Week 13 (Spring ’21): Acts 4-5

Hi!  Your homework this week is to read Acts IV-V of The Tempest, watch my videotaped lectures below, and then post a comment about the assigned reading at the bottom of this page. The speeches that I refer to in my lectures are printed below each video. At the bottom of this page, below all of the videos, I give you some simple study questions to help you formulate a post. The study questions follow up on things I say in my lectures, so you may want to watch the videos first. Leave your post in the comments section at the bottom of this page.


Noteworthy speeches from The Tempest Act IV:

After interrupting the masque of the three goddesses, Prospero speaks to Ferdinand, 4.1.146:

You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismayed: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended.  These our actors,
As I fortold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.  We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.  Sir, I am vexed.
Bear with my weakness: my old brain is troubled.
Be not disturbed with my infirmity.
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose.  A turn or two I'll walk
To still my beating mind.

Noteworthy speeches from The Tempest Act V:

Prospero's "farewell" speech, 5.1.33:

Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrumps, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid
(Weak masters though ye be) I have bedimmed
The noontide sun, called forth the mutinous winds,
And 'twixt the green sea and the azured vault
Set roaring war; to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire and rifted Jove's stout oak
With ihs own bolt; and the strong-based promontory
Have I made shake and by the spurs plucked up
The pine and cedar; graves at my command
Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let 'em forth
By my so potent art.  But this rough magic
I here abjure; and when I have required
Some heavenly music (which even now I do)
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I'll drown my book.

Discussion Board

Write a comment on The Tempest Acts 4-5 and post it in the comments section below.  Be sure to quote the text of the play at least once in your post.  Consider answering any of the following study questions:

1.) How do you imagine the masque of the three goddesses in Act 4 being performed?  To what extent does this masque work together with the masque of the banquet in Act 3?

2.) One of the most famous speeches from any Shakespeare play is Prospero’s soliloquy in 5.1, where he explains his intent to give up sorcery as soon as the events of the Tempest are resolved. (It’s the speech that begins, “Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves…”). This speech is famous because for centuries many Shakespeare critics have wanted to interpret it as Shakespeare himself bidding farewell to the “magic” of his dramatic art (remember, The Tempest was Shakespeare’s last play). Personally, I don’t think this interpretation is likely at all. What do you think? What evidence is there in the speech itself that argues for or against the “Prospero-is-Shakespeare” reading?

3.) Like so many Shakespearean comedies, The Tempest’s happy ending leaves a lot of loose ends hanging. What lingering problems or questions does the play’s ending gloss over?

4.) Do you have any ideas about how you would want to perform Caliban’s scenes in Acts 4-5?  You would need to capture his disappointment at discovering the uselessness of Stephano and Trinculo, decide whether his reconciliation with Prospero at the end of the play is real or forced, and bring a close to his character arc as a symbol of nature and as an allegory of indigenous peoples.  That’s a lot to do!

22 thoughts on “Week 13 (Spring ’21): Acts 4-5”

  1. #3. In my opinion, a lot of loose ends were left at the end of The Tempest. While they all go back to Italy, Prospero only really directly forgives Alonso and Caliban. So we wonder what Prospero’s relationship will be with his brother and the other noblemen. We also do not know what happens to Ariel. Where will he go, will he stay on the island? Also, what role will Prospero play in Italy? Will he take his crown back? It’s interesting to think about what he will do because he has given up magic, so he can’t even do his studying that he loved doing before. Maybe he will take up a different subject. Finally, we don’t really know Caliban’s true thoughts on being a slave forever in Italy. I would assume that he is very upset because the island is his home and possibly the only thing he can remember his mother by. Technically, the island is Caliban’s and he is being forced to give it up. I almost wonder if he wished to have been killed for his actions rather than forgiven.

    1. In my opinion, like in so many Shakespearean comedies there are a lot of loose ends that were left at the end of The Tempest. One that I can choose to analyze in more depth would be how Prospero is feeling towards his own brother. We could see that that Prospero chooses to forgive other characters directly, but nothing is said to his brother. This leaves the audience hanging and wanting to know what is going to happen to them.

  2. For #2, I think people can argue this both ways. As our class has mentioned about reading the plays, we note that Shakespeare is selective of words (i.e. to distinguish characters from one another and reveal their true nature). In another way, the terms Shakespeare utilizes are carefully drafted that each word alone has a meaning itself. In essence, one can say that Prospero’s speech itself argues for the “Prospero-is-Shakespeare” reading. On the other hand, another person can say it’s the opposite, meaning Shakespeare is speaking through Prospero. In Act 5, Scene 1, lines 59-60, it is plausible to interpret Prospero’s soliloquy as Shakespeare bidding himself farewell to the “magic” of his dramatic art. One can read the following lines of the play as Shakespeare rejecting and abandoning this “magic.”

    By my so potent art. But this rough magic
    I here abjure

    1. Shakespeare’s romantic play, The Tempest, leaves many loose ties at the ending of the play. For instance, what will happen to Caliban? Prospero ends up claiming and forgiving him in Act 5. Prospero states, “For he’s a bastard one, had plotted with them To take my life. Two of these fellows you Must know and own. This thing of darkness I Acknowledge mine.” (5.1.328-331). The fate of Caliban is unknown, but it can be assumed that Prospero is bringing him back to Europe. Additionally, did Sebastian and Antonio change? This is very unclear and it is possible that they may betray Prospero and Alonso in the future. These characters seemed to learn nothing and were not “punished” for their actions against Prospero and Alonso. I don’t think these characters have changed, but maybe Shakespeare intended for these characters to be seen as redeemed.

  3. I don’t think that Prospero’s final soliloquy of the play should be interpreted as Shakespeare himself giving up “magic”, which is writing plays. One of the reasons against the “Prospero-is-Shakespeare” theory is that Prospero reveals in this soliloquy that he has used his magic for evil many times, an example of this is seen in this quote, “…graves at my command / Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let ’em forth / By my so potent art.” (Act V, Scene 1, Lines 57-59) I don’t believe that Shakespeare wrote his plays for evil, I actually think the opposite., and that Shakespeare’s plays were intended for good and entertainment for not only people during his time but for many generations to come. Even though Prosepro mentions at the end of this soliloquy that he is going to give up his magic, I am not sure that this really relates to Shakespeare saying that he is giving up writing plays, since he knew “The Tempest” was going to be the last play he wrote. That really is the only part of the soliloquy that I can seen that could be used to argue that, but the rest of the soliloquy I believe argues that this theory is not true.

  4. Some of Shakespeares critics have interpreted “The Tempest” as Shakespeares play as him saying farewell to playwriting. I dont think there is enough evidence to support Shakespeare writing himself as Prospero but there is some. In the play Prospero has a lot of control. He seems to know everything that goes on. Even when Miranda was speaking to Ferdinand he knew she was going to and this shows the control he has which is like Shakespeare having control over how he writes his plays. This also happens to be the last play Shakespeare wrote and at the end Prospero is giving up magic. It is kind of like Shakespeare giving up his plays and saying he isn’t going to write magic anymore. Writing was Shakespeares life and to Prospero magic was a huge part of his life so it can be looked at as Shakespeare giving up his lifes work. One argument against this theory is at the end Prospero is talking about using magic for evil and this could just be Shakespeare talking about some of the wrongdoings he has done in his life. No one is perfect and Shakespeare probably did some bad things in his life. He did live in a time where Jews were hated and his plays reflected that. Shakespeare probably didnt write Prospero as himself but people could interpret it that way.

  5. When first reading Prospero’s soliloquy in 5.1, I did not make any connections to Shakespeare saying goodbye to playwriting, but after reading your discussion question and going back and rereading Act 5 and the epilogue, I can see this being true. However, I see this more in the epilogue than I do in Act 5, Scene 1 when Prospero says “With the help of your good hands. Gentle breath of yours my sails Must fill, or else my project fails, Which was to please. Now I want Spirits to enforce, art to enchant, And my ending is despair, Unless I be relieved by prayer, Which pierces so that it assaults Mercy itself and frees all faults.As you from crimes would pardoned be, Let your indulgence set me free.” I believe that the “spirits” Prospero talks about enforcing are to Shakespeare the characters he has written. Prospero giving up magic seems clearly to me Shakespeare’s way of saying goodbye to his art.

  6. There are many problems that The Tempest’s ending leaves unanswered. One question concerns how the people of Milan will react to Prospero’s return. Surely they will want to know why their Duke has disappeared for 12 years only to come back again like nothing has happened, and telling the truth might anger the people. The truth would also be problematic for Antonio, as Prospero has forgiven Antonio, but the people might not. In fact, another question is “What will happen to Antonio in general, now that Prospero has taken back the Duke position?” Another plot point with much uncertainty involves Miranda and Ferdinand’s marriage. It is easy to forget that the two barely know each other, and any conflict that arises between them in the future could affect the whole city of Naples. A final question is “What will happen to Caliban?” Does he just remain on the island, or will he go to Milan? Has Prospero even freed him?

  7. There are a few things I would like to see answered in the tempest that even at the end remain a mystery. The first is I would like to see where the relationship between Prospero and his brother stands. Second is what will happen to Caliban, will he presume his stay on the island or will he end up going to Milan, not to mention has he been freed? Even though the island is his he is being forced to sacrifice it. I wish they would clarify whether he is freed and loses the island or if he somehow takes back his power on the island maybe even killed and put out of his missery. Another question arises based on the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand. They barely know each other and if they get into any form of a conflict the city of Naples could potentially be affected negatively.

  8. 3.) Like so many Shakespearean comedies, The Tempest’s happy ending leaves a lot of loose ends hanging. What lingering problems or questions does the play’s ending gloss over?
    – Prospero only really forgives Alonso and Caliban. The plays ending glosses over Prospero’s relationship with his brother and the other noblemen. We also do not know what happens to Ariel.

  9. The ending of The Tempest Act 5 leaves many questions unanswered. One of the major cliffhangers in Act 5 is Prospero’s forgiveness to Antonio and where they stand with each other. We know that Prospero supposedly forgives his brother for taking away his dukedom, but he did so with apprehension. Prospero says to Antonio, “Thy brother was a furtherer in the act. Thou art pinched for ’t now, Sebastian. Flesh and blood, you, brother mine, that entertained ambition, expelled remorse and nature, whom, with Sebastian, whose inward pinches therefore are most strong, would here have killed your king, I do forgive thee, unnatural though thou art.” (Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 82-89). Prospero expresses how Antonio does not deserve forgiveness, but he gives it to him anyway. This leaves me wondering if they will work towards restoring their relationship as brothers, or if they will go their separate ways.

  10. The masque of the three goddesses, Iris, Juno and Ceres in act 4 scene 1, could be performed with special lighting (colorful lights/red lights to represent love) and music in addition to the dancing that is done. This could add to the celebration of Ferdinand and Miranda’s engagement, by brightening the mood. I think that this masque works together with the masque of the banquet in act 3 scene 3, because this masque also involved spirits and was filled with happiness and then was suddenly stopped because of Prospero/Ariel. For example, Prospero abruptly ends the masque in act 4 and states, “Against my life. The minute of their plot is almost come. Well done. Avoid, no more!” (Act 4, scene 1, lines 131-132).

  11. 3.) The ending honestly left off without us seeing a lot of things that were talked about so much in the play, for example how did the wedding go and who attended? Also, when they arrive back in Naples and Milan was Prospero welcomed with open arms by everyone or was he not welcomed in the nicest way?. Finally, How is Prospero now that he has no magic because as he says, “Now my charms are all o’erthrown” so I am curious on how he is living without magic.

  12. 3. I think that the ending of the play glossed over a lot of aspects which made it feel a little shallow. One of the biggest things I noticed was how Prospero directly forgives both Caliban and Alonso, but does not make it clear whether or not he actually forgives his brother. This makes me wonder if there is still a sense of resentment between them. Another thing is that Caliban was so set on aiding Stephano in overthrowing Prospero, but that all seemed to disappear out of nowhere once he returned to Prospero in the end. He tells Prospero, “I’ll be wise hereafter, and seek for grace. What a thrice-double ass was I, to take this drunkard for a god, and worship this dull fool!” (Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 294-297). I don’t think that their reconciliation made any sense, since they deeply resented each other throughout the entire play beforehand.

  13. 3) Too many lose ends were accounted for in this play in my opinion. Like what happened to Ariel in the ending? Did he stay? Did he go? Will he eventually leave? Don’t even get me started on the wedding? Who was in attendance? Did Prospero forgive his brother? Will he ever? It’s just a lot of of stuff up in the air that needs to be discussed.

  14. When I was in grade school, I had a field trip where we went to a local college to watch a play. I don’t remember anything about the actual story, but I remember the stage they built rotated to show different scenes. I think if I were to produce a version of this play I would do something similar. Throughout the Acts, the island is described in many ways, and for each of the ways, it would be interesting for the stage to shift to show what each person sees. The actual shape would be an hexagon, and it would have 6 different triangle-shaped stages. I also think having a rotating stage would make the masks more immersive. By this I mean that the cast would follow the dancers through doorways to other sections of the rotating stage, and they are led to lavishly decorated stages where the masks would play out. During the last mask, after Prospero announces he has the gift of a mask for the couple, Two dancers would emerge from a hidden doorway and take the couples hand. Gently leading them through the doorway while the stage moves to reveal a whimsical forest with throne-like seating near the back of the stage for the three characters to sit.
    I also think the rotating stages can visually show Caliban’s arc as a sign of nature. By this I mean in the beginning all of Caliban’s scenes will be in densely packed forests. Then as he decides to try to kill Prospero and when he realizes he chose the wrong group, the stages he is on will have less and less greenery. Until in the end where he reconciles with Prospero will be like a desert. Which will visually represent the decline of nature/indigenous people as colonizers regain their power.

  15. I feel like the ending of the play left out so much. So many questions popped up at the end of the play. The biggest for me might be what happened to Ariel? There are so many unresolved things that occurred and I do not like that we do not get a true ending to the story. Honestly another thing is how is Prospero doing since now having no magic? I feel like the ending was just a giant cliffhanger of so many different ideas throughout the play.

  16. In the ending of the play, there is a lot left unanswered. I personally feel like a lot was left out and I did not feel complete after the closing scene. There are three things for me that I feel should have been addressed. The first is what happened to Ariel? We are never told where he went or what happened to him. Second, does Prospero make up with everyone? What about his relationship with his brother and did he forgive him? Lastly, what is Prospero going to do without magic? Did his life take a turn for the worst? I feel like it is natural for a story to leave some loose ends, but not ones as big as these.

  17. Although there are many loose ends at the end of The Tempest, there does seem to be a feeling of hope. It isn’t so much of loose ends than it is a cliffhanger. It’s a hopeful look to the future. Prospero decides to forgive his brother but there is no resolution between the two brothers. No cathartic scene that wraps things up and gives closure, but you can probably infer that that talk will happen in the future. We want to know what will happen to them, but we have hope that everything will turn out alright in the end.

  18. The end of The Tempest certainly left many questions unanswered, and many storylines unfinished. A major storyline that is left open-ended is that of Ariel. The last time we see Ariel is when she releases Prospero’s prisoners and awakens the rest of the ship crew. Being such a major part of previous scenes while serving as the closest link to Prospero’s world of mythical sorcery, it seems almost careless to leave such a storyline unfinished. Though we know that Shakespeare isn’t a careless writer in the slightest, so perhaps there is truly a reason not to think of Ariel when closing the story, although I can’t think of one.

  19. 1.)
    The image that I imagine that the masque of the three goddesses in act 4 could be would upbeat and constant happy movement(jumping, happy, laughing, body language). I also think that the background should be set up to correlate with how the goddesses are feeling. Something happy, maybe happy colors(yellow?). Some music should be played because it’ll help keep the mood alive. With the recent scene of events like Ferdinand and Miranda getting engaged, everyone will be happy for them and want to celebrate the engagement with a little party! I think the banquet in Act 3 correlates with this masque in Act 4 very similarily.

  20. The ending of The Tempest ends unfinished. When the conversation between Alonso and Prospero starts, I imagine there would have been more to the ending then just Prospero leaving it at him telling Alonso that they will catch up on everything he must know how about his life. Prospero ends with lines 302-313, “Sir I invite your Highness and your train to my poor cell, where you should take your rest for this one night, which-part of it- I’ll waste with such discourse as, I not doubt, shall make it go quick away: the story of my life and the particular accidents gone by since I came to this isle.” This speech that was said by Prospero had me thinking that there might be an additional scene that might have gone more into detail, but did not. If I were William Shakespeare, I would have added that additional scene in which they meet and have a conversation describing the events and also leading up to Prospero’s death.

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