College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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Shakespeare, gender, prospera, identity, hierarchy


Julie Taymor’s The Tempest was released in 2010 and received mixed critical response though almost all critics lauded Helen Mirren’s performance as Prospera, the first female Prospero in a major film. In the spirit of the original, almost all of the dialogue is Shakespeare’s save for some voiceover where Prospera explains a modified origin story. Taymor’s film challenges stereotypical character identities in Shakespeare’s plays through casting, dialogue, and editing. Casting Helen Mirren as Prospera changes the dominant figure from a patriarchal tyrant to a matriarchal enlightened despot while casting Djimon Hounsou as Caliban forces an examination of colonial history in Shakespeare. Dialogue is trimmed and condensed, even added in very extreme circumstances as Taymor changes the dynamic to lessen misogynist stereotypes. Editing provides her with a weapon to accent her other moves with lighting and sound in ways that add to the classic story instead of distracting from them like her Tempest predecessors Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway. This paper will show how Taymor’s reimagining casts characters anew, forcing an interrogation of those characters’ history, representations, and meaning as she explores whether or not Shakespeare was a feminist, sexist, or something else.