A director hired to stage The Tempest in Kamioka, Japan, summons his researcher to argue about why and how the play should be performed today, as they travel from a Noh theater to the neutrino observatory where the production is to take place.
Q People who would steal milk from blind children wouldn’t say an unkind word about The Tempest. At the mere mention of the play they sigh and fawn. Half of the species has actually played Miranda or Prospero, the insipid avatars of innocence and benevolence. To say anything negative about the play is heresy. It’s become a flytrap of superlatives, the omphalos and firmament of everything good in the human spirit, transcendent wisdom. It has come to represent everything to everyone. How did it happen? I don’t understand. It is a tedious and anodyne formalistic exercise assembled from run-of-the-mill stereotypes and a halfhearted plot forced into a limp surprise resolution that only exhausts the little vitality the five acts can rev up.
(Lenz looks out into the snow, squinting in thought)
LENZ It’s as if he tried to write a play that was all masque, that was sheer ceremony, a minuet, a soufflé, but what he saw around him pushed its way in, the storm of forces that were emerging, the breakup of Christianity, religious war, colonialism, slavery, genocide, attacks on monarchy, the Copernican revolution, the drumbeat of the plague, famine, starvation. But the play doesn’t summon or release these elements, it seals them in. The tempest never breaks. Rather, it is supplanted by the toy tempest that neither drowns, destroys ships, nor even rumples the clothes of its victims. It is an admission of defeat, the enactment of the impossibility of an old form to contain the revolutions occurring in the world around the author.