I know the Olympics have been over for awhile, but Bardfilm started it when he posted Timothy Spall as Churchill as Caliban and asked readers about the use of Churchill (and subsequent World War II implications) and what that does to the speech. I’m just riding his coattails on this one.
(Side note — when we asked Shakespeare fans which rendition they thought was better, I heard nothing but Branagh. When I asked an actor friend, who is not particularly a Shakespeare geek? He said Spall, unquestionably. He didn’t believe Branagh’s character. And, I happen to agree completely. When Bardfilm and I were discussing it I said, “Spall looked like he was trying to be Churchill. Branagh looked like HOLY CRAP I’M RECITING SHAKESPEARE AT THE OLYMPICS!!” And I was perfectly fine with that. 🙂 )
Anyway, what I want to talk about is how the exact same speech was used to bookend the ceremonies, both as welcome and farewell. As a reminder, here’s the text:
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.Sometimes a thousand twangling instrumentsWill hum about mine ears, and sometime voicesThat, if I then had waked after long sleep,Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,The clouds methought would open and show richesReady to drop upon me that, when I waked,I cried to dream again.
When the show started and I knew that there was a Tempest quote coming (thanks to some spoilers ;)) I just hoped it wouldn’t be the same old “We are such stuff”, and I was not disappointed. In fact, the speech does a good job of setting the tone, giving this whole sort of “You’re about to see wonderful magical things that you have never seen before….don’t be afraid, just enjoy…” vibe. The emphasis in the welcome seems heavily on the “isle is full of noises” bit. That work on multiple levels, from “Something magical is happening here” right down to the more literal “Look, our country is going to be very busy and noisy for the next couple of weeks, so just roll with it, it’s all good, and it’s just temporary.”
As a farewell, you now pay attention to the second half — it was temporary, it was a dream, and like any dream you have to wake up, and then it’s over. And when it’s over what do you do? You wish you could dream it again. In this case is it sadness over the end of the London Olympics, or setting the stage for the next one? In any other case, “I cried to dream again” is a desire for it not to end, to have the experience continue on indefinitely. But with the Olympics we know something special — it comes around again.
The more I think about it, the more I like it. I didn’t even see the closing ceremony (except for video of Spall’s speech, courtesy Bardfilm), so I have no real commentary on the Shakespeare headlines (yet). But looking strictly at Caliban’s speech, it works just like a big dream sequence, opening up the door to wonders of what’s about to happen, and then closing it with the promise that those doors will open again.