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Women in Shakespeare, Taymor, and Atwood: The Tempest Reworked Lea Dokter College


The practice of theatrically adapting Shakespeare’s works has been popular for near four hundred years (Fischlin and Fortier 1); the peaks of appropriation were the Remediation and the second half of the twentieth century. Recent adjustments typically adapt his plays to fit other mediums, such as movie or the book. Fischlin and Fortier remark that “adjustments … often attempt to re-contextualize Shakespeare politically” (5 ). According to Terence Hawkes, the meaning credited a text at a particular moment is constantly ideologically reliant and contextualized by history and celebration; for that reason, appointing a last, context-free reality or implying to it is impossible (1-10). Placing Hawkes’ concept of the dependence of meaning on context in the location of adjustment studies suggests that every adaptation of, in this case, Shakespeare, develops its own significance by revamping the initial text in a brand-new context. Shakespeare’s works lend themselves so well for the purpose of adaptation or appropriation because of the gaps he left; his works frequently leave out inspirations or depth of character, making it alluring for adapters to try and fill these spaces, frequently to implement a certain perspective.

In the majority of Shakespeare’s plays, female characters fall quite flat; their inspirations are vague or non-existant, and they seem to exist exclusively to help the men in reaching their goals, or act as their motivation. A curious theme appears to be the lack of moms: “mothers are notably absent from The Tempest, King Lear, Othello, The Merchant of Venice and Step for Step. A lot more striking, in the six most renowned romantic funnies (Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Twelfth Night) no mothers appear at all” (Rose 292). The angle of feminism or gender has been utilized in lots of adjustments; Paula Vogel’s Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief, for example, re-contextualizes Othello to call attention to the role of females. The main and just characters that provide discussion and appear on phase are Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca, female characters that appear rather flat in the original play; Desdemona is Othello’s loyal other half, an upper-class woman; Emilia is her servant who is really faithful to her spouse Iago; and Bianca is a woman of the street. According to Fischlin and Fortier, “the society of ladies … is at best a small aspect in the Shakespearean initial” (234 ). In Vogel’s play, though they inhabit the very same positions in society, these ladies are more rounded and vibrant characters; they get to reveal their dreams and inspirations, which remain in some regards opposite to those of their names in Shakespeare’s work: Bianca wishes to get wed and settle, Emilia is a cunning however ignorant woman who above all longs to climb up the social ladder (even if that would need the death of her other half) and Desdemona substitutes Bianca on Tuesday nights, enjoying the flexibility of being a prostitute and fantasising about taking a trip the world.Another example of revamping a Shakespeare play to enforce a feminist viewpoint is Lear’s Children by Elaine Feinstein and the Women’s Theatre Group: composed as a prequel to the initial play, this work tries to explain why Cordelia opposes her dad and Regan and Gonerill end up being so wicked, by explaining the difficulties they faced in their youth at the hands of their harmful daddy. Positioning the blame of their advancement on King Lear’s shoulders, by turning him into an abusive, adulterous man with incestuous propensities, justifies the future behaviour of his children to a particular extent. The women are relocated to the foreground of the story and given a background, a more industrialized character and clear inspirations for their actions.

The Tempest, among Shakespeare’s last plays, tells the story of Prospero, the previous Duke of Milan. His sibling Antonio envied his position and conspired with Alonso, the King of Naples, to get rid of Prospero, sending him and his daughter Miranda off to sea on a raft; they make it through and end up on a desert island, because of the charity of Gonzalo who brings them materials and Prospero’s books of magic. They stay on the island for twelve years, time Prospero utilizes to oppress both a spirit called Ariel and a native by the name of Caliban. When a boat carrying his opponents and their associates appears in proximity of the island, Prospero raises a tempest to force them off the ship and tactically distributes his enemies and acquaintances over the island in order to execute his complicated strategy to get his former position back. The only ladies that include in the play are Miranda, Claribel and Sycorax, who are heavily outnumbered by 10 males. Moreover, the latter two of these three females appear just quickly in description, and therefore have no discussion: Claribel is Alonso’s daughter, who has actually recently been married to the Prince of Tunis; the sole function of her character is to serve as material for snide remarks towards Alonso for offering out the kingdom, as well as to discuss why Alonso, Ferdinand, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, Stephano, and Trinculo are on a boat in distance to Prospero’s island. Sycorax, a deadly witch who was eradicated to the island, passed away a number of years before the story of The Tempest begins. She is Caliban’s mother and sent to prison Ariel in a tree; she serves as a foil character for Prospero, contrasting her dark with his white magic, and works as a justification for Caliban to declare ownership of the island. Prospero likewise continuously advises Ariel of Sycorax’s harsh treatment to keep the spirit’s service. Both females exist to motivate and validate the guys’s actions; Sycorax also makes Prospero and Miranda look great by comparison. Miranda has a more prominent function as the only woman with dialogue. Nevertheless, she appears to be simply a piece on Prospero’s political chessboard: “Like Caliban, Miranda has actually been “colonized and deceived” and exists only “as male’s opposite, his denied, abused, and covert side. She has actually continuously been the personification of a nonculture”” (Feral qtd. in Donaldson 68). Miranda is used by her father to restore his position, by making her and Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples, fall in love: “His motivation for organizing Ferdinand and Miranda’s marriage is not arranging for his daughter’s joy, but for his own safety” (Flaherty 146). Even securing Miranda from being raped by Caliban is not an action performed out of love or care: “His primary issue as a daddy is to preserve Miranda’s virginity undamaged at all expenses. Only hence can he … sustain the prize that the desirable groom Ferdinand requires in his other half” (Sachdev 232). Caliban’s motivation for his effort at raping Miranda is “I had actually peopled else the island with Calibans” (1.2.503-4); it appears possessing Miranda equates to taking back belongings of the Island. Therefore, Miranda is developed as a submissive area that can be won or claimed (Flaherty 170). As in many of Shakespeare’s plays, females are not fully-realised characters in The Tempest, making sure a space best for appropriation.

In Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, a 2010 movie adaptation of the play, the problem of female underrepresentation is addressed by casting Hellen Mirren as the female Prospera. By altering the lead character’s gender, the injustice of Prospero/a likewise signifies female oppression and sexism: Prospera, previous spouse to the Duke of Milan, is accused of killing her partner using witchcraft and gotten rid of exclusively because she is a female. The translation of The Tempest from paper to screen brings new possibilities for communicating feelings, and the film uses this chance to stage a new vibrant between Miranda and her parent. Both Propero and Prospera declare “I have actually not done anything but in care of thee, my dear one, thee, my daughter” (1.2.104), but considering the development of the plot Prospero does not seem to come across as genuine. Prospera’s words seem more trustworthy due to the way she takes a look at Miranda whilst saying these words, looking into her child’s eyes while touching the neck of her neck (Taymor). Where Prospero mainly deals with Miranda as a political object he can use to get what he desires, Prospera appears to harbour genuine love for her child: numerous times the motion picture reveals her caressing or taking a look at Miranda affectionately. Taymor specifies Prospera “had her entire life taken away from her since she was a lady” (Breznican), and she wants to conserve her child from the very same fate. Prospera’s gender can also be interpreted as a way to make her powers appear a lot more remarkable; a woman trapping a group of men on an island, taking her vengeance and succeeding in getting her life back demands more regard than a man doing the exact same, specifically in those times. Ariel’s part is not changed; nevertheless, the dubious nature of their gender is emphasised by blurring their genitals and revealing them with and without breasts at various times. Apart from its radical change concerning Prospero’s gender, Taymor’s movie remains reasonably real to the initial play; the dialogue mainly consists of the original lines from the play, and included lines are still in Shakespearean style. The plot goes through some other changes, but all relatively small from a feminist perspective: the masque is replaced by Ferdinand’s song, and Prospero’s epilogue is left out. Taymor’s adaptation tries to remain true to the initial play in lots of respects, and the change of gender concerning the protagonist does not carry an intended crucial message towards Shakespeare: the director claims “I wanted to do it since there are starlets like Helen Mirren who never ever get to play these fantastic parts because they were not composed for ladies” (Breznican). Wishing to provide actresses an opportunity to play male parts can be analyzed as a feminist motive, but it seems it was not Taymor’s direct intention to offer the movie itself a feminist undertone. She previously adjusted Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus to the screen in her motion picture Titus, which indicates her appropriations are either a case of idolatry or an effort to exploit the Bard’s cultural heritage.

Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed is even more liberal with the products borrowed from Shakespeare: the book is a metafictional work that contains a fictional theatre production of The Tempest in addition to a plot that, to a specific extent, mimics the plot of The Tempest. The protagonist, Felix, is a widely known theatre director. His wife passed away after childbirth and meningitis proved fatal to his three-year old child Miranda, however memories of Miranda haunt him daily. Felix is planning a production of The Tempest; however, after an unsuspected act of treachery, he is eliminated from his position and chooses to invest the rest of his life in exile. After twelve years, Felix gets the possibility to teach a theatre course at a close-by jail; he takes the task under an incorrect name, and after numerous years gets the opportunity to take revenge on the guys who ruined his career. Fittingly, a production of The Tempest is utilized as the trap to snare his enemies in. In both layers of the plot, the figure of Miranda is singled out and raised by Atwood. Felix’s life beyond the prison theatre, which will be henceforth described as the main plot, features no living Miranda; instead, she sticks around in his life as a spirit. Felix is consumed by grief; his very first effort at staging The Tempest is encouraged by Miranda’s untimely death: “right after the funeral … he ‘d plunged himself into The Tempest. It was an evasion … but it was likewise to be a sort of reincarnation. Miranda would become the child who had actually not been lost” (Atwood 15). Felix prepares to play Prospero himself to complete the imagery: a minimum of in the play, he ‘d be able to safeguard his daughter. The play ends up being an unhealthy fascination for him, for “inside the charmed bubble he was creating, his Miranda would live again” (17 ). As his life in exile progresses Felix starts envisioning Miranda as she would be aging, a practice that rapidly becomes a half-belief she is in fact there with him. He begins seeing her and conversing with her, but keeps advising himself she is not in fact real. Having Miranda around in this way is useful to Felix: “she scolded him gently when he didn’t eat enough” (46 ), she warns him not to use himself out, motivates him to consume more veggies and he discovers in her a discussion partner. By eliminating her, Atwood paradoxically offers her a higher value in the story. The affection of Felix or Prospero in the primary plot towards Miranda is emphasised. Surprisingly, Atwood merges the characters of Ariel and Miranda by making her a spirit. When Felix leaves a copy of The Tempest lying around, Miranda finds it and demands playing Miranda, but Felix prohibits it; when she decides to understudy Ariel, however, he is supportive: “She’s discovered the one part that will let her mix in flawlessly at wedding rehearsals. Just he will have the ability to see her, from time to time. Just he will hear her. She’ll be unnoticeable to every eyeball else. ‘My brave spirit!’ he weeps” (180 ). Using language mimics that of Shakespeare’s play: “unnoticeable to every eyeball else” (1.2.443-4) and “my brave spirit!” (1.2.326) are literal quotes, both directed at Ariel in the initial work. In the performance of the have fun with the detainees, Miranda is indeed present, and her voice can be heard by others too. She prompts her lines and progresses the action. At the end of the unique, Felix understands he needs to let go of the past: “What has he been believing– keeping her connected to him all this time? Requiring her to do his bidding? How selfish he has been! Yes, he loves her: his darling, his only child. But he understands what she truly desires, and what he owes her. ‘To the elements be totally free,’ he says to her. And, finally, she is” (Atwood 283). Once again, a direct quote from the initial play is used to set Miranda/Ariel free. Attributing Ariel’s function– which is of essential significance in Shakespeare’s work– to Miranda offers her a bigger and more vital part to play in Atwood’s story. Miranda is positioned front and centre as the essential motivator of the primary plot of the novel, from starting to end. The metafictional subplot of the unique, the staging of The Tempest by the inmates Felix deals with, likewise features a Miranda. The inmates who are to be the actors are all males, however Felix decides to employ a starlet– Anne-Marie Greenland, the exact same he casted for his previous production– to play the part. Though there are some doubts about the threat of having a lady carry out with convicted prisoners, she manages to impress and direct them without trouble. Again, Felix casts himself in the function of Prospero. Anne-Marie has a popular role in arranging the play, she helps Felix with outfits, props, and inspires the inmates to provide it their all: she even helps the people working on Caliban to add their own rap performance to the play. She appears to be the included link between Felix and the prisoners, Prospero and the others, who ensures whatever runs smoothly. Atwood “has regularly named [Shakespeare] as one of the most important influences on her own work” (book coat), and composes “The Tempest is particularly intriguing since of the many concerns it leaves unanswered” (book coat). This adjustment, then, appears to be a modern, complex version of the initial play, written with a sense of idolatry, which attempts to fill spaces that Shakespeare left.

Prospero’s attitude towards, and treatment of, Miranda is attended to in both of these adaptations, but in significantly various ways: Taymor leaves most of the original material of The Tempest undamaged, whereas Atwood improves the whole story and plot into a metafictional book. From a feminist angle, both highlight the dysfunctional relationship between Prospero and Miranda; by changing the gender of the main character and utilising the medium of movie, Taymor creates a more detailed bond between moms and dad and child, in addition to adding a strong female character to a plot that formerly did not plainly include one. Atwood gives Miranda a more popular function plot-wise, though she is absent physically, and enhances her function and influence by combining her character with that of Ariel. In the metafictional subplot, Miranda becomes a strong, influential female that influences the actions of the guys, similar to Prospera in Taymor’s movie. The adaptations use different mediums but can both be seen as including a feminist note in their characters, filling the space Shakespeare entrusted the underrepresentation of women.

Works Pointed out

Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed. London: Vintage, 2016. Print. Schedule coat. Margaret Atwood, Hag-Seed. London: Vintage, 2016. Print.

Breznican, Anthony. “First appearance: Helen Mirren in lead function in Julie Taymor’s ‘Tempest'”. U.S.A. Today. 5 July 2010. Web. 9 Nov. 2016.

Donaldson, Laura E. “Evaluation: The Miranda Complex: Colonialism and the Question of Feminist Reading” Diacritics 18.3 (1988 ), 65-77. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.

Feinstein, Elaine and the Women’s Theatre Group. Lear’s Daughters. Adaptations of Shakespeare: A Crucial Anthology of Plays from the Seventeenth Century to the Present. Ed. Daniel Fischlin and Mark Fortier. New York: Routledge, 2000. 215-32. Print.

Fischlin, Daniel, and Mark Fortier. General Intro. Adjustments of Shakespeare: A Important Anthology of Plays from the Seventeenth Century to today. By Fischlin and Fortier. New York City: Routledge, 2000. 1-22. Print.

Flaherty, Jennifer. “Chronicles of our time: Feminism and Postcolonialism in Appropriatios of Shakespeare’s Plays”. Diss. U of North Carolina, 2011. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.

Hawkes, Terence. “By.” Meaning by Shakespeare. London and New York City: Routledge, 1992. 1-10. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

Rose, Mary Beth. “Where are the Moms in Shakespeare? Alternatives for Gender Representation in the English Renaissance”. Shakespeare Quarterly 42.3 (1991 ), 291-314. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

Sachdev, Rachana. “Sycorax in Algiers: Cultural Politics and Gynecology in Early Modern England”. A Feminist Buddy to Shakespeare. Ed. Dympna Dallaghan. Second ed. New Jersey: John Wiley & & Sons, 2016. 226-42. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. London: Penguin, 2016. Print.

The Tempest. Movie Script by Julie Taymor. Dir. Julie Taymor. Disney, 2012. Movie.

Vogel, Paula. “Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief.” Adaptations of Shakespeare: A Crucial Anthology of Plays from the Seventeenth Century to today. Ed. Daniel Fischlin and Mark Fortier. New York City: Routledge, 2000. 233-54. Print.

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