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A Tempest


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A: Aimé Césaire Pf: 1969, Hammamet, Tunisia Pb: 1969 Tr: 1985 G: Com. in 3 acts; French prose S: An island, indeterminate period C: 15m, 1fThis ‘adaptation for a black theatre’ follows the main lines of Shakespeare's plot, but there are significant changes. The translation simplifies and shortens the original. Ariel is a resentful mulatto. Caliban is a rebellious black slave, who has been taught Prospero's language only so that he can understand his orders and who asks to be called X, since Prospero has stolen his identity. In a specially written scene, Ariel and Caliban argue about modes of resistance: Ariel pleads for non-violence; Caliban calls him an Uncle Tom and demands ‘Freedom now!’ Instead of Ariel appearing as the avenging Fury, he criticizes Prospero for using the courtiers' hunger as a means of punishing them. In the Masque, the figure of Eshu appears, ‘a god to his friends, a devil to his enemies’, and sings an obscene song. Despite Ariel's warning, Prospero orders the arrest of Caliban and his fellow conspirators. Gonzalo attempts to convert Caliban to Christianity but fails. Caliban delivers an eloquent speech rejecting Prospero's colonialist domination and threatening revenge. Prospero decides that his duty is to remain on the island not to be master but ‘the leader of the orchestra’ and to counter Caliban's violence with violence. In a final image, Prospero is a futile old man, ruler over a population of one, and fragments of Caliban's song are heard in the distance.

A: Aimé Césaire Pf: 1969, Hammamet, Tunisia Pb: 1969 Tr: 1985 G: Com. in 3 acts; French prose S: An island, indeterminate period C: 15m, 1f

Martiniquan-born Césaire adapts Shakespeare's The Tempest in order to debate colonial politics, introducing the figure of Eshu, and making Prospero's oppression more obviously racial. The major change in the plot, that Prospero regards it as his duty to remain behind on the island, suggests that, however futile his gesture, whites and blacks will have to develop some form of mutually supportive relationship rather than remain antagonists.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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