David Lindley. Shakespeare at Stratford: The Tempest. London: Thomson Learning, 2003. 192pp. ISBN 1 9034 3673 7.
Sheffield Hallam University
Wilkinson, Katherine."Review of David Lindley, Shakespeare at Stratford: The Tempest." Early Modern Literary Studies 11.3 (January, 2006):12.1-6<URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/11-3/revlind.htm>.
The earliest productions, oddly enough, perhaps had the easiest task, in that their audience was happy to accept spectacle for what it was. (206)This highlights practice and belief during the first years after The Tempest was written, but also draws attention to how, increasingly, as technology advances, the audience’s expectations increase; in this way Lindley uses production issues to put the play in an historical context.
in different renditions the qualities will be very differently balanced. There is, therefore, no simple way of categorizing Stratford performances since 1945, and it has seemed best to begin with an outline account of the successive Prospero’s, rather than imposing a schematic frame upon them. (49)That each production is, by nature, a different interpretation of the directors and actors means that the book does not lend itself to a coherent critical argument. This aids that feeling of the book being largely descriptive. Lindley does seem to address this problem though in his ‘Introduction’, as he states that “[Shakespeare’s] text is anything but clear even about the simplest details of how [The Tempest] might look, leaving a wide range of options for the director”(2). In discussing this aspect, Lindley justifies his approach to describing the different ways in which directors interpret the text.
Anyone who now approaches the study of the performance of The Tempest is indebted to Christine Dymkowski’s Shakespeare in Production…her work has very significantly affected and assisted me at every turn. (xiii)It is useful for Lindley to make this point, as Dymkowski’s work is a good tool for critiquing his own: where, as noted, Lindley’s work is constrained by the limited scope of the series, Dymkowski’s is a far more general study, covering a longer period of time and a larger geographical area. At times, the tight focus of the Shakespeare at Stratford series makes Lindley’s work seem misleading; there is a sense that the book is representative, but it is not: in total, it only covers 16 productions over a 56-year period by a single company. This perhaps provides an understanding of the RSC approach, but not a full understanding of The Tempest in performance, or even of the RSC productions in performance context.
Ariel might, after all function not as a parallel to Caliban, but as his antithesis…And, indeed, if Ariel is played by a woman, then,…the potential exists for some kind of correlation to be set up between the spirit and Miranda. (87)By presenting the critics’ viewpoints just previous to this quotation, and then putting forward his own view, Lindley successfully presents and suggests myriad approaches, and therefore not any single one as the right approach.
 Other titles in the series include King Richard III, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, and The Winter’s Tale.
 Lindley argues that “The fortunes of The Tempest on stage depend…on the actor playing Prospero”; thus the largest portion of the book is given over to the character of Prospero.
Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk
© 2006-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).