Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Analyze Caliban’s “the isle is full of noises” speech (III.ii.130–138). What makes it such a compelling and beautiful passage? What is its relation to Caliban’s other speeches, and to his character in general? What effect does this speech have on our perception of Caliban’s character? Why does Shakespeare give these lines to Caliban rather than, say, Ariel or Miranda?
2. What is the nature of Prospero and Miranda’s relationship? Discuss moments where Miranda seems to be entirely dependent on her father and moments where she seems independent. How does Miranda’s character change over the course of the play?
3. Discuss Ferdinand’s character. What is the nature of his love for Miranda? Is he a likable character? What is the nature of his relationship to other characters?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Discuss one or more of the play’s comic scenes involving Trinculo, Stephano, and Caliban. How do these scenes parallel and parody the main action of the play? Pay particular attention to Trinculo’s speech about Caliban in Act II, scene ii, lines 18–38. This is one of the longest speeches in the play. How does it relate to larger thematic issues in the play, such as the difference between “men” and “monsters,” or the relationship between colonizers and the colonized?
2. Look at a few of the many passages in the play in which there is mention of noises, sound, or music. Focusing on one or two characters, discuss the role of noise in The Tempest.
3. Virtually every character in the play expresses some desire to be lord of the island. Discuss two or three of these characters. How does each envision the island’s potential? How does each envision his own rule?
4. Analyze the tempest scene in Act I, scene i. Topics to discuss include the following. How does Shakespeare use the very limited resources of his bare stage to create a sense of realism? How are we introduced to the characters? How does this introduction affect our perception of them later? How does the dialogue in this scene relate to the content or themes of the rest of the play? How is this scene echoed in later parts of the play?
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