by Robertson Davies,
in The Salterton Trilogy.
Penguin Books 2011 (1951)
“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud, if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues.
—All’s Well that Ends Well
The first volume in Robertson Davies’ Salterton Trilogy is a provincial Canadian comedy of manners with a universal appeal, in which despite errors being compounded all’s well that ends well, which is as we like it.
From this corny introduction you’ll have gathered Tempest-Tost is a novel with a Shakespearean theme, and so it is. In the middle of the 20th century The Little Theatre company, an amateur group, is attempting to put on an open air pastoral of The Tempest, unaware that they are as much the dramatis personae in a real-life play as the characters they are hoping to portray. Except, as I hope to argue, the fictional parts they play in the comedy are not those they live during the course of the novel.