My favorite play, movie, character – AND my muse

I love The Tempest in all of its forms. I’ve read the play half a dozen times, I’ve seen it – in Stratford, in Toronto and at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver and the great BBC TV version with Michael Horden as Prospero.
But my favorite version by far is by one of my all-time top directors, Peter Greenaway. I fell in love with his work watching The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, but his version of The Tempest is astonishing. His take on The  Tempest is called Prospero’s Books and it stars Sir John Gielgud toward the end of his life. Greenaway had wanted to make this movie for many years and his version was very specific. He wanted the characters to be naked and he wanted Sir John Gielgud to speak all the parts. All the characters save Sir John are naked and he does speak all the parts.
What I loved most about it besides the voice of Gielgud, was the way Greenaway made Prospero’s books come to life. He had anatomy books that showed how a child was conceived and grew inside the womb. He had architecture books that showed the construction of buildings. The books blew me away.
Prospero is one of my favorite characters. He’s flawed – and who could love a perfect character? Not me. All those perfect guys in movies are definitely not for me. But what I love most about Prospero? Is that he gives up his magic – because he loves his daughter, because he lets his fury go, because he understands that some things are more important than money and power.
He says:
                                 But this rough magic
I here abjure; and when I have required
Some heavenly music (which even now I do)
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did every plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.
In the epilogue he follows this up by saying:
Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own…
He gives everything up for love and accepts the fact that he’s going to live as himself. Courageous because he’s doing what’s right no matter what it costs him. Honest because he’s not certain he can do it. And probably scared to death. Just like all of us are.
P.S. I forgot to tell you about my muse. She’s named Prospero because I want to be as courageous and honest as Prospero. And because I am, often, scared to death. Can I write that book? Am I good enough, creative enough, patient and brave enough to do it? Who knows? When I’m most scared, I think of Prospero.
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