Synopsis of Act 4 Scene 1 of The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Overview of The Tempest Act 4 Scene 1

Summary from The Tempest Act 4 Scene 1

Act IV starts on a positive note with Prospero explaining to Ferdinand about the circumstances that led to his punishment. He offers Miranda's hand as a reward for the sincerity and sense of responsibility shown by Ferdinand. He goes on to describe Miranda's qualities and how precious she is to him. Ferdinand acknowledges the value of Miranda and promises that he will not think otherwise, even if God comes to deny it. Prospero also warns Ferdinand that he should not try to take advantage of Miranda's innocence. Ferdinand promises to take extreme heed of the warning as he seeks for peace, prosperity and happiness and fine children out of his marriage. At this time Ariel appears and Prospero orders him to bring all the spirits of the island so that he can entertain the about to be a wedded couple. This is evidence of his superior magic skills.

The first to appear is Iris, the Goddess of Rainbow. She calls Ceres, the Goddess of Earth and Agriculture to answer the summons of Juno, to bless a couple in love. They showed a lot of blessings on the couple; afterwards, the spirits danced to wonderful tunes. Suddenly, Prospero remembers Caliban's plot and dismisses the crowd. Ferdinand is surprised and Miranda says that she has never seen her father so distressed.

He learns about the whereabouts of the three conspirators and decides to teach them a lesson. Prospero is pleased but He asks Ariel to bring the glittery clothes from his cell and hang them out to bait the trio. He talks about how nurture cannot improve one's character. Caliban, a born devil can never become a civilized being. At this time, the three villains come stealthily to do their evil deed. Stephano and Trinculo are distracted by the gaudy clothes and Caliban feels disillusioned by the newly found 'god'. He warns them of the consequences of waking up Prospero who will definitely torture them with aches as well as some deformation in their bodies. Meanwhile, spirits in the form of dogs and hounds chase them and they run roaring with fear. Prospero tells Ariel to continue torturing them for an hour or so. They have some more work to do and after that Prospero promises Ariel freedom.

Critical Analysis of The Tempest Act 4 Scene 1

The minor plot of Ferdinand-Miranda love story is nearing its culmination in this scene. Ferdinand is offered Miranda's hand in marriage. A very entertaining masque is performed to entertain the couple but it also adds entertainment value for the drama also.

The scene is famous for Prospero's comments on the transience of the world, where the palaces and all other things we consider valuable, perish someday. Our life is like a dream surrounded by sleep. Just as the spirits who showcased an enchanting performance vanished into thin air, the show of human life also lasts for a short time.

Ariel plays a crucial role in this scene, arranging the masque, the music and the punishment of the three comical characters.

Also, this scene marks the end of another subplot; that is the story of Caliban and his new-found friends. The scene has its share of humour with Ariel's description of the panics of the three comedians in a drunken state. In the end, they run away, chased by hounds, giving scope for laughter as the audience feel they deserve this punishment.

 Prospero seems like an overprotective father, but his comments have to be taken as advice to all unmarried couples. His remarks on Nature and Nurture add to the significance of the act.

This act marks the culmination of the play, with some of the incidents reaching their climax and falling in the right places.


vexation - frustrated:
ratify - confirm:
sanctimonious - holy, sacred:
loathly - hateful, disgusting:
worser genius - evil spirit;
rabble - mob, gang :
trick - stunt, device:
vanity - quality of being valueless;
abstemious - marked by temperance;
abate - diminish, reduce;
ardour - eagerness, zeal:
bounteous - giving freely:
brims - margin, edge;
betrims - array;
amain - at full speed;
diffuses - disband:
bosky - bushy:
summoned - order to be presented:
dusky - joyless:
forsworn - reject;
waspish - ill tempered:
gait - means of transport;
scarcity - insufficiency:
majestic - having great dignity:
harmonious - pleasant sounding:
garners - granaries;
naiad - water nymph;
crisp - rippling:
furrow - gouge:
confederates - joint by an agreement;
revel - entertainment:
beating - agitated;
pageant - display;
cleave - hold together;
varlet - knave, helper:
pricking - caustic:
bending - aiming:
tabor - little drum:
filthy - mantled:
nurture - edibles:
cankers - rots from the inside:
hoodwink - cover up:
disgrace - dishonor;
wardrobe - collection of clothing:
dropsy - kind of a disease;
villainous - wicked. 
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