The Tempest

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The Tempest Symbol Icon
The tempest represents the political upheaval in the play. When the courtiers and their ship are tossed by the storm, nature and the sailors suddenly have more power than the courtiers. This state of disorder continues throughout the play until the injustice done to Prospero is righted at the end. After Prospero has regained his dukedom, he promises his guests "calm seas" and favorable winds for their journey home.

The Tempest Quotes in The Tempest

The The Tempest quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Tempest. 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 1, scene 1 Quotes
What cares these roarers for the name of king?
Related Characters: Boatswain (speaker), Alonso
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 1.1.16-17
Explanation and Analysis:

The play opens on a ship caught in the middle of a fearsome storm. Alonso, Gonzalo, and Antonio have attempted to speak to the Boatswain, who has pleaded that they stay below deck while he attempts to navigate the ship through the storm. When Gonzalo urges the Boatswain to bear in mind that Alonso is the King of Naples, the Boatswain responds that the storm doesn't care "for the name of king"––meaning that human hierarchies of status have no significance in the face of the almighty power of nature.

The boldness with which the Boatswain speaks to Gonzalo and the others emphasizes the way that the physical upheaval of the storm has created social upheaval among the characters. Additionally, the Boatswain's words serve as a reminder that, outside of a given political context, manmade structures such as rank and codes of behavior are made meaningless. Just as the storm itself will not distinguish between kings and ordinary people in its destructive might, so will the consequences of the storm throw these distinctions into disarray. 


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Act 1, scene 2 Quotes
O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel,
Who had no doubt some noble creature in her,
Dashed all to pieces.
Related Characters: Miranda (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 1.2.5-8
Explanation and Analysis:

The storm has caused the ship carrying Alonso, Antonio, Gonzalo and others to disintegrate. Meanwhile, on the island, Miranda watches the ship be battered alongside her father, Prospero, who she suspects is causing the storm with his magical powers. Miranda exclaims that she feels sympathy for those on the ship, imagining that there must be "some noble creature" aboard. Her observation reflects Gonzalo's statement in the previous scene that the Boatswain should remember who is onboard the ship (meaning in particular he should remember that there is a noble person, Alonso, the King of Naples). Miranda thus appears to possess a kind of prescience about the characters who will soon arrive on the island.

Miranda also feels a connection to the passengers on the ship because, like them, she was the victim of a shipwreck, which is how she ended up on the island. As this passage shows, Miranda is a kind, compassionate person, who feels sympathy when she encounters the suffering of others ("I have suffered / with those that I saw suffer"). This puts her in contrast to other characters who are embittered by their experiences (like Caliban) or who are selfish and power-hungry (like Antonio). 

Full fathom five thy father lies
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.
Hark, now I hear them, ding dong bell.
Related Characters: Ariel (speaker), Alonso, Ferdinand
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 1.2.476-482
Explanation and Analysis:

Ariel has explained to Prospero that he deliberately ensured that certain people aboard the ship washed up onto shore, and that Alonso's son Ferdinand is separated from his father. In this passage Ariel, who is invisible, sings to Ferdinand as he awakens from a deep sleep, convincing him through his subconscious that his father has drowned in the shipwreck.

This is an example of Prospero acting as a playwright by giving Ariel detailed instructions in order to control the events to come. The words of Ariel's song emphasize the fantastical quality of the play. Not only does Ariel magically persuade Ferdinand to believe his father is dead, the lyrical language describing Alonso's bones turning to coral and eyes turning to pearl heightens the impression that the play is like a folktale or myth. 

Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
...She that from whom
We all were sea-swallowed, though some cast again
And by that destiny, to perform an act
Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come
In yours and my discharge.
Related Characters: Antonio (speaker), Sebastian
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 2.1.287-290
Explanation and Analysis:

Ariel has entered and played music that has lulled Alonso and Gonzalo to sleep. Meanwhile, Antonio has pointed out to Sebastian that Ferdinand has drowned, and that this means that Sebastian is the heir to the throne of Naples. In this passage, he claims that the upheaval caused by the tempest has provided an opportunity for him and Sebastian to "perform an act" that would lead them to gain power. This speech is a perfect example of the kind of cunning persuasiveness that Antonio used to gain power by betraying Prospero so many years earlier. Rather than telling Sebastian outright of his plan to murder Alonso, he plants ideas slowly in Sebastian's mind, creating the impression that this is all part of a larger "destiny." 

Antonio's comment "what's past is prologue" is one of Shakespeare's many famous lines. It is an example of metadrama, wherein characters in a play refer to the situation they are in as theatre. Clearly, Antonio envisions himself as the playwright, with the power to plan and manipulate events into taking place exactly as he wishes. In this way he is very similar to his brother, Prospero; however, as will be made clear, it is Prospero himself who has the power of the playwright within The Tempest. 

Act 2, scene 2 Quotes
Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.
Related Characters: Trinculo (speaker), Caliban
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 2.2.40-41
Explanation and Analysis:

On a different part of the island, Caliban has delivered a speech about the ways in which Prospero torments him; noticing Alonso's jester Trinculo, he hides under a cloak, believing the jester to be one of Prospero's spirits there to punish him for doing his work too slowly. Trinculo, meanwhile, notices Caliban despite his attempt to hide, and at first speculates about bringing him back to Naples to show him off as an exotic oddity. Then, fearing lightning from a coming storm, Trinculo crawls under the cloak with Caliban, exclaiming that "misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows." Beyond the literal truth of the fact that Trinculo and Caliban are now lying under a cloak together, Trinculo's words also apply to the way in which the storm has brought an unlikely group of people together on the island and caused unexpected alliances. 

Trinculo is a comic character, and to some extent this scene is a brief humorous distraction from the serious matters of political scheming and assassination plots. On the other hand, Trinculo's treatment of Caliban represents the cruel, ignorant way in which European colonizers interacted with and exploited colonized populations. While Trinculo is comically unintelligent, his perception of Caliban as a "strange" creature is not unrelated to Prospero's opinion that Caliban is savage, ugly, and subhuman.

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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The Tempest Symbol Timeline in The Tempest

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Tempest appears in The Tempest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 2
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Miranda and Prospero watch the tempest from the shore of an island. Miranda pities the seafarers, saying "O, I have suffered... (full context)