Tension is caused in the scene in two ways. First, the setting is a source of tension. The scene opens aboard a ship in the midst of a violent storm. It is clear that the ship is in danger of sinking. The master of the ship implores the boatswain to rally the sailors to their work, and while the men do their duty with bravery, the ship nevertheless breaks up. In a sense, the play begins with the tragic event that would close most plays.
Second, tension is caused by the relation between the sailors and boatswain and the passengers, who are the king and his retinue. This can be seen in the interchange between the boatswain and Gonzalo, in which Gonzalo seeks information about the ship's status and the boatswain tells him that he is in the way and to go back to his cabin.
This tension is between "high" and "low," or working class and upper class. The boatswain, in ordering Gonzalo below, is asserting his authority on board not just as a sailor, but as a man. Gonzalo, for his part, is...
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