I was delighted - no, let's say 'stunned' - this week to be awarded first place in Newcastle Theatre Royal's 2011 Creative Writing competition. The brief was to write about a favourite Shakespeare character, in prose, poetry or script form.
I decided to write about Ariel, after he has been released from servitude by his master, Prospero. I began with prose, but quickly found that I couldn't say what I wanted to say in that form. I found myself channelled towards poetry instead - against my will, I might add, because I don't regard myself as a poet at all, and feel very self-conscious about the whole process!
This was a bit of a lesson in the gritting-of-teeth-and-just-getting-on-with-it. With two days to go before the deadline, and feeling disheartened and lacking in confidence, my choice was clear: did I give up and let myself down, or did I just chip away at it until I'd got something I could submit? I chose the latter option. I hope you enjoy the result!
‘My Ariel, chick,
That is thy charge. Then to the elements
Be free, and fare thou well.’
The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1
You are roused by the sunrise, airy spirit,
curled up snug within a cowslip’s bell,
yawning and stretching, and breathing in
a freedom you have only ever dreamed of.
Blinking awake, you eagerly refresh yourself
from pure, new dewdrops, sweet and
sparkling in the rosy light of dawn,
reflecting back at you your blissful liberation.
Brushing away the pollen grains that
hang about your lustrous skin,
you take to the air on opalescent wings
alive as springtime, dazzling and unseen.
Creature of fire and magic and
mystical music, you flit invisible
through Prospero’s beloved library,
brushing his happy cheek as you pass by.
You swoop and soar with swallows on their journey
north, watching fields and trees surge back to life
beneath your flashing wings, leaving Milan,
Naples, far behind and heading for the sea,
and England, and the Thames, until
you find the special shape you’re searching for.
On whirring wings you spiral round that
legendary Wooden O, your destiny close by.
Backstage, a bearded man sleeps soundly
when he should be working. Quill in hand,
he’s slouched across a ripe, blank page,
waiting for inspiration. Words. A Play.
You have your servant now, quaint Ariel:
Will Shakespeare, here, to do your bidding.
So settle on that noble shoulder,
dainty sprite, and whisper to his dreams.
Tell him of incarceration, slavery, and honest,
faithful servitude, of raising a tempest,
setting aflame the topmast of a ship, and
leaving everyone unharmed, as you were tasked.
Tell him how wrongs were righted,
treacheries revealed and yearned-for freedoms
finally delivered. And watch him stirring in his slumber,
a gentle smile tickling that fine face.
And then, brave Ariel, ask him: ‘Was’t well done?’