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What are functions of Prospero's long speeches in Act 1 scene 2 of The Tempest?  ...

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taxi889 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted October 2, 2012 at 11:33 PM via web

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What are functions of Prospero's long speeches in Act 1 scene 2 of The Tempest?

 

 

Act 1 scene 2

PROSPERO

'Tis time
I should inform thee farther. Lend thy hand,
And pluck my magic garment from me. So:

Lays down his mantle

Lie there, my art. Wipe thou thine eyes; have comfort.
The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touch'd
The very virtue of compassion in thee,
I have with such provision in mine art
So safely ordered that there is no soul--
No, not so much perdition as an hair
Betid to any creature in the vessel
Which thou heard'st cry, which thou saw'st sink. Sit down;
For thou must now know farther.

'   My brother and thy uncle, call'd Antonio--
I pray thee, mark me--that a brother should
Be so perfidious!--he whom next thyself
Of all the world I loved and to him put
The manage of my state; as at that time
Through all the signories it was the first
And Prospero the prime duke, being so reputed
In dignity, and for the liberal arts
Without a parallel; those being all my study,
The government I cast upon my brother
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies. Thy false uncle--
Dost thou attend me?

 

 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:23 AM (Answer #1)

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Yes, you have done well to question the nature of Prospero's character in this particular scene of the play and the way that he dominates the conversation with his daughter. Given that this is the first time we have been introduced to his character, we need to consider what his speech patterns tell us. First and foremost, it is key to realise that this scene's function overall is to fill both Miranda and the audience in on the past of Prospero and how he and his daughter came to live on the island. Thus the primary function of Prospero's speeches is a narrative function: they tell us of the "foul deeds" that resulted in Prospero's banishment:

My brother and thy uncle, call'd Antonio--
I pray thee, mark me--that a brother should
Be so perfidious!--he whom next thyself
Of all the world I loved and to him put
The manage of my state...

We learn through Prospero's speeches of the rather tangled relationships that he has with his family, particularly his brother and uncle, which of course is part of the exposition at the beginning of the play as we see that Prospero is going to use his magic arts to get his revenge and to right the various wrongs that brought him to the island in the first place.

In terms of secondary functions, you might want to consider what Prospero's long speeches indicate about his relationship with Miranda. He is the speaker, and she is reduced to a passive, listening role. Such speeches clearly tell us that he is in command and is the main authority, which is something that is supported as we come to know more about him and his relations with other characters, such as Ariel and Caliban.

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