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tempestuous(ness) or, HIStory Is Told by the Victors 

Wednesday, Sep 23 2009
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You can get on Shakespeare's case about a lot of things — say, his being responsible for Timon of Athens. But unless you're in very uptight academic circles, you'll find it difficult to make a sustained case for his systematic mistreatment of women, at least when you consider that women comprise the majority of his most fully realized characters (especially in the comedies). Even so, writer and director Scott Baker attempts to take Shakespeare to task for misogyny in tempestuous(ness), a fitful exploration of a very minor character in The Tempest, the Bard's last (and perhaps most opaque) play. By "very minor character," I mean a character who doesn't even appear onstage — the witch Sycorax, mother of Caliban, who is discussed in a single monologue by Prospero. Among other theories, Baker seems to think she is a stand-in for Shakespeare's "Dark Lady" (a pretty random conjecture, considering that The Tempest postdates the Sonnets by more than a decade). Sycorax' backstory could make for great theater (in fact, it has), but Baker's rambling succession of scenes never manages to accumulate any dramatic (or comedic) momentum. His script is full of invention but short on ideas; for all its scattershot potshots at a 400-year-old play, tempestuous(ness) fails to illuminate either Shakespeare's work or Sycorax' marginality.

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Chris Jensen

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