The Tempest

Afterlife

Shakespeare's day

A record exists of a performance of The Tempest on 1 November 1611 by the King's Men before James I and the English royal court at Whitehall Palace on Hallowmas night. The play was one of the six Shakespearean plays (and eight others for a total of 14) acted at court during the winter of 1612–13 as part of the festivities surrounding the marriage of Princess Elizabeth with Frederick V, the Elector of the Palatinate of the Rhine.[37] There is no further public performance recorded prior to the Restoration; but in his 1669 preface to the Dryden/Davenant version, John Dryden states that The Tempest had been performed at the Blackfriars Theatre.[38] Careful consideration of stage directions within the play supports this, strongly suggesting that the play was written with Blackfriars Theatre rather than the Globe Theatre in mind.[39]

Restoration and 18th century

Adaptations of the play, not Shakespeare's original, dominated the performance history of The Tempest from the English Restoration until the mid-19th century.[40] All theatres were closed down by the puritan government during the Commonwealth. Upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, two patent companies—the King's Company and the Duke's Company—were established, and the existing theatrical repertoire divided between them. Sir William Davenant's Duke's Company had the rights to perform The Tempest.[41] In 1667 Davenant and John Dryden made heavy cuts and adapted it as The Tempest or, The Enchanted Island. They tried to appeal to upper-class audiences by emphasising royalist political and social ideals: monarchy is the natural form of government; patriarchal authority decisive in education and marriage; and patrilineality preeminent in inheritance and ownership of property.[40] They also added characters and plotlines: Miranda has a sister, named Dorinda; and Caliban a sister, also named Sycorax. As a parallel to Shakespeare's Miranda/Ferdinand plot, Prospero has a foster-son, Hippolito, who has never set eyes on a woman.[42] Hippolito was a popular breeches role, a man played by a woman, popular with Restoration theatre management for the opportunity to reveal actresses' legs.[43] Scholar Michael Dobson has described Enchanted Island as "the most frequently revived play of the entire Restoration" and as establishing the importance of enhanced and additional roles for women.[44]

In 1674, Thomas Shadwell re-adapted Dryden and Davenant's Enchanted Island as an opera (although in Restoration theatre "opera" did not have its modern meaning, instead referring to a play with added songs, closer in style to a modern musical comedy).[45] Restoration playgoers appear to have regarded the Dryden/Davenant/Shadwell version as Shakespeare's: Samuel Pepys, for example, described it as "an old play of Shakespeares"[40] in his diary. The opera was extremely popular, and "full of so good variety, that I cannot be more pleased almost in a comedy"[40] according to Pepys.[46] The Prospero in this version is very different from Shakespeare's: Eckhard Auberlen describes him as "... reduced to the status of a Polonius-like overbusy father, intent on protecting the chastity of his two sexually naive daughters while planning advantageous dynastic marriages for them."[47] Enchanted Island was successful enough to provoke a parody, The Mock Tempest, written by Thomas Duffett for the King's Company in 1675. It opened with what appeared to be a tempest, but turns out to be a riot in a brothel.[48]

In the early 18th century, the Dryden/Davenant/Shadwell version dominated the stage. Ariel was—with two exceptions—played by a woman, and invariably by a graceful dancer and superb singer. Caliban was a comedian's role, played by actors "known for their awkward figures". In 1756, David Garrick staged another operatic version, a "three-act extravaganza" with music by John Christopher Smith.[49]

The Tempest was one of the staples of the repertoire of Romantic Era theatres. John Philip Kemble produced an acting version which was closer to Shakespeare's original, but nevertheless retained Dorinda and Hippolito.[49] Kemble was much-mocked for his insistence on archaic pronunciation of Shakespeare's texts, including "aitches" for "aches". It was said that spectators "packed the pit, just to enjoy hissing Kemble's delivery of 'I'll rack thee with old cramps, / Fill all they bones with aches'."[50] The actor-managers of the Romantic Era established the fashion for opulence in sets and costumes which would dominate Shakespeare performances until the late 19th century: Kemble's Dorinda and Miranda, for example, were played "in white ornamented with spotted furs".[51]

In 1757, a year after the debut of his operatic version, David Garrick produced a heavily cut performance of Shakespeare's script at Drury Lane, and it was revived, profitably, throughout the century.[49]

19th century

It was not until William Charles Macready's influential production in 1838 that Shakespeare's text established its primacy over the adapted and operatic versions which had been popular for most of the previous two centuries. The performance was particularly admired for George Bennett's performance as Caliban; it was described by Patrick MacDonnell—in his An Essay on the Play of The Tempest published in 1840—as "maintaining in his mind, a strong resistance to that tyranny, which held him in the thraldom of slavery".[52]

The Victorian Era marked the height of the movement which would later be described as "pictorial": based on lavish sets and visual spectacle, heavily cut texts making room for lengthy scene-changes, and elaborate stage effects.[53] In Charles Kean's 1857 production of The Tempest, Ariel was several times seen to descend in a ball of fire.[54] The hundred and forty stagehands supposedly employed on this production were described by the Literary Gazette as "unseen ... but alas never unheard". Hans Christian Andersen also saw this production and described Ariel as "isolated by the electric ray", referring to the effect of a carbon arc lamp directed at the actress playing the role.[55] The next generation of producers, which included William Poel and Harley Granville-Barker, returned to a leaner and more text-based style.[56]

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Caliban, not Prospero, was perceived as the star act of The Tempest, and was the role which the actor-managers chose for themselves. Frank Benson researched the role by viewing monkeys and baboons at the zoo; on stage, he hung upside-down from a tree and gibbered.[57]

20th century and beyond

Continuing the late-19th-century tradition, in 1904 Herbert Beerbohm Tree wore fur and seaweed to play Caliban, with waist-length hair and apelike bearing, suggestive of a primitive part-animal part-human stage of evolution.[57] This "missing link" portrayal of Caliban became the norm in productions until Roger Livesey, in 1934, was the first actor to play the role with black makeup. In 1945 Canada Lee played the role at the Theatre Guild in New York, establishing a tradition of black actors taking the role, including Earle Hyman in 1960 and James Earl Jones in 1962.[58]

In 1916, Percy MacKaye presented a community masque, Caliban by the Yellow Sands, at the Lewisohn Stadium in New York. Amidst a huge cast of dancers and masquers, the pageant centres on the rebellious nature of Caliban but ends with his plea for more knowledge ("I yearn to build, to be thine Artist / And 'stablish this thine Earth among the stars- / Beautiful!") followed by Shakespeare, as a character, reciting Prospero's "Our revels now are ended" speech.[59]

John Gielgud played Prospero numerous times, and called it his favourite role.[60] Douglas Brode describes him as "universally heralded as ... [the 20th] century's greatest stage Prospero".[61] His first appearance in the role was in 1930: he wore a turban, later confessing that he intended to look like Dante.[58] He played the role in three more stage productions, lastly at the Royal National Theatre in 1974.[62]

Peter Brook directed an experimental production at the Round House in 1968, in which the text was "almost wholly abandoned" in favour of mime. According to Margaret Croydon's review, Sycorax was "portrayed by an enormous woman able to expand her face and body to still larger proportions – a fantastic emblem of the grotesque ... [who] suddenly ... gives a horrendous yell, and Caliban, with black sweater over his head, emerges from between her legs: Evil is born."[63]

In spite of the existing tradition of a black actor playing Caliban opposite a white Prospero, colonial interpretations of the play did not find their way onto the stage until the 1970s.[64] Performances in England directed by Jonathan Miller and by Clifford Williams explicitly portrayed Prospero as coloniser. Miller's production was described, by David Hirst, as depicting "the tragic and inevitable disintegration of a more primitive culture as the result of European invasion and colonisation."[65] Miller developed this approach in his 1988 production at the Old Vic in London, starring Max von Sydow as Prospero. This used a mixed cast made up of white actors as the humans and black actors playing the spirits and creatures of the island. According to Michael Billington, "von Sydow's Prospero became a white overlord manipulating a mutinous black Caliban and a collaborative Ariel keenly mimicking the gestures of the island's invaders. The colonial metaphor was pushed through to its logical conclusion so that finally Ariel gathered up the pieces of Prospero's abandoned staff and, watched by awe-struck tribesmen, fitted them back together to hold his wand of office aloft before an immobilised Caliban. The Tempest suddenly acquired a new political dimension unforeseen by Shakespeare."[66]

Psychoanalytic interpretations have proved more difficult to depict on stage.[67] Gerald Freedman's production at the American Shakespeare Theatre in 1979 and Ron Daniels' Royal Shakespeare Company production in 1982 both attempted to depict Ariel and Caliban as opposing aspects of Prospero's psyche. However neither was regarded as wholly successful: Shakespeare Quarterly, reviewing Freedman's production, commented that "Mr. Freedman did nothing on stage to make such a notion clear to any audience that had not heard of it before."[68]

In 1988, John Wood played Prospero for the RSC, emphasising the character's human complexity. The Financial Times reviewer described him as "a demented stage manager on a theatrical island suspended between smouldering rage at his usurpation and unbridled glee at his alternative ethereal power".[69]

Japanese theatre styles have been applied to The Tempest. In 1988 and again in 1992 Yukio Ninagawa brought his version of The Tempest to the UK. It was staged as a rehearsal of a Noh drama, with a traditional Noh theatre at the back of the stage, but also using elements which were at odds with Noh conventions. In 1992, Minoru Fujita presented a Bunraku (Japanese puppet) version in Osaka and at the Tokyo Globe.[70]

Sam Mendes directed a 1993 RSC production in which Simon Russell Beale's Ariel was openly resentful of the control exercised by Alec McCowen's Prospero. Controversially, in the early performances of the run, Ariel spat at Prospero, once granted his freedom.[71] An entirely different effect was achieved by George C. Wolfe in the outdoor New York Shakespeare Festival production of 1995, where the casting of Aunjanue Ellis as Ariel opposite Patrick Stewart's Prospero charged the production with erotic tensions. Productions in the late 20th-century have gradually increased the focus placed on sexual tensions between the characters, including Prospero/Miranda, Prospero/Ariel, Miranda/Caliban, Miranda/Ferdinand and Caliban/Trinculo.[72]

The Tempest was performed at the Globe Theatre in 2000 with Vanessa Redgrave as Prospero, playing the role as neither male nor female, but with "authority, humanity and humour ... a watchful parent to both Miranda and Ariel."[73] While the audience respected Prospero, Jasper Britton's Caliban "was their man" (in Peter Thomson's words), in spite of the fact that he spat fish at the groundlings, and singled some of them out for humiliating encounters.[74] By the end of 2005, BBC Radio had aired 21 productions of The Tempest, more than any other play by Shakespeare.[75] Several critics feel that the play is autobiographical. Trevor Nunn, in the PBS miniseries Shakespeare Uncovered, states that he feels that Prospero is meant to represent Shakespeare himself, and that Prospero's final farewell to magic is really Shakespeare's final farewell to his audience.[76]

The Cirque du Soleil touring production Amaluna is inspired by The Tempest.

Music

The Tempest has more music than any other Shakespeare play, and has proved more popular as a subject for composers than most of Shakespeare's plays. Scholar Julie Sanders ascribes this to the "perceived 'musicality' or lyricism" of the play.[77]

Two settings of songs from The Tempest which may have been used in performances during Shakespeare's lifetime have survived. These are "Full Fathom Five" and "Where The Bee Sucks There Suck I" in the 1659 publication Cheerful Ayres or Ballads, in which they are attributed to Robert Johnson, who regularly composed for the King's Men.[78] It has been common throughout the history of the play for the producers to commission contemporary settings of these two songs, and also of "Come Unto These Yellow Sands".[79]

The Tempest has also influenced songs written in the folk and hippie traditions: for example, versions of "Full Fathom Five" were recorded by Marianne Faithfull for Come My Way in 1965 and by Pete Seeger for Dangerous Songs!? in 1966.[80] The Decemberists' song "The Island: Come and See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll Not Feel The Drowning" is thought by many to be based on the story of Caliban and Miranda. Michael Nyman's Ariel Songs are taken from his score for the film Prospero's Books.

Among those who wrote incidental music to The Tempest were:

  • Arthur Sullivan: His graduation piece, completed in 1861, was a set of incidental music to "The Tempest".[81] Revised and expanded, it was performed at The Crystal Palace in 1862, a year after his return to London, and was an immediate sensation.[82]
  • Ernest Chausson: in 1888 he wrote incidental music for La tempête, a French translation by Maurice Bouchor. This is believed to be the first orchestral work that made use of the celesta.[83]
  • Jean Sibelius: his 1926 incidental music was written for a lavish production at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. An epilogue was added for a 1927 performance in Helsinki.[84] He represented individual characters through instrumentation choices: particularly admired was his use of harps and percussion to represent Prospero, said to capture the "resonant ambiguity of the character".[85]
  • Malcolm Arnold, Lennox Berkeley, Arthur Bliss, Engelbert Humperdinck, Hector Berlioz, Willem Pijper and Henry Purcell.

At least forty-six operas or semi-operas based on The Tempest exist.[86] In addition to the Dryden/Davenant and Garrick versions mentioned in the "Restoration and 18th century" section above, Frederic Reynolds produced an operatic version in 1821, with music by Sir Henry Bishop. Other pre-20th-century operas based on The Tempest include Fromental Halévy's La Tempesta (1850) and Zdeněk Fibich's Bouře (1894).

In the 20th century, Kurt Atterberg's Stormen premiered in 1948 and Frank Martin's Der Sturm in 1955. Michael Tippett's 1971 opera The Knot Garden, contains various allusions to The Tempest. In Act 3, a psychoanalyst, Mangus, pretends to be Prospero and uses situations from Shakespeare's play in his therapy sessions.[87] John Eaton, in 1985, produced a fusion of live jazz with pre-recorded electronic music, with a libretto by Andrew Porter. Michael Nyman's 1991 opera Noises, Sounds & Sweet Airs was first performed as an opera-ballet by Karine Saporta. This opera is unique in that the three vocalists, a soprano, contralto, and tenor, are voices rather than individual characters, with the tenor just as likely as the soprano to sing Miranda, or all three sing as one character.[88]

The soprano who sings the part of Ariel in Thomas Adès' 21st-century opera is stretched at the higher end of the register, highlighting the androgyny of the role.[89] This comment by Mike Silverman of the Associated Press- "Ades has made the role of the spirit Ariel a tour de force for coloratura soprano, giving her a vocal line that hovers much of the time well above high C."

Luca Lombardi's Prospero was premiered 2006 at Nuremberg Opera House. Ariel is sung by 4 female voices (S,S,MS,A) and has an instrumental alter ego on stage (flute). There is an instrumental alter ego (cello) also for Prospero.

Choral settings of excerpts from The Tempest include Amy Beach's Come Unto These Yellow Sands (SSAA, from Three Shakespeare Songs), Matthew Harris' Full Fathom Five, I Shall No More to Sea, and Where the Bee Sucks (SATB, from Shakespeare Songs, Books I, V, VI), Ryan Kelly's The Tempest (SATB, a setting of the play's Scene I), Jaakko Mäntyjärvi's Full Fathom Five and A Scurvy Tune (SATB, from Four Shakespeare Songs and More Shakespeare Songs), Frank Martin's Songs of Ariel (SATB), Ralph Vaughan Williams' Full Fathom Five and The Cloud-capp'd Towers (SATB, from Three Shakespeare Songs), and David Willcocks' Full Fathom Five (SSA).

Orchestral works for concert presentation include Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's fantasy The Tempest (1873), Fibich's symphonic poem Bouře (1880), John Knowles Paine's symphonic poem The Tempest (1876), Benjamin Dale's overture (1902), Arthur Honegger's orchestral prelude (1923), and Egon Wellesz's Prosperos Beschwörungen (five works 1934–36).

Ballet sequences have been used in many performances of the play since Restoration times.[90] A one-act ballet of The Tempest by choreographer Alexei Ratmansky was premiered by American Ballet Theatre set to the incidental music of Jean Sibelius on October 30, 2013 in New York City.

Ludwig van Beethoven's 1802 Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2, was given the subtitle "The Tempest" some time after Beethoven's death because, when asked about the meaning of the sonata, Beethoven was alleged to have said "Read The Tempest". But this story comes from his associate Anton Schindler, who is often not trustworthy.[91]

Stage musicals derived from The Tempest have been produced. A production called The Tempest: A Musical was produced at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City in December 2006, with a concept credited to Thomas Meehan and a script by Daniel Neiden (who also wrote the songs) and Ryan Knowles.[92] Neiden had previously been connected with another musical, entitled Tempest Toss’d.[93] In September 2013, The Public Theater produced a new large-scale stage musical at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, directed by Lear deBessonet with a cast of more than 200.[94][95]

Literature and art

Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the earliest poets to be influenced by The Tempest. His "With a Guitar, To Jane" identifies Ariel with the poet and his songs with poetry. The poem uses simple diction to convey Ariel's closeness to nature and "imitates the straightforward beauty of Shakespeare's original songs."[96] Following the publication of Darwin's ideas on evolution, writers began to question mankind's place in the world and its relationship with God. One writer who explored these ideas was Robert Browning, whose poem "Caliban upon Setebos" (1864) sets Shakespeare's character pondering theological and philosophical questions.[97] The French philosopher Ernest Renan wrote a closet drama, Caliban: Suite de La Tempête (Caliban: Sequel to The Tempest), in 1878. This features a female Ariel who follows Prospero back to Milan, and a Caliban who leads a coup against Prospero, after the success of which he actively imitates his former master's virtues.[98] W. H. Auden's "long poem" The Sea and the Mirror takes the form of a reflection by each of the supporting characters of The Tempest on their experiences. The poem takes a Freudian viewpoint, seeing Caliban (whose lengthy contribution is a prose poem) as Prospero's libido.[99]

In 1968 Franco-Caribbean writer Aimé Césaire published Une Tempête, a radical adaptation of the play based on its colonial and postcolonial interpretations, in which Caliban is a black rebel and Ariel is mixed-race. The figure of Caliban influenced numerous works of African literature in the 1970s, including pieces by Taban Lo Liyong in Uganda, Lemuel Johnson in Sierra Leone, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o in Kenya, and David Wallace of Zambia's Do You Love Me, Master?.[100] A similar phenomenon occurred in late 20th-century Canada, where several writers produced works inspired by Miranda, including The Diviners by Margaret Laurence, Prospero's Daughter by Constance Beresford-Howe and The Measure of Miranda by Sarah Murphy.[101] Other writers have feminised Ariel (as in Marina Warner's novel Indigo) or Caliban (as in Suniti Namjoshi's sequence of poems Snaphots of Caliban).[102]

From the mid-18th century, Shakespeare's plays, including The Tempest, began to appear as the subject of paintings.[103] In around 1735, William Hogarth produced his painting A Scene from The Tempest: "a baroque, sentimental fantasy costumed in the style of Van Dyck and Rembrandt".[103] The painting is based upon Shakespeare's text, containing no representation of the stage, nor of the (Davenant-Dryden centred) stage tradition of the time.[104] Henry Fuseli, in a painting commissioned for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery (1789) modelled his Prospero on Leonardo da Vinci.[105] These two 18th-century depictions of the play indicate that Prospero was regarded as its moral centre: viewers of Hogarth's and Fuseli's paintings would have accepted Prospero's wisdom and authority.[106] John Everett Millais's Ferdinand Lured by Ariel (1851) is among the Pre-Raphaelite paintings based on the play. In the late 19th century, artists tended to depict Caliban as a Darwinian "missing-link", with fish-like or ape-like features, as evidenced in Noel Paton's Caliban.[98]

Charles Knight produced the Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakespeare in eight volumes (1838–43). The work attempted to translate the contents of the plays into pictorial form. This extended not just to the action, but also to images and metaphors: Gonzalo's line about "mountaineers dewlapped like bulls" is illustrated with a picture of a Swiss peasant with a goitre.[107] In 1908, Edmund Dulac produced an edition of Shakespeare's Comedy of The Tempest with a scholarly plot summary and commentary by Arthur Quiller-Couch, lavishly bound and illustrated with 40 watercolour illustrations. The illustrations highlight the fairy-tale quality of the play, avoiding its dark side. Of the 40, only 12 are direct depictions of the action of the play: the others are based on action before the play begins, or on images such as "full fathom five thy father lies" or "sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not".[108]

Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman based a story on the play in one issue of his comics series The Sandman. The comic stands as a sequel to the earlier Midsummer Night's Dream issue. This issue follows Shakespeare over a period of several months as he writes the play, which is named as his last solo project, as the final part of his bargain with the Dream King to write two plays celebrating dreams. The story draws many parallels between the characters and events in the play and Shakespeare's life and family relationships at the time. It is hinted that he based Miranda on his daughter Judith Shakespeare and Caliban on her suitor Thomas Quiney.

In the comic Locke & Key, by writer Joe Hill and co-creator and artist Gabriel Rodriguez, the main characters father, Rendell Locke and his groups of friends in the school, stage a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest in 1988, in which they used the Keys during the play's performance to create a grand spectacle.

Ilium (novel) and its sequel Olympos (novel) by Dan Simmons is heavily influenced by The Tempest, a portion of the plot devoted to a re-imagining of The Tempest's characters in a distant sci-fi future.

Screen

The Tempest first appeared on the screen in 1905. Charles Urban filmed the opening storm sequence of Herbert Beerbohm Tree's version at Her Majesty's Theatre for a 2 1⁄2-minute flicker, whose individual frames were hand-tinted, long before the invention of colour film. In 1908, Percy Stowe directed a Tempest running a little over ten minutes, which is now a part of the British Film Institute's compilation Silent Shakespeare. Much of its action takes place on Prospero's island before the storm which opens Shakespeare's play. At least two other silent versions, one from 1911 by Edwin Thanhouser, are known to have existed, but have been lost.[109] The plot was adapted for the Western Yellow Sky, directed by William A. Wellman, in 1946.[110]

The 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet set the story on a planet in space, Altair IV, instead of an island. Professor Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) are the Prospero and Miranda figures (both Prospero and Morbius having harnessed the mighty forces that inhabit their new homes). Ariel is represented by the helpful Robbie the Robot, while Sycorax is replaced with the powerful race of the Krell. Caliban is represented by the dangerous and invisible "monster from the id", a projection of Morbius' psyche born from the Krell technology instead of Sycorax's womb.[111]

In the opinion of Douglas Brode, there has only been one screen "performance" of The Tempest since the silent era, he describes all other versions as "variations". That one performance is the Hallmark Hall of Fame version from 1960, directed by George Schaefer, and starring Maurice Evans as Prospero, Richard Burton as Caliban, Lee Remick as Miranda and Roddy McDowall as Ariel. It cut the play to slightly less than ninety minutes. Critic Virginia Vaughan praised it as "light as a soufflé, but ... substantial enough for the main course."[109]

In 1979, animator George Dunning, director of Yellow Submarine, planned an animated version of The Tempest; but died while working on it.

Also in 1979, Derek Jarman produced a homoerotic Tempest that used Shakespeare's language, but was most notable for its deviations from Shakespeare. One scene shows a corpulent and naked Sycorax (Claire Davenport) breastfeeding her adult son Caliban (Jack Birkett). The film reaches its climax with Elisabeth Welch belting out Stormy Weather.[112] The central performances were Toyah Willcox' Miranda and Heathcote Williams' Prospero, a "dark brooding figure who takes pleasure in exploiting both his servants"[113]

Several other television versions of the play have been broadcast; among the most notable is the 1980 BBC Shakespeare production, virtually complete, starring Michael Hordern as Prospero.

Paul Mazursky's 1982 modern-language adaptation of The Tempest, with Philip Dimitrius (Prospero) as a disillusioned New York architect who retreats to a lonely Greek island with his daughter Miranda after learning of his wife Antonia's infidelity with Alonzo, dealt frankly with the sexual tensions of the characters' isolated existence. The Caliban character, the goatherd Kalibanos, asks Philip which of them is going to have sex with Miranda.[113] John Cassavetes played Philip, Raul Julia Kalibanos, Gena Rowlands Antonia and Molly Ringwald Miranda. Susan Sarandon plays the Ariel character, Philip's frequently bored girlfriend Aretha. The film has been criticised as "overlong and rambling", but also praised for its good humour, especially in a sequence in which Kalibanos' and his goats dance to Kander and Ebb's New York, New York.[114]

John Gielgud has written that playing Prospero in a film of The Tempest was his life's ambition. Over the years, he approached Alain Resnais, Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, and Orson Welles to direct.[115] Eventually, the project was taken on by Peter Greenaway, who directed Prospero's Books (1991) featuring "an 87-year-old John Gielgud and an impressive amount of nudity".[116] Prospero is reimagined as the author of The Tempest, speaking the lines of the other characters, as well as his own.[61] Although the film was acknowledged as innovative in its use of Quantel Paintbox to create visual tableaux, resulting in "unprecedented visual complexity",[117] critical responses to the film were frequently negative: John Simon called it "contemptible and pretentious".[118]

The Swedish-made animated film from 1989 called "Resan till Melonia" (directed by Per Åhlin) is an adaptation of the Shakespeare play, focusing on ecologial values. "Resan till Melonia" was critically acclaimed for its stunning visuals drawn by Åhlin and its at times quite dark and nightmare-like sequences, even though the film was originally marketed for children.

Closer to the spirit of Shakespeare's original, in the view of critics such as Brode, is Leon Garfield's abridgement of the play for S4C's 1992 Shakespeare: The Animated Tales series. The 29-minute production, directed by Stanislav Sokolov and featuring Timothy West as the voice of Prospero, used stop-motion puppets to capture the fairy-tale quality of the play.[119] Disney's animated feature Pocahontas has been described as a "politically corrected" Tempest.[120] Another "offbeat variation" (in Brode's words) was produced for NBC in 1998: Jack Bender's The Tempest featured Peter Fonda as Gideon Prosper, a Southern slave-owner forced off his plantation by his brother shortly before the Civil War. A magician who has learned his art from one of his slaves, Prosper uses his magic to protect his teenage daughter and to assist the Union Army.[121]

The PBS series Wishbone featured a television adaptation of "The Tempest" in its episode "Shakespaw" with Wishbone as Ariel.

In Julie Taymor's 2010 film version of The Tempest, Prospero is a woman named Prospera, played by Helen Mirren.

South London was the setting for Rob Curry and Anthony Fletcher's 2012 mockumentary version of "The Tempest", which used the themes arising from Shakespeare's connection with the discovery of the New World to explore contemporary multicultural Britain - particularly with regard to the London riots of 2011.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada presented a version in 2010 in which Christopher Plummer played Prospero. It was subsequently filmed in hi-def and is now available on DVD.

The anime and manga series Blast of Tempest was heavily influenced by The Tempest and Hamlet. Where several dialogues and plot elements pays homage to the two works of Shakespeare, which are two stories of retribution, albeit with completely opposing outcome.

In The Maltese Falcon Humphrey Bogart says "It's the stuff that dreams are made of." This expression is derived ultimately from Prospero's: "We are such stuff / As dreams are made on, and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep."


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