The Changing of the Bard: Examining Cultural Constructions of The Tempest

June 14, 2012

Michael Goodman (Cardiff University) gave a paper yesterday at Swansea University as part of the Postgraduate History & Classics Forum Summer Symposium 2012. The topic of the symposium was “Sex, Identity and Morality”.

Here is his abstract:


The Changing of the Bard:

Examining Cultural Constructions of The Tempest


Sex, Identity and Morality are all deeply entwined in Shakespeare’s final masterpiece The Tempest. The aim of this paper is to explore, through three cinematic appropriations of the play, how these concepts have been upheld or subverted in the past sixty years. I will begin with a discussion on Forbidden Planet (1956), which re-imagines The Tempest as a deep space film epic to explore the troubling moral question of how technology should be used appropriately to comment powerfully upon the United States’ political situation and sense of self identity in the 1950’s. Secondly, I will analyse Derek Jarman’s controversial and radical interpretation of the play, The Tempest (1979). In the visual techniques and textual strategies Jarman employs, he creates a sexually subversive and powerful reading of the play that foreshadows Margaret Thatcher’s eleven years as Prime Minister of Britain. Finally, I shall examine Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books (1991).  I suggest that Greenaway’s presentation of women is deeply problematic and that the film is curiously amoral.  The Tempest, I will argue, should be seen as a play that is always reflecting society back at itself, in all its moral complexity.


Postgraduate History and Classics Forum

Michael John Goodman


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