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The Tempest by William Shakespeare: Viewing and Reflection

St. Louis Shakespeare’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest was staged in 2010 and performed at the Grandel Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri. The play was directed by Jerry Vogel, the stage set by Cristie Johnston. The cast of this critically acclaimed performance includes Robert A. Mitchell as Prospero, Betsy Bowman as Miranda, Aaron Dodd as Ferdinand and Michael Juncal as the savage Caliban. The play tells the story of Prospero plotting revenge on those that left him and his daughter marooned on a deserted island, his schemings include his daughter’s prospective marriage to a noble. With the aid of magic, the villains get their dues, while through actions of mercy Prospero finds peace in a return home to his and his family’s rightful status in society. The play reflects on the qualities of good and evil in a human soul; its central themes include vengeance, magic, and forgiveness.

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Stage, Sound, Revisions and Other Aspects of the Performance

The characters are dressed mostly correspondingly to the epoch, an eclectic touch at times underlining the contemporary feel of the choreography, as seen at the very beginning in the scene of the shipwreck( StLouisShakespeare, 2012). Caliban, meanwhile, is portrayed according to Shakespeare era’s stereotypes on savages, wearing a loincloth while covered in tribal paint. Juncal’s performance is striking in its rawness, his shrieks making the viewers feel his inner turmoil at new experiences. Betsy Bowman is sweet and spirited, albeit socially awkward and tomboyish, just as a girl raised by her father on a deserted island would be. The courtship scenes bring an element of humor to the play. Prospero, meanwhile, is majestic with his cape and staff, but a nuanced father figure in his interactions with Miranda.

The faerie’s costumes are less formal, reflecting the otherworldly and ephemeral nature of Ariel. This revised vision of Ariel is played by four actresses, representing different aspects of the Fae’s personality, Emily Baker being the leading one as the voice. As Ariel is essentially enslaved by Prospero, one might wonder if this division alludes to the split personality disorder that affects a percentage of victims of prolonged captivity. It is impossible not to note the profoundly moving folk chants of the character, sung by all four of the actresses, another addition by the director ( StLouisShakespeare, 2012).

Mood and Tone

The dim and atmospheric lighting at the beginning of the play, along with the strikingly ritualistic sound effect and choreography, create a foreboding mood. During the performance’s more than two hour run, the stage remains in a twilight, accentuating the magical aspects of the play, as twilight is a liminal state. Cristie Johnston’s stage design perfectly recreates the humid, claustrophobic mood of a deserted tropical island. The giant, primal in its colors, tree dominates the almost claustrophobic set, forming yet another well-executed contrast with the newcomer’s formal clothing and manners, underscoring the fact that they have arrived into an utterly different, strange and magical world. Thus, the mood of the performance is somber; the tone is serious but for a few moments of humor.

Ease of Reception

The at times minimalist setting hinders the viewer’s understanding of certain parts of the play, evident in the shipwreck scene that does not show any nautical paraphernalia. To a viewer unfamiliar with the text, the sound effects that at times drown out the actor’s voices, a reflection of the character’s powerlessness before Prospero’s magic, may serve as a hindrance in understanding the play. Apart from these opening scenes, the performance is clear in its message.

Theater in Modern Society: A Conclusion

In today’s era of on-demand video and 3D cinema, live performances can still reach the viewer with the eternal message of good versus evil, mercy versus vengeance. This rendition’s raw power, as presented by Juncal and the four faces of Ariel, is a testament to the fact that Shakespeare’s last great play still moves and influences viewers. Through empathy and compassion, thus, the viewer achieves catharsis.


StLouisShakespeare (2012). Shakespeare’s The Tempest [Video File]. Web.

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StLouisShakespeare (2012). Shakespeare’s The Tempest (part 2 of 2) [Video File]. Web.

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