THE WISDOM OF SHAKESPEARE

in

THE TEMPEST

 by

PETER DAWKINS

Author of

The Shakespeare Enigma

___

Published by I.C. Media Productions
Warwickshire, UK

2000

_________

 

Shakespeare's Tempest needs little introduction as being one of his greatest and yet one of his most mysterious plays. In this stimulating book, the author delves into this mystery, introducing the reader to the real meaning of Prospero's magic, the nature of Ariel his spirit, the roles of the other characters as aspects of the human psyche, and the alchemical and cosmological rhythms of the play.

The Tempest is shown as being a 'book' of wisdom and initiation, with many levels of profound meaning, written by a Master who knows the nature and possibilities of the human mind, and who appears to have been deeply involved in the underground Rosicrucian movement of his time.

This is the fourth of Peter Dawkins' books on the Wisdom of Shakespeare. The series is devoted to showing the depth of wisdom and the extraordinary knowledge of the Mystery traditions contained in the Shakespeare Plays. The books are written for all Shakespeare lovers, students of the Western wisdom traditions, and for all actors and audience alike.


"With meticulous research and astonishingly diverse knowledge Peter Dawkins creates a provocative and compelling case for seeing The Tempest as an initiatory text and a true mystery play. This valuable series will change the way you think about Shakespeare." Richard Olivier, Director of Mythodrama, Creative management courses, Globe Theatre.

"We know Shakespeare is entertaining, and his work a phenomenon amongst mankind's achievement's, but what is he actually saying to us? There are many interpretations. I find Peter's one of the most beautiful and one that is beneficial to my life, enriching my ability to live intimately with myself, others, and the world around me, seen and unseen." Mark Rylance, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Globe Theatre

"Whether you are a student of Renaissance Neoplatonism or someone who is just plain curious about the extraordinary magic that the Shakespeare plays still exert over our lives, globally, then you will find, as I have, that Peter Dawkins will lead you through a maze of wonder in his exploration of The Tempest. There is a beauty and harmony to Peter's work that embraces all cultures and beliefs in an extraordinary voyage of discovery." Claire Van Kampen, Director of Theatre Music, Shakespeare Globe Theatre.

CONTENTS

with Illustrations

Introduction

xiii

Foreword

xxi

Author's Preface

xxv

1.Background

1

2.The Story

21

3.The Mysteries

33

4.Ariel

57

5. Plots & Themes

75

6. The Four Levels of Human Evolution

93

7. The Alchemical Progress of Humanity

Tables

111


130

8.The Seven Virtues

133

9.The Three Kingdoms

151

10.The Characters

163

11.Nature's Art

177

12. The Rosicrucians

191

Notes on the Text

219

Index

235

Foreword by Mark Rylance

The most striking characteristic of my friend Peter Dawkins is that he does in fact practice what he teaches others. The Philosophy he sees in The Tempest is a philosophy he lives by. You could say he walks his talk, especially as his other passion is Landscape and Architecture. He is a man equally concerned and knowledgeable about what is beneath his feet as above his head.

I find this particular unusual amongst writers on Shakespeare, perhaps because most writers on Shakespeare don't imagine his work as philosophy, or as part of a philosophical movement in the Renaissance of Europe. We know so little about the actor from Stratford, and what we do know : the petty law suits against poachers for example: doesn't marry naturally with the deep compassion, wit and philosophical insight of the plays. But when we compare the plays with the teachings of the Greeks, Romans, Christians, and Jews, we find similar language and a similar search for good.
What do I mean by good? Well, I mean a similar search to distill accurate observation of human, natural and divine activity into a philosophy that helps people to be whole and realise their potential in life. Perhaps a simple way of expressing this to compare us with England's patron, St.George, known as a warrrior, but also, when he is not forced to fight the dragon, a gardener. All gardeners must learn when and how to plant, water and harvest their seed in order to survive. Well, as we learn more and more, both genetically and psychologically about our soul's code, the seed of our soul, we should also turn to philosophy to learn how to grow those seeds. I mean by 'good' that it would be good for our souls to bear fruit in the actions of our lives.
I share Peter's belief that Shakespeare's work was intended by the author to help us create a garden for our souls. I believe he foresaw the growth of science, the division and politicising of religion, and also the decline of philosophy into academic talking shop. He took a radical and inspired step, by applying the acute observation of natural science to human behaviour, freeing his work from any definite religious bias, and placing his observation, and the observation of the ancient philosophers, in the common and accessible world of popular entertainment, the theatre.

Since I met Peter eleven years ago, in 1989, he has helped me to understand why it is that everyone promotes Shakespeare as being so good for you. We know Shakespeare is entertaining and his work a phenomenon amongst mankind's achievement's, but what is he actually saying to us? There are many interpretations. I find Peter's one of the most beautiful and one that is beneficial to my life, enriching my ability to live intimately with myself, others, and the world around me, seen and unseen.

I first met Peter while playing Hamlet and Romeo at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Warwickshire. He lives in Warwickshire. Two friends had come to hear Romeo and began to speak about the alchemical imagery in the play. The use of lead, silver and gold to desccribe the interior states of Romeo. What they said made enormous sense to me. I asked them where they learnt this stuff, and they said why don't you come along tomorrow morning to this talk we're going to. So on Sunday morning, not a natural time for an actor playing Romeo and Hamlet to go anywhere, I dragged myself along to Peter's talk on A Midsummer Night's Dream.

He is a tall man, with a tall wife and even taller children. That Sunday I found myself entering a high ceilingned room, which he had built. He was an architect by profession. Thirty or so people were seated listening to him and a wild old gentleman, Sir George Trevelyan, speak about the meaning of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Peter is extremely humble, and speaks quietly. One has the curious impression that he is listening while he speaks. He is always thoroughly prepared with quotes and diagrams, some of which his sons illustrate for him. He never manages to get through to them all, as the talk follows the intuition and enquiry of the group. His knowledge of Shakespeare and the Renaissance philosophical movements is astounding, yet he gets tremendously excited about discoveries, and breaks easily into fits of laughter when he gets things wrong. When I first met him, his shyness was tangible. Sir George, who had demanded many years before that Peter spoke about Shakespeare in front of people, would fall asleep after lunch next to Peter, wake with a start, and immediately fire off some of the best acting of Shakespeare I have had the privilege to hear. They were a right pair! But, my God, the love and enquiry into Shakespeare was deeper than I had ever encountered in any rehearsal room.

What I heard that day, and subsequently at the many talks of Peter's I have attended, changed my life as an actor, and inspired me with an appreciation of the foundations and architecture of the Shakespeare work.

That same year , my wife and I decided to begin to work directly with Peter on our productions of Shakespeare. The Tempest performed on the Rollright Stone Circle and subsequently at the site of Shakespeare's Globe, led me to meet Sam Wanamaker and later to become the first Artistic Director of the Globe in 1996. Both Sam andSir George are sadly now gone. I hope that the spirit of their wonderful work lives on in the work that Peter and I do together.

I hope you enjoy this book. Try to remember Peter's laughter and doubt, if the written word doesn't answer your question or appears to have signed and sealed what continues to be an open enquiry.

MARK RYLANCE


Author's Preface

The Tempest traditionally referred to as Shakespeare's last play, is reputedly the crown jewel of the Bard's dramatic works. With this I would wholeheartedly agree. Whether it's his best play in performance depends alot on how and where it is produced, the actors' performances and the director's input; but when The Tempest is produced and acted well, it becomes sheer magic--which, of course, is what the play is all about. Moreover, the play seems to summarise all that has gone before it and, more than any other Shakespeare play, provides an insight into the author and his Art, as well as into the knowledge and teachings of the Western Wisdom tradition. The Tempest has always fascinated me, and more than any other Shakespeare play has helped me a gateway into the sometimes very secret world of our Western Wisdom.

Like the sacred scriptures and the Mysteries, the play has various levels of meaning, and possible interpretation, which means tht it can provide an almost endless source of knowledge and inspiration to whoever cares to look and feel beyond the first veil. Every time I read or experience a performance of it, for instance, I discover new things, and I am sure that this is, or can be, true for everyone. Moreover, each discovery can be inspirational or catalytic in one's life, providing explanations for the previously inexplicable and guidance as to the steps that might (or could) lie ahead.

This book is largely the result of various seminars that I gave in England during the summer of 1991, in tandem with the exciting open air production of The Tempest performed by Mark Rylance and Claire Van Kampen's acting company, Phoebus Cart, with which I was involved as a friend and consultant.. Having written it first as a much larger but unfinished volume, left to mature a while longer, I have drawn on those pages for this shorter, more condensed version for the Wisdom of the Shakespeare series. What I have written inn this book is by no means an attempt to make a consummateor infallible interpretation of this wonder play, as there are so many jewels of truth to be found in this treasure house of knowledge, but what I have written I hope that you will find useful.
The Tempest as a Mystery play has, of course, been written about before, as has its important psychological concerns and its Hermetic, Neoplatonic and Cabalistic background and sources by such eminent scholars and authors as Colin Still, C. G. Jung, W. E. C. Wigston, Frances A. Yates, Noel Cobb, and some others less well known. 2 But there is a great deal more that could be said or is waiting to be discovered and I share in this volume some fresh insights and discoveries that I have found over the course of of many years of studying and enjoying the play. Not only this, but in these following pages I endeavour to show the direct association of the play and Shakespeare himself with the Rosicrucians and Freemasons of that vital 16th-17century period in world history, and the ultimate importance of the play as a summary of the path of initiation.

For the plan of the book, I begin with a sketch of the play's background history, to set the scene in terms of the writing of the play. It was an exciting period in English history, during which the 'invisible' Brethren of the Rosie Cross were beginning to make their work known, and the first successful English colony was being established in North America. Both of those events influence the play profoundly , and the the play can be seen as an integral part of those very events especially the former.
The second chapter summarises the story of the play scene by scene. This is not only for the benefit of those who do not know the play very well, but also as a help to those who do, as it emphasises the key points that will be discussed in the book.

Since the play is essentially a Mystery play, based on ancient sources, the third chapter sets the scene in terms of the Ancient Mysteries, so that what Shakespeare is doing and what material he uses can be more easily seen.
After dealing with the background history, the story, and the sources, the rest of the book (with the exception of the last chapter) devotes itself to peering into the play's profundity, discovering its light and its music. Its light is a profound wisdom concerning life and the human soul, whilst its music is to be found in the poetry, mathematics and rhythmical structures that underlie the outer sound of the spoken work.
Because Ariel is such a key figure in the play, the investigation begins with a chapter on this artful Spirit, to see what it really is or might be. After this comes a chapter (the fifth) identifying the major plots and themes. The sixth and seventh chapters deal with the major levels and stages of human evolution that are depicted in the play, together with our alchemical progression and initiation through these levels as allegorised in the stories of the characters.
The eighth chapter also deals with this allegorical portrayal of human evolution, but showing the 'planetary'progression of the story that is, as far as I know, unique to Shakespeare and Spenser, and which plays the seven 'notes' of Pan's pipes in a special creative sequence. Musicians interested in the harmony of the spheres and the underlying creative 'sound' of great poetry and drama should find this food for thought and further investigation.
The ninth chapter looks at the locations used in the play, which form a scenario analogous to the human body: a landscape temple, in other words, in which the Mystery is enacted. This is followed by a chapter devoted to the relationship and the meaning of the names of the characters, which helps to explain what they each represent in the context of the whole play; whilst the penultimate chapter (chapter eleven) discusses Prospero's Art : his music.
The final chapter is on the Rosicrucians, of whom Prospero can be see to be a personification. This chapter outlines a remarkable trail of signposts and hints that link The Tempest and, indeed, the whole of the Shakespeare canon, to the Rosicrucians, and point to Shakespeare as being a Brother of the Rosie Cross.
As in the previous books of this series, I have used the Arden edition of The Tempest, when quoting from the play, which I recommend both for its text and notes, although reference to a copy of the original Shakespeare Folio is always worth the effort. Biblical quotes are from the Companion Bible. The works of Shakespeare and the Bible go together very well, and I recommend anyone who wishes to enjoy Shakespeare to the full, and understand the Bible more deeply, to have both on hand : as well as experiencing the play in performance, of course!
In this series I am not attempting to provide a bibliography as such, since this could be a weighty matter that unbalances the book itself; but the endnote references should provide ample scope for further research, and the treasure trail can be followed in this way, from one book or author to the next.
The material we are dealing with is Renaissance Neoplatonism, itself derived from Christian, Hebraic, Neoplatonic and Platonic, Pythagorean, Orphic, Hermetic, Ancient Egyptian , Magan and Druidic sources. It is also Rosicrucian, and entirely relevant for this day and age. In exploring this material, and putting it into practice, I wish you great joy and the freedom that it eventually brings.

P.D. March 2000

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