Ever-greater Good – The Tempest

by Tim Phares, RScP–November 10, 2012

Today we saw another Met Live in HD opera presentation.  It was Thomas Ades’sThe Tempest, based on the Shakespeare play of the same name.  The music is very modernist and the libretto has been modernized, with but a few of The Bard’s most famous lines surviving.  (“Those are pearls that were his eyes.”)  One character observes that “fortune, ’tis said, favors the bold.”  Certainly, as tomorrow is Veterans Day, we honor the boldest among us, a boldness motivated by love.

The Tempest is an odd story of revenge, forgiveness and release.  Prospero, a magician of fading powers, was Duke of Milan until his brother betrayed him and made a deal with the King of Milan to depose him and exile him and his young daughter Miranda to an enchanted island.  There he rules, served by Caliban (who believes himself the king of the island) and Ariel, a sprite. Prospero has Ariel arrange a storm (“The Tempest”) to bring his enemies to the island, where he plans to get revenge.  When they arrive, however, the son of the King of Florence, Ferdinand, falls in love with Miranda.  At first, Prospero tries to stop it, but they keep falling in love and eventually, he forgives his enemies and releases his daughter to marry the man she loves.  (A happy ending?  In an opera?)   Miranda and Ferdinand lead him there.  Prospero gets his dukedom back and Caliban gets his island back.

So what does The Tempest tell us?  Well, it tells us that as we plot revenge for those who may (in our perception) have wronged us, our power diminishes.  We’re out of alignment.  Things go wrong.  “The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve.”  And that is certainly the way things are headed for Prospero, Miranda, Caliban, and everyone else.  But when we forgive and release, all things are added. That which we’re working for is attracted to us.  But that takes boldness.  It’s somewhat counterintuitive.

So we accept boldness, forgiveness, and release, knowing that the ever-greater is always right at hand, that even as the great globe itself dissolves, Spirit is at work, bringing us ever-greater good.