Alonso: “Good boatswain, have care. Where’s the master? Play the men.” Boatswain: “I pray now, keep below.” We can see the Boatswain tries to maintain the respect that ought to be kept with a king in a diplomatic manner. Antonio: “Where is the master, boatswain?” Boatswain: “Do you not hear him? You mar our labour-keep your cabins. You do assist the storm.” We can see that soon the Boatswain’s tolerance will run out. Gonzalo: “Nay, good, be patient.” Boatswain: “When the sea is. Hence! What cares these roarers for the name of king? To cabin. Silence! Trouble us not.”Order now
Finally his patience has snapped. He says “when the sea is” in response to Gonzalo’s request for him to be patient, meaning that he will become more tolerant when the storm has also become more tolerant. The way that different productions of The Tempest stage the scene varies. For example sometimes it is presented on a bare stage but then others have large models of a ship or the elements of a shipwreck strewn about the stage, such as a frayed mast. I think that a production with modern technology would have a better effect of a realistic storm, but only if it’s well done. For example if the staging is particularly shabby and the quality of the technology is bad then obviously so is the effect it has on the audience. A bare stage can be very successful, but only if the actors are very good as well.
In Shakespeare’s time the sound of thunder could be made with rolling cannon balls and drums. Usually squibs were used in scenes like this, which could give off a great amount of noise. If I were to use modern technology I would probably use the sounds of thunder and dark, dingy lighting to create an effect of a black sky. I might cover the stage floor with dry ice or a smoke machine in order to create the illusion of a boat rather than just a bare stage.
This effect and the actor’s movements could make the swaying of the ship or violent rocking motion more believable if it is hard to tell where the stage floor is. I might just have large bits of wood scattered about the stage with a couple of wooden poles standing with white cloth draped over them to create an effect of a decrepit state. To create an illusion of rain I might use the sound of rain and actors entering the stage with wet clothes and wet hair.
What I have also noticed in other productions of The Tempest is that although Ariel conjures up the storm he is never present in the first scene. I think that this is because the impact that this scene would have would be considerably lessened. The reason for this is that I think that the storm is meant to be realistic; with “an airy spirit” flying around the mast I think that the intensity of the scene would be lost, as I found out with a production that I took part in. I have found that with some productions of The Tempest people have cut out most of the scene completely. Taking Dereck Jarman’s The Tempest, the first scene is of Prospero sleeping but with a very disturbed sleep, full of nightmares. There are quick shots of footage of a storm, then back to Prospero’s face, as if we are looking at parts of his dreams.
I think that this was very ineffective because it lacked the dramatic impact that the first scene would have had if it were included and there was no show of the power struggles, no introduction to characters. The second production I have seen of The Tempest is by John Gorrie. Although the acting was very bad, the scene took place on a “proper” ship and incorporated the full scene. There were realistic sounds and special effects such as the rocking of the ship and rain. I also felt more of a sense that this was something very exciting and that hopefully the rest of the production would be too. I also saw an entirely different form of The Tempest in Peter Greenaway’s adaptation, Prospero’s Books. It starts off with an old man speaking of his books, what powers they possess, what they are called. Echoes can start to be heard of the dialogue from the storm sequence.
We see the old man writing some of the dialogue as it is being said. Some footage of raindrops is inserted between shots. The setting of the scene suddenly changes to what looks like a Turkish bath with the old man bathing in it. We soon see a child swinging on a swing above. The dialogue of the storm sequence was still echoing around while the child (playing Ariel) continued to urinate on a toy ship in the middle of the bath, to represent Ariel’s construction of the storm. The intention of this production may have been symbolic but I found it all rather confusing and much less dramatic than the BBC production, which had a lower quality of acting and probably not as much to spend in the way of the setting and special effects.