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Posts Tagged ‘monster’

“Why Monster?” from Tom Ridgely

In Directing, Phil Killian Directing Fellowship, Tom Ridgely on January 28, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Tom Ridgely 1.22

We had our first stumble through of The Tempest today. And since Tony had foregone an initial read in favor of diving into table work, it was actually our very first chance to hear the play uninterrupted (more or less) from beginning to end. Of course, as always, you notice different things when you take a step back and view a play as a whole. Different things pop and catch your ear, or your attention. In that spirit I decided to make a word cloud of the entire script (above).

A word cloud, in case you’re not familiar, is a visualization tool (read: toy) that renders any copy you might care to paste as a randomly arranged conglomeration of words rendered in different sizes, colors and fonts. The cool part is the words that occur most often are displayed the largest.

After removing the most common articles, prepositions and pronouns – as well as character names and stage directions, here’s what you get. These are the words the characters speak to each other. Which ones seem to pop?

‘Here’ and ‘sir’ look to be the biggest, which perhaps shouldn’t surprise too much for a play about exile and discovery full of kings and dukes and their vassals and offspring. But the one that really leaps out is ‘monster‘. Could it really be used that much more often than ‘brave’ or ‘strange’, the verbal motifs that assert themselves most insistently upon reading?

But word clouds never lie. ‘Monster’ appears 38 times in the Folio text, versus 14 times for ‘brave’ and 17 times ‘strange’. And of course we know to whom it invariably refers: Prospero’s ‘savage and deformed slave’, Caliban. But Caliban, however monstrously he might be rendered in production, is still a human being. Both Prospero and Miranda – who ought to know – confirm this. Yet, over and over Shakespeare has his characters use this word to subordinate and strip Caliban of that humanity.

Words can do that. They can break down the fundamental ‘we’ and ‘us’ into ‘you’ and ‘them’. We can safely say that Shakespeare was a man who chose his words carefully. So maybe it’s worth stopping to ask, why did he choose that word? Why do we choose the words we use?

-TR

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