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Shake Up The Tempest II

At last, I have finished Shakespeare's (final?) masterpiece. I've read it before, but I'm glad I got a chance to do so again. While I could give another summary and stuff, I think it much more appealing to look at Shakespeare's "farewell" to his theatrical art, which is found embedded in the play.

So, without further ado...

"You do look, my son, in a moved sort, 146
As if you were dismayed; be cheerful, sir. 147
Our revels now are ended. These our actors, 148
As I foretold you, were all spirits and 149
Are melted into air, into thin air; 150
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, 151
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, 152
The solemn temples, the great globe itself, 153
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, 154
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, 155
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff 156
As dreams are made on, and our little life 157
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vexed. 158
Bear with my weakness; my old brain is troubled. 159
Be not disturbed with my infirmity. 160
If you be pleased, retire into my cell 161
And there repose. A turn or two I'll walk 162
To still my beating mind."
(lines 146-163) 163

Quite a chunk of lines, isn't it? While I cannot claim that I noticed this on my own (a teacher pointed it out to me in high school), I still think it should be noted... The segment I have quoted here seems likely to be Shakespeare's personal goodbye to the world of theatre.

Not seeing it? Let me point out some key details...

Lines 148-150 describe actors vanishing "into thin air" because they are mere "spirits" -- Shakespeare is comparing the characters of plays (or perhaps even actors themselves) to spirits, pointing out that they have no existence of their own without people to play their roles.

Lines 151-153 describe all kinds of fabulous settings, all of which were represented somehow in his plays (towers, palaces, and temples); he even mentions "the great globe itself," and if you know your theatrical history, you'll probably recall that Shakespeare presented most of his plays in a theatre called The Globe. He says that "all which it inherit, shall dissolve", meaning that all of its components (actors, backdrops, props, and even the plays themselves) shall fade.

Lines 156-159 allude to the fact that those who took part in the productions of The Globe are all dreamers who make their living by acting out fantasies; he says that "our [the Globe's performers and playwrights] little life is rounded with a sleep", which I think is placing further emphasis on their lifestyles as dreamers ("rounded with a sleep" makes me think of their lives being "[sur]rounded with a sleep"). Shakespeare also seems a bit sad to depart from the realm of theatre, evident from the bit about "my old brain is troubled."

Finally, lines 162-163 seem to allude to the fact that Shakespeare needed time to get over the loss of the theatre, and still had some ideas and thoughts brewing in his "beating mind" (which makes me think of a heartbeat; perhaps his confession that the theatre was his lifeblood).

Now, I make no claims that my deductions here are 100% correct (there's really no way to no for sure what Shakespeare was thinking when he wrote this)... These are just the conclusions that I reached.

What do you think? Do you respond to this speech differently? Do you see any significant things I missed, or do you disagree with my interpretations? Let me know what's on your mind.

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Comments

Well, actually, it was mostly a quick discussion between Dr. Jerz and me, and Dr. Jerz took it off on his own tangent after a while to extend it to a topic for the whole class to discuss... So they didn't get to say too much about it.

If anyone does have any ideas on this, post 'em here... I'd like to hear more thoughts.

The reason I thought of this topic is because Shakespeare seemed to hint that he was "angry" about having to leave the theatre behind (there is some line in there where he talks about being vexed).

I would love to hear more on the subject. What were some of the reasons your classmates proposed?

We discussed in class the possibility that Shakespeare was being forced to give up the theatre for some reason... I might do a little more research into this for a future essay. For some reason, it intrigues me. I guess I feel some sympathy or empathy for a fellow writer (even if he is six feet under).

I think Shakespeare in writing this was depressed with himself, perhaps thinking that what he has written will vanish. He likens his career to that of a player. That just as a part is set aside after the run of the production, so will his life's work--or his lifeblood, as you mentioned.

I like the interpretation of you (or your high school teacher). The turn of "globe" reeks of Shakespeare's innuendo. However, this section is characterized by sentimentality, rather than the ribald humor of which he is most known; but still, I think it is a very good guess at this phrase's intent.

A lovely observation you have shown
Us all about these interesting lines that one
May interpret as Shakespeare’s farewell.
I do not disagree although sadly
I would not have picked out such meaning myself.
Impressive Chris, I applaud thee for the
Information hidden inside the play.

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