The Tempest

The Second Scene of "The Tempest": A Scene Study

It is often noted that The Tempest is an odd play in Shakespeare’s canon; unlike any of his other works, with the exception of The Comedy of Errors, it observes classical unities of time and setting. Of all of Shakespeare’s opening scenes, the one in The Tempest is probably the most dramatic, including as it does both a storm and a shipwreck. However, the drama seems to almost completely subside in the next scene, in which Prospero narrates the prehistory of the play. This is an extreme challenge to the actor playing Prospero, since it is his job to maintain momentum in a scene which is full of long expository passages. This is one reason many actors who have played him have called him the most difficult character they have ever played.

Miranda remembers her past only vaguely; “rather like a dream than an assurance that my remembrance warrants.” Prospero explains that he was once the Duke of Milan, his title forcefully removed from him by his brother, Antonio, who had been allied with Alonzo, King of Naples. Walter Clyde Curry argues that Prospero does not say that he neglected his duty; he says, rather, that he neglected ‘worldly ends’ – a virtue for Shakespeare’s overwhelmingly Christian audience, but not a virtue for a duke...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 724 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4176 literature essays, 1401 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in