Review Of Shakespear's "The Tempest"Why is it that people fawn Shakespeare and have unreasonably high
reguard for his works, including The Tempest, and label them as
immortal classics? Indeed Shakespeares works had great significance in
the evolution of English literature, but these works, including The Tempest
are mostly devoid of significance and literary value in the present day.
can expect to gain little educational benefit of the english language or
hightened apreciation for fine literature from the reading of Shakespeares
titles for reasons enumerate. First of all, the colorful and sophisticated
metephoric vernacular style of the language utilized is archaic; even the
speech of intellectually refined individuals and other respected literary
works do not imploy of this rich style of speech.The poemic composition of
The Tempest does not increase ones ability to apreciate distinguished
literature because the refined and respected works of most other classical
writers are in novel form and thus differ highly from Shakesperian works in
the literary devices and mannerisms from which they are comprised.
The Tempest was written in early seventeeth century England. At this period
of history and country the English language was quite different from what it
is today in many ways.
First, standard, formal vocabulary was different at
this time. An great expample is found in the line ...
blasphemous, incharitable dog! (act 1 sc. 1, p. 9). In this line, the word
incharitable is the modern equivalent of the word uncharitable.
dictionary word has changed prefixes somewhere througout the centuries.Another thing that would have made a further gap between the vernacular in
the play and modern English is Shakespeares deployment of common language,
or slang (although I have no proof because I dont speak sixteenth century
slang). A pox o your throught...
(act 1 sc.1, p. 9) and ...give oer.
..(act 1 sc. 1, p. 9).
These phrases seem to be slang therms because they are
so deviant from there modern english equvalents, curses on and give up,
respectiveley. What value does learning the archaic vernacular give to the
reader. Surely it does not increase thier word power or sophisticate thier
vocabulary, for nowhere, not even in among people of high intellecutal
refinement such as venerable college professers, is this dead language used.
Another distinctive trait of the vernacular used in The Tempest is the heavy
use of metaphor.
This use of metaphor is so heavy and outlandish that it
becomes extrodinarily difficult to interpret and causes the words to fall
into chaotic ambiguity. In fact, it is not unreasonable to define the
language of the text as sophistry. A great example of heavy metaphor in The
Tempest is the line O heaven , O earth, bear witness to this sound, / and
crown what I profess with kind event / If I speak true; if hollowly, invert /
What best is boded me to mischief. I, / Beyond all limit of what else I
th world, / Do love, prize honor you (Act 3 sc.
1, p. 95). In modern
terms, this means: Lord, bear witness to what I say, and bless my claim (to
this woman). Let me be damned if I lie when I say that I love honor, prize
and honor you above anything else in the world. The learning of this type
of heavy usage of metaphor would be justified if it were imployed in many
other respected classic works or in modern eloquent speech, but it is not.
Metaphoric speech outside of literature and informal speech is reguarded
as crude and unsophisticated in modern speech.
This is so because people
have come to reguard refined speech as being characteristic with the use of a
large vocabulary consisting of consise and sophisticated words.
Even if the argument is made that one cannot gain much benefit in refining
their speech by reading The Tempest, Shakespeare aficianados claim that there
is value in the mechanics and devices common in literature which can be
learned from his works. This is exaggerated, however. The most valuble
literary device that can be learned from The Tempest is the metaphor.
However, as I said before, Shakespeare over uses this so much that his words
fall into sophistry. A good example is the line Or that there were such men
/ Whose head stood in their breasts? (act 3 sc. 3, p.113).
I can make no
sense out of this whatsoever. Another outlandish metaphor is Which now we
find / Each putter-out of five for one will bring us / Good warrant of (act
3 sc. 3, p. 113).
However, a foot note explains that line makes reference to
the fact that because of the danger involved in travel at the time, a
traveler could give a sum of money to a broker and collect five times his
deposit if he could successfully return from his voyage. However, this is
out of context with the preceeding lines in which Gonzalo is lamenting on the
immoratlity of the others.As you can see, Shakespeares use of metaphor is
not as exemplary as it is reputated. As for respecting The Tempest for its
useage of other literary devices, one might as well proclaim a VCR
instruction booklet as a great classic piece of literature.
I say this
because The Tempest is an epic poem, and not a novel. There is no great
comparison with the usage of elements of this drama which was intended to be
performed, not read. For starters, the characters of the play are one
dimensional. For example, Prospero is an all powerful sorcerer who is bent
only on retribution for Antonio, the usurper of his thrown. There are no
other aspects of Prosperos personality seen in the play, and very little
about his intimate thoughts and feelings which is so common in many classic
pieces of literature.
If The Tempest is still viewed in the twentieth century to by a great piece
of literature by so many respectable authorities of literature, then they
might as well go ahead and indiscriminately label other works devoid of
literary merit as immortal classics - including the owners manual to my
1989 Ford Taurus. Yes, Shakespeare did play a vital role in the evolution of
literature, but the greatness of his work has been surpassed by far by other
authors - authors which perhaps should be given more credit for their
endevours than a 433 year old has been.