From Mr John Moore.
Sir, I hope the producers of the Olympics’ opening ceremony, The Isles of Wonder (“Olympics’ opening show to feature NHS nurses”, January 28) understand the challenge they have set themselves by using The Tempest as their main inspiration. Shakespeare’s pastoral romance is, after all, a deeply ambivalent and jarring experience for many audiences. To start with, it’s an uncomfortable mixture of dream and nightmare – one moment a utopian “Golden Age” based on material abundance and common ownership, the next an island threatened by deadly storms and native insurrection.
It is also seen by many as a thinly veiled legitimation of English colonialism with the white magician, Prospero, enslaving the native inhabitants of a Caribbean island on the pretext that they are a “vile” and “brutish” race, one of whom – Caliban, the son of the black witch, Sycorax – has tried to rape his daughter, Miranda. This sort of discourse was certainly very functional for Shakespeare given that some of his patrons were prominent members of the Virginia Company and the play was initially produced at the expansionist court of James I.
Given these troubling themes, it is hardly surprising that Aldous Huxley chose Miranda’s description of the island, “Oh brave new world”, as the title and underlying theme of his dystopian novel in which specially cloned Alphas rule over mass-produced Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons and in a state-controlled, narcotic-induced dream world.
Let’s hope the producers of The Isles of Wonder will rise to their self-imposed challenge.
John Moore, Guildford, Surrey, UK