Monday, November 14, 2011

Fantasy and The Tempest

So it's been just over two weeks since I went to the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake to see their production of The Tempest.  There was a good amount of analysis done the next week by those of us who went.  Being two weeks in the past, really only the strongest impressions remain, so I will share them.  It is necessary to mention that several of us arrived late, due to traffic, so we completely missed the first scene, the shipwreck.  I was pretty disappointed in missing that, but I had a good detailed recap of what happened, so that was nice.  Naturally, upon getting into the theater, the first thing I noticed was the stage and how immovable it seemed.  I thought a fairly static stage was an interesting idea in contrast to the ever shifting walls and occasional 'grass' floor that was seen in Cedar City.  Also, the stage had three tiers, and I was excited to see how all would be used.  Unfortunately, there wasn't much use of anything but the bottom.  Had I made it to the play on time, I would have witnessed the use of the top tier, but otherwise I noticed it wasn't used near as much as I hoped.
I see Caliban as an earthy goblin--cowardly,
carnal, disrespectful to authority, etc. Props
to whoever did this Warhammer figurine.

How I envision Ariel to be
I also noticed how mechanical the magic was in this depiction of the play.  Somebody called it steampunk, which I find to be a very accurate label.  Fun fact: I've always loved the fantasy sub-genre of steampunk, but I didn't know that the word existed until seeing this play.  Speaking of fantasy, here's my take on a few characters.

After having plenty of time to think about this play, and being a lover of fantasy books and video games, I look back and see the elements' roles play major parts to the aesthetic feel of the play.  When it comes to characters, Ariel is obviously air, it says so in the list of characters.  This is where I was somewhat disappointed and even disagreed with PTC's depiction of her as steampunk, as air elementals (if you will) are not metallic in the traditional fantasy way.  I also see Ariel as a more feminine character, as again, the usual depiction of sylphs is feminine.

What is the opposite to air?  Earth.  The opposite to female?  Male.  Caliban is a stark contrast to Ariel by dedication in serving their master, along with a few others.  Shakespeare was pretty thorough in his contrast of the two servants.  Caliban is base, low and earthy.  Ariel is elevated and airy.  There are others besides these two, but they are the two most pronounced depictions of elements in the play.


  1. This was a cool post. So my next question would be: where are the other two elements, fire and water? Are they also represented by characters, or are they found more in the settings, like maybe the fact that its set on an island? What do you think represents the other two classical elements?

  2. This is a pretty cool comparison. I also liked how they handled the magic in the play. Instead of the wizard stereotype of crystal ball and wand it was more a mechanical scientific magic. That was cool to me.

  3. Justin, I was thinking about it and couldn't fully see an obvious one for either. I really should go through and do a closer reading on it. However I feel that Ariel sort of does water (the tempest at the beginning), but I like your idea of the island. As for fire, maybe the alcohol? Just throwing stuff off the top of my head.
    Mason, I kept thinking of alchemy throughout the play. I loved it.