William Shakespeare’s the Tempest
The significance and aptness of the title “The Tempest” is immense. Though not apparent at first, the title is skilfully used by the dramatist to enmesh the various themes, motifs and subplots in his play into a closely knit unit. The title is not the mere reflection of a storm that characterizes the opening scene; rather, its essence lays the foundation that links disparate elements throughout the play. I believe that the tempest is a symbol of the torment and suffering endured by Prospero for twelve years, the injustice thrust upon him for which he seeks retribution.
It is a clear manifestation of his rage, of the storms and conflicts that have ignited within him over the past few years. Prospero uses his art to put “the wild waters in this roar” and bring his enemies at his disposal, just as he was put to the mercy of the sea along with his infant daughter. Hence the tempest is a symbol of the frightening, potentially malevolent side of his power. The tempest is conjured by Prospero to set into motion a sequence of events that aim to terminate the strife and anguish in his life.
Using his black magic, he creates an environment to instill fear and panic in his enemies. There is uneasiness and uncertainty aboard the ship in distress. Nerves snap and conflict ensues. This is clearly evident when the boatswain orders members of the court party, “keep your cabins-you do assist the storm. ” He establishes his authority and challenges Gonzalo to “command the elements to silence and work the peace of the present. ” However, his dismissive and defiant attitude is interpreted for impudence and impertinence.
Members of the aristocracy are insecure and the mask their fear with profanity. Antonio, along with the others, is consumed by hopelessness and grief and leaves with a curse, “Would thou mightst lie drowning, the washing of ten tides. ” The boatswain is unaffected as he believes that social hierarchies are flimsy and unimportant in the face of nature’s wrath. Thus, we observe glimpses of the conflict and strife, of the clash in opinions that describes a major part of the play. Prospero’s sorrow and suffering is immeasurable.
Once the “Prime Duke” of Milan, he was a man of unparalleled dignity and intellectual prowess. However, due to his zest for knowledge, he “casts his government” upon his “perfidious” brother and places implicit trust in him. This does beget of Antonio “a falsehood in its contrary” as prodigious as Prospero’s confidence in him. Prospero begins to neglect all “worldly ends” as he is “transported and rapt in his secret studies. ” Very soon he is “extirpated” from his own dukedom by a “treacherous army” and hoisted into the roaring waters to cry to the sea and sigh to the winds.
Probably the most important element that lends to the play’s title, the present segment accounts for Prospero’s animosity and hostility towards his enemies. The tempest is once again a representation of the conflict and altercation that originates between them. The tempest is not a depiction of just one man’s adversity. It is also a portrayal of Miranda’s struggle. The quintessence of love and sensitivity, she is moved deeply by the “direful spectacle of the wreck. ” She empathizes with the “noble creatures” on board the “brave vessel” and entreats her father to allay the storm.
Thus, we see the incipient stage of a rational, mature woman who begins to question what she feels is wrong. Her strength and forthrightness are evinced in her conversation with Caliban. When Prospero alludes to the fact that Caliban had once sought to “violate the honour” of his child, the latter replies with a light, cavalier attitude. Clearly disgusted and appalled, Miranda responds with surprising vehemence. She goes on to reprove him for being an ungrateful, “abhorred slave capable of all ill. ” She had endowed his “purposes with words that made them known. His “vile race” however, possessed that which good natures could not abide with. Miranda is also seen to fight for her first and true love. When she sets eyes upon Ferdinand for the first time, she is overcome by wonder and amazement. Engulfed by awe and incredulity, she considers him to be a “divine and noble spirit. ” Her father however speaks harshly and chastises him for trying to usurp his island. Miranda is moved deeply by the accusation and she begs her father to be inclined to feel her way saying, “There’s nothing ill can dwell in such a temple. Though Prospero continues to threaten and rebuke Ferdinand, Miranda relentlessly supports him. She persists even after her father admonishes her and threatens to stop loving her. We see this new side to the originally innocent and docile daughter. Miranda is no longer willing to listen to everything her father says. Like a tempest, there are flashes of rebellion and waves of independence that surge within her. Later on we find her lamenting for Ferdinand. The “sore injunction” and “odious” encumbrances placed upon him evoke within her grief and at the same time an insatiable love towards him.
She is willing to break even her father’s “precepts” as she proposes marriage to him. Miranda is no longer a child; there is a clear transition that takes place within her. After his banishment form Milan, by “providence divine” Prospero finds himself on an isolated, uninhabited island. He immediately assumes authority over the desolate isle and its only denizen Caliban. Though harmonious at first, relations between Caliban and Prospero are severely strained after Caliban’s attempt to impregnate Miranda. There is an intense feeling antipathy and antagonism that shrouds the environment.
Prospero shows no pity towards the “poisonous slave” and threatens him with “cramps, aches and side stitches” for his indolence and impudence. Caliban however is not subjugated easily; he too retorts acrimoniously and curses him with the “red plague” for teaching him his language. This imperialistic side to Prospero and the insubordination of Caliban are tokens of the tempestuous feelings of malice and hatred that they bear for each other. In spite of the “humane care” once bestowed upon Caliban, the “brutish beast” formulates a plot to murder Prospero.
The shipwreck in the opening scene leaves the court part on a different part of the secluded isle. There we see the temperaments of various members as they respond differently to the disaster. While Gonzalo is optimistic, the King of Naples, Alonso is despairing. Antonio and Sebastian are brash and flippant and this is clearly evident in the mockery dished out by them. What is most noteworthy however is the scheming and manipulative nature of Antonio. While everyone else is possessed by a “strange drowsiness”, we see him work his will on the gullible Sebastian.
He incites Sebastian to dispel his “hereditary sloth” and fulfill his ambitions. He motivates him to supplant Alonso, just as he had dislodged his brother Prospero. What is unfortunate is that eventually Sebastian is impervious to his conscience and warms to the idea of a “crown dropping” on his head. Thus, we see the seeds of a brewing storm deviously planted by Antonio. The above points elucidate the appropriateness and suitability of the title “The Tempest. ” The dramatist’s choice of words, as I see it, is incontrovertible.