-blessing,
Long continuance, and increasing,
Hourly joys be still upon you!
Juno sings her blessings upon you.
Earth's increase, foison plenty,
Barns and garners never empty,
Vines and clustering bunches growing,
Plants with goodly burthen bowing;
Spring come to you at the farthest
In the very end of harvest!
Scarcity and want shall shun you;
Ceres' blessing so is on you.
You nymphs, call'd Naiads, of the windring brooks,
With your sedged crowns and ever-harmless looks,
Leave your crisp channels and on this green land
Answer your summons; Juno does command:
Come, temperate nymphs, and help to celebrate
A contract of true love; be not too late.
May we all enjoy such blessings!
on April 13, 2016
If you want a free audiobook of any of Shakespeare's works, go to librivox.org. This sent me through a secondary site and may or may not have installed spyware on my system. DO NOT waste your time on this one.
on October 12, 2012
Since Amazon has, as often, bundled together a dozen (or more) different editions of the same text -- in this case, Shakespeare's late Romance / Comedy, "The Tempest" -- I should make it clear that I'm reviewing the Tempest as presented in the old "New Arden Edition" (1958), edited by Frank Kermode (since replaced in the series), and in the current "Folger Shakespeare Library / New Folger Library Shakespeare" series edited by Mowat and Werstine. (Alas, other editors' names are sometimes attached to the pictures....)
Since Amazon also bundles in Kindle editions as if they were identical to the print editions they are listed with, I will warn the reader that (so far) none of the "Tempest" editions I'm discussing are actually available in Kindle format. (This isn't an entirely new problem; a lot of Amazon's lists of "other formats" really refer to other editions of a given book.)
The play itself is one of my favorites, and these days its resemblance to genre fantasy may make it more accessible; many readers already will have met counterparts to short-tempered old magician Prospero, his naïve daughter Miranda, and their reluctant servants, the spirit Ariel and the thoroughly material Caliban. (Not that I'm proposing a huge influence on the genre -- Shakespeare was drawing on standard motifs of folk-tales and romances, and these have persisted in various guises.) For that matter, the back-story about power politics and betrayal in (a thoroughly fictional) Renaissance Italy is of a familiar type as well.
The Kermode "Tempest" replaced a 1902 Arden Edition, edited by Morton Luce, which had appeared in four editions, and Kermode's version is therefore sometimes known as the fifth (and, with revision, the sixth) edition. This is a documented critical text (as much as is necessary for a play with a straightforward publication history) with good interpretive notes and historical and thematic analyses. It reflects the concerns of an older generation of critics, but what it includes is no less valuable than the concerns with race, gender, and colonialism in the Vaughan and Mason New[er] Arden edition of 1999. (Interestingly, Vaughan and Mason return to Luce's focus on the pamphlet literature concerning Jamestown and the (accidental) colonization of Bermuda; but Luce was more concerned with their bibliographic problems than with implications concerning imperialism.) Kermode examines the long tradition of allegorical readings of the play, including the autobiographical, the more recent emphasis on Symbolism, and issues explicitly raised in the play, such as Nature versus Nurture. It is a solid piece of work, even if currently fashionable issues of race, colonialism, and gender are under-served.
In my experience, the Kermode edition is accessible to some High School students, particularly with a strong personal interest in Shakespeare, and some prior acquaintance with the play, but for classroom use is really best suited to the college level. A reader already familiar with basic Shakespeare studies will probably find it enlightening.
As is standard for Arden additions, it has a fine set of useful Appendices (six), and a sheaf of extended "Additional Notes," including a set specifically part of the sixth edition. The running notes to the text are packed with information about vocabulary, grammar, and rhetoric, including unresolved issues which some editions quietly ignore.
The volume appeared under several imprints, with a variety of covers in its trade paperback versions, ranging from the title on a pale background to an 18th-century illustration of the play. The last printings (I think) were by Routledge in 1987 and 1989, with, like other Arden volumes of the time, cover art by one of the Brotherhood of English Ruralists, in this case Ann Arnold. She offers a distinctly European visualization of Caliban, who is often treated by critics (with some justification in the play) as, thematically, a stand-in for Native Americans, enslaved Africans, etc.
Starting in the early 1990s, the Mowat-Werstine series for the Folger Library replaced the old "Folger Library General Reader's Shakespeare," edited by Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar. That was published in the 1950s and 1960s, and most familiar in their small mass-market paperback Washington Square Press editions (there were also some from a sister-imprint, Pocket Books). The "General Reader's" edition of "The Tempest" was published in 1961, and was not revised beyond changes in the cover art. As novice reader of Shakespeare, I found it, like other volumes in the series, helpful at first, then limiting.
The "New Folger" series preserves the characteristic features of facing-page notes, and the use of illustrations from period sources in the Folger Library collections, but is completely new otherwise. The introductory material is longer, and much better; it tries to address the sort of questions students actually ask, instead of guessing at what they will find confusing; points of contact between Elizabethan poetic rhetoric and ordinary speech are (rightly) emphasized. An essay on contemporary critical issues is included for each play -- in "The Tempest" it is by one of the editors, but other volumes have contributions by a variety of scholars and critics.
The 1994 mass-market "New Folger" edition of "The Tempest" featured a lovely cover by Kinuko Y. Craft, portraying a rather good Ariel, an imperious white-bearded Prospero, and a young-looking Miranda (she should be about fifteen, although finding someone that age who can play the part is a challenge mostly avoided). Later printings, under the "Folger Shakespeare Library" heading, have fairly non-descript covers, "mottled" or "marbled" in various colors; "The Tempest" appeared in this form in 2004. Some of the plays were also issued in trade paperback; I haven't seen one for "The Tempest," but Amazon lists a 2002 hardcover, which I also haven't seen.
The New Folger format, like the old one, does not provide for critical readings, source documents, and other aides to the reader found in the Arden editions, and many others, notably the Signet Classics Shakespeare (often revised and expanded) and the Norton Critical Editions. However, it has more in the way of direct aides to the reader than the Pelican and New Pelican Shakespeare (which do have some outstanding introductions).
on October 13, 2014
For me, there's more to love in the themes of The Tempest than in the actual written work itself, which is why the RSC Modern Library edition of Shakespeare's last work was such a delight. The introduction and textual notes were informative and entertaining, and the concluding sections on the history of performances of The Tempest at the Royal Shakespeare Company, accompanied by interviews with various directors and actors involved, was nothing short of phenomenal. Five stars to the edition, if not the play itself.
on June 30, 2015
Shakespeare is a master, he is THE master. This book has been read by me so many times I had to buy the ebook version because it was dying! Been reading it since I COULD read. The hidden meanings of the occult in this book are great. I took an English class and we read this, and it was my time to shine as a Tempest obsessed girl ;)