Simon Russell Beale’s Prospero receives high praise in this review in the Guardian. The production is also notable for its use of digital technology.
If you are interested in details of productions of Shakespeare’s plays on the London stage from 1 January 1890 through 31 December 1959, check out http://www.jpwearing.wordpress.com. A series of calendars provides what plays were performed, where, and by whom. Bibliographies of reviews, commentaries, and other useful information is also provided.
Julie Taymor, who directed the film of Titus, now brings a film of The Tempest in which Prospero is played by Helen Mirren and renamed Prospera. There’s a somewhat mixed review of the film in the Daily Telegraph (click here to read the review).
For some further thoughts on The Tempest, check out The Shakespeare Diaries.
Friar Laurence opens the scene with a 30 line soliloquy (although Romeo overhears his words from his entrance at line 23). Thus much of the speech serves as a pause and contrast to what has just preceded it–the youthful exuberance of Romeo’s encounter with Juliet–the very length of the Friar’s speech slows down the tempo, and provides variety (always a good technique when the audience is given so much to listening). However, the Friar is connected imagistically somewhat with Romeo’s use of “light” imagery at the beginning of the preceding scene, thus providing perhaps a subliminal link between the two men (after all, the Friar is Romeo’s confidant and adviser). The Friar is also associated with natural elements–he is collecting various and sundry herbs, and comments on their properties, and their variable effects (depending upon usage). Although he is talking about herbs, his thoughts have a more universal sense, captured especially in “Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied, / And vice sometime’s by action dignified” (21-22). This is a continuing concern in Shakespeare’s thought, how virtually everything has the power to take on its opposite form, a notion that tends to render existence itself a fragile and elusive thing. However, the notion is given specific import by Romeo’s entrance just at the moment when the Friar turns to muse on how “the infant rind of this weak flower” can be either a poison or a healing medicine (yet again, a hint of what is to follow later in the play).
The exchange between the Friar and Romeo has some humor in it, certainly a light touch–such as the Friar’s remark that Romeo being up so early in the morning must indicate that he has not actually been to bed the past night. Since the Friar refers to Rosaline it is clear that Romeo has talked with the Friar previously about her, and that in turn gives the Friar the opportunity to voice an opinion on Romeo’s newly-found love for Juliet (obviously one purpose of Shakespeare writing the scene, though it also reveals more of Romeo’s character). The Friar’s opinion is emphasized by the use of rhyming couplets (although the switch actually occurs at line 51 just about at the moment when Romeo begins to refer to Juliet): “Young men’s love then lies / Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.” Also significant is the Friar’s comment that he had earlier chided Romeo for “doting” on rather than loving Rosaline. Doting implies a lack of reason, that essential quality that divides man from animals, that should rule his existence.
Then, and most remarkably, the scene ends very swiftly with Friar Laurence agreeing to help Romeo because “this alliance may so happy prove / To turn your households’ rancor to pure love.” His reason is so blatantly facile and hardly credible, one might wonder why would Shakespeare arrange things thus? The answer is surely a pragmatic one–plot, and the necessity to move on with the story.
Check out The Shakespeare Diaries.