The Tempest: Immortal Classic or Tired and Dated Work?
Why do educators hold the works of Shakespeare in such high regard? Should The Tempest be considered an “immortal classic”? Indeed Shakespeare’s works had great significance in the evolution of English literature, but these works, including The Tempest are mostly devoid of significance and literary value in the present day. One can expect to gain little appreciation for fine literature from the reading of Shakespeare’s works for reasons enumerate. First of all, the colorful and sophisticated metaphoric vernacular style of the language utilized is archaic; even the speech of intellectually refined individuals and other respected literary works do not imploy of this rich style of speech. The poemic composition of The Tempest does not increase one’s ability to appreciate distinguished literature because the refined and respected works of most other classical writers are in novel form and thus differ highly from Shakesperian works in the literary devices and mannerisms from which they are comprised.
The Tempest was written in early seventeeth century England. At this period of history and country the English language was quite different from what it is today in many ways. First, standard, formal vocabulary was different at this time. An great example is found in the line “…you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!” (act 1 sc. 1, p. 9). In this line, the word incharitable is the modern equivalent of the word uncharitable. The standard dictionary word has changed prefixes somewhere througout the centuries. Another thing that would have made a further gap between the vernacular in the play and modern English is Shakespeare’s deployment of common language,or slang (although I have no proof because I don’t speak sixteenth century slang). “A pox o’ your throught…” (act 1 sc.1, p. 9) and “…give o’er…”(act 1 sc. 1, p. 9). These phrases seem to be slang therms because they are so deviant from there modern english equvalents, “curses on” and “give up”, respectiveley. What value does learning the archaic vernacular give to the reader. Surely it does not increase thier word power or sophisticate their vocabulary, for nowhere, not even in among people of high intellectual refinement such as venerable college professers, is this dead language used.
Another distinctive trait of the vernacular used in The Tempest is the heavy use of metaphor. This use of metaphor is so heavy and outlandish that it becomes extrodinarily difficult to interpret and causes the words to fall into chaotic ambiguity.