John Merritt III
Costume Designer · Crafts Artisan· Wardrobe Supervisor· Stitcher

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The Tempest by: William Shakespeare  

A Theoretical Class Project by John Merritt III

Design Statement 

When reading The Tempest by William Shakespeare, I was interested immediately interested in  the island and the storm (caused by Prospero) , and how it has brought these many characters together. This tempest,  forces all of the characters onto the same island and allows me to explore the prominent theme of imprisonment. So every costume and character in my designs has some sort of imprisonment attached to them. I wanted to focus on this theme specifically because when I read the play, I saw that many of the characters were controlled, whether it be by magic, or servantude.   Another concept I incorporated within my designs was the juxtaposition between court and the tribal aspects of the island. What life was vs. what life is now. For my color palette, I was inspired by the light blue colors of the ocean, but also /rustic/bronze metal motifs of the court, and carried this with structural inspiration from royal palaces. These structural inspirations may show what the characters are used to living in the court, so it may influence what they are wearing as well. For fabric, I was drawn to the thicker apholestry fabric that would have been worn in the 17th century, but fabric that had floral and metal motifs to it that draws back to the island and imprisonment. 

Conceptual Research

Color Inspiration/Island Enviroment 

Structural Inspiration 


Rendering and Concrete Research  


Rendering and Concrete Research 

I believe that Prospero still has a sense of entitlement when he lives on the island. He has this dramatic collar piece that he has made and adapted into feathers, along with this magic staff that is also adorned with feathers, and his old court clothes, worn and distressed from time and the island shows who he truly is in The Tempest. He still shows that he has court authority, but the island has overtaken him as well. I tied Ariel and Prospero together to show their relationship and how they feed off eachother, that they are internally connected as well. Prospero is the one that mainly controls everything that happens, so therefore I thought of him as more of the ruler of the island. 

For Ariel, I could never put an identity on him. But the question is, does he even have an indentity as a spirit? For this reason, I made Ariel genderless.  Ariel already has the tribal ties from the island, that was incorporated from his old master, Sycorax. But this is perhaps changed when Prospero comes into Ariel's life and is introduced to the court.I wanted to show the struggle Ariel may find between the court and the native tribal style, because at times Ariel may be on Prospero's side, but also wants to be freed, but is imprisoned and constantly is controlled by Prospero.  also.  They have this connection, that I also estbalished between them in terms of their color palette, and what they're wearing. 




Rendering and Concrete Research 


Rendering and Concrete Research

For Miranda, I was interested in playing with her silhoutte on the island. As she is a blossiming young girl, she is perhaps interested in sexuality from where she might have read one of her father's books, which is why I decided to go with the idea of the elizabethan iron corset. The iron corset, was perhaps maybe her mothers that ended up on the ship with them as they left. The corset goes along with the whole idea of being imprisoned, or held in, and this has to do with her father controlling her and what she does. The farthingale style of dress, was perhaps something she had when she was younger that she has grown out out of, and has ripped and torn over time. 


Rendering and Concrete Research 

For  Ferdinand and Alonso, their apparel is more mid-17th century, as opposed to the other characters that were already on the island, whose clothing is more typical of early 17th century attire. I was drawn to the doublets that were stuffed with fabric at the sides almost as if he is ready to bust out or be free, and these are held together by ties. (I also tied this in with Alonso). I connected Miranda and Ferdinand's color palette to draw them color together, as Ferdiand is more of a strong royal blue and hers has a tint of turquoise. I drew them together because I believe they are both being surpressed by their parents, and like all, are looking to be freed. Like his father, he is also reminiscent of the cavalier style. 

For Alonso, I wanted to introduce the idea that he was perhaps in more of cavalier garb, and is interested in showing off his wealth in an ostentaious way.   I chose rich reds and golds for King Alonso to display his wealth, and wanted it to appear like he was not quite put together after the shipwreck. So his cape is torn, his hat feathers are droopy, and perhaps could serve as some comedic relief. 


Rendering and Concrete Research 

For Caliban, I focused his colors on being very distressed, rotten and dirty. I decided to go for the chainlike fabric to show that he has nothing, and he is constantly imprisoned. As for his distressed tunic, I saw in my mind that it was very old and and perhaps he had gotten the fabric from something his mother was wearing when she was killed. I saw him as more of a lizard creature. If I were doing this as a real production, I would play with the idea of airbrush makeup for his skin that is not covered by fabric. Caliban is a strong juxtaposition between Ariel, who, as the servant, is treated much better than Caliban. So there is a strong contrast between these two, as Caliban barely has anything at all, and Ariel is adorned with these elaborate pieces from the court, but still has tribal roots.