I studied Shakespeare for 10 years and taught it for 5 and secretly believe the meaning of life is threaded through the magical words of his plays and poems. There is everything in his corpus of work. The blood and gore of the beastly Titus Andronicus, the historical drama of Richard II, the ghoulish terror of Macbeth, the expansive power of love in Antony and Cleopatra, the wit and folly of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the terrifying agony of the dissolving sanity of King Lear.
Believing the messages of life can be found in the Bard’s plays and sonnets I have been contemplating The Tempest. Oftentimes I have been heard to say every story has a secret; if there’s no secret to unfold you have no story. Stories are made all the more fascinating by the complexity of the secret and how the protagonist hides from the truth or has the truth withheld or simply remains ignorant to the truth. The discovery of a truth causes the unraveling of a worldview (and the protagonist) and the re-creation of a way of being in the world. Transformation complete.
Now The Tempest is a great play and is believed to be Shakespeare’s last solo-written play. In brief, it tells the story of the exiled Prospero and his daughter Miranda living on a remote island. Through skillful illusion and cunning machinations, Prospero uses his great knowledge and preternatural forces to restore order and free himself from the wrong doings of life. By the end of the play harmony is achieved.
Prospero possesses magical powers because of his great knowledge and he is reluctantly supported through his quest by a spirit, Ariel whom Prospero had rescued from a malevolent spell and the offspring of an evil witch, her gross and malignant son, Caliban. Ariel is the air spirit, Caliban the earth spirit. Ariel’s being is spun from fragrance and melody, all feeling, intelligence and heart memory. His delicate nature is drawn to what is good and right with a healthy pinch of joyous fun. Caliban is a deformed monster who survives through base instinct and a raw originality of thoughts and manners. His whole being is developed from within, not impressed from without.
These two characters are light and dark spirits and the external representation of the inner forces at play within Prospero and indeed within us all. As we encounter all of life mysteries we can respond through darkness or through light. The conflicts of our lives brought to us by the secrets we know and run from, and the secrets we don’t know and that chase us, are calling from us a response to life. It’s our choice when we use Ariel and when we choose to use Caliban.
There may be a magical presence of spirits in life that cast into the caverns of our brains some faint reflection of a better world or a better way of being in the world. Chances are if we imagine such presences they are in fact a manifestation of our own desires and epiphanies. We create our reality after all.
As the New Year emerges for you think to what paths you hope to travel for the next 366 days that will make up 2016. Imagine what forces you will bring to bear on your adventures and take trouble to rouse the Ariel and the Caliban within you so that you can respond to your life with all of your powers – the base and the sublime.
Shakespeare tells us that what we dream we are able to manifest. So dream a good dream for yourself for 2016. Conjure the best adventure imaginable and remember, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep”.
So dream boldly. Find new truths.