It has been over a month since my last post. I apologise again for this. I do not know how regularly I will be able to keep up the blog but I intend to keep doing it. Just be warned that the updates may be more erratic than originally intended. Here is my latest piece:
Inverting the Tempest
*Spoilers are to be expected*
“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.”
– Robert Frost
Part I: Correspondences
While contemplating the theatrical nature of Quentin Tarantino’s latest release, I noticed it bore striking similarities to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The more I thought about it, the more apparent they became. What surprised me most, however, was that the similarities seemed to correlate so perfectly and the differences seemed so absolutely diametrically opposed as to appear intentional. Below I shall lay out these similarities and differences, followed by more speculative arguments on what this might mean and why Tarantino would have chosen to invert The Tempest and contemporise it with The Hateful Eight.
Prospero’s Books and the Lincoln Letter
The Tempest opens with the eponymous storm, which is revealed in the second scene of the first act to have been caused by Ariel at the behest of Prospero. The magician’s power comes from his books, the volumes that he prizes above his dukedom, which were smuggled to him by Gonzalo when he was exiled. Caliban, when advising Stephano how to overthrow Prospero, knows this:
“First to possess his books; for without them
He’s but a sot, as I am, nor hath not
One spirit to command”
J Middleton Murry notes in his essay ‘Shakespeare’s Dream’ that “There is but one accident in The Tempest, the accident which brings the ship to the island.” Everything after that, including the masque, is his work.
The first chapter of Tarantino’s film shows Major Marquis Warren managing to hitch a ride on The Hangman John Ruth’s stage. Later on, Marquis states that the reason John Ruth accepted him as a passenger was because of the letter from Lincoln, which it transpires he forged. Prospero gets his initial power from books of magic and Marquis gets his initial power from a counterfeit letter from the President. Daisy’s early act of expectoration on the letter is comparable to Caliban’s advice to Stephano to possess Prospero’s books in order to remove his power.
As above, it could be argued that there are only two coincidences in The Hateful Eight; John Ruth’s stagecoach coming across the stranded figure of Marquis, his deceased horse and three bounties; and that same stage coming across the apparent new Sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix. Although it is remarked upon by Ruth as being suspicious, it turns out to be simply chance. Not everything after, however, is the work of Marquis. This is the difference between a master of magic and a mere man.
Prospero keeps his power until the epilogue, but Marquis loses the power he gets from the letter at around the halfway point, when Chris Mannix exposes the letter as a fake. John Ruth then calls it a dirty trick and says it hurt his feelings. He has lost respect for Marquis. As soon as this happens, however, Marquis goes over to General Sandy Smithers and manipulates him into trying to shoot him so he can kill him in self-defence. He uses his mastery of language to try and showcase his power in order maintain control over the rest of the haberdashery’s inhabitants.
The story he relates is like a Tarantino film in miniature. You are not sure if he is serious, the language verges on ludicrous and it uses shocking imagery to provoke a reaction. It is worth noting that although Marquis has lied about the Lincoln letter and within the story lies to the General’s son about giving him a blanket if he performs fellatio on him, he is convincing enough to evoke a reaction from Smithers. His mastery of language is so great that even while he is relating his ability to deceive, he is actually believed. Please note that I do not say his story is a lie, just that all his previous actions would act as evidence to the listener that he would most likely be lying.
Although initially this power play does succeed, it suffers a temporary setback because Marquis has been distracted and has not noticed someone has poisoned the coffee. When this happens, he is quick to make sure the suspects line up against the wall and try to regain power. The threat of being shot is similar to the way Prospero uses the threat of torturous cramps on Caliban and the conspirators, Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban, as well as confining Ariel back in a tree. It is also akin to when Prospero lines up Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian and uses his instrument, Ariel, to gather the usurpers around an imaginary feat and deliver the following speech:
“You are three men of sin, whom Destiny,
That hath to instrument this lower world
And what is in’t, the never-surfeited sea
Hath caused to belch up you; and on this island
Where man doth not inhabit; you ‘mongst men
Being most unfit to live. I have made you mad;
And even with such-like valour men hang and drown
Their proper selves.”
Notably, Gonzalo is also on the stage, just as Chris Mannix is, but it is the three suspects that are gathered into one place. In the scene from the play, Sebastian, Antonio and Alonso draw their swords but to no avail. In the scene from the film, all three suspects have been stripped of their guns and Mannix then switches to the role of Ariel, being supplied with a gun by Marquis.
Unfortunately, Marquis is also unaware that Jody is hiding in the basement, which results in him getting shot in the crotch. Despite this, he manages to persuade Jody to come out from his hiding place by threatening Daisy. It is another example of him using language to show his power. When he suddenly speaks in slow motion, it is because he has lost his power, which came from his language.
The next rebellion comes from Daisy, who tries to use the storytelling to provoke a reaction as Marquis did, getting Chris Mannix to kill Marquis, claiming that the whole gang is on its way and will kill them both unless he sets them free.
However, Marquis has done enough, because he has managed to persuade Chris Mannix that Daisy is lying about the gang and thinks that all that’s left of the gang is in the haberdashery. Daisy’s reasoning with him turns out to be as futile as Caliban cursing Prospero by saying “All the charms/Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!”, as the person/people who are expected to help are all dead. Combined with her constant slurs it is clear that she does not have the mastery of language that Marquis possesses. The protest only results in Mannix and Marquis cooperating to hang her. This reminded me of Caliban’s speech in The Tempest:
“I must obey: his art is of such power,
It would control my dam’s god, Setebos,
and make a vassal of him.”
Mannix idolised General Sandy Smithers, but he has been controlled by Marquis.
In Act V Scene I of The Tempest, Prospero promises that he will “drown” his book once all his work has been done, essentially meaning he will give up his magic when Ariel has guided them safely back to Italy. At the end of The Hateful Eight, Chris Mannix requests the Lincoln letter from Marquis and he hands it to him. Mannix reads it, says that the final sign off is a nice touch, acknowledging the power of his language despite his opinion of his race, and then scrunches it up and throws it on the floor. This is a depiction of Marquis giving up the power he has exercised over the course of the film.
Eight Years Away From American Slavery
Slavery is a subject of Shakespeare’s final play that became a more prominent interpretation with the advent of postcolonial criticism. Notable examples of this are Aimé Césaire’s adaptation, Une Tempête, (which features Prospero as a white slave master, a mixed-race Ariel and Caliban as a black slave,) and Octave Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonisation.
The Tempest was written in 1611, eight years before the first slaves arrived in America. The Hateful Eight is set approximately eight years after the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery, and so there are no slaves. Marquis, however, does share some traits with Caliban, although he is considerably wilier about his use of them.
Caliban is a native of the island, the only person born there, and showed Prospero:
“All the qualities o’ the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile”
He also makes promises to Stephano:
“I’ll show thee the best springs; I’ll pluck thee berries;
I’ll fish for thee and get thee wood enough.”
“Let me bring thee where crabs grow;
And I with my long nails will dig thee pignuts;
Show thee a jay’s nest and instruct thee how
To snare the nimble marmoset; I’ll bring thee
To clustering filberts and sometimes I’ll get thee
Young scamels from the rock.”
The only person who has any familiarity with Minnie’s Haberdashery within the timeframe of the film is Major Marquis Warren. (Obviously Minnie, Sweet Dave and Six Horse Judy are familiar, but they appear only in a flashback and are all dead by the time the action starts). He is a ‘native’ to the haberdashery in the same way that Caliban is a native to the island in The Tempest.
Marquis notices a sweet on the floor that should not be there, that the stew must have been cooked by Minnie and that Sweet Dave is not in his chair. He also questions Señor Bob’s claim that Minnie left him in charge because he knows that she used to have a sign that said no dogs and no Mexicans, which she only took down because she started letting in dogs, and that Minnie did not allow hats, a rule that many of the haberdashery’s inhabitants seem to have flouted.
The important difference here is that Marquis withholds his knowledge of the haberdashery from those who might abuse it to gain power over him, while Caliban uses it to try and persuade people to side with him, even a drunkard and a fool. It begs the question, in a world without slavery, does Caliban become Prospero?
The Tempest And The Blizzard
Why is The Tempest called The Tempest when the tempest in the play, even though it sets up the rest of the action, is only the first very short scene? Frank Davidson’s essay ‘The Tempest: An Interpretation’ points out that “In the books of philosophy and psychology of the day a not unusual symbol for the passions is a tempest.” Earlier in the piece, he notes that all the revolts in the play “save that of Ariel, who can act under the direction of reason, originate in uncontrolled passions: ambitious desire, anger, hatred, youthful love, cupidity.”
Tarantino inverts this symbolism by using a blizzard which, as the above poem does with ice, he uses as a symbol for hate. It also sets up the action but its presence continues throughout the film. In the play, Prospero’s allaying of the wild waters is an early example of how his actions lead to serenity. In the film, all the major characters are suffused with a perpetual hatred that cannot be changed. Thus, the blizzard continues.
This symbolism is apparent from the opening scene of the film, which features a carving of Christ on the cross, a representation of the ultimate act of love, covered in snow. Just in case the distinction was not clear enough, Oswaldo even has a speech about the dispassion of justice, countered by John Ruth’s hateful maxim: “You only need to hang mean bastards, but mean bastards you need to hang.”
The Last Shakespeare Play, The Eighth Tarantino Film
The obvious question then presents itself: Why is The Hateful Eight called The Hateful Eight when there appear to be more than eight hateful characters? (I do not count O.B., who does nothing that could be considered hateful.) One answer is because it is Tarantino’s eighth film, as he lets you know when the title appears. This depends on the viewer counting the two volumes of Kill Bill as one film, which it was originally intended to be. However, there is a ninth ‘hateful’ character: Jody. He is Daisy’s brother and part of the only familial relationship of the film. I have a theory that this is a joke by Tarantino and that the two siblings represent the two volumes of Kill Bill and therefore count as one of the ‘Hateful Eight’. Shakespeare would never be drawn into such a cheap thing as to reference his own career in a play, right?
Maybe not: Near the conclusion of his essay, ‘The Shakespearean Superman’, G. Wilson Knight comments the following:
“Prospero has been on the island for twelve years; and it is roughly twelve years since the sequence of greater plays started with Hamlet. Before that, Ariel had been imprisoned in a tree for another twelve years; again, roughly, the time spent by Shakespeare in his earlier work’.
Both works draw us toward looking at them as a stage in their creator’s career, as part of their oeuvre. There is also another possibility as to where Tarantino took the title from, although I think it is probably more a coincidence than an intentional homage. Charles Lamb, in his 1811 work ‘On The Tragedies Of Shakespeare’, writes:
“to have a conjuror brought before us in his conjuring-gown, with his spirits about him, which none but himself and some hundred of favoured spectators before the curtain are supposed to see, involves such a quantity of the hateful incredible, that all our reverence for the author cannot hinder us from perceiving such gross attempts upon the senses to be in the highest degree childish and inefficient.”
Obviously there is no magic in The Hateful Eight, but replace it with violence and the comment could easily be made of Tarantino’s film.
The Hateful Eight is also divided into eight sections (six chapters, a prelude and an interval) and, as stated above, it could be set eight years after the Civil War. A possible abbreviation for the film, H8, is an internet slang term for ‘hate’. A neo-Nazi symbol for ‘Heil Hitler’ is 88 because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, something Tarantino would probably have come across in his research for Inglourious Basterds if he had not already come across it when naming the gang The Crazy 88’s in Kill Bill. I would like to point out that I am not claiming Tarantino is a closet Neo-Nazi; just that it ties in to the theme of hate.
Chapter 3 and Act III Scene III
Here I would like to elaborate on the correspondences between Chapter 3 of The Hateful Eight and Act III Scene III of The Tempest. I have already outlined how the general narrative of the film bears striking similarities to the play, but this is a point where a specific scene has resonances.
I have explained the action that takes place in Chapter 3 above, when Marquis tells his story to the General. In the scene of the play, there is a ‘solemn and strange music’ in the stage directions. Similarly, the story in the film is soundtracked by Señor Bob playing the piano. Ariel creates the illusion of a banquet that the onlookers believe is real, just as Marquis creates a story so convincing that it is depicted as a flashback. When the banquet vanishes and Ariel appears, the conspirators draw their swords but Ariel makes them too heavy to hold to show his power:
“Your swords are now too massy for your strengths
And will not be uplifted.”
Despite their behaviour, Prospero’s servant is merciful. When the General goes to shoot Marquis, however, Marquis kills him before he has a chance to. Marquis does the opposite of Prospero’s motto in Act V Scene I, that “The rarer action is/In virtue than in vengeance.” Note also that the action comes after they have been eating stew at the table, as it does in the play after the usurpers have discovered the banquet and watched it disappear. The correlation here is that the usurpers have tried to dine on the feast before them, believing they have power, but it is pulled away from them, just as Marquis has seemed to lose power to Chris Mannix, only to regain it instantly via his linguistic power.
In The Tempest, the effect it has on those who witnessed the apparition is explained by Gonzalo:
“All three of them are desperate: their great guilt,
Like poison given to work a great time after,
Now ‘gins to bite the spirits. I do beseech you
That are of suppler joints, follow them swiftly
And hinder them from what this ecstasy
May now provoke them to.”
Similarly, those who witness the killing of the General spend some time debating the legality of what has happened, except for Marquis, who sits on his own knowing he is in the clear. Also worth nothing is that, in The Hateful Eight, this is the point where a literal poison is put into the coffee and begins to work upon the drinkers.
Premonitions of Hanging
At the beginning of The Tempest, Gonzalo prophesies that the boatswain was born to hang in order to reassure himself that he and all aboard will not drown. At the end of the play, the boatswain turns up and the ship is intact courtesy of Prospero’s magic, proving Gonzalo’s speculation correct.
At the beginning of The Hateful Eight, Marquis states that “When the hangman catches you, you hang.” Obviously he did not realise that John Ruth would die before the execution could be carried out, but at the end he and Chris Mannix perform the hanging that would have taken place, and so he proves himself right.
Westing (By Musket And Sextant)
Shakespeare wrote The Tempest at a time when the exploration of an uncharted globe by the British was contemporary. In order to write a contemporary version of The Tempest, it would therefore seem most logical to adapt it to the exploration of the universe and space travel but Forbidden Planet had already done it. For an American, the great uncharted territory of their history was the Wild West. Also, Tarantino is not just contemporising it: He is also inverting it. This is why I suspect the date in which the film is set to be approximately eight years after the American abolition of slavery: Because The Tempest was written and first performed approximately eight years before the first slaves arrived in America.
Daisy And Miranda
Daisy is the only woman in the time-frame of The Hateful Eight excluding the flashback. Miranda is the only woman in the time-frame of The Tempest excluding reminiscences. Miranda’s name means wonderful or admirable and she plays the part of a noble, beautiful and virtuous woman. Daisy’s name is the most commonplace of flowers and she is an outlaw who first appears with a black eye and becomes more bruised and covered in blood as the narrative progresses. Her continuous usage of the n-word is anything but virtuous.
There is no character in The Tempest like Daisy, but there is one who is part of Stephano’s song in Act II Scene II:
“The master, the swabber, the boatswain, and I,
The gunner and his mate
Loved Mall, Meg, and Marian and Margery,
But none of us cared for Kate.
For she had a tongue with a tang,
Would cry to a sailor, “Go hang!”
She loved not the savour of tar nor of pitch,
Yet a tailor might scratch her where’er she did itch.
Then to sea, boys, and let her go hang!”
Both Miranda’s and Minnie’s names begin with the same letter as those who are loved and Kate is set up as the antithesis. Daisy’s relentless use of the n-word to Marquis and her urging of Chris Mannix to kill him is comparable to Kate crying ‘Go hang!’ to a sailor, although obviously sans the race hate, and her ultimate fate is that which Stephano wishes upon his subject.
Daisy also possesses some of the traits of Caliban. Her racial abuse of Marquis is reminiscent of Caliban’s lines to Prospero:
“You taught me language; and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!”
The blood and bruises that slowly amass over Daisy’s face also reminded me of a production of Titus Andronicus I saw in which by the end the entire stage was covered in blood. It is worth nothing that that play, initially criticised for being too unbelievable violent, was reappraised as being more realistic following the horrors of the Twentieth Century.
Sea-Changes and Stagnation
In The Tempest, music is often used to change people’s perceptions of what is happening. The first instance of this is the famous song about a ‘sea-change’ that Ariel sings to Ferdinand, which makes him think that his father has perished in the storm. In The Hateful Eight, the song Daisy sings when she is playing the guitar almost has the effect of changing John Ruth’s opinion of her, but subverts it. She begins by singing a few verses about how many things she would rather have happen to her than be condemned to Botany Bay. John Ruth seems to admire this melody, and it reinforces his idea that what is happening to her is just punishment, as well as suggesting she has some feelings of which he was not aware. When she continues at his request, she begins a verse about escaping to Mexico, and he reverts to his original opinion of her, signified by treating her as he did before and smashing her guitar.
Both The Tempest and The Hateful Eight feature people playing games of chess. In The Tempest, it is partly a representation of the battle between the “civilised” white magic of Prospero and Ariel and the natural black magic of Sycorax and Caliban, and partly, in the way that Ferdinand and Miranda flirt over the board, shows how two dynasties have been combined.
The symbolism in The Hateful Eight is very different. In part it is a representation of the Civil War that has just taken place, in part an indication of how poor the General is at power plays because Sweet Dave always beats him, and partly representative of the racial hatred in the film. Señor Bob’s inability to remember how the pieces move represents his role as a pawn, rather than a player in the power games going on.
Tarantino also plays with black and white symbolism in other areas. The stagecoach that John Ruth first appears in has one white horse leading the way. There is one black person within the duration of the film. A white horse is the colour of Death’s horse in the bible. Does Tarantino presage that Marquis has led the rest of The Hateful Eight to their deaths?
Sycorax’s Isle & Minnie’s Haberdashery
Tarantino also inverts the setting of The Tempest. Whereas in the latter, they are on an island in the open air and none of the action takes place indoors, in the former most of the action takes place in an enclosed room in Wyoming, a landlocked state.
Several commentators have referred to the island in The Tempest as Prospero’s Isle because throughout the duration of the play he is the de facto ruler, forgetting that the island is Caliban’s by Sycorax his mother. Sycorax is dead by the time Prospero arrives, however, just as Minnie is by the time Marquis, John, Daisy and OB arrive.
A haberdashery is also the perfect symbol for a place in which lying is so predominant. It makes me think of the lines from Walter Scott’s epic poem, Marmion: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave/When first we practise to deceive!” Shakespeare also used a handkerchief as a symbol for Iago’s deceit in Othello. It even occurs in Prospero’s most famous speech in The Tempest, when he says “Like the baseless fabric of this vision” and in the etymology of fabrication.
Back To Basics: The Classical Unities and 70mm Film
The Tempest is anomalous among Shakespeare’s plays as it rigorously adheres to the classical unities of action, time and place. The whole thing takes place within the span of a day and on or in the vicinity of the island. All the actions are the result of Prospero’s planning. The Hateful Eight does likewise, with the exception of unity of action, which passes from one person to another but is mostly maintained by Marquis.
There was also probably considerable use of special effects in The Tempest, made possible by Shakespeare and his company moving to the Blackfriars Theatre in 1608. One of the reasons Tarantino may have chosen to film The Hateful Eight in 70mm is because he wanted to be make it more believable. Any effects he uses are to show off the details of real human faces and the spaces they are in. The change of theatres for Shakespeare was comparable to the advent of digital technology. If Tarantino wanted to imitate The Tempest, he could easily have used some visual trickery, but he wants to circumvent any potential for this by using the supposedly outdated film technique.
O.B. And The Boatswain
In the opening scene of The Tempest, the boatswain orders his noble passengers to be calm and Gonzalo takes comfort in the fact that such insubordination means he is destined to be hanged rather than drowned. In the opening scene of The Hateful Eight, O.B. is almost the complete opposite, deferring Marquis’s request for a ride to his fare, the hangman John Ruth, who ‘paid a pretty penny’ for privacy.
The alteration is partly due to the structural differences between the social foundations in which each work was written: Shakespeare was writing in a Britain where titles elicited reverence, while Tarantino was writing in a capitalist America where money matters. O.B. is also not quite as invaluable to the success of the journey as the boatswain, as evidenced by the way he is treated.
Coincidences?: Confederates and Confections
There are a couple of correlations between Shakespeare’s play and Tarantino’s film that I cannot help but think are coincidences. Firstly, there is this speech from Prospero:
“You do yet taste
Some subtilties o’ the isle, that will not let you
Believe things certain.”
There is a note in my Norton Anthology of Shakespeare that relates the following:
““Subtleties” were also sweet confections shaped like castles, temples, beasts, allegorical figures, etc., and arrange like a pageant.”
Minnie’s haberdashery is full of “sweet confections”, but they are not arranged like a pageant but placed in jars. This could be Tarantino countering the magic with the reality of things but I would be surprised. If it is intentional, props.
Another Prospero speech:
“I had forgot that foul conspiracy
Of the beast Caliban and his confederates
Against my life: the minute of their plot
Is almost come.”
The ‘confederates’ reminded me of the Confederacy, the losing side of the Civil War who plot against John Ruth and Marquis’s life. I suspect this is just an accident of language.
Part II: Symbolic Speculations
God and Humanity
In the same G Wilson Knight essay as quoted above, he states that “Prospero manipulates his own plot like a god.” There is an argument to say that he manipulates the events like God himself. He executes his plans without seeming to act; he accepts and acknowledges as his the perceived evil of Caliban as part of his own version of divine providence, much as Satan is part of the Almighty’s masterplan; he releases Ariel as though he is the soul escaping from the body; he unites Miranda and Ferdinand as a kind of Adam and Eve; and he allows everyone to return to his Milan, where everything will apparently be happy ever after in the manner of the afterlife.
I am not the first person to extrapolate such an analogy: In “Shakespeare’s Dream”, J Middleton Murry writes:
“The island is a realm where God is good, where true Reason rules; it is what would be if Humanity – the best in man – controlled the life of man. And Prospero is a man in whom the best in man has won the victory. […] The island is a realm, then; controlled by a man who has become himself, and has the desire, the will and the power to make other men themselves.”
No such spiritual relation can be made to the characters in The Hateful Eight. Marquis is very much a fallible human, but imbued with a peculiarly American version of self-reliance. There is no such thing as omnipotence or omniscience in Tarantino’s world. Marquis rules not by magical will but by persuasion and violence. Spiritual benevolence has been inverted into physical malevolence. Evil and hate have become a part of everyone instead of confined to one supposedly malign influence. What is left behind is not the soul, but a scrunched up piece of paper and several bodies, the only proof that Marquis was ever there, as humans try to leave art to achieve some kind of ersatz immortality. Everybody dies and there is no afterlife. It is perhaps a reflection of the current prevalence of atheism that such a comparison could be made.
To adapt and invert Murry’s claims about the island and Prospero, it could be argued that the haberdashery is a realm where God is absent and hate rules. It is what it would be if the worst in man had won the victory. It is controlled by a man who cannot make other people themselves, but can manipulate their innate natures and sometimes end their lives.
Kings and Presidents
Shakespeare was writing when James I was King. The monarch had already shown an interest in magic and had written a book on witchcraft. It was important for Shakespeare to write plays that would interest the King as they could be requested to be performed at court at any time and, in 1613, The Tempest was performed for a royal wedding. It would have been very pleasing to the King who, along with his wife, was very fond of masques, to see a benevolent ruler using white magic to ensure prosperity. The King, it must be remembered, was supposed to be appointed to rule by God. In the same way that Prospero’s books granted him power, 1611, the year The Tempest was written and performed, the King James Bible, the book he patronised, was completed. In a way, his own power came from a single book, the Bible.
Tarantino is not writing for anybody but his audience, but it is notable that the protagonist of the film is a black man whose power comes from a piece of paper in the same way that Obama’s presidency is reliant upon the constitution, a document not divinely inspired but composed by men. A president is also considerably less omnipotent than a King, and so his power must be constantly retained, as Marquis retains his. The falsity of the Lincoln letter makes this analogy not entirely work, but it did remind me of the many calls for Obama to release his birth certificate and then the allegations that it was forged.
Further evidence for this theory, however, involves the haberdashery being a metaphorical representation of America as at one point it is divided between into two regions, the north and the south, but by the end such boundaries are meaningless. Marquis’s name, also, refers to a ruler of the borderlands, suggesting he is in some way a ruler and wielder of power in the Wild West setting. His surname is an artificial enclosure for animals, so his name could be interpreted as ruler of the haberdashery, which contains the ‘animals’ that are its inhabitants. He has a military rank, just as the President is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Arguably, his rank in the Union Army, Major, is eight ranks below the President’s. His name could therefore be translated as Major Ruler of the Haberdashery, a kind of microcosm of Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States of America.
There is also the possibility that the ‘Hateful Eight’ of the title could return to Obama’s two terms, or eight years, as President, not because of his actions, but because of the increasing racial tension in the States, which has led to the popularity of Donald Trump as a potential candidate for supreme leader of the free world, and the constant criticism Obama has endured.
The Writer and the Theatre, the Director and the Film Set
Many people have commented on the remarkable similarities of Prospero and Shakespeare. Coleridge was the first to make this analogy. Murry, in the essay quote above calls Prospero:
“To some extent, an imaginative paradigm of Shakespeare himself in his function as poet; and that he does in part embody Shakespeare’s self-awareness at the conclusion of his poetic career.”
G Wilson Knight even goes so far as to say that “The Tempest, patterned of storm and music, is […] an interpretation of Shakespeare’s world.”
The speeches that are most commonly asserted to be allegorical for Shakespeare retiring from the theatre is the one in which Prospero gives up his illusions in Act IV:
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
As well as this one from Act V Scene I:
“But this rough magic
I here abjure, and, when I have required
Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.”
So much has been written on this subject that it is difficult to choose the most apt quotation. Suffice to say that Prospero has often been seen as Shakespeare, Ariel, his books and staff as his Art, and the island as his stage.
Tarantino has more than the role of a writer as he is also a director. He cannot merely wish something to happen, write it down and make it so. That is just the beginning, as the writing of the script could be seen as analogous to Marquis’s writing of the Lincoln letter. He has control in the first chapter, entitled ‘Last Stage To Red Rock’, which could be read as a pun on a theatrical stage. After that, when it comes to filming, he must expand his vision and constantly strive to retain his power over what happens as Marquis does when he arrives at Minnie’s Haberdashery. The haberdashery is not entirely isolated like Prospero’s island or Shakespeare’s stage because, like a film set, it is subject to the vagaries inherent in the process of filming. Eventually, when Tarantino dies, all that will be left of him are his films, which are crafted to include bits of dialogue to make them more believable, just as Marquis leaves the letter. As Chris Mannix says at the very ending of the film about the line “Old Mary Todd’s calling, so I guess it must be time to go”, it is a “nice touch”.
Conclusion: Tarantino Turns The Tempest Tragic
Given the amount of similarities between The Tempest and The Hateful Eight, I find it hard to believe this was not Tarantino’s intention: To invert it, turn it from romance to tragedy, and contemporise it even when he was setting it in the past. The Tempest has retained its place as one of Shakespeare’s best works by virtue of the malleability of its meanings. Even if it was not Tarantino’s intention, the above speculations on what Tarantino might be trying to say with The Hateful Eight show that it is equally adaptable to different interpretations and, although reviews of it have been mixed so far, I think it is a mark of a work of art that will stand the test of time.