Use of Contrasts in Act I of The TempestKrunal PatelWilliam Shakespeare used many different writing devices when he wrotehis plays. In Act I of The Tempest, the use of contrasts between characters,setting, and ideas were often used to develop the story, and more importantly,the messages that Shakespeare wished to portray by the play.One good example was how some characters in the first act had theircounterparts. Ariel had Caliban, and Gonzalo had Ferdinand. The relationshipbetween Ariel and Caliban could clearly be seen throughout Act I, scene II.
Ariel was the “airy spirit” that could assume different shapes, such as thelightning flames seen on the ship (Shakespeare 31), and who had quickness,lightness, grace, and total control over his actions. On the other hand,Caliban who represented the body, couldn’t control his actions and thus made himthe opposite of Ariel. He even tried to rape Miranda once, but was stopped byProspero in the process. In fact, it might even be safe to say that Caliban wasanti-Ariel, being slow, stupid, and lazy.Gonzalo and Ferdinand were also contrasted in this act. In Act I, sceneI lines 28-33, Gonzalo made fun of the boatswain by saying that he didn’t looklike the type to drown, instead he resembled more of the type to be hanged.
Thus implying that no one on the ship would drown. This gesture by Gonzaloshowed that he was an optimistic person. On the other hand, after landing onthe island in Act I, scene ii, Ferdinand grew worry of his father andimmediately presumed he was dead. He even went as far as saying that he was nowthe new King of Naples (Shakespeare 45).
Therefore, one can see that Ferdinanddid not have a positive outlook and wasn’t as optimistic as Gonzalo. From thecontrasts between Ariel – Caliban, and Gonzalo – Ferdinand, one develops acharacter profile of the four and starts to recognize some ideas thatShakespeare was trying to bring about in The Tempest.Contrast between the settings was also present in Act I. The tempest inthe beginning of the play caused violent winds and total confusion aboard theship. This chaos disturbed Shakespeare’s Social Order. The boatswain, not theKing, was giving out orders to the people, while the King and his son werepraying below. Thus, the whole Social Order was inverted.
However when shiplanded on the island, the setting of the play changed from the terrifying stormto the delightfulness of the island. In turn, the Social Order was also putback to its original state by the introduction of Prospero and his commoners’Ariel and Caliban. The reader can create a kind of atmosphere from thiscontrast.Recall that in Act I, Scene II, Shakespeare offered a parallel, or atleast a contrast, in the way Miranda and Caliban were educated and how they usedtheir education. Whereas education had beneficial effects on Miranda’s highnature, its effects on Caliban’s low nature were extremely harmful. Prosperotook great pains in order to educate her daughter: Have I, thy schoolmaster, made thee more profit Than other princesse can, that have more time For vanier hours, and tutors not so careful.
(Shakespeare 29)Miranda benefitted greatly from her education because she had a noblenature with which to begin. She respected her father for whom he was and obeyedhim as commanded. Contrasted by Caliban, whose main benefit from learning wasthat he became an expert at cursing.
Education had only made him into amalcontent creature who always whined about his low position. He may have beenborn to serve, but learning had made him hate serving. The contrast betweenthese two character’s education helped Shakespeare to convey his idea ofeducation between high class and low class individuals.Shakespeare intelligently used different contrasts in Act I to displaycharacters, setting and ideas. These contrasts helped to unify the act, andmake the reader more aware of what they were truly reading, and that is ofcourse, a work of art.English