The Tempest

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

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The opening shipwreck scene is prefaced by Shakespeare with the stage directions "a tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning is heard." We are aboard a sailing ship in uncharted waters and in the midst of a violent storm, the thunder and lightning being but the first brace of the special effects that fill the play. Apart from the ship's captain and crew, there are five major male characters on board: Alonso, the King of Naples; his son, the young man Ferdinand; his brother, Sebastian; Antonio the Duke of Milan; and a counselor to the King, Gonzalo. In this brief scene, while the King and his son are at prayers below, Antonio and Sebastian curse the sailors as fools and drunkards who are unable to hold the ship together in the storm; the "good counselor" Gonzalo refrains from this useless carping. But the ship splits and all of its passenger and crew are dumped into the violent seas off Prospero's IslandThe setting now moves to dry land, to what we shall refer to as Prospero's Island, and there we see Prospero himself, the brother of Antonio and once the Duke of Milan himself, speaking with his daughter, Miranda.

She has witnessed the shipwreck off the coast of the Island, knows that her father's magic caused the storm, and is empathetically disturbed by the suffering at hand. Prospero, a master sorcerer and the ruler of the Island's strange inhabitants (which include sprites like Ariel and the half-human monster Caliban), assures her that no harm has been done, that all of those aboard the ship are now safe on the Island. Prospero then discloses to Miranda why he has caused the storm and what her actual background is. We learn that Miranda came to the Island when she was...

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