So for other unrelated reasons I found myself reading the bit in The Tempest where Ariel starts to drive a wedge between Stephano and Trinculo by shouting "Thou liest!" and making them accuse each other. Even just reading the script, that is a funny, funny scene:
I did not give the lie. Out o' your
wits and bearing too? A pox o' your bottle!
this can sack and drinking do. A murrain on
your monster, and the devil take your fingers!
The way that Shakespeare actually writes in a laugh for Caliban? And how Caliban, no doubt cowering near Stephano, gets off the line about "beat him some more, and then I'll beat him too!" They just end up looking like bumbling fools here, something out of the Three Stooges, with Stephano as Moe.
But.... earlier they were talking not just about stealing Prospero's books, but about bashing his head in. This made me think of that particular scene in Taymor's movie where Alfred Molina, as Stephano, and yes, Russell Brand as Trinculo did manage to give off a rather evil vibe, as if for a moment you really did think that you were looking at a couple of stone cold killers.
So I'm wondering, which is it? Are these three buffoons *ever* any threat to Prospero? Does Ariel take them seriously at all? When I tell this story to my kids I never say "Yeah they're gonna kill Prospero", I only ever say "they're going to try and steal his books, because they think that's where all the magic is."
What do you think? Should there be a credible threat in this play, or is that story line all about comedy? I think that I'd rather play up the violence in Sebastian and Antonio, since they are the real enemy - show just how powerful Prospero is that he's so easily manipulating these notorious bad guys.
(* I would include Trinculo in my title but I've been in a Jesus Christ Superstar mood lately and the line above maps nicely the "What then to do about Jesus of Nazareth?" song that's been stuck in my head for days.)