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Disturbing Dreams and Transcendence in Birdman and The Tempest

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Abstract

In Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s 2014 Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), the implications of a man who situationally resembles Shakespeare’s Prospero are played out in the St. James Theatre in New York City. A washed-up action film star, 20 years past his prime, mounts a stage production of a short story he has adapted, accompanied by his mental alter-ego, the superhero Birdman. Along with its meditation on the dangers of adaptation itself, the film traces the arc of the hero’s life in extraordinary sympathy with Prospero’s experience in The Tempest: both heroes are on an island, with their daughters, desperately seeking restitution and a form of resurrection before they die.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-28898-3_4
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Fig. 4.1
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Fig. 4.3
Fig. 4.4

Notes

  1. 1.

    Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Twentieth Century Fox, 2014), at 1:27:00. All time citations from the film come from the DVD copy.

  2. 2.

    According to the Internet Movie Database, the film won four Oscars, and overall, from several film organizations, garnered 193 awards from 271 nominations (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2562232/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)

  3. 3.

    Stephen Kitay Orgel, “New Uses of Adversity: Tragic Experience in The Tempest,” in James L. Calderwood and Harold E. Toliver, eds., Essays in Shakespearean Criticism (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1970), 368–87; p. 369. This comment is relevant to the continuities of Birdman: “For Prospero, indeed, idea and action, metaphor and drama merge; the distinction between thinking a thing and doing it has essentially disappeared” (370).

  4. 4.

    All citations from The Tempest will be from the third Arden edition, ed. V.M. Vaughan and A.T. Vaughan (London: Methuen, 2000).

  5. 5.

    John Quinn, review of Birdman in Thinking Faith: Jesuits in Britain, posted on January 9, 2015, at http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/birdman

  6. 6.

    IMDB, supra n. 2.

  7. 7.

    Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post, at https://www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/movies/birdman-movie-review-michael-keaton-winks-as-a-comeback-comes-full-circle/2014/10/23/c0dcfc98-59d8-11e4-8264-deed989ae9a2_story.html. Posted October 23, 2014. I make some elisions in this quotation to cut out the names of the actors in the film.

  8. 8.

    The story is available in Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories (New York: Vintage, rpt. 1989), 170–85.

  9. 9.

    As several reviewers notice, as many as 16 separate cuts are distinguishable in the film. See David Bordwell’s technical analysis, at his website Observations on Film Art, “Birdman: Following Riggan’s Orders”: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2015/02/23/birdman-following-riggans-orders

  10. 10.

    Anthony Lane, “High Fliers: Birdman and Whiplash,” The New Yorker, Oct. 20, 2014, at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/20/high-fliers-3

  11. 11.

    Alvin Kernan, “Meaning and Emptiness in King Lear and The Tempest,” Renaissance Drama, New Series 18, Essays on Sexuality, Influence, and Performance (1987): 225–236; p. 234.

  12. 12.

    For a thorough consideration of the film’s technique, complete with an informative history of the long take in cinema, see Bordwell, “Birdman: Following Riggan’s Orders.” For a contrary view about the value of the tracking shot in the film, see Sam Krowchenko, “The long tracking shot to nowhere: Why flashy camera work shouldn’t earn Birdman an Oscar,” at http://www.salon.com/2015/02/16/the_long_tracking_shot_to_nowhere_why_flashy_camera_work_shouldnt_earn_birdman_an_oscar/

  13. 13.

    As quoted in Krowchenko, “The long tracking shot.” The quotation is actually from Edward Norton, a key supporting actor, who was quoting Iñárritu.

  14. 14.

    Roger Ebert, “Russian Ark,” Jan. 31, 2003; at http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/russian-ark-2003

  15. 15.

    See the well-known opening long take in Orson Welles’s A Touch of Evil (Universal City Studios, 1958) for a fine example of this real/nonreal duality.

  16. 16.

    Holly Willis, Fast Forward: The Future(s) of the Cinematic Arts (New York: Columbia UP, 2016), 141. As is the case in Birdman, the long take need not generate disjunctive unreality as seems to exist in dreams; some action-movie directors (John Woo, Hard Boiled, 1992, Prachya Pinkaew, The Protector (Tom Yum Goong), 2005; and Alfonso Cuarón, Children of Men 2006) have deployed it as a way of highlighting danger or risk. See Matt Trueman, “Birdman: The best film about theater ever made?” at http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/jan/07/birdman-best-film-about-theatre-ever-made

  17. 17.

    For an explication of these qualities, see Douglas Bruster, To Be Or Not To Be (London: Continuum, 2007).

  18. 18.

    On this aspect of the play, see Harry Berger Jr., “Miraculous Harp: A Reading of Shakespeare’s Tempest,” reprinted in Second World and Green World: Studies in Renaissance Fiction-Making (Berkeley: U of California P, 1988), 147–85; p. 160. Berger’s fine early (1969) essay writes against sentimentalist readings of the play; as will be clear, I strongly endorse his intuition of “Prospero’s relief at having got rid of the real world” (169 n.24).

  19. 19.

    OED Online, peg. v.t., def. 1 trans. (refl.); Obs., rare. The only illustrative quotation for this definition comes from 1450, and the word may not have had a common relation to ingestion or excretion, but the following lines from the play suggest it might have.

  20. 20.

    S.v. “Butt,” n. 6. II.8.b.: “colloquial (chiefly English regional (north-western) and U.S. regional (western) in early use....). A person’s buttocks.” At http://www.oed.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/view/Entry/25363

    Frankie Rubinstein’s substantial update to Partridge’s Shakespeare’s Bawdy is her A Dictionary of Shakespeare’s Sexual Puns and Their Significance, 2nd. edn. (Macmillan, 1989), which gives connotations and definitions that that help bring the “low” characters of The Tempest into better focus. This passage is worth quoting at length; it appears under “Any”:

    Buttocks. Ane (Rabelais, asne): ass…

    Tem, 2.2.136: Trinculo: ‘O Stephano, hast any more of this?’ –to which Stephano replies, ‘The whole butt, man.’ The butt: a cask of wine and a buttock. Whole: hole or pudendum; hole or anus…

    Both men are asses; note the revealing suffixes of their names: 1) ano, fundament or bum; 2) culo, fundament, arse or tail. ‘Trinculo, if you trouble him any more in’s tale’ (3.2.55).

    Rubinstein , p. 15. My mention of “wind” as digestive gas owes something to Rubinstein (304). Her conflation of asses and the anatomical region of the “ass” surely looks back to Bottom, who triumphs over his name to become elegant and perceptive once his ass-dom physically manifests itself.

  21. 21.

    Shakespeare had recently experimented with this constellation of corporeal thoughts in Othello and Coriolanus. For illuminating studies of both texts in these terms, see Ben Saunders, “Iago’s Clyster: Purgation, Anality, and the Civilizing Process,” Shakespeare Quarterly 55.2 (2004): 148–176; and Jonathan Goldberg, “The Anus in Coriolanus,” in Historicism, Psychoanalysis, and Early Modern Culture, eds. Carla Mazzio and Douglas Trevor (New York and London: Routledge, 2000), 160–71.

  22. 22.

    From the OED Online, “business,” def. P.7. OED gives this helpful quotation from John Harington: “He loues an easie cleanly Iaxe [a jakes, or privy] maruellous wel…[and] if one be his deare friend, he will let him tarrie with him, while he is at his business.”

  23. 23.

    From the OED Online, “ooze,” n.1.a., “Wet mud or slime; esp. that in the bed of a river, estuary, or sea. Also fig.Geography rectified: or, A description of the world (1685), 89. An example from Stephen Batman also applies: He walloweth and wrappeth himselfe first in fenne and wose [ooze].” Batman , Vppon Bartholome, De Proprietatibus Rerum (London, 1582), xii.v.192.

  24. 24.

    Rubinstein, A Dictionary, s.v. “mud(dy),” 166.

  25. 25.

    Vaughan and Vaughan, eds., The Tempest, n. to 1.2.50.

  26. 26.

    Maurice Hunt, “‘The Backward Voice’: Puns and the Comic Subplot of The Tempest,” Modern Language Studies 12 no. 4 (1982): 64–74. An expanded and updated version of this essay appears as “Purging the Jesting Spirit in The Tempest,” Comparative Drama, 45, no. 4 (2011): 417–437.

  27. 27.

    Insofar as vent can mean “emitting or discharging, as of words,” the alimentary metaphor becomes linguistic and therefore charged with significance over and above its importance as an expression of the body’s superfluity.

  28. 28.

    Hesiod, Theogony, trans. Richmond Lattimore (Ann Arbor: U Michigan P, 1959), lines 265–269.

  29. 29.

    As defined in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth, eds., 3rd edn., (Oxford and N.Y.: Oxford UP 1996), s.v. “Harpyiae, Harpies.” The editors translate their name as “snatchers.” The unsigned author of the entry “Harpies” in the 11th Encyclopedia Britannica renders the name as “swift robbers,” and says they were tasked with “snatching away mortals to the other world”: Encyclopedia Britannica , 29 vols. (New York: The Encyclopedia Britannica Company, 1910), 13:14–15.

  30. 30.

    The Pythian Priestess in Part Three of The Oresteia (458 BCE) responds with gut terror to the sight of the Furies, but they are not the same as the Harpies. See The Eumenides, in Aeschylus, The Oresteian Trilogy, trans. Philip Vellacott (Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1959), lines 48–51.

  31. 31.

    Quoted and translated by Barry B. Powell, in his Classical Myth, 4th edn. (N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2004), 482.

  32. 32.

    Aeneid, trans. W.F. Jackson Knight (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1956), 3. 214–219, p. 81. See also Robert Fagles’s translation: “A loathsome ooze/Discharges from their bellies.” The Aeneid, trans. Robert Fagles (New York: Penguin Group, 2006), 3.215–16, p. 111.

    Dante drops the Harpies into the Inferno in Canto 13, where they supply perpetual punishment to self-harming souls on whose tree-like forms they perch. In his account we are spared their digestive profusions, but he adds a note that emphasizes their famished state: “they have broad wings…and their great bellies are feathered (‘e pennuto ‘l gran ventre’); they make lament on the strange trees” (13.13–15). Inferno, trans. Charles S. Singleton (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1970), p. 129. Mary Jo Bang offers a more felicitous rendering for my purposes, highlighting the Harpies’ alimentary trouble and their perpetual pain: “Wide wings…/Claw feet, distended feathered bellies—/From the eerie branches they spill loud cries of agony.” Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Mary Jo Bang (Minnesota: Greywolf P, 2012), p. 121.

  33. 33.

    Aeneid, trans. Knight, p. 82.

  34. 34.

    Aeneid, trans. Knight, pp. 82–3.

  35. 35.

    For a reading of this famous crux, see Virgil, Aeneid, trans. Frederick Ahl (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007), 384 (n. to 7.122).

  36. 36.

    Aeneid, trans. Knight, pp. 178–79.

  37. 37.

    Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books (Miramax Films, 1991) sometimes pictures Caliban as a waste product who inhabits a sewer and Ariel as a digestively productive Harpy. On some of these issues, see Peter Donaldson, “Shakespeare in the Age of Post-Mechanical Reproduction: Sexual and Electronic Magic in Prospero’s Books,” in Lynda Boose and Richard Burt, eds., Shakespeare the Movie: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, and Video (London: Routledge, 1997), 169–85.

  38. 38.

    Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Shooting Script, Copyright 2013 Dinosaur Out, Inc. available at https://desertscreenwritersgroup.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/screenplay-birdman.pdf, p. 1, at 2:05. Page numbers will be to this edition, accompanied by time citations if there is a parallel scene in the film. I have put the stage or camera directions in italics for clarity throughout.

  39. 39.

    Early modern “fecal matters” were closely related to religious discourse, with a substantial range of meanings therein: from Luther’s cistern work to those who regarded the Eucharist as too digestible to be holy. See the essays in Fecal Matters in Early Modern Literature and Art: Studies in Scatology, eds. Jeff Persels and Russell Ganim (Hampshire: Ashgate, 2004).

  40. 40.

    For the psychological resonances of this passage, see Norman N. Holland, “Caliban’s Dream,” Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 37:114–125. I have used the version available at http://users.clas.ufl.edu/nholland/calibans.htm. Holland considers, then rejects, Freud’s association of gold or “riches” with feces: Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. James Strachey (New York: Avon Books, 1965), 439. But because Caliban is associated with excrement throughout the play, his dreams would likely be influenced by the digestive as well; as a figure or figment of Prospero’s imagination, pressured by the demands of the body, Caliban is in part an image of the alimentary function of the person. Rubinstein (supra, n. 20) also regards “gold” as an excremental referent.

  41. 41.

    A significant tradition of conflation exists between the alchemical and the scatological. See John W. Velz, “Scatology and Moral Meaning in Two English Renaissance Plays,” South Central Review 1 no. 1/2 (Spring–Summer, 1984): 4–21.

    Peggy Muñoz Simonds sees the whole of The Tempest as an extended discourse on and a staging of alchemical processes: “‘My charms crack not’: The Alchemical Structure of The Tempest,” Comparative Drama 31.4 (1997–98): 538–70.

  42. 42.

    Berger (“Miraculous Harp,” supra n. 18) notes that Prospero really cannot cope with his fellow man; “His inwardness and privacy are sustained throughout the play” (179).

  43. 43.

    This is Stephen Orgel’s argument in “Prospero’s Wife,” Representations 8 (1984): 1–13.

  44. 44.

    On the dreamlike quality of the film, it may be relevant to note that Birdman compares Riggan’s superhero rival, Robert Downey Jr., to a famous character in American cinema: “That clown doesn’t have half your talent and he’s making a fortune in that Tin Man get up” (7:55). The Tin Man, from The Wizard of Oz, counts as meta-referential: the film is the most famous Hollywood depiction of a nearly film-long dream sequence.

  45. 45.

    The returning mariners’ news of the shipwreck logically should cause Prospero more political trouble on his return than he anticipates. He will probably have to uproot yet another ruler of Milan, and Naples too. But his imagination does not extend that far.

  46. 46.

    Quoted in Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. James Strachey (New York: Avon Books, 1965), 113 n. 3.

  47. 47.

    Vaughan and Vaughan make useful observations on the play’s structure: The Tempest, “Introduction,” 14–17.

  48. 48.

    However, the island itself can be read as an epistemological mystery; it is scenically unstable, leading us closer to the dream theory. A.D. Nuttall points to the gap between Gonzalo’s perception of the surroundings as lush and verdant, and Antonio’s grousing that they are brown and withered. Other courtiers see the place as fetid or threatening (2.1.49–59). Nuttall claims that the play operates at a “pitch of uncertainty more radical than anything” else in Shakespeare. See A.D. Nuttall, Shakespeare the Thinker (New Haven: Yale UP, 2007), 368–69.

  49. 49.

    See Ruth Nevo’s description of a cinematic parallel to Prospero’s psychic situation, Alain Resnais’s Providence (1977) where the dreaming creator fragments his known world into a fantastical and slightly altered reality. Nevo, “Measure for Measure: Mirror for Mirror,” Shakespeare Survey 40 (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge UP, 1987): 107–23.

  50. 50.

    David Solway, “Pericles as Dream,” The Sewanee Review 105 no. 1 (1997): 91–95; p. 94. Solway concludes that drama “represents the collective dream of desiring, impoverished humanity” (94), and thus the spectator dreams the play, at least the Shakespearean romance.

  51. 51.

    Sarah Beckwith claims that Miranda, too, signifies a departure in subjectivity from Prospero: “[She] has imagined a past he cannot conceive she has.” Beckwith, Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 2011), 162. She insists “the action of the play is emphatically not confined to Prospero’s mind” (163).

    Speaking of which: how can we account for that privileged prat Ferdinand? Prospero’s chosen son-in-law—a concupiscent and presumptuous coward—is hardly such stuff as marital bliss is made on: “Full many a lady/I have eyed with best regard…” (3.1.38), he reveals embarrassingly. First off the ship in the tempest (he “cried ‘Hell is empty,/And all the devils are here,’” 1.2.212–14), Ferdinand survives unashamed, his copious ego waterlogged but intact: “I am the best of them that speak this speech,/Were I but where ’tis spoken” (1.2.430–31). The provision of this guy for Miranda shows a jarring defect in the father’s love for his daughter, a dream he should not have for her.

  52. 52.

    Harold Goddard The Meaning of Shakespeare, 2 vols. (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1950), 2: 280.

  53. 53.

    Several direct film adaptations deploy the notion of Prospero dreaming the play: Derek Jarman’s 1979 production and, with alterations, Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books both entertain the possibility of the play as an embedded dream, so there might be nothing particularly special about Birdman’s version of the idea. Jarman’s film and the sleeping consciousness is considered by Hugh H. Davis, “Prospero’s Dream in Derek Jarman’s The Tempest,” Literature/Film Quarterly 41 (no. 2, 2013): 92–101. Jarman’s first attempt at filming the play was a 1975 version in which Prospero, imprisoned by Antonio, plays every part (92), clearly an early notion of the dreamer doing the same; in the 1979 version, “Cinematically, the dream encompasses the entire filmic text” (93).

  54. 54.

    For a reading of Ariel’s magical and ethereal lineage, see W. Stacy Johnson, “The Genesis of Ariel,” Shakespeare Quarterly 2. 3 (1951): 205–210.

  55. 55.

    D.G. James, in The Dream of Prospero (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1967), offers this: “I venture to suggest…that we may best render the total impression [the play] makes on us by saying that Prospero in truth never left Milan, and that the island and all that we see happen on it was a dream of Prospero’s only….” (149). James disclaims the idea of this reading as being part of Shakespeare’s intention, speaking only of the play’s “fundamental character” (149).

  56. 56.

    Daniel Fusch has pointed out that “the late plays achieve their comic or tragicomic resolution through ceremonies of waking or reviving.” Daniel Fusch, “Wonder and Ceremonies of Waking in Shakespeare’s Late Plays,” Mediterranean Studies 14 (2005): 125–47; p. 133.

  57. 57.

    Prospero’s use of “waste” to describe what his discourse will do to the evening resonates with the play’s conflation of vent, siege, and other expulsions of semantic or physical excess (including the dark backward and abysm); the conflation, if we accept it, forges an uncomfortable jointure of narrative and alimentary acts. On “the similar and dissimilar Renaissance meanings of ‘lying’ and ‘excreting’” see Hunt, “‘The Backward Voice,’” 73 n. 16.

  58. 58.

    One reader has commented on Alonso’s discovery that the betrothed Ferdinand and Miranda have met only a few hours since, suggesting an atemporality about the play, consonant with dream qualities: “The discovery that imaginative diegetical and real time are identical has the curious effect of making the play seem to have happened in no time at all.” T.R. Langley, “Shakespeare: Dream and Tempest,” in The Cambridge Quarterly, 20, No. 2 (1991): 118–137; p. 133.

  59. 59.

    Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, 313.

  60. 60.

    Similarly, Garrett Stewart writes that Leontes from The Winter’s Tale is “like a sleepwalker,” or one who “acts out—acts out of—the most rending irrationalities of his nature.” See Stewart, “Shakespearean Dreamplay,” English Literary Renaissance 11 no. 1 (1981): 44–69; p. 65.

  61. 61.

    The theory brightens some features of the play. For instance, Caliban’s murder plot is premised on widespread hatred and resentment: “They all do hate him/As rootedly as I” (3.2.94–5) he says about the spirits that are supposed to serve Prospero loyally. If the dreamer Prospero thinks this conversation, it registers a deep misery, a paranoid’s depression.

  62. 62.

    See Ruth Nevo’s commentary on Prospero’s “immense effort to conquer and to sublimate,” even though what he acknowledges when he looks on Caliban is partly “the primitive, the infantile, the unreconstructed libidinous in himself.” Nevo, “Subtleties of the Isle: The Tempest,” in R.S. White, ed., New Casebooks: The Tempest, 75–96; p. 86.

  63. 63.

    Here is one example: “But that Prospero does humble himself before his enemies, despite his grievous reservations, suggests that he has made a crucial choice to forgive his enemies rather than merely grant them mercy….Prospero’s forgiveness [is] tied to the difficult acceptance of his own mortal condition…” Alan De Gooyer, “‘Their senses I’ll restore’: Montaigne and The Tempest Reconsidered,” in Patrick M. Murphy, ed., The Tempest: Critical Essays (New York and London: Routledge, 2001), 509–531; p. 529.

  64. 64.

    Alonso is already on the edge of despair when the banquet is brought in, just before Ariel indicts Prospero’s enemies: “I will stand to and feed,/Although my last; no matter, since I feel/The best is past” (3.3.49–51).

  65. 65.

    Vaughan and Vaughan note that “the confusing syntax is perhaps symptomatic of Ariel’s (and Prospero’s) agitation. The phrase [‘Ling’ring perdition’] also connotes the continuous pain suffered under everlasting damnation” (The Tempest, n. to 3.3.77, p. 239). Exactly right, which renders highly problematic any subsequent mollification Prospero might offer.

  66. 66.

    Orgel, “New Uses of Adversity,” 374 (supra, n. 3).

  67. 67.

    For Prospero’s art as a confession of futility, see Xing Chen, Reconsidering Shakespeare’s ‘Lateness’: Studies in the Last Plays (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015), 122.

  68. 68.

    An eloquent fictional exposition of this idea can be found in Young-Ha Kim, I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, trans. Chi-Young Kim (Orlando: Harcourt/Harvest, 1996; trans. 2007), especially 77–111.

  69. 69.

    ‘Everything we think of as great has come to us from neurotics. It is they and they alone who found religions and create great works of art. The world will never realize how much it owes to them, and what they have suffered in order to bestow their gifts on it. We enjoy fine music, beautiful pictures, a thousand exquisite things, but we do not know what they cost those who wrought them in sleeplessness, tears, spasmodic laughter, hives, asthma, epilepsy, and the terror of death, which is worse than all of these…’ Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, v. 3: The Guermantes Way, trans. C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin (New York: Random House/Modern Library 1993), 414. I have substituted “hives” for “urticaria,” Moncrieff and Kilmartin’s rendering.

  70. 70.

    OED online, “stuff,” n. 1: “Stock or provision of food, as in Nashe’s Lenten Stuff; fish processed as provision for Lent.” Another suggestive definition: dust (def. 2).

  71. 71.

    Marta L. Werner, “Signals from a Distance: Editing, Telepathy, Elegy,” Textual Cultures 3, no. 1 (2008): 3–11; p. 9. Werner here describes Freud’s revised notion of the melancholic mourner. Tammy Clewell sees the mourner as able to shift from “rage to recognition, accepting his own contingency and welcoming a process of mourning that can never be completed”: “Mourning Beyond Melancholia: Freud’s Psychoanalysis of Loss,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 52 (2004): 43–67, p. 59, cited in Werner (9). The end of the play in this sense is broadly apertural.

  72. 72.

    Cited at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2562232/trivia

  73. 73.

    This is Spinal Tap, dir. Rob Reiner (Los Angeles: MGM Studios), 1984.

  74. 74.

    Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories (supra, n. 8), 174. 

  75. 75.

    Birdman himself may deliver the verbal blow, as the speaker of the curse is not entirely clear, but the context seems to insist on Riggan as the speaker. I wonder if he would have left a more settled impression had he heeded Nietzsche’s advice: “One should part from life as Odysseus parted from Nausicaa—blessing it rather than in love with it.” In “Epigrams and Interludes” (#96), Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, trans. Walter Kaufmann (N.Y.: Vintage Books, 1966), 83. But this lovely sentiment is definitively countered by another apt one: “The abdomen is the reason why man does not easily take himself for a god” (#141, p. 89).

  76. 76.

    Not in the film:VerseVerse BIRDMAN (V.O.) You won’t be hearing from him anymore. MAN (V.O.) Is he…? BIRDMAN (V.O.) Gone. Iñárritu, et al., Birdman, 106. This mysterious instance of the subconscious surviving the conscious mind, like Frankenstein’s monster outliving his creator, occurs the moment before Riggan wakes in the hospital.

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Mallin, E.S. (2019). Disturbing Dreams and Transcendence in Birdman and The Tempest. In: Reading Shakespeare in the Movies. Reproducing Shakespeare. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-28898-3_4

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