The Tempest act review

Act 1 Scene 1 A violent storm rages around a small ship at sea. The master of the ship calls for his boatswain to rouse the mariners to action and prevent the ship from being run aground by the tempest. Chaos ensues. Some mariners enter, followed by a group of nobles comprised of Alonso, King of Naples, Sebastian, his brother, Antonio, Gonzalo, and others. We do not learn these men’s names in this scene, nor do we learn (as we finally do in Act II, scene i) that they have just come from Tunis, in Africa, where Alonso’s daughter, Claribel, has been married to the prince. As the Boatswain and his crew take in the topsail and the topmast, Alonso and his party are merely underfoot, and the Boatswain tells them to get below-decks. Gonzalo reminds the Boatswain that one of the passengers is of some importance, but the Boatswain is unmoved. He will do what he has to in order to save the ship, regardless of who is aboard.The lords go below decks, and then, adding to the chaos of the scene, three of them—Sebastian, Antonio, and Gonzalo—enter again only four lines later. Sebastian and Antonio curse the Boatswain in his labors, masking their fear with profanity. Some mariners enter wet and crying, and only at this point does the audience learn the identity of the passengers on-board. Gonzalo orders the mariners to pray for the king and the prince. There is a strange noise—perhaps the sound of thunder, splitting wood, or roaring water—and the cry of mariners. Antonio, Sebastian, and Gonzalo, preparing to sink to a watery grave, go in search of the king.
Act 1 Scene 2 Prospero and Miranda stand on the shore of the island, having just witnessed the shipwreck. Miranda entreats her father to see that no one on-board comes to any harm. Prospero assures her that no one was harmed and tells her that it’s time she learned who she is and where she comes from. Miranda seems curious, noting that Prospero has often started to tell her about herself but always stopped. However, once Prospero begins telling his tale, he asks her three times if she is listening to him. He tells her that he was once Duke of Milan and famous for his great intelligence.Prospero explains that he gradually grew uninterested in politics, however, and turned his attention more and more to his studies, neglecting his duties as duke. This gave his brother Antonio an opportunity to act on his ambition. Working in concert with the King of Naples, Antonio usurped Prospero of his dukedom. Antonio arranged for the King of Naples to pay him an annual tribute and do him homage as duke. Later, the King of Naples helped Antonio raise an army to march on Milan, driving Prospero out. Prospero tells how he and Miranda escaped from death at the hands of the army in a barely-seaworthy boat prepared for them by his loyal subjects. Gonzalo, an honest Neapolitan, provided them with food and clothing, as well as books from Prospero’s library.Having brought Miranda up to date on how she arrived at their current home, Prospero explains that sheer good luck has brought his former enemies to the island. Miranda suddenly grows very sleepy, perhaps because Prospero charms her with his magic. When she is asleep, Prospero calls forth his spirit, Ariel. In his conversation with Ariel, we learn that Prospero and the spirit were responsible for the storm of Act I, scene i. Flying about the ship, Ariel acted as the wind, the thunder, and the lightning. When everyone except the crew had abandoned the ship, Ariel made sure, as Prospero had requested, that all were brought safely to shore but dispersed around the island. Ariel reports that the king’s son is alone. He also tells Prospero that the mariners and Boatswain have been charmed to sleep in the ship, which has been brought safely to harbor. The rest of the fleet that was with the ship, believing it to have been destroyed by the storm, has headed safely back to Naples.Prospero thanks Ariel for his service, and Ariel takes this moment to remind Prospero of his promise to take one year off of his agreed time of servitude if Ariel performs his services without complaint. Prospero does not take well to being reminded of his promises, and he chastises Ariel for his impudence. He reminds Ariel of where he came from and how Prospero rescued him. Ariel had been a servant of Sycorax, a witch banished from Algiers (Algeria) and sent to the island long ago. Ariel was too delicate a spirit to perform her horrible commands, so she imprisoned him in a “cloven pine” (I.ii.279). She did not free him before she died, and he might have remained imprisoned forever had not Prospero arrived and rescued him. Reminding Ariel of this, Prospero threatens to imprison him for twelve years if he does not stop complaining. Ariel promises to be more polite. Prospero then gives him a new command: he must go make himself like a nymph of the sea and be invisible to all but Prospero. Ariel goes to do so, and Prospero, turning to Miranda’s sleeping form, calls upon his daughter to awaken. She opens her eyes and, not realizing that she has been enchanted, says that the “strangeness” of Prospero’s story caused her to fall asleep.
Act 2 scene 1 Alonso, King of Naples, has washed up on shore with Antonio, Sebastian, Gonzalo, and attendant lords. Gonzalo tells everyone that they can balance their sorrow with comfort—at least they’ve survived the terrible shipwreck.Antonio and Sebastian launch into teasing Gonzalo mean-spiritedly. Interestingly, the two different sets of people see entirely different things when they survey the island. Gonzalo sees “lush and lusty grass,” while Antonio and Sebastian only see a nasty, uninhabitable place—kind of like a glass half-full, glass half-empty deal.Gonzalo also notes their clothes are as fresh as the first time they were worn for the marriage of Alonso’s daughter, Claribel, to the King of Tunis.The King interrupts his bickering companions with his grief. He regrets that he married his daughter to a man in so far off a place—the voyage to visit her (this one) has cost him his son, and his daughter is so far away she might as well be dead, too. Francisco, an attendant lord, tries to reassure the King that Prince Ferdinand might still be alive, but the King won’t hear any of this perky optimism.Sebastian takes the opportunity to confirm that his brother, the King, needs a good kick in the teeth. As the King grieves his two lost children, Sebastian points out that the King’s loss is his own fault; even though everyone harassed King Alonso about it, he chose to marry his daughter to a far-off African instead of a closer European.Gonzalo gently tells Sebastian to hold off, and changes the subject back to the island, which shows itself to him as beautiful.Gonzalo begins to talk of what he would do if he were king of the island—there would be no trade in money, no politicians, no schools, no rich or poor, no slavery, no inheritance, no dividing up the land, no metal, corn, wine or oil (things needing careful cultivation and work), and no occupation of any kind—just idle, wholesome, idyllic men and women living happily.Brain Snack: Gonzalo’s big speech is based on a famous passage from John Florio’s 1603 translation of an essay called “Of Cannibals” by Montaigne.Gonzalo’s people would live off of the bounty of everything nature brings forth, and he announces he would govern to excel the Golden Age (according to classical mythology, this was the first of the “Ages of Man,” when there was no violence, conflict, or injustice, and when nobody had to work for food or shelter).Antonio and Sebastian make snide comments and the King tells everyone to pipe down, as they’re all talking nonsense.Ariel enters playing a song, and everyone suddenly drifts off to sleep, lulled by the music, except for Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio. Antonio and Sebastian agree they will keep watch over the King while he sleeps, as they are not at all sleepy, and wonder what happened to make everyone pass out so quickly.Antonio, who we know took his brother’s (Prospero’s) dukedom through treachery, doesn’t waste any time before suggesting to Sebastian that all that stands between Sebastian and the crown is the sleeping King. (They all think Prince Ferdinand is dead and Claribel, the princess, is so far away that she couldn’t properly rule the kingdom.) Further, Antonio claims sleep is a sort of death; it would be easy for them to kill the King while he slumbers, and convince the others of Sebastian’s noble title.Sebastian quibbles a bit, and asks if Antonio’s conscience doesn’t bother him for stealing his brother’s title. Antonio replies that he’s led by practicality, not conscience. (Geesh. Who does Antonio think he is? Bad-brother Claudius from Hamlet?)Sebastian comes around, and two plotters agree that if Antonio draws his sword to kill the King, Sebastian will draw on Gonzalo, and Sebastian’s path to power will be clear. As the two unsheathe their swords, Ariel enters and whispers in Gonzalo’s ear of their treachery, waking him up.Gonzalo quickly wakes the King, and everyone rises to find Sebastian and Antonio with their swords drawn. The two are surprised in the midst of their horrible act. They claim they heard the howling of lions and only drew their swords to protect the King.King Alonso is freaked out by the possibility of lions and, not knowing Antonio and Sebastian’s wicked plan, Alonso suggests they all leave the place at once to see if they can find his son.Ariel pledges to tattle to Prospero about Sebastian and Antonio’s wickedness. Meanwhile, he will help the King safely seek the Prince
Act 2 scene 2 The action moves to an island, where we meet Prospero and his daughter, Miranda. If you read the “Names of the Actors,” you know that Prospero is the “rightful Duke of Milan, usurped by his brother Antonio.” If you didn’t know this key piece of information, Prospero just seems to be an average old guy stranded with his daughter on a deserted island.Miranda saw the ship sink and asks her father if he created the storm, cluing us in to the fact that Prospero has powerful magic, which they both call “art.” Prospero doesn’t deny he made the tempest, but instead says there was no harm done. He assures his daughter that everyone from the ship is safe, and that he only did it for her (which she’ll learn more about later).Prospero says the storm is a good occasion for him to reveal their family secret to her, which he’s often started telling her but never finished. He promises to finish this time.He asks if she remembers a time before they were on the island, and she says yes. This surprises Prospero, because she was only three years old then, but she clearly remembers that she used to have four or five women that took care of her. Miranda doesn’t remember how she and her father came to the island, so Prospero tells her the long story, which we now sum up for you:Twelve years ago, Miranda was a princess and her father was the Duke of Milan. Miranda is shocked to hear the news, and asks if Prospero isn’t really her father. Prospero replies that, to the best of his knowledge, he was the only one sleeping with Miranda’s mother. So yes, Prospero was a Duke and Miranda a princess. (Hmm. Didn’t Perdita learn something similar about herself in The Winter’s Tale?)Miranda asks whether a blessing or curse brought them to the island. Prospero says it was both.The story that follows is long, and Prospero keeps poking Miranda to stay awake (imagine we’re doing the same to you, except in a non-weird, non-Facebook way).Basically, the story goes like this: Prospero has a brother, Antonio, whom he used to love and trust. Prospero was devoted to the study of magic. He trusted his brother so much that he let him run the affairs of state while Prospero closeted himself away in his library.Antonio, meanwhile, was busy learning how to run Milan, but also making all the right friends in all the right places. Eventually, he took advantage of Prospero’s trust and, by sucking up constantly with tributes and compliments to the King of Naples. Antonio managed to get the King to give him his brother’s title as Duke of Milan.Hmm. Now, where have we seen an evil, usurping brother before? Oh, yeah, in Hamlet, where Claudius kills his brother and then takes his crown and his wife.Antonio then sent an army at midnight, under the cover of darkness, to force Prospero and baby Miranda out of Milan. They weren’t killed because Prospero was so well-loved by his people. Prospero and the baby were banished to sea on a used ’83 Chevy Impala of a ship, which “even the rats left instinctively.”While on their rickety boat, the duo faced a terrible storm. Miranda, far from being trouble, gave Prospero the strength to continue on. Finally they washed ashore onto their present island. They survived because Gonzalo (the same guy from the first scene) was so kind; before leaving, he gave them food and water, fine clothes, and also Prospero’s books. Prospero was able to use his small library to educate Miranda for the last twelve years, affording her a better education than most princesses, who generally spend their time combing golden locks and looking out of windows.Finally, Prospero explains the reason he created the recent storm: his enemies, the ones from all those years ago, were on the ship. According to the stars, now is the moment of Prospero’s good fortune, but his power depends on good timing.Prospero then lulls Miranda to sleep with art (not boring postmodern art—magic art) and calls his servant, the spirit Ariel, so they can go to work right away.We find out Ariel was in charge of the details of the tempest. He performed his duties down to the last detail: he appeared on the ship as fire, jumping between cabins and the deck. This, understandably, weirded everyone out on the ship, and while the mariners stayed on deck, everyone else jumped overboard.Ariel then saw to it that they all made it ashore unharmed, but in separate groups. Most importantly, the King’s son was separated from the rest of the group. Ariel left the mariners on their newly restored ship in an enchanted sleep, and sent the other vessels in the fleet back to Naples.Prospero is glad of Ariel’s good work, but demands that there is much more to do in the next four hours. Ariel reminds him then that he’s already done lots of good work, and that Prospero promised that when his work was done, he would set the spirit-servant free. So SHOW HIM THE MONEY, essentially.Prospero flies into something of a rage. He reminds Ariel that he once rescued him (therefore Ariel should be as indebted as a Harry Potter house-elf without socks for the rest of eternity).Prospero tells us a story: Sycorax was a terrible witch, born in Algiers and banished from there because she got it on with the Devil himself. We don’t get the details of that interesting night, but instead we learn that the pregnant Sycorax was banished to this very island, where she made Ariel her lackey. Still, because Ariel was too “delicate” to do the horrible things she commanded, Sycorax had a fit and imprisoned Ariel in the cleft of a pine tree, where he stayed rather stuck.Twelve years later, Sycorax was dead, and Prospero came to the island to find the loud, sad, unearthly moans of Ariel coming from a tree. After he freed the spirit, Prospero committed Ariel to his service, with the promise of eventual liberty.After Prospero tells this long story, he chides Ariel that any more whining will get him locked back into the tree. However, if Ariel behaves, Prospero will free him in two days, once all the work is done.Brain Snack: The rest of the play actually takes place over the course of about four hours (not two days). In fact, The Tempest is one of two Shakespeare plays (including The Comedy of Errors) that takes place over the course of a single day in a single location. Literary critics have a fancy name for this—the “unities” of time and place. Contrast the action and location of The Tempest to, say, The Winter’s Tale, which spans a huge length of time and space.Prospero sends Ariel off in the shape of an invisible water nymph (we don’t know either), and wakes Miranda so they can go together to see Caliban.Miranda says she can’t stand to look at Caliban, but her dad points out that Caliban (who has been enslaved by Prospero) does all those pesky island chores that nobody else likes to do (like fetch wood and build fires).Prospero and Miranda stroll up to Caliban’s pad and immediately begin to verbally abuse him, during which time we learn the following: Caliban was the island’s only other inhabitant when Miranda and Prospero arrived; he is the child of Sycorax (the witch) and the Devil.We also learn that, initially, Prospero had taken Caliban under his wing, taught him to speak, and fed him. In exchange, Caliban had shown him all the tricks and treasures of the island. Sadly, the friendship ended when Caliban tried to rape Miranda, with the intention of populating the island with little Calibans (or Mirand-abans, or whatever). Prospero then confined Caliban to servitude and a dwelling near a rock outside of Prospero’s cell.Caliban hates being a slave, but Prospero is powerful and likes to inflict Caliban with terrible body cramps for misbehaving and talking back. (Caliban eventually pipes down and leaves, but not before he hurls a few insults and curses Prospero.)Ferdinand (the stranded Prince) enters with Ariel who is invisible and sings a tune so beautiful that the amazed Ferdinand quits mourning his father (who Ferdinand thinks has dies in the shipwreck) to follow the music.Ariel leads Ferdinand to Miranda. When the prince and princess look into each other’s eyes, it’s love at first sight.Miranda turns to her dad and announces that Ferdinand is the hottest guy she’s ever seen (never mind the fact that the only men Miranda’s seen for the past twelve years are Caliban and Prospero). Miranda thinks Ferdinand must be a god or a spirit.Ferdinand declares that Miranda must be a goddess and then asks our girl if she’s a “maid.” (No, not the kind who washes your socks and cleans up your room. Ferdinand wants to know if Miranda’s an unmarried virgin.)Ferdinand announces that he’s the King of Naples (now that his dad has perished in a dramatic shipwreck). However, this situation conveniently puts him in a good position to make Miranda Queen of Naples. Miranda meets all the practical requirements of love, so they’re all ready for marriage in 26 lines.Prospero, though he has been making asides all along that his plan is going well, declares to himself that if things are too easy for the young couple, then they won’t take their vows of love seriously.In order to add a bit of conflict to the romance, Prospero accuses Ferdinand of being a spy intending to steal the island. Prospero threatens to chain up Ferdinand and enchant him, but the Prince rebels against the accusation.Miranda, newly in love, comes to the defense of Ferdinand.Thankfully, Ferdinand feels the same way, and he says that the weight of his would-be father-in-law’s threats and the death of his own father would seem light if he could only look out of his prison once a day and see Miranda. (Maybe he and his dad weren’t that close. Who can say?)Prospero insults Ferdinand, but we know Prospero is just putting on a tough dad act because he secretly comments to himself that he’s glad to see the two falling in love, all according to his master plan.Prospero calls Ariel to do more work, and again promises the spirit will soon be free as the mountain winds in Pocahontas.
Act 3 Scene 1 Near Prospero’s cell, Ferdinand collects firewood, and philosophizes that it isn’t so bad to do such terrible work, because he is refreshed by the thought of his young, virginal, sweet, would-be wife, Miranda. She conveniently enters, and Prospero, being the overbearing father that he is, spies on them.Miranda begs Ferdinand to take a break, and even offers to do his work for a while. Ferdinand refuses, and takes the opportunity to ask a very important question, namely, what his promised wife’s name is. Seriously.Moving briskly along, Miranda tells Ferdinand her name, which she promised her father she wouldn’t do. The two briefly share their experiences: He’s known lots of women (we’re not sure if he’s known all of them, or just has chatted them up a couple of times at the corner Starbucks), and still likes Miranda best. Miranda has known no men, but likes Ferdinand best.They declare their mutual love of each other and now that all the tricky formalities like knowing each other’s names are out of the way, they promise to be husband and wife.Prospero, watching all of this, rejoices.
Act 3 scene 2 The action moves to an island, where we meet Prospero and his daughter, Miranda. If you read the “Names of the Actors,” you know that Prospero is the “rightful Duke of Milan, usurped by his brother Antonio.” If you didn’t know this key piece of information, Prospero just seems to be an average old guy stranded with his daughter on a deserted island.Miranda saw the ship sink and asks her father if he created the storm, cluing us in to the fact that Prospero has powerful magic, which they both call “art.” Prospero doesn’t deny he made the tempest, but instead says there was no harm done. He assures his daughter that everyone from the ship is safe, and that he only did it for her (which she’ll learn more about later).Prospero says the storm is a good occasion for him to reveal their family secret to her, which he’s often started telling her but never finished. He promises to finish this time.He asks if she remembers a time before they were on the island, and she says yes. This surprises Prospero, because she was only three years old then, but she clearly remembers that she used to have four or five women that took care of her. Miranda doesn’t remember how she and her father came to the island, so Prospero tells her the long story, which we now sum up for you:Twelve years ago, Miranda was a princess and her father was the Duke of Milan. Miranda is shocked to hear the news, and asks if Prospero isn’t really her father. Prospero replies that, to the best of his knowledge, he was the only one sleeping with Miranda’s mother. So yes, Prospero was a Duke and Miranda a princess. (Hmm. Didn’t Perdita learn something similar about herself in The Winter’s Tale?)Miranda asks whether a blessing or curse brought them to the island. Prospero says it was both.The story that follows is long, and Prospero keeps poking Miranda to stay awake (imagine we’re doing the same to you, except in a non-weird, non-Facebook way).Basically, the story goes like this: Prospero has a brother, Antonio, whom he used to love and trust. Prospero was devoted to the study of magic. He trusted his brother so much that he let him run the affairs of state while Prospero closeted himself away in his library.Antonio, meanwhile, was busy learning how to run Milan, but also making all the right friends in all the right places. Eventually, he took advantage of Prospero’s trust and, by sucking up constantly with tributes and compliments to the King of Naples. Antonio managed to get the King to give him his brother’s title as Duke of Milan.Hmm. Now, where have we seen an evil, usurping brother before? Oh, yeah, in Hamlet, where Claudius kills his brother and then takes his crown and his wife.Antonio then sent an army at midnight, under the cover of darkness, to force Prospero and baby Miranda out of Milan. They weren’t killed because Prospero was so well-loved by his people. Prospero and the baby were banished to sea on a used ’83 Chevy Impala of a ship, which “even the rats left instinctively.”While on their rickety boat, the duo faced a terrible storm. Miranda, far from being trouble, gave Prospero the strength to continue on. Finally they washed ashore onto their present island. They survived because Gonzalo (the same guy from the first scene) was so kind; before leaving, he gave them food and water, fine clothes, and also Prospero’s books. Prospero was able to use his small library to educate Miranda for the last twelve years, affording her a better education than most princesses, who generally spend their time combing golden locks and looking out of windows.Finally, Prospero explains the reason he created the recent storm: his enemies, the ones from all those years ago, were on the ship. According to the stars, now is the moment of Prospero’s good fortune, but his power depends on good timing.Prospero then lulls Miranda to sleep with art (not boring postmodern art—magic art) and calls his servant, the spirit Ariel, so they can go to work right away.We find out Ariel was in charge of the details of the tempest. He performed his duties down to the last detail: he appeared on the ship as fire, jumping between cabins and the deck. This, understandably, weirded everyone out on the ship, and while the mariners stayed on deck, everyone else jumped overboard.Ariel then saw to it that they all made it ashore unharmed, but in separate groups. Most importantly, the King’s son was separated from the rest of the group. Ariel left the mariners on their newly restored ship in an enchanted sleep, and sent the other vessels in the fleet back to Naples.Prospero is glad of Ariel’s good work, but demands that there is much more to do in the next four hours. Ariel reminds him then that he’s already done lots of good work, and that Prospero promised that when his work was done, he would set the spirit-servant free. So SHOW HIM THE MONEY, essentially.Prospero flies into something of a rage. He reminds Ariel that he once rescued him (therefore Ariel should be as indebted as a Harry Potter house-elf without socks for the rest of eternity).Prospero tells us a story: Sycorax was a terrible witch, born in Algiers and banished from there because she got it on with the Devil himself. We don’t get the details of that interesting night, but instead we learn that the pregnant Sycorax was banished to this very island, where she made Ariel her lackey. Still, because Ariel was too “delicate” to do the horrible things she commanded, Sycorax had a fit and imprisoned Ariel in the cleft of a pine tree, where he stayed rather stuck.Twelve years later, Sycorax was dead, and Prospero came to the island to find the loud, sad, unearthly moans of Ariel coming from a tree. After he freed the spirit, Prospero committed Ariel to his service, with the promise of eventual liberty.After Prospero tells this long story, he chides Ariel that any more whining will get him locked back into the tree. However, if Ariel behaves, Prospero will free him in two days, once all the work is done.Brain Snack: The rest of the play actually takes place over the course of about four hours (not two days). In fact, The Tempest is one of two Shakespeare plays (including The Comedy of Errors) that takes place over the course of a single day in a single location. Literary critics have a fancy name for this—the “unities” of time and place. Contrast the action and location of The Tempest to, say, The Winter’s Tale, which spans a huge length of time and space.Prospero sends Ariel off in the shape of an invisible water nymph (we don’t know either), and wakes Miranda so they can go together to see Caliban.Miranda says she can’t stand to look at Caliban, but her dad points out that Caliban (who has been enslaved by Prospero) does all those pesky island chores that nobody else likes to do (like fetch wood and build fires).Prospero and Miranda stroll up to Caliban’s pad and immediately begin to verbally abuse him, during which time we learn the following: Caliban was the island’s only other inhabitant when Miranda and Prospero arrived; he is the child of Sycorax (the witch) and the Devil.We also learn that, initially, Prospero had taken Caliban under his wing, taught him to speak, and fed him. In exchange, Caliban had shown him all the tricks and treasures of the island. Sadly, the friendship ended when Caliban tried to rape Miranda, with the intention of populating the island with little Calibans (or Mirand-abans, or whatever). Prospero then confined Caliban to servitude and a dwelling near a rock outside of Prospero’s cell.Caliban hates being a slave, but Prospero is powerful and likes to inflict Caliban with terrible body cramps for misbehaving and talking back. (Caliban eventually pipes down and leaves, but not before he hurls a few insults and curses Prospero.)Ferdinand (the stranded Prince) enters with Ariel who is invisible and sings a tune so beautiful that the amazed Ferdinand quits mourning his father (who Ferdinand thinks has dies in the shipwreck) to follow the music.Ariel leads Ferdinand to Miranda. When the prince and princess look into each other’s eyes, it’s love at first sight.Miranda turns to her dad and announces that Ferdinand is the hottest guy she’s ever seen (never mind the fact that the only men Miranda’s seen for the past twelve years are Caliban and Prospero). Miranda thinks Ferdinand must be a god or a spirit.Ferdinand declares that Miranda must be a goddess and then asks our girl if she’s a “maid.” (No, not the kind who washes your socks and cleans up your room. Ferdinand wants to know if Miranda’s an unmarried virgin.)Ferdinand announces that he’s the King of Naples (now that his dad has perished in a dramatic shipwreck). However, this situation conveniently puts him in a good position to make Miranda Queen of Naples. Miranda meets all the practical requirements of love, so they’re all ready for marriage in 26 lines.Prospero, though he has been making asides all along that his plan is going well, declares to himself that if things are too easy for the young couple, then they won’t take their vows of love seriously.In order to add a bit of conflict to the romance, Prospero accuses Ferdinand of being a spy intending to steal the island. Prospero threatens to chain up Ferdinand and enchant him, but the Prince rebels against the accusation.Miranda, newly in love, comes to the defense of Ferdinand.Thankfully, Ferdinand feels the same way, and he says that the weight of his would-be father-in-law’s threats and the death of his own father would seem light if he could only look out of his prison once a day and see Miranda. (Maybe he and his dad weren’t that close. Who can say?)Prospero insults Ferdinand, but we know Prospero is just putting on a tough dad act because he secretly comments to himself that he’s glad to see the two falling in love, all according to his master plan.Prospero calls Ariel to do more work, and again promises the spirit will soon be free as the mountain winds in Pocahontas.
Act 3 scene 3 Now we’re back to Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, and their attendant lords somewhere else on the island.Gonzalo is weary, and Alonso has given up hope that his son might still be alive.Antonio, hearing this news, utters an aside to Sebastian, reminding him of their plan. Antonio says they will murder the King tonight when everyone else sleeps.Strange music then begins to play, and Prospero enters, invisible. Before the eyes of the King and shipwrecked lords, a magical banquet is laid by welcoming spirits who invite the King and company to eat. All wonder at the strange sight for a while, thinking they could now believe anything.Sebastian is done with oohing and ahhing for a while, and suggests that since they are hungry, they should eat what the spirits have given them. Alonso refuses, and Gonzalo comforts him by saying there were lots of things they wouldn’t have believed when they were young that turn out to be true—like girls don’t actually have cooties and Santa isn’t real.Alonso decides to eat in spite of the risk, as “the best is past,” meaning life can’t get much worse than it is now. He invites everyone to the table.Before they can dig in to their meal, Ariel appears in the shape of a harpy (a horrible monster with a woman’s face and the body and claws of a vulture-like bird) and the food disappears. The harpy stuns the men, and declares that three men of sin are at the table. The harpy says Destiny has caused the sea to put them on this uninhabited land because they are men unfit to live.The men draw their swords, and the harpy laughs at their foolishness, as their swords are no good against the natural elements she wields. The monster reminds them of the evil they did Prospero and the baby Miranda, and claims the sea paid them back for their crimes, taking Ferdinand and dooming the rest of them. If they repent their evil deeds, a better life might follow.Ariel (as the harpy) then vanishes, and the spirits come once more to carry away the banquet table.Prospero praises Ariel for his good work, which he has watched while invisible.Gonzalo breaks the stunned silence when he asks what Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian are looking so shocked about. (It seems Gonzalo didn’t see the harpy.)King Alonso admits that the sea and thunder spoke to him of his ill deeds against Prospero, and has claimed his son as punishment.Sebastian and Antonio are unmoved. Instead of repenting, they agree to fight the ills that might befall them, one at a time.As the three exit, Gonzalo notes that Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian’s treachery against Prospero is catching up to them. The kind councilor asks the rest of the group to follow the three traitors and stop them from whatever craziness they might attempt in their stunned, post-harpy encounter state.
Act 4 scene 1 Back at Prospero’s cell, Prospero relents to Ferdinand. He says the mean trials he put Ferdinand through were only to test the guy’s love for Miranda. Prospero says Miranda is a third of his life (we’re not sure what the other two thirds are) and he wouldn’t give her up to a man he hadn’t tested. However, now that he’s sure Ferdinand is a good guy, he can have Miranda for his wife.Ferdinand accepts gladly, but not before Prospero warns him that if he “break[s] her virgin-knot” before all the sacred ceremonies of marriage, the heavens will rain down misery on him, and they will be assured an unhappy life.Ferdinand assures him that, even if he’s in the darkest, steamiest place, he’ll keep his paws off Miranda so they can have a special wedding night. He adds that the wedding day will be agonizingly long and says that he’ll be very anxious to get Miranda back to the honeymoon suite after the ceremony is over, if you know what we mean. This is definitely weird for Ferdinand to be talking about with Miranda’s dad.Prospero then calls in Ariel, who has more work to do; Prospero wants to show some of his “art” (read: magic) to the young couple. As an engagement gift, Prospero is going to whip up a little “masque” (a lavish courtly performance with lots of music and dancing).Ariel then pledges to perform, and asks, like a pet, if he is loved. Prospero replies that Ariel is loved dearly.Soft music begins playing and a series of gods appear before the young couple. Iris, goddess of the rainbow and messenger of Juno (a.k.a. Hera, Zeus/Jupiter’s wife), calls upon Ceres, goddess of agriculture, to show herself and join in the celebration of true love.Ceres shows up, and asks if Cupid and Venus will be there—she has beef with them, since they plotted the way for Ceres’ daughter, Proserpine (or Persephone) to be stolen by Pluto (a.k.a. Hades), the god of the underworld. Iris assures Ceres that Cupid and Venus are both busy, and Juno then shows up to shower blessings on the couple along with Ceres.Ferdinand and Miranda are amazed, and Prospero says these are spirits he has called up on behalf of the young lovers. Nymphs and land reapers are then summoned, and they perform a beautiful dance.We interrupt this magical performance for a brain snack: In the winter of 1612-1613, The Tempest (along with thirteen other plays) was performed in honor of the marriage of King James I’s daughter Elizabeth to Frederick (the Elector Palatine). Some scholars think that Prospero’s “masque” was added by Shakespeare just for this performance, but other critics say there’s no evidence that it wasn’t an original part of the play.Suddenly Prospero jumps with surprise, and all the spirits vanish. Prospero has realized that, oopsy-daisy, he’s forgotten Caliban’s plot against his life! He’d better stop messing around and get to halting that scheme.Responding to Ferdinand’s surprise at his sudden change in mood, Prospero gives a beautiful speech that these wonders (his magic), much like life, will melt into thin air eventually. He says, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”Prospero sends Ferdinand and Miranda into his cell while he plans for his next move.Prospero has a chat with Ariel, who says that Stefano, Trinculo, and Caliban were hot with rage (and completely drunk) when he last saw them. Ariel led them to just outside Prospero’s cell with his music, and left them wading in a filthy, scummy pool.Prospero instructs Ariel to set his nice linens and fineries outside the cell as bait for the thieves and would-be murderers.He curses Caliban for being a devil. Prospero promises to plague all of the men plotting against his life. You do not want to get on this guy’s bad list.Caliban, Trinculo, and Stefano have escaped from the nasty pool, and while they all smell of “horse piss,” the greatest tragedy was losing their wine bottle.Caliban assures them that their prize will be worth it, and eggs them on to Prospero’s cell.Just as Stefano begins to have thoughts of bloody murder, Trinculo points out what nice things there are for a king’s wardrobe hanging outside, and the two get distracted. Caliban panics at their lack of focus; he is sure Prospero will wake up, find them all out, and torture them.Sure enough, Ariel and Prospero conjure up spirit-dogs and hounds that chase the three off. Prospero promises they’ll have plenty of cramps, pinches, and convulsions as they run away, hunted by the spirits.

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