1703 - 1770
1824 - 1898
Vote for the artist of your choice! Votes go in the comments. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.
Aside: I find myself startled by what a great entry point into modern history stamps are. I can't pretend that this is the source of my interest -- I think I just like colorful old paper things -- but it's turning into a mildly fabulous side effect. It helps, in a way, that stamps are still difficult to research directly, since the internet as a whole is much more interested in selling them to you than explaining them to you. So, you kind of have to do the footwork yourself, which is a pretty cool history homework assignment.
Then too, intermixed with all of these older stamps of uncertain origin are whatever happened across my grandfather's field of vision. It would appear that he got a letter from Australia.
1) The Lords: You’ve got the king of Naples, who thinks he’s just lost his son to drowning; Gonzalo, a good-natured chatterbox a la Polonius; Prospero’s – or in this version, Prospera’s – brother and deposer, Antonio; and Sebastian, the King’s younger brother. Unlike in all previous versions of The Tempest I’ve seen, Taymor actually manages to keep these four guys easily distinguishable from each other. Not only can you tell them apart, but their verbal interplay, in which Antonio and Sebastian keep up a running sarcastic commentary on Gonzalo’s garrulous attempts at conversation, is rendered so that it actually seems plausibly natural. Gonzalo comes off as a sympathetic guy, but we can also tell why the younger guys think he’s a joke and why, now that they are cast up on a desert island and seem to have nothing to lose, they feel like they can get away with insulting him more or less to his face. And when two of this foursome decide to do away with the other two, you can actually tell why. The clarity of this branch of the story counts as a big win in my book.
2) Caliban and the Rustics: Caliban, everybody’s favorite monster, is terrifically acted (by Djimon Hounsou) in a performance that seems to take the voluminous post-colonial school of Tempest criticism in stride without becoming slave to it. Stephano and Trinculo, members of the King’s household staff who stumble upon Caliban and are recruited by him to supplant Prospero ('Ban, 'Ban, Ca-caliban! Has a new master! Get a new man!) are not only differentiated one from the other, but rendered with individual personalities that explain why Stephano ends up as the titular boss of the triumvirate.
3) Ferdinand and Miranda. The King’s son meets Prospero’s daughter. He’s the first dude her own age she has ever seen, and he thinks she’s pretty hot, and they are immediately coming on to each other like a house afire. All that’s really required of them is that they be young, pretty, and able to render Shakespearean language, and these qualities are more than adequately taken care of here. In addition, the dude (Reeve Carney) can sing – sez here he’s in production in the lead roll of a biopic about the late Jeff Buckley – and he scorches up a rendition of “O Mistress Mine Where are you Roaming?” (which song however I believe was smuggled in from Twelfth Night. But what the hell. It works).
4) Prospero and Ariel. Well, Prospero is a woman, Prospera, in this one. Why? Not really sure. But the father-daughter relationship, as Mrs.5000 observed afterwards, survived the transition to a mother-daughter relationship without too much trouble. The flawed old wizard is handled nicely (by Helen Mirren, a very good brand-name actress) as a curmudgeon in possession of more power than wisdom – which is, I think, the most reasonable interpretation of Shakespeare’s text.
Ariel, the good boy of the wizard’s two slaves, is generally the weak link of the Tempest in my modest viewing experience. That is true here too, although I will say that Ariel in Taymor’s staging is easily the least obtrusively annoying Ariel I’ve yet seen!The Adaptation: I guess I kind of folded my adaptation notes into my gist notes.