Read an Excerpt
Cambridge University Press
0521618789 - The Tempest - Edited by Rex Gibson
List of characters
|PROSPERO the rightful Duke of Milan |
MIRANDA his daughter
ARIEL an airy spirit
CALIBAN a savage and deformed slave
SPIRITS in Prospero's service
|□ characters in |
□ the masque
|The shipwrecked royal court|
|ALONSO King of Naples |
FERDINAND Alonso's son
SEBASTIAN Alonso's brother
ANTONIO Prospero's brother,
the usurping Duke of Milan
|GONZALO an honest old councillor |
STEPHANO a drunken butler
TRINCULO a jester
|The ship's crew|
|MASTER the captain |
The play takes place on a ship and an island
The Master commands the Boatswain to save the ship from running aground. The Boatswain gives instructions to the sailors but finds his work hampered by the courtiers. He orders them to go back to their cabins.
1 Act it out (in groups of six or more)
The best thing to do with Scene 1 is to act it out. It takes place on a ship at sea during a terrible storm. How can the fury of the waves and wind be shown on stage? In some productions, the scene is played on a bare stage, without props or scenery. The illusion of a ship caught in a tempest is created only by lighting, sounds and the actors' movements. Other productions use an elaborate set to create a realistic ship.
Work out how to stage Scene 1 to greatest dramatic effect. Talk together about a to d below, then stage the scene. There are six individual speaking parts, and as many sailors as you wish.
- Explore ways of performing the first stage direction: 'A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning. '
- How can actors' movements suggest a ship caught in a storm?
- How might you convey the sense of fear and crisis? These are people who are desperately concerned to save their lives. Do they panic, or are they well disciplined?
- What simple props can suggest a ship? One production had only a large ship's wheel at the back of the stage. The sailors struggled to turn it to keep the ship on course.
2 Challenging authority
Traditional authority is challenged in the storm. The Boatswain is in charge, rather than the higher-status passengers. He orders the king and the other aristocrats off the deck. This theme runs through the play, taking many different forms (see p. 149).
Act 1 Scene 1
A ship at sea
A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning. Enter a SHIPMASTER, a BOATSWAIN and MARINERS
BOATSWAIN Here, master. What cheer
MASTER Good; speak to th'mariners. Fall to't yarely, or we run ourselves aground. Bestir, bestir! Exit
BOATSWAIN Heigh, my hearts! Cheerly, cheerly, my hearts! Yare, yare! 5
Take in the topsail. Tend to th'master's whistle. [To the storm] Blow
till thou burst thy wind, if room enough!
Enter ALONSO, SEBASTIAN, ANTONIO, FERDINAND, GONZALO and others
ALONSO Good boatswain, have care. Where's the master? Play the men.
BOATSWAIN I pray now, keep below. 10
ANTONIO Where is the master, boatswain?
BOATSWAIN Do you not hear him? You mar our labour - keep your cabins. You do assist the storm.
GONZALO Nay, good, be patient.
BOATSWAIN When the sea is. Hence! What cares these roarers for the name of king? To cabin. Silence! Trouble us not.
GONZALO Good, yet remember whom thou hast aboard.
The Boatswain reminds Gonzalo of Humanity's weakness in the face of Nature's violence. Gonzalo finds comfort in the Boatswain's face. The Boatswain again rebukes the courtiers, and is cursed in return.
1 More challenges to authority (in pairs)
The Boatswain is the character with the lowest social status in the scene, yet he is clearly in charge. He speaks to his social superiors with little or no respect: 'Out of our way', 'What do you here?', 'Work you then'. He gives his orders to the sailors with confident authority.
|a||To whom does he speak? One person reads aloud everything the Boatswain speaks in Scene 1, pausing after each sentence or phrase. In each pause, the other identifies the person the Boatswain is addressing, and his likely tone of voice on each occasion.|
|b||The storm: another challenge It is not only the Boatswain who challenges authority. The storm also represents a challenge to Humanity's authority over Nature. Keep looking for more instances of such disruptions of order.|
2 '. . . his complexion is perfect gallows'
Gonzalo's wry comment on the Boatswain's face (lines 25-6) echoes the saying 'He that is born to be hanged, will never be drowned.' Imagine that the actor playing Gonzalo asks you, 'Is Gonzalo just being cynical, or joking, or what? How do I play these lines?' Make your reply.
3 Discourteous courtiers (in pairs)
Sebastian and Antonio curse the Boatswain (lines 35-6, 38-9). Speak the lines to each other, and then talk together about what such language tells you about the two men's personalities.
|BOATSWAIN None that I more love than myself. You are a councillor; if you can command these elements to silence, and work a peace of the present, we will not hand a rope more V use your authority. If you cannot, give thanks you have lived so long, and make yourself ready in your cabin for the mischance of the hour, if it so hap. [To the Mariners] Cheerly, good hearts. [To the courtiers] Out of our way, I say.||20|
|[Exeunt Boatswain with Mariners, followed by Alonso, |
Sebastian, Antonio, Ferdinand]
|GONZALO I have great comfort from this fellow. Methinks he hath no drowning mark upon him, his complexion is perfect gallows. Stand fast, good Fate, to his hanging; make the rope of his destiny our cable, for our own doth little advantage. If he be not born to be hanged, our case is miserable. Exit||25|
|BOATSWAIN Down with the topmast! Yare, lower, lower! Bring her to try with main-course.||30|
|A cry within|
|Enter SEBASTIAN, ANTONIO and GONZALO|
|A plague upon this howling! They are louder than the weather, or our office. [To the lords] Yet again? What do you here? Shall we give o'er and drown? Have you a mind to sink?|
|SEBASTIAN A pox o'your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog.||35|
|BOATSWAIN Work you then. |
ANTONIO Hang, cur, hang, you whoreson, insolent noisemaker, we are less afraid to be drowned than thou art.
|GONZALOI'll warrant him from drowning, though the ship were no stronger than a nutshell, and as leaky as an unstanched wench.||40|
The Boatswain orders action to save the ship, but disaster strikes. Antonio again curses the Boatswain. The crew abandon hope. Gonzalo accepts whatever is to come, but wishes for death on land.
'Farewell, brother!' Modern productions often convey the impression of shipwreck through the actors' movements, as in this staging at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 2000. The passengers and crew face death in different ways. Some sailors pray or beg God's mercy. Others bid farewell to each other or to their wives and children. The Boatswain takes comfort in drink (line 45), and is cursed by Antonio.
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1 Step into role as director
On page 2 you were invited to act out Scene 1. Now write an assignment on the scene, explaining how you would stage it. Give details of your stage set, sound and lighting effects; advice to the actors (speaking characters and sailors); and explain how you would perform the final shipwreck.
BOATSWAIN Lay her a-hold, a-hold; set her two courses. Off to sea again; lay her off!
Enter mariners, wet
|MARINERS All lost! To prayers, to prayers, all lost!|
|BOATSWAIN What, must our mouths be cold?||45|
|GONZALO The king and prince at prayers! Let's assist them, |
For our case is as theirs.
SEBASTIAN I'm out of patience.
ANTONIO We're merely cheated of our lives by drunkards.
This wide-chopped rascal - would thou mightst lie drowning
The washing of ten tides!
|GONZALO He'll be hanged yet,||50|
|Though every drop of water swear against it, |
And gape at wid'st to glut him.
[Exeunt Boatswain and Mariners]
A confused noise within
Mercy on us!
[voices off stage] We split, we split!' - 'Farewell, my wife and children!' -
'Farewell, brother!' - 'We split, we split, we split!'
ANTONIO Let's all sink wi'th'king.
|SEBASTIAN Let's take leave of him.||55|
| [Exeunt Sebastian and Antonio] |
GONZALO Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of
barren ground - long heath, brown furze, anything. The wills above
be done, but I would fain die a dry death. Exit
Miranda begs her father, Prospero, to calm the tempest. She feels the suffering of the shipwrecked people, and is full of pity for them. Prospero assures her that no harm has been done.
'There's no harm done.' Prospero assures Miranda that everyone on board the wrecked ship is safe.
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1 A contrast of scenes
After the frenzied confusion of the shipwreck, Scene 2 opens with Miranda's compassion for the people aboard the doomed ship, and Prospero's calming reply 'There's no harm done.' Some productions begin Scene 2 with Prospero shown very obviously as a powerful magician, his arms raised as he calms the storm at Miranda's request. Other productions begin the scene quietly, after the storm has ended. Write notes on how you would stage this first sight of Prospero and Miranda to greatest dramatic effect.
Act 1 Scene 2
Enter PROSPERO and MIRANDA
|MIRANDA If by your art, my dearest father, you have |
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky it seems would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to th'welkin's cheek,
|Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffered||5|
|With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel, |
Who had no doubt some noble creature in her,
Dashed all to pieces. O, the cry did knock
Against my very heart! Poor souls, they perished.
|Had I been any god of power, I would||10|
|Have sunk the sea within the earth, or ere |
It should the good ship so have swallowed, and
The fraughting souls within her.
PROSPERO Be collected;
No more amazement. Tell your piteous heart
There's no harm done.
MIRANDA O, woe the day.
|PROSPERO No harm.||15|
|I have done nothing but in care of thee - |
Of thee my dear one, thee my daughter - who
Art ignorant of what thou art, nought knowing
Of whence I am, nor that I am more better
|Than Prospero, master of a full poor cell,||20|
|And thy no greater father. |
MIRANDA More to know
Did never meddle with my thoughts.
Prospero decides to tell Miranda her life story. He again assures her that no one was hurt in the shipwreck, and questions her about what she remembers. He reveals that he was once duke of Milan.
1 Design Prospero's 'magic garment'
Prospero wears a 'magic garment' which gives him the supernatural powers that he calls his 'art'. In stage productions the 'magic garment' is usually a cloak, richly decorated with magical symbols (see p. 157). Design your own version of Prospero's 'magic garment'.
2 Imagery: 'In the dark backward and abysm of time'
The Tempest is rich in imagery (see pp. 168-9). Line 50 is a remarkable example. Instead of saying 'long ago' or 'in the dim and distant past', Prospero says 'In the dark backward and abysm of time'. This imaginative image has a strange, haunting quality which cannot be fully explained. As you read on, you will find many other striking images which add to the mysterious quality of the play.
3 Prospero's story: a first impression (in pairs)
In lines 53-186, Prospero tells the story of how he and Miranda came to the island. Take parts and read lines 53-186.
Don't worry about words and phrases you may not understand. Just treat the read-through as a way of gaining a first idea of Prospero's overthrow and journey to the island. It will also help you gain a first impression of what Prospero and Miranda are like.
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