Shakespeare’s The Tempest can be a delightful experience for those wanting to incorporate a bit more of the Bard into their studies of the Reformation and Renaissance era. The themes are not difficult in this play and unlike many of Shakespeare’s other works, the plot sequence is rather simple and easy-to-follow, even for young students. For the youngest reader there are two delightful approaches to take which should make this an enjoyable experience for all! Marcia Williams in her Tales from Shakespeare has done an adaptation that will provide a worthy introduction; her detailed and colorful illustrations will hold the attention of the youngest reader. Her well-selected passages retain the beauty of Shakespeare’s language. Those introducing The Tempest to the youngest readers will be delighted to learn that the BBC produced an animated edition (though an abbreviated 30 minutes–it is well worth watching) which covers the main plot and themes for the youngest student of the Bard. Though it isn’t readily available for purchase, it can be watched on YouTube in 3 ten minute parts. You can access Part 1 here.
For middle readers, Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb remains the classic revision of the Bard’s most beloved tales, and while it was originally published in 1906, it is still popular today. Charles Lamb, a nineteenth-century essayist and his sister Mary, understood the importance of retaining the intricate twists and turns of the play’s plot while retaining the beauty of Shakespeare’s language as often as possible. For any reader who needs an introduction, or even a refresher, these delightful re-tellings will not disappoint. Many editions of this title include the illustrations of Elizabeth Shippen Green Elliot. I am partial to the work of nineteenth-century children’s illustrator Arthur Rackham, who did some of the earliest illustrations for the Lamb’s edition. At left, note his delightful depiction from The Tempest of Ariel teasing Caliban. When Prospero relates to his daughter Miranda the story of her birth and upbringing, she recalls a time when she had nursemaids to care for her (see at right). And below, Rackham depicts Miranda’s lovely lines to Ferdinand, “Alas, now, work not so hard, I pray you.”
Another of my favorite nineteenth century illustrators is Edmund Dulac. You can see here two of his illustrations from The Tempest. His vision of Miranda and Ferdinand is stunning and his fairies conjure up all the mystery of this fantastical work. Hunting down either of these extraordinary artists will enhance and enrich your literary experience with some of the finest art ever produced for children. In my next post, I will provide a simple overview of the plot, themes, and fun historical facts that will, hopefully, make studying this delightful work even more enjoyable! So, good night, and as good Prospero says,
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on;
And our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”