Plot Summary / The Story-line
Act four scene one of The Tempest is a vigorous celebration scene where Prospero proposes Ferdinand to marry Miranda. The engagement of Miranda and Ferdinand is solemnized. Ferdinand withstands all the trials and tribulations by his fortitude and virility.
He wins Prospero’s affection by virtue of his inner goodness. And this is what Prospero says to Ferdinand –
If I have too austerely punish’d you,
Your compensation makes amends; for I
Have given you a third of mine own life,
Or that for which I live.
Thus Prospero arranges the holy occasion by calling on Ariel to provide entertainment to celebrate the betrothal; Ariel’s fellow sprites partake of a masque where they play the role of goddesses Iris, Ceres and Juno. Hymen, the God of marriage, attends the ceremony holding a blazing torch in his hand. Soft music begins playing. Iris, the goddess of rainbow, appears to shower her benediction on the couple. Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, shows up. Iris appears to celebrate true love.
Miranda and Ferdinand are mesmerized; Prospero says these are the spirits he has called upon. Nymphs and land reapers are summoned and they perform a beautiful dance. Ferdinand exclaims in surprise saying:
This is a most majestic vision, and
It is all created by Prospero’s magical art to impress upon the couple:
… for I must
Bestow upon the eyes of this young couple
Some vanity of mine art.
Now the plot moves to the frolicsome pranks of the comical villains. Furthermore, we see how Prospero torments the vulgar drunkards Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban by his tricks. When Ariel reports to Prospero about the group’s plan to steal his books and kill him, he orders Ariel to gather some fine cloth to be hung in full view as a trick for the men to attempt stealing. Then they make themselves invisible and wait for the fools to come.
Ariel has meanwhile led the drunkards by his music to a filthy pool. Maddened with rage, the villains come to Prospero’s cell and attempt putting on the clothes hung outside. Now, by the power of Prospero’s magic, the spirits disguised as hunting dogs chase the comical villains away.
Commentary on Act IV, Scene i
Prospero introduces masque which presents the solemnization of the marriage with observance of social and familial rituals. The masque is organised as a popular form of entertainment as was popular in England. Thus mythology and folklore are exploited in a convincing way.
In this scene the process of reconciliation is at work. It is the reconciliation between Prospero and his enemies. Ferdinand the son of his old enemy is accepted by Prospero as his son-in-law. Caliban is still to be punished. Along with the marriage we get introduced to the embarrassed state of the villains who have plenty of cramps, pinches and convulsions as they run away.