Quick revise

This set of notes lists the order in which the play's themes and events occur, when characters are introduced and the questions that are raised in each act:

Act 1, Scene 1

  • The key theme of challenging authority opens the play
  • Conflict – the Tempest itself represents conflict; a natural conflict
  • Introduced to the King and his party
  • Antonio and Sebastian are inconsiderate and rude and they put their own safety before that of the King
  • Gonzalo – peace maker, talkative, good humoured, attentive to Alonso’s needs and willing to accept his fate with courage; loyal to the King
  • Alonso – willingness to repent (at prayers)
  • Images of suffering and struggle
  • Confusion – noise, lots of activity, 6 entrances, 5 exits

Act 1, Scene 2

  • Introduced to Prospero and Miranda
  • Prospero’s art and magic garment
  • Prospero tells Miranda how they came to the island and describes his past
  • Theme of usurpation
  • Family relationships
  • Servitude
  • Challenge to authority
  • Ariel and Caliban’s background revealed
  • Theme of imprisonment and release
  • Threats and curses
  • Theme of love
  • Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love
  • Prospero imprisons Ferdinand
  • Theme of colonisation
  • Caliban the island’s mine – who has the right to the island? Many people believe that Caliban’s experience is a typical example of what happens to any race subjected to colonisation,
  • Was Caliban an innocent, naturally good person, whose genuine friendship towards Miranda was misinterpreted? Or was he a savage brute whose true nature came out when he tried to rape Miranda?
  • Was Prospero a sincere, kind person who had no intention of seizing the island until Caliban’s evil nature was revealed? Or was he deceitful and greedy, determined from the outset to exploit the island’s natural resources and always intending to become sole master, making Caliban his slave?
  • Does Prospero’s treatment of Ariel and Caliban represent the disruptive effect of European colonisation on native societies?

Act 2, Scene 1

  • Focus on family relationships
  • Conflict
  • Colonisation – looking particularly at Gonzalo’s commonwealth speech
  • Temptation and persuasion
  • Usurpation

Act 2, Scene 2

  • Negative impression of ‘civilized’ culture
  • Caliban speaks of Prospero’s torments
  • Colonisation – both Trinculo and Stephano think of ways they could exploit ‘the monster’ Caliban for profit. In Elizabethan and Jacobean times it was common to see Indians exhibited as ‘freaks’ in public places; many died as a result of the experience, hence the term dead Indian
  • Comic scene with serious undertones
  • Caliban seen more monster than human
  • The scene shows foreign ‘civilized’ culture as decadent and manipulative; Stephano plans to inherit the island using Caliban to show him its virtues
  • Stephano and Trinculo are grotesque parodic versions of Prospero twelve years ago

Act 3, Scene 1

  • Love
  • Power
  • Different images of servitude
  • Prospero in control?

Act 3, Scene 2

  • Comic contrast to the previous scene
  • Colonisation – His cunning hath cheated me out of my island
  • Usurpation
  • Challenge to authority
  • Comic echoes
  • Trinculo – can hold his liquor better than his companions and has a clearer view of what is going on; his comments are argumentative and critical – note the number of puns he employs – a style of speech typical of a court jester
  • The action reflects on one of the main themes of the play (wrongful assumption of authority) in the form of a parody.
  • Stephano starts behaving like a King and demands ‘obedience’ from his ‘subjects’ Caliban and Trinculo
  • Caliban’s plan to kill Prospero parallels Antonio and Sebastian’s plot to murder Alonso

Act 3, Scene 3

  • Family relationships
  • Guilt
  • Challenge to authority
  • Conflict

Act 4, Scene 1

  • Warnings
  • Relationship between Prospero and Ariel
  • The Masque settles he turbulent waters of the story
  • Prospero’s speech – metaphor for the impermance of human life
  • Focus on marriage
  • Nature vs nurture
  • Comic relief by Trinculo and Stephano
  • Sympathy for Prospero and Caliban?

Act 5, Scene 1

  • Forgiveness
  • Optimism
  • Calm after the storm
  • Harmony restored
  • Tragedy has been averted
  • Love and reconciliation are stressed
  • Do the last words of Caliban express his real feelings?
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