Bluff Your Way Through the Play – The Tempest

Bluff Your Way Through the Play
The Tempest

The Tempest is unlike any other play in Shakespeare’s body of work. It takes place all in one day; it is filled with magic and spirits; it revisits many themes Shakespeare has tackled before; and, it focuses on Prospero, a main character who is totally in control of his own story.

The cast of Seattle Shakespeare Company’s
2013 Wooden O production of The Tempest.

Two Thumbs Up!

Audiences of Time Magazine voted The Tempest to be included in the Top 10 of Shakespeare’s best work.

What a Difference a Day Makes

The Tempest takes place during the course of a single day (the only other play in the canon to do that is The Comedy of Errors). It also follows Aristotle’s other two rules for drama by having a main plot line and taking place in one setting.

Charles Leggett as Prospero and Susanna Wilson as Ariel
in the 2001 Wooden O production of The Tempest.

Brief Bard

The Tempest is Shakespeare’s third shortest play, at 17,233 words. But even shorter are A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 16,511 words and The Comedy of Errors at 14,701 words.

Carolyn Marie Monroe as Miranda and Jeffrey Friedman
as Ferdinand in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s
2009 production of The Tempest.

Turning a Phrase

Several common phrases and expressions that originated in The Tempest made their way into our everyday language. Some of them include: “brave new world,” “in a pickle,” “melted into thin air,” “sea change,” and “such stuff as dreams are made on”.

Magical Musical?

The Tempest contains more music and musical interludes than any other Shakespeare play. Unfortunately they often get cut from the production. We’ve added original songs and updated some of Shakespeare’s for this production.

Hana Lass as Ariel in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s
2009 production of The Tempest.
Amy Thone as Prospero and Anastasia Higham in the 2009 Wooden O production of The Tempest.

Swansong Masterpiece

The Tempest is the last play that Shakespeare wrote on his own. It is similar to other “Romances” like Pericles, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale, where characters go through harrowing situations that lead them to forgiveness and a happy ending.

Michael Winters as Prospero in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2009 production of The Tempest.

Your Magical Guide

From the moment The Tempest begins, Prospero creates the story. The character, while definitely integral to the plot, serves as a mystical master of ceremonies manipulating characters and guiding us to the play’s conclusion.

Rebecca Olson as Miranda, David Hogan as Caliban, and Stephen Godwin as Prospero in the 2002 production of The Tempest.

Polar Opposites

Dualities are peppered throughout The Tempest: parent vs. child, master vs. servant, revenge vs. forgiveness, family vs. strangers, human vs. magical. The opposing ideas create the drama and complexity of the play.

Firmament Famous

After the discovery of two satellites circling Uranus, astronomers established a convention of naming the planet’s new moons after Shakespeare’s characters. So far the most (7) are named for characters in The Tempest

The Play that Keeps on Giving

From comic book characters to opera to movies and fiction, The Tempest has been a rich resource to spark imagination. Even the 1956 sci-fi film Forbidden Planet (and later Broadway musical!) takes its inspiration from the play.

This Thing of Darkness?

While called a monster in the play, the character of Caliban has some of the most tender and joyful lines in the play when talking about the island. It’s also interesting to note that the character speaks verse when alone, but prose when with other characters.