Shakespeare’s The Tempest

“Scene From Shakespeare’s The Tempest” – by William Hogarth (1697-1764)  c.1728  – oil on canvas – 80 cm x 101.5 cm – courtesy The National Trust

Allen Ginsberg’s Summer 1978 lectures on Poetics and Meditation, that we’ve been serializing here on the Allen Ginsberg Project, continue today with this final class (from August 18) where Allen reads passages from Shakespeare’s The Tempest [Editorial note – from Randy Roark – “Once again, the recording is plagued with frequent interruptions, apparently related to a malfunctioning tape recorder”] The class begins with a roll call and then a brief discussion regarding submissions for the Naropa magazine, Bombay Gin…

AG: [from The Tempest, Act 1 Scene 2  – Ferdinand] – “Sitting on a bank,/ Weeping again the King my father’s wrack,/This music crept by me upon the waters,/Allaying both their fury, and my passion,/With its sweet air: thence I have follow’d it, -/Or it hath drawn me rather,—but ’tis gone./No, it begins again.(then Ariel‘s song) – “Full fathom five thy father lies,/Of his bones are coral made:/Those are pearls that were his eyes:/Nothing of him that doth fade,/But doth suffer a sea-change/Into something rich and strange./Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:/ Burden [within]. Ding-dong./Hark now I hear them -ding-dong bell.” – It’s (a) very pretty little lyric and was originally set to music. Just a little taste of (a) little sweet imaginative manifestation by Shakespeare

And a little of Caliban’s sound (he’s with a bunch of clowns on the shore, stumbling around..  [Act 3 Scene 2]  -“Ariel plays (a) tune on tabor and pipe”, (invisibly).” -Stefano: What is this same?/Trinculo: This is the tune of our catch, play’d by the picture of Nobody./ Stefano:If thou beest a man, show thyself in thy likeness. If thou beest a devil, take’t as thou list./ Trinculo:O, forgive me my sins!” – [They’re scared] – Stefano: “He that dies pays all debts.I defy thee. Mercy upon us! Caliban: Art thou afeard? Stefano: No, monster, not I Caliban: Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,/Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not./Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments/Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,/That if I then had wak’d after long sleep,/ Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming,/The clouds methought would open, and show riches/Ready to drop upon me, that when I wak’d/ I cried to dream again.”

– Just favorite lines

– and then – Prospero puts on a little drama within the play (like a dream-within-a-dream) (featuring) Ceres Demeter and (then) suddenly realizes that he hasn’t taken care of the last business. He had forgotten that Caliban (was still at large on the island, and, with Trinculo and Stefano, foolishly plotting against him)…and (so he)  suddenly interrupts his daydream and wakes. It’s like a gap in thinking.

So he’s talking to his daughter (Miranda) and Ferdinand, her boyfriend – [Act 4 Scene 1:
“Prospero: Spirits, which by mine art/ I have from their confines call’d to enact/ My present fancies Ferdinand: Let me live here ever;/So rare a wond’red father and a wise/Makes this place Paradise.” – ” Juno and Ceres whisper, and send Iris on employment” – [mythological sprites]

Prospero:  Sweet now, silence!/ Juno and Ceres whisper seriously;/There’s something else to do. Hush and be mute,/Or else our spell is marr’d./Iris: You nymphs, call’d Naiads, of the windring brooks,/ Enter certain Nymphs – You sunburn’d sicklemen, of August weary,/Come hither from the furrow and be merry./Make holiday; your rye-straw hats put on,/And these fresh nymphs encounter every one/In country footing.” – “[Enter certain REAPERS, properly habited: they join with the Nymphs in a graceful dance, towards the end whereof Prospero starts suddenly, and speaks; after which, to a strange, hollow, and confused noise, they heavily vanish]- Prospero. [aside.] I had forgot that foul conspiracy/Of the beast Caliban and his confederates/Against my life.The minute of their plot/Is almost come. [to the Spirits.] Well done, avoid;/ no more.” – Ferdinand: This is strange. Your father’s in some passion/That works him strongly. Miranda: Never till this day/Saw I him touch’d with anger, so distemper’d./ Prospero: You do look, my son, in a mov’d sort,/As if you were dismay’d; be cheerful, sir./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-capp’d tow’rs, 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. Sir, I am vex’d;/Bear with my weakness, my old brain is troubled./Be not disturb’d with my infirmity./If you be pleas’d, retire into my cell,/ And there repose.A turn or two I’ll walk/To still my beating mind.”

– That’s straight Mahayana That’s straight sunyata 

(Prospero) In his last speech, curtain call, curtain speech. [Act 5 Scene 1] – Then, having resolved all the problems in the play, he gets rid of all his magic instruments with a pretty speech, renouncing, say, a renunciation of ego, so to speak, or a renunciation of ego’s instruments and accomplishments, or renunciation of attachments, or renunciation of powers:

“Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,/And ye that on the sands with printless foot/Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him/When he comes back; you demi-puppets that/By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,/Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime/Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice/To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,/Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm’d/The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,/And ‘twixt the green sea and the azured vault/Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder/Have I given fire and rifted Jove’s stout oak/With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory/Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck’d up/The pine and cedar: graves at my command/Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let ’em forth/By my so potent art. But this rough magic/I here abjure, and, when I have required/Some heavenly music, which even now I do,/To work mine end upon their senses that/This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,/Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,/And deeper than did ever plummet sound/I’ll drown my book.”

– And then. at the end of the play, the “Epilogue” spoken by Prospero:

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,/And what strength I have’s mine own,/Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,/I must be here confined by you,/Or sent to Naples. Let me not,/Since I have my dukedom got/And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell/In this bare island by your spell;/But release me from my bands/With the help of your good hands:/Gentle breath of yours my sails/Must fill, or else my project fails,/Which was to please. Now I want/Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,/And my ending is despair,/Unless I be relieved by prayer,/Which pierces so that it assaults/Mercy itself and frees all faults./As you from crimes would pardon’d be,/Let your indulgence set me free.”

– That’s pretty close to a development of the Mahayana virtues, based on realization of emptiness of ego, abjuration of aggressive power, straight relationship, a growth of bodhicitta, or compassionate insight and total vulnerability, on Prospero’s part. So that might well be the best end as a text for this course.

I guess we can go to graduation in a minute.

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