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...
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