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Free Study Guide-The Tempest by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes
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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

ACT I, SCENE 2

Summary

Prospero, who is the rightful Duke of Milan, stands outside a cave with his daughter Miranda, watching the storm toss the ship ashore. Miranda appeals to her father to use his magical powers to calm the storm, not realizing that it is his magic that has caused the tempest. She says she has seen the ship break up on the rocks and heard the shrieks of drowning seamen. Her tender heart is filled with pity. Her father reassures her and tells her the shipwreck has not injured anyone. He explains that he has caused the storm and shipwreck for a reason. Then he removes his magical robes and begins to tell her the history of her childhood and the circumstances that brought them to the island when she was just a baby.

Twelve years earlier, Prospero was the Duke of Milan, and Miranda was his only heir. Prospero had a younger brother, Antonio, to whom he had entrusted the business of ruling the dukedom while he himself spent his time learning as much as he could. Unfortunately, while Prospero was concentrating on his studies, Antonio was busy making plans to seize the dukedom for himself, with the help of Alonso, King of Naples. Since Antonio could not kill his brother directly, he arranged to put Prospero and young Miranda in a small boat and set them out on the sea without tackle, sail, or mast. What Antonio did not know, however, was that kind-hearted Gonzalo had secretly stored provisions, water, clothing, and some books on magic in the boat. Prospero and his daughter drifted ashore on the island, where they have lived undisturbed until the present.


After listening to her father's account of their history, Miranda asks Prospero why he has raised the terrible storm. He replies that the storm has forced his enemies to land on the island. Prospero then prevents his daughter from asking more questions by casting a magic spell on her so that she immediately goes to sleep.

While Miranda is asleep, Prospero calls for Ariel, an airy spirit whom he commands. Ariel reports to Prospero on the storm and the fear he has caused in the stranded royal party. Ariel says he appeared before the royal passengers in the form of a flame and frightened them all into jumping off the ship and swimming to shore on the other side of the island. The crewmen who remained on board the ship are sleeping unharmed under a magical enchantment. The young Prince Ferdinand is separated from the other royal party and thinks they have all perished. After listening to Ariel's account, Prospero tells him that during the next couple of hours they have much work to do. Ariel, however, reminds Prospero that he has been promised his liberty for the work he has already done. At this Prospero flies into a rage. He scolds Ariel and calls him an ungrateful wretch who has already forgotten the torment from which he has been freed. He then proceeds to tell the story of how the airy spirit first came under his command.

When Prospero first landed on the enchanted island, he found Ariel imprisoned in a pine tree by an evil witch named Sycorax. When Sycorax died, Ariel could not free himself and had been stuck in the spell for twelve years. Prosperous heard Ariel's wailing and released him. After recounting this story, Prospero promises Ariel his freedom within a week if all of his orders are properly carried out. He then sends Ariel to fetch Ferdinand, the young prince, and bring him to his part of the island.

Prospero wakes Miranda and calls for Caliban, the son of the witch Sycorax, to bring him some wood. The animal-like Caliban crawls out of his rock and curses both Prospero and Miranda; he hates them both since he was lord of the island until Prospero arrived. Prospero reminds Caliban how he originally found him in the woods, took him home, and taught him how to speak. In addition, he indignantly reminds Caliban that they had been friends until Caliban tried to rape Miranda. Prospero finally reminds Caliban that he is helpless against Prospero's magic, and if he wants to be spared from further punishment, he will obey.

Ariel, now invisible to all except Prospero, comes in singing and followed by Prince Ferdinand. Miranda sees Ferdinand, the first man she has seen in twelve years, except for her father. In her eyes, he is as beautiful as a god, and he is equally awestruck by her loveliness. Though Prospero has hoped for an attraction between Miranda and Ferdinand, he is not ready to announce his approval; part of his plan depends on timing. To stall things, he pretends to think that Ferdinand is a spy. He takes him prisoner and threatens to feed him roots and seawater. Miranda is devastated and assures Ferdinand that her father does not generally behave like this and is usually more gentlemanly than he appears at the moment. Ferdinand tells her that he is not bothered by Prospero's threats as long as he is permitted to look upon her lovely figure from his cell.

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