The Tempest Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is the function of the masque in act 4 of The Tempest by William Shakespeare?

The function of the masque in act 4 of The Tempest by William Shakespeare is to connect the audience to the spirits in the play. This is done using Prospero as a medium between the two. This connection serves to remind the people in the audience of their own mortality.

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Within the context of the plot, the masque in act 4 of The Tempest occurs because Prospero has Ariel summon spirits to put on a small play to celebrate Miranda and Ferdinand’s engagement. He tells Ariel, “I must / Bestow upon the eyes of this young couple / Some vanity of mine art.” Prospero wants to celebrate and impress his daughter and her fiancé.

During the play, Prospero says, in an aside, “I had forgot that foul conspiracy of the beast Caliban, and his confederates, against my life: the minute of their plot is almost come.” At this point, the masque changes from a celebration to a catalyst for Prospero’s reflections. He sees the end of the masque, when the spirits disappear, as the dissolution of everything, including “the great globe itself.” In Prospero’s mind, humans are composed of “such stuff as dreams are made on,” which will fade and dissolve as well; their lives are “little” and “rounded with a sleep.”

In the work as a whole, the masque...

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