An investigation into the stage history of Shakespeare's Tempest, 1667-1838 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English at Massey University

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After the theatres were re-opened in England at the Restoration, there were many adaptions made of Shakespeare's plays, and this was a common occurrence throughout the eighteenth century, lasting to Victorian times. It was only in the middle of the nineteenth century that Shakespeare began to be appreciated in the original form. The Tempest was one play that suffered many changes. Sir William Davenant and John Dryden collaborated in the first alteration of 1667, and their version is noteworthy because their changes were to a great extent retained by subsequent adapters. Pandering to a neo-classical desire for artistic symmetry, Davenant, the major contributor, and Dryden paired several of the major characters. To complement the lovers (Miranda and Ferdinand), they added Dorinda (Miranda's younger sister) and Hoppolito, who had never seen a woman, to be her mate. Caliban was given a sister, Sycorax, who has eyes for Trincalo (sic), and for Ariel, a female spirit called Milcha was created. Other changes in the dramatis personae are minor. The Restoration Tempest is full of farcical situations which stem from the lovers' naivity and the grotesque antics of the low comedy characters. The masque of Juno, protectress of marriage, in Shakespeare's Act IV has been cut, and altogether the effect of the original vanishes, the new play being much coarser. In 1674, an operatic version of the Restoration Tempest was published, probably written by Thomas Shadwell. This was basically Dryden and Davenant's play, though many songs were added. An elaborate masque of Neptune and Amphitrite was added towards the end, though it is hard to associate these characters with the ending of the play. Throughout the play there was much opportunity for spectacle and the use of mechanical contrivances. From 1747, when David Garrick became the manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, many of Shakespeare's plays were given a new look. Shadwell's operatic Tempest had been a long-running success, and in 1756 Garrick turned it into a three-act opera. This incorporated thirty-two songs, only three of which were Shakespeare's, and little regard was paid to the original text. It was a failure and Garrick repudiated authorship of it. In 1757 he reverted to a version that was much closer to Shakespeare's than any other before it. Among the 400 or more lines that Garrick omitted, however, were several intensely poetic passages. John Philip Kemble's Tempest of 1789, which used just the bare outline of the original plot, was merely a vehicle for the presentation of a number of songs, and was poorly received by critics who had begun to clamour for real Shakespeare, not a hybrid version of him. Kemble's next attempt to produce the play was in 1806, when he tried to combine the original and the Restoration versions. The last appearance of the Dryden-Davenant Tempest was in 1821 when Frederic Reynolds produced it, but it was greated with acrid criticism. William Charles Macready restored Shakespeare's original to the stage in 1838; and even though his interpretation catered for the visual impact more than for the poetry, his version was the first serious attempt for over century and a half to present the unadulterated Tempest to English theatregoers. Apart from detailing and commenting on the above changes, I have given several reasons for them, namely the adapters' endeavours to cater for contemporary taste and opinions, the neo-classical desire for symmetry, eighteenth century pragmatism, and the popularity of opera and of spectacle.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616, Tempest, Stage history