The three stranded passengers of the ship, Stephano, a butler, Trinculo, a jester and Caliban are in a happy mood as they are all three drunk. Caliban, thinking Stephano to be a powerful god, explain his plan to murder Prospero, his tyrant master, during his sleep so that he can take over the island from him. Ariel , the airy spirit, who works under the command of Prospero, is present there but is invisible to the three. He listens to their conversation and causes trouble to them by impersonating Trinculo’s voice. He interrupts Caliban when he speaks. Stephano who is fed up with Trinculo’s catcalls gets angry and hits Trinculo several times.
Caliban explains his plan of murdering Prospero during his afternoon nap. Then Stephano can make his beautiful daughter his queen. He wants Prospero’s magic books to be destroyed because without them, he is merely a fool and will not have even one spirit to obey his orders. All the spirits hate him. So it is absolutely necessary to burn his books. All the three agree to the plan.
Then Ariel plays a tune to his pipe and the three follow Ariel’s musical sound. All the three decide to find out the source of music and after that they will go ahead with the plan to kill Prospero.
This scene assumes importance because it reveals the plot hatched by the three drunken rogues to kill Prospero. They plan to kill Prospero in his afternoon nap. This conspiracy is a counterpart of the conspiracy hatched by Antonio and Sebastian against Alonso and Gonzalo.
The scene is funny for it contains comic dialogues and farcical situations. Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo get drunk and behave in a humorous way. Their drunkenness and the confusion that they create make the situation humorous. This scene is inserted in the play to cater to the taste of the groundings.
Shakespeare understood well that different shades of interest are essential for the drama and that the same kind of subject dealt with in all the scenes repeatedly will make the play dull. Shakespeare has introduced this farcical scene to provide comic relief to the audience. It also reveals the evil nature of Caliban in particular.
Significance of the Scene
- This is another scene which is essentially farcical and comic in nature.
- It provides variety and comic relief.
- It contains a serious element too- the plan to murder Prospero, which gets defeated.
totters : shakes
sack : wine
lieutenant : subordinate
deboshed : debauched
sorcerer : magician
supplant : replace
pied ninny’s : simpleton
pox : plague (a curse)
batter : smash
nonpareil : matchless
while ere : a little while before
flout’em : defy them
afeard : afraid
twangling : producing different sounds
waked : woke