The Tempest Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Act 1, Scene 1 of The Tempest, Alonso, Sebastian, Gonzalo, and the boatswain are introduced. What do we learn of the characters from their brief appearances?

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As The Tempest opens, the ship is in the middle of a fierce storm as the Boatswain and the Mariners seek to keep it from wrecking. Some of the high-born passengers come topsides to see what is happening; among them are the king, Alonso; Sebastian, his brother; and Gonzalo, the king's counselor. Although more will be revealed about these characters as the play unfolds, in the first scene viewers glimpse what kind of people they are.

The Boatswain is a working-class man who is intent on his labors. He might respect the king and nobility under normal circumstances, but when the ship is at stake, he has no time for their interruptions, which only "assist the storm." His lines serve the playwright's purposes as he tells the audience that Gonzalo is the king's counselor.

Alonso has only one line, but it shows he is a kind ruler. He doesn't berate the Boatswain; he respectfully asks for the "master," that is, the ship's captain. As king, he wants to deal with the person who is fully in charge,...

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