WIL Festival 3.2: “The Tempest”

 “The Tempest” is a play concerned with books and authority. Caliban has a great deal of anxiety about books especially, arguing that they are the root of Prospero’s power:

Why, as I told thee, ’tis a custom with him,
I’ th’ afternoon to sleep: there thou mayst brain him,
Having first seized his books, or with a log
Batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake,
Or cut his wezand with thy knife. Remember
First to possess his books; for without them
He’s but a sot, as I am, nor hath not
One spirit to command: they all do hate him
As rootedly as I. Burn but his books.

And where exactly did Prospero get his books? You might say that the conflict of the play is the elderly Gonzalo’s fault, who, when helping Prospero and Miranda escape the coup,

Out of his charity, being then appointed
Master of this design, did give us, with
Rich garments, linens, stuffs and necessaries,
Which since have steaded much; so, of his gentleness,
Knowing I loved my books, he furnish’d me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.

By the end of the play, Prospero connects the dismissal of his books and end of his powers—saying,

I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.

—with his own death. Having discarded these, married his daughter well, he plans his return to Milan, “where every third thought shall be [his] grave.” Like the play, the ways in which we talk about the relationship between William Shakespeare’s plays and their printing has much to do with managing narratives about death and books.

Brian Allard (Prospero).

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June Blogroll: PDX Summer Shakespeares Edition

Dear readers,

After the 400th anniversary celebrations, one would assume it likely that Shakespeare performances might wane. After all, we did have the Cultural Olympiad, featuring the World Shakespeare Festival, as part of the London 2012 Olympics. In 2016, there were an incredible number of events across the globe, including world tours and major city initiatives (such as the Chicago City Desk project), that staged unprecedented cycles of Shakespeare originals and adaptations. It would seem, however, that this glut of Shakespeare has stabilized an appetite for productions rather than causing audiences to be surfeit. Lucky, lucky me.

I have now had a year to get a sense of the Shakespeare landscape here in the Pacific Northwest, with the  help of some friends—most notably, Linfield professor and regular New Yorker contributor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner. Oregon is a hub for Shakespeare due to its award-winning regional festival in Ashland. The Henry IV plays they are running this summer are something special, by virtue of the ensemble, the lead Daniel Jose Molina, and the thoughtful direction by Lileana Blain-Cruz. If the five-hour drive and ticket prices are a deterrent for you, do not fear: there are a number of interesting Shakespeare events closer to the Columbia this summer.

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