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The Tempest Commentary - Act IV.

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Act IV. Scene I. - Before Prospero's Cell.

Prospero tells Ferdinand that he no longer will punish him, but instead will freely give her daughter Miranda's hand in marriage to him. Prospero conjures up a beautiful, mythical, illusory party to celebrate, complete with goddesses and nymphs. Prospero instructs Ariel to lead the shipwrecked men on the island to him. Remembering Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo who wish to kill him, Prospero has Ariel distract them with clothes, Caliban failing to keep his friends from being distracted. Prospero promises Ariel that he will soon be free...

Prospero opens the scene, deciding that the punishments he has dealt Ferdinand will soon be amended by his compensation, namely his blessing for Ferdinand to marry his daughter.

"If I [Prospero] have too austerely punish'd you, / Your [Ferdinand's] compensation makes amends;" (Line 1).

Prospero now recommends marriage wholeheartedly to Ferdinand, making allusions to his daughter's virginity (Lines 12-33).

Prospero summons Ariel and tells him to "Go bring the rabble, / O'er whom I gave thee power, here to this place:" (go bring over the rabble of men over whom I gave you power to control to me) telling Ariel to make them come quickly (Line 36). Prospero also commands Ariel to bring forth "a corollary, / Rather than want a spirit:" and a masque now appears (Line 56).

Ariel does as his master bids, and the masque begins with the Greek goddesses of Iris (the many-colored messenger of the Gods), Ceres (the goddess of wheat, rye, barley…) and Juno (highest queen of state ) all arriving.

When Ceres asks Iris why she has been summoned, Iris explains that it is for the purpose of "A contract of true love to celebrate, / And some donation freely to estate / On the bless'd lovers" (Line 84).

Ceres is concerned as to whether Venus shall be joining them. She explains that earlier Venus and son had plotted against her (Lines 86-90).

Iris assures her to not worry; they are away on more urgent business, namely a troubled Mars (Lines 92-100).

Juno arrives and blesses the happy couple (Lines 102-105). Juno and Iris now sing and Ferdinand questions Prospero as to whether this "most majestic vision," can be described as "spirits?" (Line 119).

Prospero explains the goddesses and visions as "Spirits, which by mine art I have from their confines call'd to enact / My present fancies" (Line 120).

Nymphs now enter to "help to celebrate / A contract of true love:" (Line 132). Reapers join the Nymphs in graceful dance.

Prospero, however now remembers something; the threesome of Stephano, Caliban and Trinculo who want to kill him. He curtly ends the presence of the spirits (Line 142), and Ferdinand wonders about Prospero's change of mood. Prospero tells Ferdinand to enjoy himself and not to worry for him (Lines 145-162).

Prospero summons Ariel, telling him that they must now prepare to meet with Caliban. Ariel now brings Prospero up to speed with the threesome's progress. He explains to Prospero that he led them by tubor through thorns, which hurt their "frail shins:" (Line 181).

When Ariel finally left them, they were up to their chins in the "filthy-mantled pool" (a swamp) beyond Prospero's cell (Line 182). Prospero now explains that he will deal out justice, saying that "I will plague them all, / Even to roaring" (Line 192).

On Prospero's command, Ariel entices the three would-be assassins out of the pond. Ariel, who is still invisible, does this with an array of "glistering apparel," (shiny, flashy clothes) which he hangs on a line beyond the pond.

Caliban tries to warn Stephano and Trinculo, but is ignored. Now outside the mouth of Prospero's surprisingly quiet cell, Stephano begins to have "bloody thoughts" (murderous thoughts), (Line 221). Trinculo and Stephano now notice the garments and head toward them, trying them on.

Caliban is not impressed, begging Trinculo and Stephano to ignore them since they are losing valuable time and cannot afford to be discovered by an awake Prospero (Lines 226-256).

Several spirits in the shape of hounds now appear and the noise of hunters is heard. We see Prospero and Ariel now, setting these hounds upon Stephano, Caliban and Trinculo who exit in terror.

Prospero encourages his spirits not to be merciful: "Go, charge my goblins that they grind their joints / With dry convulsions; shorten up their sinews / With aged cramps, and more pinched-spotted make them / Than pard, or cat o' mountain" (Line 261).

Ariel notes that the spirits roar and Prospero again speaks, exclaiming that "At this hour / Lie at my mercy all mine enemies: / Shortly shall all my labours [labors] end, and thou [Ariel] / Shalt have the air at freedom: for a little, / Follow, and do me service" (Line 265-end of scene). Ariel will soon be free.

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