The Tempest Act 1 Scene 2 Notes ISC Class 11 and Class 12


It is the in this long scene that the exposition of the play takes place properly. It may be divided into three parts. Most of the main characters are introduced here. We come to know how this tempest has brought Prospero’s enemies to the island.

Part I

Miranda tells her father, Prospero, that she has seen a furious storm which caused a ship-wreck off the coast of island. Prospero, then, tells his daughter that he raised the storm with his magical powers, but he is sure to protect everyone who is on board from harm with his magical powers. Then he narrates the story to his daughter and tells how they landed on the island. Prospero tells her that he was the rightful Duke of Milan. He developed interest in the study of philosophy and magic and left the control of the state’s affairs in the hands of his brother Antonio. Antonio grew ambitious and in order to usurp his dukedom, he made a secret pact with the king of Naples. So one night they were ousted from the palace. At that time she was three years old. So they were put aboard on old boat with no mast nor sails and were left to die in the sea. But Gonzalo, a noble courtier of Naples, provided them with food, water, clothes and his (Pospero’s) important books on magic. Thus they survived and drifted to the island. Here he brought her up. He tells his daughter that he raised the storm to bring his enemies close to him. Then he makes her sleep with his magical power.

Part II

In this scene, Prospero summons Ariel, an airy spirit under his command who narrates to his master, Porspero, how he raised the storm as per his directions. He tells him that he frightened the passengers so much with lightning and thunder that they jumped into the sea. But they have been brought safely to the shore and left in small groups at various places. Ariel tells Prospero that there was a lot of work that he had to do. He is not eager to do more work. Prospero remind Ariel that it was he who got him freedom from the evil spell of the witch named Sycorax who had a full control on the island before he arrived. Sycorax died leaving Ariel trapped in a pine tree. Prospero, with his magical powers, got Ariel released from the pine tree. He got a promise from Ariel that he would obey his commands and serve him. Prospero assures Ariel that he would free the spirit (Ariel) in two days if he performs his duty diligently till then. Ariel expresses his gratitude to his master and hurries off to carry out his (Prospero’s) tasks.

Miranda is woken up by Prospero. Caliban, the half-human son of the witch Sycorax is introduced in this scene. Caliban curses Prospero and Miranda. He says that initially they treated him well for showing them the whole island, but now they have imprisoned him in a tiny corner of the island. Prospero tells him that he should be grateful to them for teaching him how to speak and for many other things. They punished him and imprisoned him after he tried to attack Miranda. Since then they have kept him as their slave. Now they want him to fetch wood for them and do other trivial tasks.

Part III

In this scene we find that Ariel has lured Ferdinand, king Alonso’s son, with sweet music. Ferdinand believes that his father has died in the ship-wreck. When Miranda and Ferdinand see each other for the first time,  they fall in love with each other. It is love at first sight as Prospero had planned. But he does not want his daughter to be so easily won. So he speaks roughly to Ferdinand. He tells him that he is not the heir to the throne of Naples as he claims, but a spy. He accuses him of trying to steal the island from him.

Prospero threatens him to put him in chains and give him sea-water to drink and dry roots to eat. Prospero orders Ferdinand to follow him but he refuses to do so. Ferdinand draws his sword to fight against Prospero, but Prospero renders him incapable of moving with his magical power. Miranda tells her father not to be harsh towards him and begs him to release him.

Prospero scold Miranda and tells her not to influence his decision. Ferdinand loves Miranda deeply and so accepts Prospero’s decision.

Critical Commentary

In this long scene, the dramatist narrates all that has happened before. The scene also gives hints about what has to come after.

The real exposition of the play takes place in this scene and it is done by using the device of a conversation between the two characters. Prospero and his daughter Miranda converse with each other. Prospero tells his daughter how they landed on the island. Prospero in his speech establishes a connection with what has happened in the first scene. Shakespeare has employed the retrospective method to establish a connection between the first scene and the second scene.

Later on , the dramatist creates a world of magic and enchantment. Ariel and Caliban, the two characters who are introduced in this scene belong to the world of magic. Ariel is the supernatural agent who executes the orders of Prospero. The ship-wreck is caused by magic. Passengers are set ashore on an unknown island by Prospero’s magical power. Caliban is contrasted with Ariel and is employed by Prospero to fetch wood and perform other menial tasks.

Again in this world of magic, the music of the invisible Ariel lures Ferdinand and brings him in front of Miranda. Both Ferdinand and Miranda see each other for the first time and fall in love with each other at first sight as Prospero had planned. We are, thus, prepared for the future action in a rapid sequence of scenes. We are curious to know what will happen to Prospero’s enemies and to the love between Miranda and Ferdinand.

Significance of the Scene

  1. This long scene introduces all the major characters.
  2. It tells us about the events that have led up to the present situation.
  3. The use of the supernatural beings creates an atmosphere of magic and awe.
  4. Ferdinand and Miranda’s infatuation adds an element of romance of the mundane world.

Word Meanings

allay : make less strong

welkin’s : shy

cell : room

perdition : injury

signories : duekdoms

verdure : greenness

brave : fine, splendid

collected : clam, composed

direful : dreadful

coil : turmoil

in troops : in separate groups

nigh : near

in the veins : in the centre

Argier : an old form of Algiers

hag : old woman

earthy : gross

quaint : dainty

abysm of time : bottomless depth of time

suits : petitions

confederates : conspires

extirpate : destroy

prescience : power to foresee

Jove : supreme god in Greek mythology

besiege : surround

blemish : stain

Bermudas : an area in the West Indies

torment : torture

malignant : malicious

freckled whelp : a spotted dog

gape : open

wicked dam : treacherous mother

fen : marshy area

cramps : painful contraction of muscles

brine pits : pits from where salt is obtained

gobble : talk meaninglessly

Setebos : god, (here) the devil

vassal : slave

strain : song

strutting : walking

canker : a disease

manacle thy neck : chain your neck

entertainment : treatment