The action during act 1 scene 2 takes place outside Prospero’s cell on the island, where his ship has been wrecked due to Gonzalo being ordered to give Prospero a leaky boat. In this significant scene we gain an insight of the remaining characters and learn more about the background of the play. As we know, the first inhabitants introduced to the audience in this scene are called Miranda with her father Prospero. The scene’s opening establishes the fact that Miranda has seen the shipwreck of one of the fleet’s ships, and she asks her father to help the victims, which is seen as somewhat ironic because it was he, who caused the storm in the first place, despite it only being fictional.
The reason for the storm was purely for the sake of Miranda. This for Prospero conveys his protection and concern for the well being of his daughter, but, for Miranda, it indicates her sensitivity and worry for the others. In her first speech on lines 10-11, she tells her father ‘Had I been any god of power, I would have sunk the sea within the earth.’ From this it means that she wanted the earth to envelop the sea instead of the ship sinking to the depths of the ocean with all its crew. We can also infer from her appeals to her father from her previous quote, the significance of magic, which is the first indication we have of Prospero’s supernatural powers.
This suggestion is enhanced further in line 25, when Prospero talks of his gown, as it symbolises his magical powers. ‘Lie there, my Art’. There is more mention of his ‘Art,’ as during this scene, he was ‘raps in secret studies,’ which implies Shakespeare’s terminology signifies his studying of magic. This suggestion is reinforced by the use of ‘transported’ on line 76 because this could be interpreted as enchantment. Therefore essentially, this scene provides a firm account for the character of Prospero, as a protagonist of ‘The Tempest.’
The consequences of the storm, conveyed in scene 2 can provide a metaphor for the past turmoil in the lives of the characters. This is significant to the rest of the play firstly, for the reason that it symbolises the usurpation of the King of Milan (Prospero), which is like being overthrown in the stormy tides. Secondly, it shows earthly rulers, seen as powerless against the full elemental force of the storm, which implies a nature versus nurture battle, in conjunction with the natural serenity of the island, perfect before the dramatic social transformation of repentance, imprisonment, reconciliation and enchantment.
Later in the scene, Prospero finds a spirit call Ariel. He asks Prospero for his freedom, after a witch called Sycorax had imprisoned Ariel in a pine tree. Ariel had been imprisoned in the tree for twelve years, but meanwhile Sycorax had died, therefore Ariel would have been left in the tree forever if Prospero had not released him. To repay Prospero, he is told that he must obey him or run the risk of imprisonment again. ‘If thou more murmur’st. I will rend an oak.’
After arriving on the island, Prospero had befriended Caliban and educated him. In return, Caliban had repaid his early kindness by attempting to rape Miranda, as we know that she is beautiful as her name can be defined as ‘the wonderful one.’ This is a significant turning point within the play because in the mirrored feelings between the two there stems an abundance of issues in after this. Prospero’s attitude is one of anger, but so much that the punishment results in the enslaving of Caliban. ‘For this, be sure, tonight thou shalt have cramps.’
As we begin to understand the characters’ actions and motivations, we appreciate Prospero’s motives for the testing of Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples. Ferdinand and Miranda fall in love immediately, and Ferdinand, thinking that his father is dead, offers to make Miranda the Queen of Naples. Naturally, Miranda is attracted to Ferdinand, as he is the only man other than her father that she has ever properly known, with the exception of Caliban, who is half beast and since he tried to rape her, she obviously dislikes him and tries to avoid him.
Prospero, who hoped that the young couple would love each other, decides that Ferdinand must undergo tests to suffer for Miranda, to make sure that he was the right husband for her. Ferdinand, a brave, heroic character, accepts Prospero’s demands after Prospero charms him with his magic, despite rejecting such a preposterous suggestion. ‘No! I will resist such entertainment, till mine enemy has more power.’
Prospero masterfully brings Miranda and Ferdinand together, which plays a part in a recurring theme within the play and is significant within the episode as it symbolises hope and re-generation. I am inclined to think this because at the end of the play, after hope and anticipation for harmony, it has a happy ending. Again though, we see Prospero’s protection over Miranda, which displays and accentuates her innocence as incapable to select a suitable husband, by the trial of Ferdinand as a prisoner who is condemned to carry logs.
Essentially, the opening scenes of the play, especially in act 1 scene 2, are significant to the rest of the play as conflict begins to emerge and the characters begin to show their true colours. Not only as an introduction to the play, scene 2 has a major impact and an effect on the rest of the play and the relationships between the characters whilst they are learning to get along with each other on the island, segregated from the rest of the world.