The Tempest Commentary provides a comprehensive
description of every act with explanations and translations
for all important quotes.
Act I. Scene I. - On a Ship at Sea. A tempestuous
noise of thunder and lightning heard.
The Boatswain: "What cares these roarers for the name
A huge storm batters a ship carrying Alonso, (King
of Naples), Sebastian, (Alonso's brother), Ferdinand
(Alonso's son), Antonio, Gonzalo and others. Death looks
The play begins to the sound of howling seas, strikes
of lightning and the claps of thunder. Drenched in rain
and salt, a Shipmaster and a Boatswain (sailor) enter
or more likely, stagger into view. The Shipmaster tells
the Boatswain to "speak to the mariners:" and ensure
they all "fall to't yarely, or we run ourselves aground:
bestir, bestir" (work together or we will run aground
and be shipwrecked), (Line 3).
The Boatswain orders that the topsails be taken down,
and now Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Ferdinand and Gonzalo,
go up on deck.
Their presence on deck is not welcomed by the already
busy Boatswain who tells Antonio that "You mar our labour:
keep your cabins:" (you distract our work, go to your
cabins), adding that their distraction helps the storm,
not the sailors fighting to save their ship (Line 14).
Gonzalo tells the Boatswain (senior sailor commanding
others) to "be patient" (Line 17). The Boatswain has
little time for Gonzalo when his ship is so close to
sinking and questions his superiors by asking "What
cares these roarers [rollers or large waves] for the
name of king?" (what cares these huge waves or rollers
for the name of king or your positions for that matter?)
again telling the gentlemen to retreat to their cabins
Gonzalo reminds the rude Boatswain whom he is shouting
to, to which the Boatswain tells Gonzalo that as a counsellor
if he cannot calm the seas then he should retire to
his cabin (Line 22).
Gonzalo however, says he derives "great comfort from
this fellow:" (great comfort from the boatswain) adding
that since the Boatswain appears to be a man more likely
to die by being hung than by drowning, he will probably
live and therefore so will they. Says Gonzalo of the
Boatswain, "If he be not born to be hanged, our case
is miserable" (if this man was born to die by hanging
then our hope of surviving this storm is miserable).
The Boatswain continues to bring down sails and now
Sebastian returns on deck along with Antonio.
Sebastian insults the Boatswain, calling him a "bawling,
blasphemous, incharitable dog!" (Line 46).
The Boatswain returns fire, telling Sebastian to work
Antonio now insults the Boatswain as a "whoreson, insolent
noisemaker," adding "we are less afraid to be drowned
than thou art" (we are less afraid to die by drowning
than you are), (Line 50).
The Boatswain ignores them now and a wet Mariner (sailor)
exclaims "All lost!" (all is lost / we will die). Gonzalo
calls on Sebastian and Antonio to join "The king and
prince at prayers!" (praying), (Line 59).
Sebastian and Antonio worry that they will be cheated
out of their lives by some lowly drunkards (the sailors)
whilst Gonzalo maintains hope, adding that the Boatswain
will "be hanged yet, / Though every drop of water swear
against it," (the Boatswain will be hanged yet even
though every drop of water swears that he will drown),
Fearing the end, Gonzalo, Antonio and Sebastian bid
their lives good bye (Line 67 onwards).
Act I. Scene II. - The Island: before the Cell
Prospero: "They are both in either's powers: but this
swift business / I must uneasy make, lest too light
winning / Make the prize light."
On the island near the storm, Prospero and his daughter
Miranda are introduced. We learn that Prospero has created
the storm battling Alonso and company's ship. Miranda
asks Prospero to stop the storm. We also learn that
Prospero was once the Duke of Milan but was banished
to this island with Miranda by Antonio, his brother
who took over Prospero's dukedom of Milan. We are introduced
to Ariel, Prospero's magic fairy who tells us that the
men aboard the ship have all made it ashore unharmed
as planned. Caliban, a misformed beast also makes his
appearance. Ariel leads Ferdinand to Miranda and the
two immediately fall in love. Prospero decides to be
rude to Ferdinand fearing a rapid courtship.
Prospero and Miranda enter. Miranda knows that her
father's magic has conjured up the storm the ship is
experiencing and Miranda would like it stopped: "If
by your art, my dearest father, you have / Put the wild
waters in this roar, allay them" (dearest father, if
by your art or magic you have created this storm, please
stop it), (Line 1).
Miranda has felt Alonso and company's pain and regrets
that these noble men are likely to be dashed or rather
bashed to pieces when their ship breaks up: "O! I have
suffer'd / With those that I saw suffer: a brave vessel,
/ Who had, no doubt, some noble creatures in her, /
Dash'd all to pieces" (Line 5).
Prospero tells his daughter not to worry. "Tell your
piteous heart / There's no harm done" he says (Line
Now Prospero decides it is time for his daughter to
know the truth; how she and her father came to this
island: "I should inform thee [you] further" (Line 23).
Asking his daughter to take off his magic garment and
laying down his mantle, he tells his daughter to "Wipe
thou thine eyes;" (wipe away those tearful eyes of yours)
which have obviously been crying for the men aboard
the previously doomed ship (Line 25).
Miranda explains that many a time she was about to
learn her past, but her father hesitated from telling
her. Prospero asks Miranda about her earliest memories
as a child. She remembers that four or five women once
tended to her which Prospero confirms (Line 47).
Prospero explains to Miranda that she has been on this
island for twelve years (Line 53) adding that her father
(Prospero) was the Duke of Milan, her mother, "a piece
of virtue," (had great virtue), (Line 56). Miranda now
asks how if she were once a princess, why she should
now live on an island in exile.
Prospero explains that he entrusted the matters of
his state to his brother Antonio whilst he followed
his love of art and in particular reading. Unfortunately,
his brother turned his subordinates against him and
had him exiled (Lines 65-116).
Seeking to replace Prospero completely, Antonio made
a pact with the King of Naples to "Subject his coronet
to his [the King's] crown," (be loyal to King Alonso),
Now allied with the King of Naples, Prospero and daughter
were evicted from Milan (Lines 120-132). Ministers (agents)
of Antonio's dark purpose, rushed Prospero and daughter
onto a boat so decrepit, "the very rats / Instinctively
have quit it:" (the very rats aboard it, left the boat
as they instinctively thought it was unsafe for them),
Only "A noble Neapolitan [a person living in Naples],
Gonzalo," helped them, charitably providing Prospero
with "Rich garments, linens, stuffs," (clothes, supplies),
(Line 164), and crucially, books from Prospero's own
private library (Lines 163-168).
Now knowing the truth, Miranda asks about the necessity
of the storm (Line 177). Prospero explains that it was
good luck that his enemy's ship had come within his
powers and having already picked up his mantle, Prospero
uses his magic to cast Miranda asleep.
Ariel is now introduced. A spirit or fairy, Ariel explains
that he has performed all that was asked of him. He
created a great storm, but not a man was hurt and now
the rest of the fleet have sailed on fearing this ship
lost. The ship itself is now safely moored in one of
the island's coves (Lines 188-236).
Ariel now brings up the issue of his freedom. Specifically
he has none as a servant to Prospero. Prospero now reminds
Ariel of the fate he found him in when he first landed
on the island.
Prospero recounts how a cruel witch called Sycorax
imprisoned Ariel for refusing to obey her, encasing
him in a cloven pine. Sycorax died and Ariel remained
Now Prospero makes an important decision; Ariel will
be free in two days if he does as commanded of him (Lines
249-301). He now bids Ariel away telling him to be invisible.
Miranda awakes and Prospero decides to visit his slave
Caliban, son of the witch Sycorax. Caliban is gathering
wood for Prospero. He insults his master, and Prospero
commands a spell of aches and pains upon him as punishment.
Caliban curses Prospero for teaching him to speak and
regrets telling Prospero of the entire island's charms
(places to find food, fresh springs and so forth), (Line
Prospero explains that he treated Caliban well. This
only changed because Caliban overstepped the mark. He
attempted to rape or as Prospero says, "violate
/ The honour of my child [Miranda]" in Prospero's
own cell or home (Line 348) adding that Caliban deserves
much more punishment than he presently receives (Lines
Ferdinand now awakes from his sleep and his memories
of the storm. He is alive, yet he hears music, beautiful
music. Following the melody he cannot make sense of
his actions, yet compelled, he follows the mesmerizing
Miranda, who has seen few men save her father, sees
Ferdinand, asking "What is 't? a spirit? Lord, how it
looks about! Believe me, sir, / It carries a brave form:"
(what is it? a spirit. Lord, how it looks around! Believe
me, it carries a brave, striking appearance), (Line
Miranda is clearly impressed, "I might call him / A
thing divine; for nothing natural / I ever saw so noble"
(I might call this sight divine for I have never seen
anything quite so noble), (Line 414).
Ferdinand is also bewitched, surprised that Miranda
can speak the same language and asking if Miranda is
a maid (women), (Lines 425-426).
Worried that Ariel's plan to get the two lovebirds
together may be proceeding too fast, Prospero is now
quite rude to Ferdinand. Ferdinand's wish to make Miranda
his "Queen of Naples" intensifies this (Line
Prospero decides that he must now slow things down
between the two lovebirds: "They are both in either's
powers: but this swift business / I must uneasy make,
lest too light winning / Make the prize light" (they
are both entranced by each other or in love but I must
move quickly now to slow things down since a prize like
my daughter's heart that is too easily won is less prized
in its winning), (Lines 448-449).
Threatened with being manacled and chained, Ferdinand
attempts to draw his sword in defense against Prospero
but is charmed out of doing it.
Miranda begs her father for mercy. Now spellbound by
Prospero, Ferdinand yields, and does Prospero's bidding.