Act IV, Scene 1 Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Prospero is in conversation with Ferdinand and Miranda. Here, Prospero admits that his antagonism toward Ferdinand was a means of testing Ferdinand's love for Miranda, and he informs Ferdinand that he has passed that test. He then states that he will allow Ferdinand to marry his daughter, though he warns Ferdinand against dishonoring her before their wedding.

Having given his blessing for their union, Prospero then bids Ariel to prepare a gift for the couple. Spirits, conjured by Ariel, then arrive in the form of goddesses—Iris, Ceres, and Juno—who are all associated with marriage and motherhood. These spirits offer blessings for the union between Ferdinand and Miranda. Ferdinand is enchanted by this display of magic and even requests to stay on Prospero's island, considering it a paradise. Prospero's display continues as the goddesses summon nymphs and reapers, who start dancing.

But as Prospero suddenly recalls Caliban's plot to overthrow him, the magic dissolves. In this moment, he appears to be overtaken by a kind of infirmity. He tells Ferdinand that these celebrations have ended and that the magic that created them has dissolved away. He complains of being "vex'd" and explains that his "old brain is troubled." He then asks his guests to return to his cell and leave him for the time being, as he tries to calm his troubled mind.

Prospero summons Ariel back to him in order to prepare for the confrontation with Caliban. Ariel reports that when he encountered the heavily inebriated group, he placed them under an enchantment and brought them into a "filthy mantled pool beyond your cell." Prospero gives Ariel further instructions, aiming to set a trap to catch his enemies.

Meanwhile, Stephano and Trinculo (described in the stage directions as "all wet") are complaining about what happened with the pool while Caliban requests that they continue to hold faith in him and his promises. He leads them to the cell, intending to murder Prospero, but Stephano and Trinculo become distracted; Ariel has left some of Prospero's royal apparel for them to find. At this point, Caliban panics, afraid that in their distractions, they'll miss their opportunity to kill Prospero, and Prospero will then avenge himself on them. Prospero and Ariel then proceed to set the spirits on the three intruders, forcing the men to flee.

The scene closes with Prospero telling Ariel that his work is coming to an end and that Ariel should follow him a little while longer. Prospero assures Ariel that if he does this, he will be freed.

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Act V, Scene 1