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"The Tempest is full of magic and illusion. Consider the effect this would have on a 17th century audience and a 21st century audience. How might the magic and illusion be presented today?"

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Shakespeare Literature "The Tempest is full of magic and illusion. Consider the effect this would have on a 17th century audience and a 21st century audience. How might the magic and illusion be presented today?" William Shakespeare wrote The Tempest as a play. It was not intended for the text to be read by school children from a book. It was intended for performance in a theatre, where it would give enjoyment to an audience. One of the main "themes" of The Tempest is magic. Prospero is a magician, a sorcerer, a wizard, someone with magical powers. He uses these powers to make lots of things happen within the play. Indeed, the first scene focuses on the storm that Prospero has created to cause havoc on the ship upon which his enemies are travelling. At the beginning of the play, the storm just seems like any other storm, with an unfortunate crew being shipwrecked. By the end of Act 1, however, we discover that the storm was not a natural occurrence. Prospero conjured up the storm and deliberately picked out that ship. The audience get their first hint of this in Miranda's first speech of the play. Miranda has watched the storm destroy the ship and she feels pity for the shipwrecked people. In her opening line, she asks her father if the storm is a product of his magic: "If by your art, my dearest father, you have Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them." ...read more.


Being very superstitious, they would understand, however, that spirits only appear to certain people at certain times, so it would not be too hard for them to take this on board. An example of Ariel being invisible to only a section of the actors on the stage is in Act 1 Scene 2, when Ariel sings an enchanting song to Ferdinand, luring him to meet Miranda. Neither Miranda nor Ferdinand can see the spirit, but Prospero can, and he talks to Ariel, promising to set him free. In Act 3 Scene 3, Prospero conjures up a banquet for Alonso and the rest of the royal party. Just as the members of the party prepare to eat, the banquet disappears. This would have been very difficult to show in the 17th century. I cannot think of any way 17th century actors would have been able to show this, apart from standing the banquet table on a trap door and then releasing the trap door. This is not a perfect way of showing the table disappear, but it is the only way I can think of showing it in 17th century theatre. Towards the end of the play, a lot is said about Gods of the Ancient Romans, particularly Juno, Ceres and Iris. In most Jacobean masques, there was a lot of emphasis on classical mythology. Prospero's masque is no different. Audiences in 17th century England would have a basic knowledge of Ancient Roman and Greek gods. ...read more.


He could hover above the traitors in the same way that he did when luring Ferdinand to Miranda. When he sends the group to sleep, he could sprinkle some glitter or some kind of dust over them. That way, it is visible to the audience that something is going on. The main acts of magic are the banquet, the masque and Ariel appearing as a harpy. The banquet and the harpy incident could be shown by the same method. Both are illusions that disappear after being seen by Alonso's group. Both these incidents could be shown by holograms, which could be projected from the back of the theatre onto the stage. Advanced computer imaging could make it seem as if the harpy was talking, then the hologram could simply disappear, making it seem as if the objects were actually on the stage and have vanished. Despite what the audience believes outside a theatre, once inside, they are usually willing to believe anything as long as it makes good theatre. Most people will let go of their normal beliefs if it means that they will enjoy the show more. Directors have to keep this in mind. Maybe the audience will not believe in spirits and witches in everyday life, but if a play they are watching contains these things, they will accept them, as long as they are made reasonably believeable. For a play to be successful, a director has to make sure that the illusions and magic are portrayed as realistically as possible and the audience can believe for a while that these things are real. Louise Jones Louise Jones 1 ...read more.

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