Such stuff as dreams are made on Introduction
I'm Prospero. I'm a really powerful guy. I use magic and servants to get back at people, even if it's been a really long time since they hurt me. And you know what I think?
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye 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 vex'd;
Bear with my weakness; my, brain is troubled:
Be not disturb'd 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. (4.1.146-163)
Who Said It and Where
Prospero, our main man and former Duke of Milan in The Tempest, has decided to cause a storm of epic proportions. Why, you ask? Well, his brother, Antonio, betrayed him and stole the dukedom while Prospero was busy learning magic in his library. After all the usurping (which is a great word for stealing something, especially positions of power), Prospero and the three-year-old Miranda were shuttled out to the ocean in a wreck of a boat.
They ended up on this island, where the ex-Duke has raised his daughter for the last twelve years. But Prospero thinks the time is right for action and revenge. After all, his brother is on a boat near the island. Prospero plans to use the tempest to shipwreck his brother and leave him stranded on the island so Prospero can confront him.
But Antonio isn't the only one on the boat. Prince Ferdinand, heir to the Naples throne, was also on the boat, and is now roaming the island. The poor Prince is convinced that his dad and everyone else from the boat are dead. His grieving is short-lived, however, because he soon runs into Miranda, Prospero's daughter. He instantly falls madly in love with her.
Prospero accuses the shipwrecked Prince of being a traitor and puts Prince Ferdinand to the hard task of carrying wood. Ferdinand is happy to do this because his newfound love for Miranda makes work seem easy.
Eventually, Prospero relents to Ferdinand. He says the mean trials he put Ferdinand through were only to test the guy's love for his daughter. Now that he's sure Ferdinand is a good guy, he can have Miranda for his wife.
Since Prospero is a big show off, he wants the new couple to see some of his mad magician skills. As an engagement gift, Prospero whips up a little "masque" (a lavish courtly performance with lots of music and dancing) for them to watch.
A bunch of gods appear and Ferdinand and Miranda are amazed. Prospero says these are spirits he has called up on behalf of the young lovers. Nymphs and land reapers are then summoned, and they perform a beautiful dance.
Suddenly Prospero jumps with surprise, and all the spirits vanish. Prospero has realized that, oopsy-daisy, he's forgotten Caliban's plot against his life. He'd better stop messing around and get to halting that scheme.
But he still has time to give a beautiful speech that these wonders (his magic), much like life, will melt into thin air eventually. He says, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep." It beautiful, sure, but also a little haunting.