Putting Life Back in Perspective

B and I have been so busy and focused on work lately. B, especially, has been putting in a lot of extra time at the office due to some serious deadlines. And my job (teaching 8 year olds) can be very intense and draining both physically and emotionally. When life gets this hectic, both of us begin to wonder what on earth we are doing… and so we decided to do something that would remind us that life is so much more than just work. If you want perspective on life, read Shakespeare!

We decided to read Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest, (which Anthony Burgess calls Shakespeare’s “swansong”) because neither of us had ever read it, and because the whole idea of Shakespeare doing this last big project and then retiring sounded awfully good to us (wish we could do the same, but we have miles to go yet)! We agreed that we would try to experience it in as many different ways as possible over the next few months — so we started searching out different written versions of the play, and looked for a variety of films, audio books, theater performances and artwork. There are no deadlines on our project, we are simply enjoying it as time allows. And what fun we’re having!

Here’s our progress thus far:

Retellings we have read:

Reading the Play Itself:


Looking Forward To:

Artwork and Photographs:

William Hamilton’s Prospero:








Maxfield Parrish’s Prospero:








Edmund Dulac’s Prospero:








John W. Waterhouse’s Miranda






I would have loved to see Sir Derek Jacoby playing Prospero!








William Hutt as Prospero. He was so great in Slings and Arrows!!





Michael Hordern, Warren Clarke, and Pippa Guard in the 1980 BBC film.








Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itelf,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

16 thoughts on “Putting Life Back in Perspective

  1. Nymeth

    “Robin’s Shakespeare Method” is simply the best! I’ll be reading the play at some point this year, and I’ll keep those retellings in mind. And how cool that you read that Sandman story! It’s a great one, isn’t it?

    The movie version with Sir Ian McKellen is also something I’ll keep in mind!


  2. Jill

    What a very thoughtful and well-crafted entry you’re done in this instance. The illustrations as well as the various links!

    Thank you so much for putting it together.


  3. Melanie

    This is a wonderful idea, to experience a play in so many variations! I was lucky enough to see William Hutt in his last Tempest, and it was amazing.


  4. Robin

    Thanks, Jenclair. It’s amazing how many different ways it is possible to experience a Shakespeare play! We were very surprised that we could put together most of this list from our own books (lots of children’s books here), from the library, and from Netflix!

    Thanks, Nymeth, that’s a nice thing to call our collection of experiences. It’s a system that really works! However, when we started compiling our list, we realized how many WONDERFUL experiences with The Tempest we have missed! Sir Ian McLellan played Prospero onstage in 1999 (oh sadness…thank goodness there’s a CD version with him performing Prospero) and Sir Derek Jacobi played him in 2003 (We would have loved to see that performance!)

    Thanks, Jill. There’s so much art and photography that could be included. It’s fun to search for all that stuff.

    Thanks, Melanie. You are so lucky to have been able to see William Hutt in his last Tempest performance! I love that photograph of him as Prospero.

    Thanks, Heather. It’s been a lot of fun to immerse ourselves in these various versions. Definitely takes us out of “work mode” and into a different realm.


  5. Bookfool

    Very cool. My eldest son is on a Shakespeare bent, right now. Apparently, he’s fallen in with a group of guys who like to discuss the details and then view movies and debate their merits. Sounds like you’d get along just fine with my eldest son. LOL


  6. Matt

    Will you be retelling the play to the 8 year olds?

    This reminds me of my childhood in Hong Kong when I read retellings of Dickens and Shakespeare. It was a great initiative for me to learn more and to read the original when I grew older.


  7. Robin

    Hi Bookfool. That’s so great that your son and friends enjoy Shakespeare. He’s definitely a kindred spirit.

    Hi Matt, Yes, I’m going to read one of the retellings to my 2nd graders, and I’d love to have them perform little skits from the play. I miss doing Macbeth with my 6th graders, so I need to introduce my cute, toothless 2nd graders to Shakespeare!


  8. Carl V.

    I love J. Waterhouse’s painting Miranda. It has been a favorite since the first time I saw it. Several years ago Barnes and Noble had a series of greeting cards with this and many other pre-raphaelite paintings on them and I snatched up a bunch to give out. They were wonderful and I wish I had purchased even more!


  9. Nan -

    I just love it! No moss grows under your feet. No chance of boredom. Did you hear that Hutt had died? And that he had done Lear for real but it was never recorded so Slings & Arrows offered that opportunity to capture his performance.


  10. Robin

    Hi Carl, I love the Waterhouse painting, too. I have a poster of it at school, and I put it up once a year. Then it’s very difficult to take it down. I never get tired of it.

    Thanks, Nan. No, we don’t get bored…not enough time! I hadn’t heard that Hutt had died (what a loss!), and I didn’t know that about his Lear in Slings and Arrows. We loved the series, and especially loved his part and his performance as Lear. He was wonderful, and I’m so glad they were able to capture that on film. I’m sorry to hear that he is gone.


  11. Chris

    Oh this is so cool Robin! I’m going to reread The Tempest for the Once Upon a Time Challenge this year. It’s my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s where I got my blog’s name from: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” I love that line. Y’all enjoy. What a wonderful idea!


  12. Robin

    Hi Chris, I thought of you when I read the play! I can’t wait for Carl V’s second round of the Once Upon a Time Challenge.


  13. Eigon

    I went to see The Tempest at the Rollright Stones, a prehistoric stone circle.
    It was a magical location, and seeing it outdoors brought home the vagaries of the weather! When the cook looked up at the sky and said something about how dark the clouds looked….
    We saw Mark Rylance’s production – he went on to become director of the Globe.


  14. Robin

    Eigon, I envy your opportunity to see The Tempest in such an incredible setting!! That would be an experience of a lifetime!



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