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Let’s Play: Magic and Masque at Miranda and Ferdinand’s nuptials (5 players)

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A4S1 of The Tempest celebrates the nuptials of Miranda and Ferdinand with a masque, and then starts the overthrow of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo. It’s a difficult scene, but well worth playing.

The scene is quite long, with tem characters, but luckily it can be played by 5 players, though that means that four  of the fove players will have to play more than one character.So let’s play the scene now. Links for each of the five players are provided below:

Player Part
1 Prospero
2 Stephano, Miranda, Juno
3 Ariel, Ferdinand
4 Caliban, Ceres
5 Trinculo, Iris

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Choose your player no; click on the characters for that link, and you’ll be taken to a script for those characters in A2S1. When all players have got to their script, play the scene.

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After you’ve played the scene did you notice the following:

  • Prospero starts the scene, giving his daughter Miranda to Ferdinand. Does he seem a little over-concerned that Miranda may lose her virginity before marriage? One could read the whole play as Prospero trying to avert incestuous desires for his daughter. He brings the ship ashore in the tempest, so that Ferdinand can fall in love with Miranda and marry her; Caliban (this Thing of darkness I /
    Acknowledge mine), Prospero’s dark side with incestuous desires for his daughter; and now this scene where he may be over-protective. Of course this is too simple to be the plot of the whole play, but perhaps it is an element of the play.
  • After some chat with Ariel to tell him to bring the rebels to this scene, the scene turns into a masque. Iris (the gods’ messengeer); Ceres (goddess of the earth); and Juno (wife of Jupiter and goddess of marriage) arrive to bless the union of Ferdinand and Miranda. Masques were very popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean times, perhaps partly because women were allowed to play in them, probably because they were usually held in private houses. They were often an excuse for fantastic stage effects which don’t seem so fantastic these days. Perhaps they are the Early Modern English equivalent of CGI effects in films. The only effective way I’ve seen this masque played is in The Globe’s production (see The Globe Tempest review, and the still at the start of this post) where the masque is played as rather camp, and for humour.
  • The masque is interrupted when Prospero remembers  Caliban and the rebels (Stephano and Trinculo). Ariel brings them to the scene. Caliban wants Stephano to murder Prospero, but the two drunks are distracted by some fine clothes (often shown as women’s clothes). Ariel arrives with his spirits and some hunting dogs, and the three rebels are chased away.

The whole scene has a dream-like feel, with gods and goddesses; cross-dressing; and fairy hunting dogs. In fact the whole play (and life itself) could be a dream, as Prospero says in this scene:

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Our Revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all Spirits and
Are melted into Air, into thin Air;
And – like the baseless fabric of this vision –
The Cloud-capped Towers, the gorgeous Palaces,
The solemn Temples, the great Globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And like this insubstantial Pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

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Now you’ve thought about the characters a bit, play the scene again and see if you can deepen and enrich your playing of the scene – and find your own interpretation of the characters and the scene.

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Act 1 Scene 2 (see Prospero tells Miranda their story) plus this scene (Act 4 Scene 1) really tells the story of Prospero, Miranda, and Ferdinand, so you might like to play both scenes together to get a good idea of the plot of The Tempest.

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But even if you play all the scenes we’ve provided in our index you still won’t have explored the whole play, so why don’t you get 5 or more friends together and read the play using our play-casts. You’ll find them at: New Link.

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Let’s play!

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Richard Forsyth
‘The Director’
Players-Shakespeare.com

 

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