Sea Change

Life imitates art, and art imitates life, in the transformation of one family’s Harwich Port home 

In Shakespeare’s final play, “The Tempest,” the sorcerer Prospero and his servant, a magical spirit named Ariel, create the illusion of a fierce storm that appears to wreck the ship carrying the king of Naples, his son Ferdinand, other dignitaries and the crew. Though no soul actually perishes, Ariel separates the characters into different groups. Some of the men fall into enchanted sleep, while others must try to make sense of the bewildering world of Prospero’s desert island. To heighten the disorientation and loss in the mind of Prince Ferdinand, Ariel sings the following lyrics: “Full fathom five thy father lies; / Of his bones are coral made; / Those are pearls that were his eyes: / Nothing of him that doth fade, / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange.” It’s a mean trick, as the prince believes that his father has perished, but the song does contain an important truth—the king, very much alive, will undergo a radical, positive transformation, a “sea-change,” as will nearly every character in the story.

One interpretation of “The Tempest” claims that Prospero represents Shakespeare himself, and that the magic and illusion in the play represent art. And one of the mysteries of great art is its inherent quality that allows for a range of meaning. Thus, scholars continue to analyze the Bard’s work over 400 years after his death, and the understanding of his stories, while universal in some respects, changes through generations of readers. Though the grand ideas of literature may seem to lie far from the shores of Cape Cod, disconnected from its weathered dwellings, some architects, builders and designers draw inspiration from the same creative well that slaked Shakespeare’s thirst. One firm that seeks to create art in the form of homes is Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders (PSD) of East Harwich, and one of its recent masterpieces, a home in Harwich Port, alludes directly to Shakespeare’s magical tempest in both its appearance and its name—“Sea Change.”