19 May 2013

Analysis for Cambridge IGCSE Exam Chaos, Misrule, Authority in the Tempest and Symbolism of the Storm in Act 1

Chaos, Misrule, Authority in the Tempest and Symbolism of the Storm in Act 1

The Tempest at the start of the play is a symbol of the chaos to come. Explore the use of 'chaos and misrule' in the play.

At the start of the play, The Tempest opens dramatically with the eponymous storm, in a 'tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning'. On stage, the sound effects, yelling and chaotic introduction of large numbers of characters at once sets a tone of chaos. In microcosm the world of the ship, and the authority of the Boatswain is breaking down, with appeals to God, violent language 'blow till thou burst' and dark suggestions of moral decay and death: 'no drowning mark', 'perfect gallows', 'hanged' and 'miserable'. The moral collapse parallels the collapse of the boat and the subsequent breakdown in the authority of the court that is travelling on the boat, when they are marooned on the island. Commands are given, imperatives come thick and fast 'Down' 'lower' 'bring' 'work' showing the men's attempt to assert their authority over the storm, but it is futile. Antonio's subversive nature is immediately shown as he countermands the Boatswain's authority with his own command to 'Hang, cur, hang, you whoreson' - using foul, base language opposite to his (stolen) high status as 'Prospero's brother, the usurping Duke of Milan.' In contrast, the only characters who appeal to God are the lower status sailors, and at the other extreme, the King, underlining his moral as well as his regal status. Gonzalo says 'The king and prince at prayers! Let's assist them.' The reaction to the storm divides the characters on moral lines - those who are fit to rule, and those in whom all decency breaks down under pressure, showing their true selves.

Aargh! I ran out of time... this is a mere 250 words so it's not long enough. I'm going to add to this later but it needs: analysis of the characters of Antonio and Sebastian (as usurpers, and potential murderers), and Stephano and Trinculo (as idiots) and maybe a little bit about Caliban - wanting to murder Prospero - Sycorax as evil witch.