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The Tempest and Translations Essay Sample

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The Tempest and Translations Essay Sample

“Both The Tempest and Translations are ostensibly about ‘Broken Communications”

                        Do the final parts of the play justify this statement?

Despite contrasts language is the main are of attention in both plays, with everything spinning off from its difficulties and possibilities. In both plays broken communication creates divisions between characters, and it is apparent that this theme could be seen and interpreted as the most prominent and important. However, I feel that there are other important themes that contribute perhaps just as importantly as that. The endings may heighten this theme, but in both plays broken communication is apparent throughout the entire play, not just the ending. Perhaps without this build up the endings would not have the dramatic effect that they do; particularly in ‘Translations’.

‘Translations’ by Brian Friel is based on true events and is set in a very traditional part of Ireland in 1833. When Lancey, the English officer, arrives his presence and attitude threatens the past, present and future of Ireland. Most audiences could take an instant disliking to him. His lack of empathy for the Irish highlights his character as manipulative and cruel; his best show of this and his “change in…manner and attitude” is the ending of the play. Lancey cannot communicate with the Irish due to the language barrier but he overcomes this by using Owen (who can speak both languages) as an interpreter. But this causes a problem for Owen as he feels loyal to his Irish community and family, so has internal conflict and finds simpler, nicer ways to translate. The ending of the play is perhaps the clearest point of broken communications as Lancey feels more important and doesn’t listen to their feelings; he issues threats, evictions and killing of livestock. Lancey is the epitome of broken communication, as many things spiral from what he says and orders. The end of the play leaves the audience wondering the fate of the Irish community and such characters as Manus, Sarah and the unseen Donnelly twins.

Manus, broken hearted and ‘(close to tears)’, ran away for something more, his feelings were either ignored or interpreted wrong by Maire. In the end she found comfort in Yolland and it seems that Manus was crushed, due to the language barrier he couldn’t even act on his emotions as Yolland does not speak Gaelic. “I couldn’t even get close to them”, “The wrong gesture in the wrong language” This situation demonstrates the difficulty faced between the two cultures; the Irish and English, with the exception of Owen, cannot get along as the trouble of communication is too strong to overcome.  There is no resolution in the play as the communication and trust breaks and disintegrates gradually throughout the second half of the play (the arrival of the English) This ending clearly acknowledges ad justifies this statement.

            Unlike ‘Translations’, ‘The Tempest’ by Williams Shakespeare is not based on true events, it is fictional. It was Shakespeare’s last play and was estimated to written around 1610-11 so is around two hundred years older than ‘Translations’. Despite this both plays have similarities as well as obvious differences. The setting is a very extravagant, exotic uninhabited, for the exception of Caliban, island until the arrival of Prospero and his daughter. The ending is very different as there is a clear resolution, this play’s ending does not justify the statement, as all characters are forgiven/apologise and order is restored. The character of Prospero is changed drastically; he stops seeking revenge and claims his rightful place as Duke of Milan without resorting to magic or evil acts. He rightfully sets Ariel and Caliban free, he has no use for them and I think they never rightfully belonged to Prospero; no-one has the right to imprison others as slaves. “Be free, and fare thou well” The simple act of kindness, and all resolutions that Prospero triggered, has enabled Prospero to give up his powers and look forward to the end of his life as Duke of Milan. “Every third thought shall be my grave”

This simple statement can be interpreted in a few ways and is very enigmatic. It seems before he is excited at the prospect of his new life and the marriage of his daughter. However, this line almost juxtaposes the entire moment. Perhaps it could mean that his thoughts are of his death that could be drawing near or simply that there are still many things on his mind such as his new duties in Milan. The line is very mysterious and leaves the audiences silently questioning his inner thoughts. I feel that it is that Prospero is accepting his nearing fate, death, this is emphasised by the delivery of his epilogue. In this Prospero, I believe, feels in a similar position to Caliban and Ariel who were also imprisoned. “By your spell” Prospero has relinquished his magic “Now my charms are all o’erthrown” and therefore his status and power over others, possibly this is the acceptance of fate. He asks the audience to applause for him, which will “release me from my bands” Prospero seems almost humbled by the fact that he has to plead to a superior power for freedom, the audience. This convention of an actor stepping out of role to ask for applause was popular and commonly used in Jacobean and Elizabethan plays.

However, Shakespeare has made this ending rather unconventional as Prospero stays in character and communicates with the audience. His Epilogue is written entirely in prose, which shows Prospero’s character is of less importance despite the fact that his speech is the conclusion of the play and his powerful character previously seen. This could be the last act of communication that has to happen before all can be well; Prospero is earlier perceived as very bitter, angry and evil, he needs to be forgiven by a higher power in order to be forgiven. When he asks Ariel to help him one last time, he creates “calm seas” so that there is safe travel home for everyone. This is a great change for Prospero as the raging tempest at the beginning, which sparked a chain of events, has been associated with his character throughout. The tempest represents him in the respect that its ultimate power has the ability to create destruction on a colossal scale, it symbolises the suffering Prospero endured and wishes to inflict on other. By putting the sea to rest, he is able to put his revenge, conscience and potentially malevolent side to rest.  At this point the audience can finally be in touch with him and maybe empathise with him and his struggles. As mentioned before this end, unlike the other does not justify it due to its clear linking of characters and their reconciliation.

            In ‘Translations’ the theme occurs not only at the end but is observable throughout the play, and unlike ‘The Tempest’ the ending does undoubtedly justify this statement as it is left as a threat to Ireland and its heritage. There are many different types of broken communication throughout the play; Sarah is a good example of this simply because she cannot speak so she has not got the ability to communicate with anyone. However, through her actions it is clear, to the audience, that she has feelings for Manus. After she is able to rush one sentence with the help of Manus, she gains a ‘Shy, embarrassed pleasure’ from Manus’ hug. If Sarah was able to speak properly she could declare her feelings for Manus and perhaps they would be returned. Sarah has no other friends, bar Manus, and could possibly if she had the ability to communicate. Despite the fact that she is a minor, expendable, character it is clear to the audience that all is not well and jovial as it seems.

            Broken Communication is also apparent from the first scene in ‘the Tempest’, differing from ‘Translations’ which isn’t as clear until further on. Act one, scene one opens with a storm, the boatswain is trying to keep order whilst the tempest rages against them. He tries to shout over the ‘tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning’ “Fall to’t yarely”, “keep below”, “You mar our labour” Alonso, Duke of Milan, fails to listen to him and tries to do things his own way. The boatswain’s plans go wrong and the men are left to the mercy of the sea. The audience loses connection with the men, until later, and as the men are separated they also literally lose communication.

In the second scene, the theme runs through into family relationships. Prospero and Miranda are diverse in their opinions; Miranda feels sincerity and empathy for the suffering shipwrecked people, Prospero pushes her sympathy away and tells her “piteous heart There’s no harm done”, but it seems he is not telling her the truth. Miranda is very meek, naïve and unaware of her past, “You have often begun to tell me what I am, but stopped” However when he does begin talking he has to ask her three times to pay attention “Dost though attend me?”, “though attend’st not”. “Dost thou hear?” He loses patience with her wavering attention span and lack of communication. Their father/daughter relationship does not seem strong or particularly clear to the audience at this point in the play, though we realise gradually as the play goes along that he does anything in his power to protect her. I think it is just that Prospero is unable to noticeably show his feelings towards his daughter, he is caring but at the same time has a reputation of being strong and powerful.

            Regardless of the fact that broken communications is the clearest theme, I consider that two other themes are strongly evident (even if they are intertwined with broken communications) Power and love/relationships clearly stand out and alter the course of the plot.  In ‘Translations” Yolland and Maire is the clearest display of love, or what they believe is love, as it is returned. However, in the cases of Manus and Maire, and Manus and Sarah the love is one-sided. Despite their language barrier and culture clash the two are in perfect harmony/unison when ‘speaking’ with each other whilst declaring their love in Act two, scene two. Although they only slightly understand the other’s language their body language and romantic connection enables them to express feelings. “Go on-say anything at all- I love the sound of your speech.”, “each now speaks almost to himself/herself” “I would tell you how beautiful you are curly-headed Maire” The simplicity of their actions, even when randomly saying place names, is very touching and sweet despite the ludicrousness of the situation; they could never truly be together forever as the complications of their language barrier could not overcome their love.

            Ferdinand And Miranda, however are lucky in love unlike the characters in ‘Translations’ Not only is their love completely out  in the open but it is accepted by all character, except for the minor characters who wish to have her as their own. Just like Yolland and Maire, there is no obvious build up to their outburst of love and it is a rushed display of love; but or Ferdinand and Miranda their communication is strong and beautiful and their love seems genuine. They speak deeper; of marriage, virginity, enchantment, beauty and everlasting love. Ferdinand communicates his love to her through his sweet words and description of his lover for her at first sight. , “dear mistress” “precious creature” “so perfect and so peerless” The audience would probably be happy for both of them, particularly as it is a change from the plots of revenge and death; it creates a happier more enjoyable atmosphere.

As mentioned another theme, much stronger and more important than love, is power (or the struggle for power) Lancey seeks ultimate power over the English, by anglicising the place names and ensuring forcefully the Irish all learn English. This, of course, washes away the Irish community’s heritage ‘Hugh- “I went on to propose that our own culture and classical tongues made a happier conjugation” Very few Irish agreed to this, even though they had no choice. Lancey has little emotion or empathy; he merely throws his superiority around to ensure he gains power. In the Bible it is said that God gave Adam the right to name all creatures He brought them to the man to see, what he would name them;” and then it meant he would have domination over them. By anglicising Ireland and renaming everything he is giving himself and England complete domination, control and most importantly to Lancey, power over Ireland.

In ‘The Tempest’ Prospero has power over everything; the characters, the plot and nature. Prospero is the protagonist of the play, but he gains power through a completely different way to Lancey. He is able to use magic and enlists only two others to ensure all is under his control; Caliban and Ariel (Lancey has a much whole and much bigger country behind him and many soldiers to order around). In the beginning he uses his power of Ariel to create the tempest, which unravels the plot and scatters the characters throughout the island. He uses his power to inflict suffering on those who done the same twelve years ago, when his jealous brother usurped him and took his title of Duke of Milan. Even down to the simple, minor and expendable characters or Stephano and Trinculo there is evidence of power struggle. However comical, both men plot to kill Prospero and take Miranda as a wife for Stephano.

In conclusion I believe that only one out of the two plays justify this statement and that is “Translations” as there is no resolution, and the ending is full of threats, confusion and anger. ‘The Tempest’ does justify this theme but the ending cannot justify the statement as it is a jovial ‘happy-ending’ where all characters reconcile with each other and there is hints at a happy future for all characters. As examined I believe that however strong the theme broken communications is, it not the ostensibly what both plays are about, however it does seem more prominent in Translations. But in the case of ‘The tempest’ I feel that magic, power, revenge and love apply almost just as importantly.

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