How does Shakespeare highlight Alonso's grief in act 2, scene 1 of The Tempest, lines 107 to 114?

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Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this scene, King Alonso and other courtiers have just been shipwrecked. They wander alone on an unknown island, separated from others, including Alonso’s son Ferdinand. Several members of the group are quite chatty, including the optimistic Gonzalo. Alonso does not want to hear Gonazlo’s insistence on gratitude. Sebastian and Antonio mock Gonzalo, who continues to speak about the wonders of their situation.

Gonzalo asks Antonio about how his clothes seem fresher than when he wore them at the princess’s marriage, when Alonso, who has barely spoken, replies, “You cram these words into mine ears against / The stomach of my sense.” In these lines, Alonso expresses regret at having married off his daughter. He mourns that he will never be able to see her again, whether he returns home or not, and exclaims that the reason his son is dead is because they took a ship to attend her marriage.

Though there is no evidence of Ferdinand’s death, Alonso asks:

O thou mine heir
Of Naples and of Milan, what strange fish
Hath made his meal on thee?

This question recalls his first sentence about how this chatter assaults his ears in spite of how he feels. He hears but can barely listen. Alonso is focused on his children, particularly the possibly drowned Ferdinand, whom he speaks to at the end of his short speech. These lines, spoken after a long silence by Alonso, demonstrate his grief by showing that his mind is elsewhere—with his son.

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The Tempest

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