The Tempest: Act 1, Scene 1 Summary & Commentary

Introduction to The Tempest

“The Tempest” by William Shakespeare was first published in the collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays known as the “First Folio”. It is one of the most original and perfect of Shakespeare’s productions. It is a fine fusion of both the comic and tragic elements. It is a perfect example of universality of Shakespearean dramaturgy.

Various strands get amalgamated in this drama apart from its tragi-comic approach. Among them is important the motif of supernaturalism and improbable incidents. Its romantic element is woven together with characteristic Shakespearean wit and humour. Another notable element is masque and music with which the plot is enriched.

Magic is no doubt a major motif accelerating the plot. Characterization of non human creatures like Ariel and Caliban imparts to the play a significant analysis of the discourse of slavery that counts to be important in post-colonial studies. Such drama of Shakespeare’s closing years provided the stuff of pleasurable diversion to the king James I. Shakespeare pandered to the taste of changing demands of the Jacobean audience. The play is based on “A Discovery of the Bermudas” by Silvester Jourdan.

The Tempest: Act I, Scene i

Plot Summary / The Story-line

The plot of the play opens with noise and commotion on a storm-wracked ship. We are introduced to a whole litany of slang and fiery exchanges between the boatswain and arrogant passengers. Antonio Sebastian, Alonso Ferdinand and Gonzalo, three mariners appear on the deck. A tempestuous noise of thunder and lighting is heard. The heavy gale drives the ship ashore in spite of the mariners’ effort to head her out to sea.

Commentary on Act I, Scene i

Act one scene one registers an immediate appeal to our imagination with its whirl of action. It strikes our wonder as to the after-effect of the heavy gale upon the mariners. Restlessness grips each and every one on the ship. Readers feel over-curious about the fate of the passengers and the crew. The Elizabethan merchant vessel is the centre of action in this scene. Scene one is a befitting setting for the play, justifying its title “The Tempest”. The locale is pervaded with both the angry outburst and tinge of humour. The impact of natural calamity is paramount. It is a prelude to the tone and temper of the play.

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