Last night, Clara and the boys and I—along with Clara's mother, visiting from Ohio—packed into the Rover and headed down to Stratford-on-Avon to see Patrick Stewart as Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The large theater, on the west bank of the Avon River, is only a short walk from Shakespeare's birthplace on Henley Street and from his undisturbed tomb in Holy Trinity Church. The production itself was odd—especially the cadaverous Ariel with his bloodless face and long black frock-coat, more vampire than sprite. Miranda was also odd—abrupt and marionette-like in her movements, which I put down to her being improperly socialized. She was a little like a wind-up toy. The action was set on an island somewhere in the Arctic—a frozen landscape illuminated by the midnight sun and the Northern Lights. Patrick Stewart, of course, brought a powerful, expressive, and distinctive voice to the role of Prospero—but his silences were the most eloquent moments in the play. Ariel tells him that his enemies are suffering under the powerful spell he has laid upon them:
Ariel: ...Your charm so strongly works 'em
That if you now beheld them, your affections
Would become tender.
Prospero: Dost thou think so, spirit?
Ariel: Mine would, sir, were I human.
Prospero appears to freeze, like the landscape around him, looking into the bloodless face of the undead spirit who serves him.
Prospero: And mine shall...
That long silence is echoed at the end of the play, when Prospero turns to the audience and asks them to release him. There is another long silence, followed by tempestuous applause.