The Tempest Act I, Scene 2
by William Shakespeare

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Act I, Scene 2 Summary

On the island, Miranda expresses her distress over the sufferings of the sailors drowning in the tempest. Prospero assures her they are safe and then begins to tell her the story of his past, which she has never heard before.

Prospero, however, first asks Miranda what she can remember of being a very young child. She says her memory is hazy, but she remembers she had four or five attendants. Prospero then proceeds to tell her he was once, twelve years ago, the duke of Milan, and she was a princess. He made the mistake of allowing his brother Antonio to gradually take over more and more duties in running the kingdom while Prospero devoted more time to his studies. As Antonio amassed more and more power, he became increasingly ambitious. Finally, he allied himself with the king of Naples to overthrow Prospero: Antonio promised that he would pay tribute to Naples if they helped him take the throne of Milan.

The king of Naples agrees and raises an army that, in the dead of night, overthrows Prospero. Antonio, however, does not dare kill Prospero, because Prospero is beloved by the people. Instead, he puts Miranda and Prospero in a leaky boat and sets them out to sea, assuming that they will drown. Fortunately, the kindhearted Gonzago has equipped the boat with linens and other supplies and, most importantly, some of Prospero's books. Through an act of God, Prospero and Miranda land on the island that then becomes their home.

Miranda asks why Prospero created the fierce storm. He responds that he realized that Antonio was on the boat and saw his chance to right the wrongs that were done to him years ago. He tells Miranda he won't tell her any more now and that she should sleep. After Miranda falls asleep, Ariel (Prospero's magical servant) enters and reports on his success in doing all that Prospero asked of him in terms of frightening the ship's passengers, getting them to shore, separating them into groups, and hiding the ship safely away. Ariel then mentions that he wants his freedom.

Prospero berates Ariel, reminding him that he, Prospero, freed Ariel from the witch Sycorax, who had imprisoned the spirit in a cloven pine; Ariel was in the pine for twelve years for refusing to carry out Sycorax's depraved orders. (It is at this point that we learn of Caliban, Sycorax's son, who is also Prospero's slave.) Prospero threatens to put Ariel back in the cloven pine if he doesn't follow his orders, then promises to free him in two days if he is obedient.

Ariel exits and Prospero tells Miranda, who wakes up, that they need the services of Caliban. Miranda says she doesn't like Caliban, but Prospero says they have no choice, as they...

(The entire section is 702 words.)