The Tempest : Importance of Act 1 scene 2 in the play “The Tempest”

Importance of Act 1 Scene 2 in the Play  :  The Tempest 

 Question : What is the importance of Act 1 scene 2 in the play ‘The Tempest ‘  ?

Answer : The scene 2 of Act 1, completes the first act of the play, which Shakespeare traditionally used as his introduction. By the end of Act 1 in a Shakespeare play, all the major as actor characters, the setting and the central dilemmas of the play have usually been introduced to the audience. In fact, this is the case in ‘The Tempest’.

     Scene 2 of Act 1, is dramatically quite important. It is the longest scene of the play. In it Shakespeare has made us aware of the background of scene 1, of what happened before, and of all that is to happen in future.

   This scene can be divided into three parts. Prospero telling the story of his past life to Miranda. He tells her why and how they reached the island and what is his purpose in raising the storm in the sea. In the second part, we are made aware of   Prospero’s magical powers and his control  over supernatural creatures like Ariel and all the savage Caliban.

    The scene is quite important as it depicts the similarity and dissimilarities between the two totally different characters – Ariel and Caliban. 

     In the third part the love between Prospero’s daughter Miranda and Ferdinand, the son of his enemy Alonso, the King of Naples is portrayed.

    Ariel leads Ferdinand to Miranda and as Prospero has planned, they rapidly fall in love. This is one of Prospero’s ways to ensure his re-emergence into power, by unifying his family with that of his rival, the King of Naples. On another level, this shows the power of love conquering all and of forgiveness healing the wounds of the past.

The Depiction of Positive Characters

    This scene presents the positive characters of the play such as Prospero, Miranda and Ariel, while the negative characters such as Antonio, Sebastian and Alonso are introduced in scene 1. The first scene has the ocean as it’s setting, where as this scene is set on the island. 

Device of Flashback :

     The scene covers the span of twelve years and more through the device of Flashback. Shakespeare does this because he knows that the actions of these twelve years like – banishment of Prospero from his dukedom, his sufferings at the sea with his infant daughter, depiction of the storm in the sea, all these actions could not be dramatically enacted on stage, especially with the primitive facilities available during that time.


The Observance of the Unities  :

    Shakespeare was often criticised in his time for not observing the classical rules of playwrighting. The scene 2 of Act 1  is important as Shakespeare proved that he could preserve the Unities of Place, Time and Action with absolute brilliance. This is to say – 

1. The Unity of Place – The action of the play is restricted to a small island.

2. The Unity of Time – The whole play takes no more than four hours.

3. The Unity of Action – The story is limited entirely to Prospero undoing the wrong done to him. It is to achieve all this that Shakespeare had to write such a lengthy scene. The romantic scene between Miranda and Ferdinand is very short so that it does not clash with the unity of the main action – that is of Prospero’s revenge.

   This the whole scene can be taken as an exposition of different layers of the play – realism, romance and supernaturalism.

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