Category: The Tempest

Features of a Shakespeare Comedy

What makes a Shakespeare comedy identifiable if the genre is not distinct from the Shakespeare tragedies and histories?
This is an ongoing area of debate, but many believe that the comedies share certain characteristics, as described below:

Comedy through language: Shakespeare communicated his comedy through language and his comedy plays are peppered with clever word play, metaphors and insults.
  • Act 1- scene 1 Shipwreck
  • Act 2- Conversation between Caliban and Prospero

Love: The theme of love is prevalent in every Shakespeare comedy. Often, we are presented with sets of lovers who, through the course of the play, overcome the obstacles in their relationship and unite.
 
Complex plots: The plot line of a Shakespeare comedy contains more twists and turns than his tragedies and histories. Although the plots are convoluted, they do follow similar patterns. For example, the climax of the play always occurs in the third act and the final scene has a celebratory feel when the lovers finally declare their love for each other.
 
Mistaken identities: The plot is often driven by mistaken identity. Sometimes this is an intentional part of a villain’s plot, as in Much Ado About Nothing when Don John tricks Claudio into believing that his fiancé has been unfaithful through mistaken identity.

Characters also play scenes in disguise and it is not uncommon for female characters to disguise themselves as male characters.
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The Tempest Acts 4 & 5 Summary

Act IV.
Prospero tells Ferdinand that he no longer will punish him, but instead will freely give his daughter’s hand in marriage to him. Prospero conjures up a beautiful, mythical, illusory party to celebrate, complete with goddesses and nymphs.
Prospero instructs Ariel to lead the shipwrecked men on the island before him. Remembering Stephano, Caliban and Trinculo, Prospero has Ariel distract them with clothes, Caliban failing to keep his friends focused on killing Prospero. Prospero promises Ariel that he will soon be free…
Act V.
Prospero brings everyone except Stephano, Caliban and Trinculo before him in a circle. Spellbound, he verbally reprimands several of the men who exiled him. Prospero tells Ariel that he will soon be free and that he will miss him. Prospero also intends to destroy his ability to use magic.
Making his presence known, Prospero forgives King Alonso, and tells Sebastian and Antonio he will keep secret their plan to kill Alonso, forgiving both.
The famously sweet scene of Ferdinand playing chess with Miranda occurs. King Alonso is overjoyed to see his son Ferdinand and soon learns of Ferdinand’s imminent marriage to Miranda.
Prospero forgives Stephano and Trinculo. Caliban is embarrassed that he followed a fool (Trinculo). 
Caliban is given his freedom. Prospero announces that in the morning they will all set sail for Naples. Ariel is at last set free.
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The Tempest Analysis of Act 1, scene 2

Act 1, scene 2 Analysis
Prospero tells Miranda their history as a way to inform the audience of this important information. In addition, the audience needs to know what events motivate Prospero’s decision to stir up the storm and why the men onboard the ship are his enemies — several share responsibility for Prospero’s isolation. By sharing this information, Miranda — and the audience — can conclude that Prospero is justified in seeking retribution. At the very least, Prospero must make Miranda sympathetic to this choice. It is also important that Prospero gain the audience’s sympathy because his early treatment of both Ariel and Caliban depict him in a less than sympathetic light.
Ariel and Caliban are both little more than slaves to Prospero’s wishes, and, in the initial interactions between Prospero and Ariel and Prospero and Caliban, the audience may think Prospero to be callous and cruel. He has clearly promised Ariel freedom and then denied it, and he treats Caliban as little more than an animal. The audience needs to understand that cruel circumstance and the machinations of men have turned Prospero into a different man than he might otherwise have been. But Prospero’s character is more complex than this scene reveals, and the relationship between these characters more intricate also.
During the course of the story, Prospero repeatedly asks Miranda if she is listening. This questioning may reveal her distraction as she worries about the well-being of the ship’s passengers. Miranda is loving toward her father, but at the same time, she does not lose sight of the human lives he is placing at risk. However, his questioning is equally directed toward the audience. Prospero also wants to make sure that the audience is listening to his story, since he will return to the audience in the Epilogue and seek their judgment.
It is clear from Prospero’s story that he had been a poor ruler, more interested in his books than in his responsibilities. Prospero, therefore, is not entirely blameless in the events that occurred in Milan. Antonio could not so easily seize power from an involved and attentive ruler. This information mitigates Antonio’s actions in seizing his brother’s place and is important because this play is not a tragedy. In order for the comedic or romantic ending to succeed, none of the villains can be beyond redemption or reconciliation. It is equally important that Prospero not be beyond redemption. Prospero must be heroic, and this he cannot be if he is perceived as vengeful. Ariel reassures the audience (as well as Prospero) that the ship and its crew have been saved and the passengers are safely on the island. No one has been hurt or lost at sea.
In addition to relating the past, this act also helps define the main characters and anticipate the future. Prospero has been injured, and he intends to serve justice on his captives. He delves in magic and has developed powers beyond those of his enemies. He is also intelligent enough and strong enough to control the spirits on the island; for example, he can control Caliban, who is not without power of his own. Prospero uses the magic of nature, a white, beneficent magic that does no harm. He does not use the black magic of evil. Prospero has learned of this magic, not through the use of witches or evil spells (as did the witches in Macbeth), but through his studies. Prospero’s white magic has supplanted the black, evil magic of Caliban’s mother, Sycorax, because Prospero, himself, is good.
Any initial concern that the audience might have because of Caliban’s enslavement evaporates at the news that he attempted to rape Miranda. His subsequent behavior will further prove his character, but he can be redeemed, and his redemption is necessary if the play is to succeed. Furthermore, Caliban, who is initially bad and represents the black magic of his mother, serves as a contrast to the goodness of Ferdinand and Miranda. The young lovers are instantly attracted to one another, each one a mirror image of the other’s goodness. It is their goodness that facilitates the reconciliation between Prospero and his enemies. In this reconciliation lies Ariel’s freedom and Caliban’s redemption.
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