The Tempest

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Gonzalo Character Analysis

Alonso's advisor. Gonzalo was charged with carrying out the kidnapping of Prospero and Miranda. A kind soul, he pitied the pair and arranged for them to have provisions for survival in exile. Gonzalo makes the best of every situation, while others seem to tire of his unfailingly positive attitude. Though he is an object of Antonio and Sebastian's ridicule, he always maintains his dignity.

Gonzalo Quotes in The Tempest

The The Tempest quotes below are all either spoken by Gonzalo or refer to Gonzalo. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of The Tempest published in 2004.
Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
I'th'commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things. For no kind of traffic
Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
No occupation, all men idle, all;
And women, too, but innocent and pure;
No sovereignty—
...
All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavour. Treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine
Would I not have; but nature should bring forth
Of it own kind, all foison, all abundance
To feed my innocent people.
Related Characters: Gonzalo (speaker)
Page Number: 2.1.163-180
Explanation and Analysis:

Alonso, Gonzalo, Antonio, and others have washed up onto a different part of the island, and Alonso is distraught because he believes his son, Ferdinand, has drowned. Gonzalo has tried to comfort Alonso, and Antonio and Sebastian have mocked Gonzalo for it. Sebastian, meanwhile, has told Alonso he has brought Ferdinand's death upon himself by letting his daughter marry and African. Gonzalo then begins a speech in which he fantasizes about being the ruler of an island like the one they are on. He imagines that everyone would be equal, with no "riches, poverty, and use of service," that no one would have to work, all women would be "innocent and pure," everything would grow in abundance, and there would be no conflict. 

To some extent, this reveals Gonzalo to be a kind, fair, and noble person. Unlike other characters, such as Antonio, Gonzalo is not power-hungry, and seems to believe that, under ideal circumstances, everyone would live a simple and equal life. Similarly, Gonzalo's comment that if he were ruler of the island there would be no "use of service" puts him in contrast to Prospero, who has enslaved Ariel, Caliban, and now Ferdinand. 

On the other hand, Gonzalo's speech is a typical colonial fantasy: he imagines that on an island like this, "nature should bring forth" an abundance of goods. During the age of colonial empires, the reality of this kind of thinking meant that local populations were oppressed and enslaved in order for European colonizers to live out their utopian fantasies. In many ways, Gonzalo's dream of a society without work or conflict seems hopelessly naïve.   

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Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
...O rejoice
Beyond a common joy, and set it down
With gold on lasting pillars: in one voyage
Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis,
And Ferdinand her brother found a wife
Where he himself was lost; Prospero, his dukedom
In a poor isle, and all of us ourselves,
When no man was his own.
Related Characters: Gonzalo (speaker), Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 5.1.247-254
Explanation and Analysis:

All the characters on the island have been summoned together, which has led to many surprises, including the fact that Prospero, Miranda, and Ferdinand, all of whom were presumed dead, are in fact alive, and that Ferdinand and Miranda have fallen in love. In response to the happy scene, Gonzalo calls on everyone to rejoice, observing that while Ferdinand was lost in the storm, he in fact found a wife; meanwhile, Prospero has regained his dukedom "in a poor isle." Gonzalo's statement emphasizes how the upheaval of the storm and magic of the island have ultimately resulted in a restoration of the natural order of things. His final comment that everyone has found themselves "when no man was his own" highlights the importance of compassion, loyalty, and selflessness, traits that Gonzalo has unwaveringly embodied throughout the play. 

Gonzalo's speech emphasizes the way in which the characters have made instrumental use of the island; indeed, Gonzalo describes all the ways in which the storm will restore and improve Italian courtly society without mentioning the impact on the island itself, including its inhabitants. A postcolonial perspective – one that can see the faults in colonialism and the ideas and logic that supported colonial actions – thus allows us to identify a narrow, selfish underside to Gonzalo's triumphant declarations. 

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Gonzalo Character Timeline in The Tempest

The timeline below shows where the character Gonzalo appears in The Tempest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 1
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Gonzalo, a counselor to the king, jokes that he's no longer afraid of drowning, because it... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
...Antonio and Sebastian run to be with King Alonso as the ship goes down, while Gonzalo prays for land, any land, to save him from drowning. (full context)
Act 1, scene 2
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
...sea, cast them into a rickety boat. The pair survived only through the generosity of Gonzalo, an advisor to Alonso, who provided them with necessities like fresh water, clothing, blankets, and... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Miranda says that she would like to meet Gonzalo someday. She then asks Prospero why he created the storm. Prospero replies that circumstances have... (full context)
Act 2, scene 1
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
...shores. Alonso is despondent because he can't find Ferdinand, whom he believes to be dead. Gonzalo tries to comfort him by saying that they should be thankful that they survived, but... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Gonzalo continues talking and explains how he would govern such an island if he were king.... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
...and Antonio draw their swords. Just then, Ariel enters again, and sings a soft warning. Gonzalo and Alonso awaken. Caught with their swords out, the two conspirators claim somewhat unconvincingly that... (full context)
Act 3, scene 3
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Alonso, Gonzalo, Antonio, and Sebastian enter. They are exhausted after having wandered the island in search of... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...sight of the spirits and banquet, but are unsure whether it is safe to eat. Gonzalo convinces them it will be safe by observing that explorers are always uncovering amazing things,... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
...will fight this new enemy, and also run off, but in pursuit of the spirits. Gonzalo fears what all three will do in their frenzied states of mind, and he orders... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
...and frightened they are, and adds that the man Prospero calls "the good old lord, Gonzalo," has tears streaming down his face. Ariel says that if Prospero "beheld them, your affections... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Ariel leads the courtiers onto the stage, still spellbound by Prospero's charm. Prospero addresses them—praising Gonzalo for his goodness and loyalty and scolding Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio for their cruelty, treachery,... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
...seeing Prospero, immediately begs Prospero's pardon and relinquishes his claim to Milan. Prospero then embraces Gonzalo, whom he calls "noble friend...whose honor cannot be measured or confined" (5.1.120–122). (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Gonzalo observes that this voyage has served to unite people with each other and with their... (full context)