A soliloquy is where a character, onstage and alone, reveals their thoughts to the audience. Shakespeare, as The Tempest is not a tragedy, does not use many soliloquy’s, as the dramatic scenes in the play are enough to give accurate information to the audience. However, Shakespeare does use a few soliloquys, most notably through Prospero, for example, in Scene 5, Act 1, to end the play by telling the audience that he is giving up his magic.
An [Aside] is a stage direction which playwrights use to allow characters to address the audience, without the other characters noticing. Asides usually suggest that there is some form of conspiracy, deceit, or mocking in the scene. For example, in Act 3, Scene 1, Prospero frequently uses the aside: ‘[Aside] Poor worm, thou art infected’ to show the audience that he has planned this event.
Imagery in The Tempest is used to conjure vivid images which stretch the audiences imagination and emotionally involve them in the play. When the play was first written it was not performed with elaborate sets or costumes which meant that the audience were dependent upon their imagination when watching the play, so Shakespeare has used much imagery to provide the audience with: most basically – entertainment, insights into the nature of each character, and dramatic impact. One example of imagery in the play is when Prospero is telling Miranda about how they came to inhabit the island and he says ‘To cry, to th’sea, that roared to us; to sigh/To th’winds, whose pity sighing back again/Did us loving wrong.’ (Act 1, Scene 2) Shakespeare uses images of the sea and the wind, along with personification and the onomatopoeia of ‘roared’ to dramatise the event for the audience. Another is the ‘thunder and lightening’ used to make Ariel’s entrance during the harpy scene much more dramatic and powerful as the sound creates fear and shocks the audience.
Personification involves giving inanimate items human feeling or attributes. Prospero often uses personification, for example: ‘Fortune’ (Act 2, Scene 1), Destiny, Time, Mercy, and Patience and the capitalisation of these words suggests their importance and makes them appear human.
Shakespeare uses hyphen’s – putting together words to challenge the imagination which creates vivid images and supports the idea that the play is full of improbable and fantastical events. Some of these phrases are easily imagined and accessible for the audience to understand, such as ‘sea-nymphs’ and ‘fresh-brook’ (Act 1) whilst others, for example ‘sight-outrunning’ (Act 1) are difficult to image, yet still vividly powerful. This instability to cement the images suggests that the island is full of wonder and ever-changing reality which is a constant theme throughout the play.
Antithesis is when words or phrases are put together which oppose each other, for example, when Ferdinand discovers that his father is not dead he says ‘Though the seas threaten, they are merciful’ (Act 5, Scene 1) and this kind of antithesis is used frequently by Shakespeare throughout The Tempest as this opposition of threats and mercy powerfully expresses conflict, which runs through the entire play.
Conflict appears in almost every scene as many of the characters are set against each other – Prospero and the royal entourage, Caliban against Prospero, and Antonio and Sebastian against Alonso being the most obvious. There are also more subtle mentions of conflict, for example Caliban and Ariel represent the idea of earth vs. air, whilst the men of civilisation (Prospero and the royal entourage) oppose the natives of the island.
Although many of the lines in the play use repetition, for example ‘We split, we split!’ (Act 1, Scene 1) the most obvious representation of repetition is found in Ariel’s songs: ‘Hark, hark!’ and ‘Bow wow, bow wow’ (Act 1, Scene 2). This repetition functions to entertain the audience and through their hypnotic sound and also suggest that the island is extremely magical and mesmerising.
Water is used throughout the play to emphasise the significance of the tempest itself. The royal entourage first enter the island with their garments ‘drenched in the sea’ (Act 2, Scene 1), Alonso threatens to drown himself in mudded’ (Act 3, Scene 3) water after Ferdinand’s death, Ariel leads Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo into a ‘foul lake’ (Act 4, Scene 1) for plotting against Prospero, and at the end of the play, Prospero promises to ‘drown my book’ (Act 5, Scene 1) which shows that water is extremely significant within the play.
Also, the play begins with a storm, and ends with a promise of calm seas for the future and the sea is explicitly mentioned several times. For example, Shakespeare gives several images of the sea, from pleasant ones to dangerous ones, such us ‘sea-swallowed’ and ‘still-closing waters’ and Antonio uses the image of water to tempt Sebastian into killing the king – ‘I’ll teach you how to flow’ (Act 2, Scene 1).
The play uses a variety of forms of the natural world throughout, such as: the sea, air and wind, earth, wildlife and thunder and lightening. These images of nature are presented both as benign and as threatening, depending on the situation of each scene and this suggests that Shakespeare believes that nature is extremely powerful. The nature of the island is also ambivalent. Gonzalo sees it to be ‘lush and lusty’ whilst others view is to be ‘uninhabitable’ (Act 2, Scene 1). Prospero seems to revere nature, arguing that ‘bountiful Fortune’ brought him to the island (Act 1, Scene 2) and he, as he uses the natural elements within his magic, is dependent upon it.
Verse and Prose Changes
The verse of The Tempest is usually written in iambic pentameter but not in a traditional manner – Shakespeare often adds extra syllables to his lines and varies the rhythm, which suggests that the play is subverting tradition, which can also been seen through the themes of the play which challenge social hierarchy. The play’s lines are not end-stopped, yet the line during the Masque are which is used to show that the event is extremely formal.
Traditionally, prose is spoken by low-status and comic characters, such as servants whereas high-status characters spoke in verse. We can see this through Prospero’s speech – verse, and Stephano and Trinculo’s speech – prose. However, Shakespeare disregards this rule when it comes to the character of Caliban who, although has a low-status as a servant, speaks in verse and even is responsible for some of the most beautiful poetry in the play. ‘And then I loved thee/And showed thee all the qualities o’th’isle,/The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile -‘ (Act 1, Scene 2) This may suggest that Shakespeare is commenting on the Western view of low-status people and that civilisation should change their views to treat natives as equals.
The structure of the play in is chronological order as the events take place within a few hours and his play has a clear beginning, middle – with a climax, and an end. This allow the audience to engage fully with the play as they are present for the majority of the events, and even the events that they do not see are fully explained by the characters in the other scenes. The clear five act structure, which was common at the time of Elizabethan theatre, gives the play coherence and a credulity which also helps the audience to comprehend the events and the characters. The first act is the Exposition – it sets the scene, expresses the problem and introduces the main characters, the second act is the Complication where conflict is developed, for example Antonio and Sebastian plot to kill Alonso and Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo (the villains) appear, act three is the Climax of the play where Miranda and Ferdinand develop their love and the plot to kill Prospero is created, the fourth act is the Falling Action which begins the resolution, and the fifth act is the Conclusion of the play where Prospero resolves his problems.
The image of the tempest is prominent throughout the entire play. It is the event that starts the action in the play and is what is allows Prospero to carry out his plan – with the help of magic. Initially, the tempest symbolises the suffering that Prospero has experienced after his usurpation, which he wants the men who wronged him to also feel. Prospero uses the storm to put the royal entourage at its mercy, and therefore at Prospero’s mercy, just as they put he and his daughter Miranda at the mercy of the sea when they banished them. The tempest shows that Prospero wants to seek revenge and make his enemies suffer for what they did to him and creates the image of Prospero as extremely powerful, malevolent and God-like.
The Game of Chess
The game of chess which interrupts Act 5, Scene 1, between Miranda and Ferdinand is used by Shakespeare to show how Prospero has successful completed his aims – as he has managed to win the king, Alonso, and taught him the lesson of his treachery.
The game may also suggest that Prospero’s power is ominous as he uses the people around him, even Miranda, as ‘pawns’ in his game to achieve his aims, disregarding the wishes of the other characters.
Similarly to the tempest, Prospero’s books are a symbol of his power as it is his books that have taught him the magic which allows him to control the element and people to fulfill his aims, for example Caliban tells Stephano that ‘For without them/He’s but a sot’ (Act 3, Scene 2). Prospero’s books also show his isolation from civilisation as magic is what causes him to forget his duties as Duke of Milan and cause Antonio to usurp him. We can see, from the ending of the play, that the only way Prospero can return to civilisation is by ridding himself of his magic by destroying his books. This suggests that magic or the supernatural does not function in society.
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