The Tempest

The Fierce and Mighty Sea; The Dramatic Function of the Powerful and Ever Present Ocean in The Tempest

Images of the fierce and powerful sea are prevalent throughout Shakespeare's The Tempest. The play opens on a terrible storm at sea and all of the ensuing action takes place on an island that, by definition, is surrounded by ocean on all sides. The sea's menacing force is evident right from the start of the first act, when the Boatswain incongruously challenges Gonzalo to "use [his] authority" against the squall (I.i.18) . By pointing out that no one - not even a royal councilor - has power over the sea, the Boatswain highlights the sea's irresistible strength. Even the language the characters use to describe the ocean alludes to its threatening prowess. In Act II, scene I (114) Francisco describes Ferdinand's swim to shore by saying that he "beat the surges . . .whose enmity he flung aside [in order to stay above the] contentious waves." By personifying the sea as a malevolent adversary Francisco is testifying to it's overwhelming power. In light of these, and other descriptions, the sea appears to be a symbol of nature's potent and vicious power.

Because of its prevalence and power, the sea constantly reminds the characters and audience that man is helpless and insignificant in the...

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