The Tempest Act II, Scene 1
by William Shakespeare

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Act II, Scene 1 Summary

Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, and Gonzalo have washed ashore with their various attendants. Gonzalo attempts to comfort the other survivors by reminding them to be grateful that they escaped the storm with their lives. This evokes taunts from Sebastian and Antonio and pleas for silence by Alonso.

As the men take stock of the island they have been marooned on, the king interrupts them to share his despair; he believes that his son, Ferdinand, has drowned in the shipwreck. His attendant Francisco offers Alonso the consolation that the prince is a very strong swimmer and could still be alive, but the king remains inconsolable.

Gonzalo then explains to his companions why he thinks the island is a very promising place. He imagines out loud what he would do if he were the island's king. He describes it as a utopia with no need for money, titles, work, or toil. Antonio and Sebastian tease Gonzalo mercilessly throughout his daydreaming, and Alonso tells them once again to quiet down.

At this point, Ariel appears, undetected by the noblemen, and begins playing an enchanted song that lulls everyone but Sebastian and Antonio to sleep. After this strange turn of events, they agree to stand guard over the king. It is at this point that Antonio suggests to Sebastian that this would be a very convenient time to murder his brother and take the throne for himself. Although initially reluctant, Sebastian resolves to kill the sleeping king if Antonio will, at the same time, kill Gonzalo. Right before the evil deed is done, however, Ariel whispers a warning into Gonzalo's ear.

Gonzalo then jumps up and urgently wakes Alonso. The king wakes up to find Antonio and Sebastian in their compromising positions—standing over Gonzalo and Alonso with drawn swords. Alonso demands an explanation. Thinking quickly, Sebastian claims that he heard lions approaching, and the two of them were guarding the king against the beasts. Feeling very uncomfortable with their surroundings, Alonso orders the company to arise and depart so that they can search for the missing prince.

The scene ends with Ariel declaring that he will inform Prospero of what he has done and resolving to help Alonso locate his son.