Sunday night Shakespeare

One of the blogs I read publishes a weekly poem. This week is the epilogue to The Tempest, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays (those paying attention will remember my one and only pet, a guinea pig whose residence in my life was short-lived due to a late-breaking parental “allergy,” was called Caliban after a character from the Tempest). Prospero addresses the audience directly, breaking out of the narrative that the play has been and acknowledging the power of the viewer/reader to create that alternative world.

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint. Now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell,
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

This reminds me of the similar structural twist that occurs at the end of Midsummer Night’s Dream, when Puck turns to the audience and speaks the wonderful words that I know almost by heart:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.