Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Taymore Tempest opens nationwide Dec 17, 2010

Cover of Abrams Julie Taymor edition of The Tempest

A new hardcover Julie Taymor edition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest was released last month by Abrams with a foreword by Jonathan Bate. According to the publisher:
The book of The Tempest is both a handsome edition of Julie Taymor’s eminently readable adaptation of Shakespeare’s play and a stunning visual narrative of her new film, which stars Helen Mirren as Prospera, the magician/alchemist in a bold, gender-switched realization. 
Industry sources report the film will be in general release December 17, 2010. Taymor referenced the appeal of her gender-switching hero/heroine in an interview with Alison Stewart on the Dec. 10 2010 broadcast of the PBS news magazine, Need to Know. Taymor said:
Prospero's famous speech, “Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves . . ."  -- that speech ise airs and winds: ye elves of hills, of brooks, of woods alone, / Of standing lakes, and of the night, approach ye everyone”).
Those last lines mentioned are, however, Golding’s translation of Ovid, not Shakespeare’s lines from Act V, Scene 1 of The Tempest, which read:

Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make
Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To her the solemn curfew; by whose aid
Weak master though ye be, I have bedimm’d
The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,
And ‘twixt the green sea and the azured vault
Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire and rifted Jove’s stout oak
With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory
Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck’d up
The pine and cedar; graves at my command
Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let ‘em forth
By my so potent art. . . .

Here is Arthur Goldings translation of Medeas incantation from Ovids Metamorphosis (1567)

Ye charmes and Witchcrafts, and thou Earth which both with herbe and weed
Of mightie working furnishest the Wizardes at their neede:
Ye ayres and windes; ye Elves of Hilles, of Brookes, of Woods alone,
Of standing Lakes, and of the Night approach ye everychone
Through helpe of whom (the crooked bankes much wondering at the thing)
I have compelled strames to run cleane backward to their spring.
By charmes I make the calme Seas rough, and make the rough Seas plaine,
And cover all the Kie with Cloudes and chase them thence againe.
By charmes I raise and lay the windes, and burst the vipers jaw.
And from the bowels of the Earth both stones and trees doe draw.
Whole woods and Forestes I remove. I make the Mountaines shake,
And even the Earth itselfe to grone and fearfully to quake.
I call up dead men from their graves; and thee O lightsome Moone
I darken oft, though beaten brasse abate they peril soone.
Our Sorcerie dimmes the morning faire, and darkes the Sun at Noone.
The flaming breath of firie Bulles ye quenched for my sake
An caused their unwieldy neckes the bended yoke to take.
Among the earth bred brothers you a mortal war did set,
And brought asleep the dragon fell whose eyes were never shut
By means whereof deceiving him that had the Golden fleece
In charge to keepe, you sent it thence by Jason into Greece.

Golding’s 1567 translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis is invoked repeatedly by traditional Shakespeare scholars as a source throughout Shakespeare’s work, on the assumption that the Stratford man must have somehow gained access to the book. Add to that Montaigne's Essays that some commentators believe influenced Act II, Scene 1 of The Tempest in its description of the ideal commonwealth, and the dozens of other sources traditional scholars believe influenced Shakespeare's works and you have an author of extraordinary erudition. (See a partial list of Shakespeare's narrative and dramatic sources gleaned from standard texts at Shakespeare-W.)

Stratfordians insist on the circular reasoning that argues because the Stratford man wrote the plays, he must have somehow gained access to this monumentally luxurious library without leaving even a sniff of a trail for posterity – just as he learned to read and write without leaving even a scrap of paper to show he could write anything but a few scrawled signatures – none of which, by the way, read “William Shakespeare”. But that’s just those crazy Elizabethans – none of them knew how to write their name, say the Stratfordians. And while they are quick to point out that Elizabethans refused to spell even their names consistently, Stratfordians never mention the fact that 80-percent of the population was illiterate -- that fact cuts a little too close to the bone.

Resources:
International Movie Data Base: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1274300/
Shakespeare-W, table featuring a partial list of Shakespeares's narrative and dramatic sources using standard texts for data: http://www.shakespeare-w.com/english/shakespeare/source.html
Medea's Incantation on Interlea: http://innerlea.com/aulit/ovid/GoldingsMedea/frame.html

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Notes:
Dec. 16, 2010 review of Taymor's film The Tempest by Liam Lacey at the Toronto Globe and Mail, "The Tempest: Taymor fails to conjure much of a storm"
Dec. 16, 2010 review of Taymor's The Tempest by Shawn Levy in The Oregonian, "Review: Helen Mirren, Julie Taymor bring magic to The Tempest"

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