Imagine you’re a fifteen-year-old girl. For as long as you can remember, you have lived on an island, with noone else than your father, who can do magic, and a boy who used to be your playmate. But when your little games got too exciting, your dad put him to work. You don’t speak to anyone else. Quarantine is your life.
One day, a storm hits the coast. Lightning sets the sea ablaze. Between the foamy waves you see a ship heading for the rocks, out of control. You see people on the ship! They are in need! You beg your father, the magician, to calm the sea. Then, louder than thunder, your father’s voice thunders: “Calm down. There’s no harm done. I have done nothing but in care of you, my daughter. You don’t know what you are, since you don’t know who I am or where I come from, or that I’m better than merely Prospero, your humble father.”
Then he tells you about the time when you still lived in a city that was your father’s Duchy; About his brother, who conspired against him; About your trip to the island. You fall asleep. When you wake up, your life has changed.
The question is how life has changed. Because this is the point where we arrived, in this 21st century pandemic, which will go down in history as The Great Lockdown. We are in the first act of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Characters and situations in Shakespeare’s plays often allude to people and events of the time when overt criticism of church or state was severely punished. No mercy, no differentiations: your final hour had come if you didn’t take care. By using allusions, an engaged artist could express hidden criticism. And although four centuries ago, the challenges differed from those today, Shakespeare’s critical mirror is still applicable. Like The Tempest, too. Because that fifteen-year-old girl is you: unsuspecting-Citizen-Somewhere-On-Earth, Quarantined by The Man: Authority, who enslaved your wild boyfriend – child of Nature – and already killed his mother – Nature – long ago. You have been living out of balance ever since.
Then comes Hurricane Corona, which runs the ship aground, washing up all its passengers – other Citizens, Administration, Healthcare, Media, Economy, Banks, Multinationals, SMEs – on the island: Quarantine. You, unsuspecting-Citizen-Somewhere-On-Earth, find Society’s son – alias Public Health and Social Measures – as your life partner. In Quarantine, everyone is experiencing weird and wonderful weeks, powered by that father of yours, The Man who, thanks to Hurricane Corona, has all under control, with the help of his airy spirit Ariel: Science? “No reasons to complain,” he had said just before you fell asleep. “Sleep peacefully.” But what world did you wake up to?
Literally, the heads of satirists no longer roll. Figuratively we see them rolling in the media every day. Words are twisted, sharp observations put aside, fear increased, real questions avoided. In our quarantine bubble we look no further than our own two metres. But as we are confining ourselves to that closer look, we cannot see what is happening now – and may be later – elsewhere in the world. Who suffers most sorely from the dreaded aches we feared?
It’s time for Shakespeare’s Corona Cryptogram. Time to analyze and project the pattern of the remaining four acts of The Tempest, or Hurricane Corona, on our Great Lockdown. We may discover connections between fear and illusion, power and oppression: The old story of the settler and the slave. Know that this play has no decisive ending. Prospero does not know either. To us, Audience, he says: “Gentle breath of yours, my sails must fill.” Because he wants to get back into life’s flow, therefore needs us to move. So, keep breathing, people. Think beyond those two metres, work together. Then we can move on.