Realism In The Tempest

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THE PLAY The onset scene of The Tempest is one of astonishingly brutal realism. Without warning, we are immersed into the fury and confusion of a storm at sea, in which the shouts of the agitated passengers and crew have to make themselves heard against a raging noise of thunder and lightning and the shrilling of the Master’s whistle. Those are all the figures Shakespeare uses. Where the modern stage would employ refine lighting and maybe even cinematic effects, Shakespeare, even at the Blackfriars, counted mainly on human and other sounds- sounds which can arouse the scene for us today with remarkable vividness, even if we have never seen it performed. All the rest of the play comes about on Prospero’s island, an thrilled world which is in many ways absolutely diverse from the real world of the first scene. To the shipwrecked party it seems that they have been transported into a fairytale. The experiences they experience on the island are felt by them to be bizarre, wonderful, unnatural- these are words that echo throughout the play. It is full of images of sleep and dreaming, and many of the things that happen are dreamlike, or nightmarish: songs and voices coming from nowhere, mysteriously appearing and disappearing banquets and masques; and above all possibly that sensation, so common in nightmares, of desperately needing to take action and yet finding oneself paralysed. This happens to Ferdinand when he draws his sword to Prospero’s threats- ‘’My spirits, as in a
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