The Tempest : Aptness of the Title


The Tempest:  Title of the Play

Question  : Discuss how apt and suggestive is the title of the play “the Tempest”?

Answer: According to Marriam- Webster the meaning of Tempest is – “a violent storm”. Thus the” Tempest ” literally refers to the storm, at the beginning of the play , which is created by Ariel on the command of Prospero. But in more deeper sense, the Tempest refers to the uncontrolled, tumultuous plot of the play.

     The play opens on a sea- storm and later the storm is internalised. The physical tempest is used to cut the characters off from their places and people with whom they were living. It forces them to acquaint themselves with new situations and surroundings. It provides an opportunity to them to re- examine their acts and establish new relationships.

     The main plot of the play revolves around the rightful duke of Milan, Prospero, who in his past, was banished from his dukedom by his own brother Antonio with the help of King Alonso. He somehow managed to save himself and his infant daughter Miranda, and landed on an island. There he gained the knowledge of magic and control over the spirits. 

     The play begins, when Prospero hatches a plot against his enemies. By crest a storm, prospero forces his deceitful brother and his enemies to come under the illusion that they are shipwrecked on am island, where the deceptive nature of Antonio will be revealed. As a consequence, Prospero’s daughter Miranda will marry the King Alonso’s son Ferdinand. 

     There are certain other interesting sub- plots. When the king Alonso and Antonio are shipwrecked, two drunkards – Trinculo and Stephano with the help of Caliban, attempts to create a rebellion against Prospero. On the other hand, Prospero attempts to play matchmaker with his daughter and the King’s son Ferdinand. Where the cunning Antonio and the King’s brother Sebastian to murder King Alonso, in order to seize the power.

   The Tempest contains two tempests:  a literal storm and a metaphorical tempest that refers to the chaotic plot that is in motion. 

     The tempest conjured up by Prospero brings all his enemies to the mysterious island,which eventually becomes the place where love and reconciliation are allowed to conquer hatred, jealousy and revenge. Though Prospero has all the reasons to take revenge on his enemies with his magical power, he choose a different path, i.e. the path of forgiveness and reconciliation. He says – 

“……they being penitent,

The sole drift of my purpose does extent

Note a frown farther.”

   Therefore the title of the play , does not refer to the physical storm in the beginning of the play but to the turbulent passions of the characters also in the later part of the play. The turbulent passions of the characters, like the furious storm, are magically transformed into calmness and peace. It is noticed that repentance, reconciliation and forgiveness reign supreme on the island.

     Some critics are of the opinion that “the Tempest” is not the appropriate title because the sea storm suggests death and destruction. But we find that all the passengers on board in the ship escape death and even the ship is safe and ready to sail back to Naples.

     One of the critics has said that the title should have been “Prospero’ because the whole action of the play revolves around Prospero. But most of the critics favour the present title. They argue that the sea storm is not natural but is raised by Prospero’s magic for a certain purpose. When Prospero’s purpose is served  the storm ceases and there is peace and calmness.

      The events that follow the tempest on the island bring about a change in the thinking of the characters. Prospero, instead of taking revenge upon the enemies, decides to forgive them. Evil minded persons such as Antonio and Sebastian and Alonso are mellowed down as a result of the tempest. Thus, the title of the play is not literal but figurative also. It is apt and suggestive.

Also read the theme of pursuit of power

And Use of Dramatic Irony 

Use of Supernatural

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