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Prospero Explains (from The Tempest IV.i.148-63)(1611)

William Shakespeare

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
MeterOur revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
MeterAs I foretold you, were all spirits and

Note on line 2: Finding a fifth stress in this line reveals interesting options for the actor, of which 4B4V envisions two. First, an impresario Prospero can summon a bit of a drum roll in the last foot, suspending the audience’s attention by dramatically stressing the very seldom stressed conjunction “and” — before blowing the spirits off in the following line. Even better, perhaps, is to leave that last foot the pyrrhic it appears to be, and put the stress instead on an iambic third foot. Stress on “were” lets Prospero say I-told-you-so (a role he’s fond of elsewhere in the play) and twit the audience for having believed in his magic despite their advance knowledge that it was all a trick. A sensible actor, limiting himself to five stresses, will attempt either of these options but not both at once.

Are melted into air, into thin air;
MeterAre melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
MeterAnd, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces
MeterThe cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
MeterThe solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
MeterYea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,

Note on line 7: As in line 2 above (see former note), either “it” in the second foot or “shall” in the fourth foot might draw stress, but probably not both syllables at once. The latter option lets Prospero wave again the wand of his believe-it-or-not clairvoyance — secured now, to be sure, by that other magic book, Revelation in the Bible.

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
MeterAnd, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
MeterLeave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
MeterAs dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vexed.
MeterIs rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vexed.
Bear with my weakness: my old brain is troubled.
MeterBear with my weakness: my old brain is troubled.
Be not disturbed with my infirmity.
MeterBe not disturbed with my infirmity.
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
MeterIf you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose. A turn or two I’ll walk
MeterAnd there repose. A turn or two I’ll walk
To still my beating mind.
MeterTo still my beating mind.

Show Stress    Foot division    Caesura    Syncopation