Boyd Tonkin: Shakespeare? Naturally. But Caliban? This sounds exciting
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Saturday 28 January 2012
For anyone who feared a feast of kitsch at the Olympic opening ceremony, Danny Boyle's choice of text for the inscription on his giant bell strikes a promising note.
He may just have missed the 400th anniversary of The Tempest, first performed in November 1611, but no matter: Shakespeare's most overtly "colonial" play manages to intrigue and stimulate writers and artists like never before.
In his late-period tragi-comic romance, the exiled magician-duke Prospero rules an enchanted island with a spirit servant (Ariel) and an earthbound slave (Caliban). When he speaks these gorgeous lines, Caliban has joined a revolt of drunken sailors against Prospero; Ariel, invisible, bewitches them with offstage music.
For many later artists, especially in the Third World, Caliban has come to represent the rebellion of colonised peoples against their paternalistic overlords. Treated as a brute, a "monster", Caliban still – in a stroke of Shakespearean genius – speaks some of the play's most ravishingly lovely poetry; and no more so than in the speech on Boyle's bell.
At the Olympics, where poetry in motion by athletes from marginal places and peoples have so often humbled the powerful, no message could better suit the spirit of the Games.
How Liverpool can catch Manchester United and secure Champions League football next season
Arsenal transfer news: Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini set for showdown summer talks over future
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger reveals: 'We are not close to signing anybody. We need to lose some players'
Danny Jones: Keighley Cougars half-back dies after cardiac arrest during league game
Chelsea season player ratings: Grading the entire squad of the new Premier League champions
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 3 Russell Brand backs Ed Miliband: 'You gotta vote Labour'
- 4 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils