Study Guide

The Tempest Contrasting Regions

By William Shakespeare

Contrasting Regions

Act 1, Scene 1

When the sea is. Hence! What cares these
roarers for the name of king? To cabin! Silence!
Trouble us not. (1.1.16-18)

In nature, none of the rules apply from the court. Court members must adjust to the fact that nature is the great equalizer.

Act 1, Scene 2

This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou tak'st from me. When thou cam'st first,
Thou strok'st me and mad'st much of me, wouldst
   give me
Water with berries in 't, and teach me how 
To name the bigger light and how the less,
That burn by day and night. And then I loved thee,
And show'd thee all the qualities o' th' isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and
Cursed be I that did so! All the charms 
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you,
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king; and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o' th' island. (1.2.396-411)

In the rules of the court, Prospero would never have taken in Caliban this way—nor would Caliban do him service out of love (instead of duty). Initially, the rules of the courtly world were suspended on the island.


So dry he was for sway wi' th' King of Naples
To give him annual tribute, do him homage, 
Subject his coronet to his crown and bend
The dukedom, yet unbowed—alas, poor Milan!—
To most ignoble stooping. (1.2.133-137)

Even when he was within the bounds of the court, Prospero saw there were certain formalities that were below him. It's not that the island alone influences Prospero to embrace a certain amount of natural dignity, but by his nature he was always a powerful and proud man.


I might call him
A thing divine, for nothing natural
I ever saw so noble. (1.2.498-500)

Miranda suggests that only the world of the court can breed nobility. She denies that nature has its own nobility and grace, and likens the world she doesn't know (that of the court) to the divine world, perhaps because they're both alien to her and might as well be the same thing.

Act 2, Scene 1
Sebastian and Antonio

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. (2.1.287-290)

Being sea-swallowed and removed from the court gives the traitors the freedom to do what would otherwise be an unthinkable act. The island has no rules.


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— 
Yet he would be king on 't.
The latter end of his commonwealth forgets
   the beginning. (2.1.162-174)

Gonzalo has hit upon the primary problem with egalitarian rule: If it is based on egalitarian standards and rules that originate by nature, not law, then there can be no ruler who sets such laws.

Act 3, Scene 2

Trinculo, keep a good tongue in your head.
If you prove a mutineer, the next tree. The poor
monster's my subject, and he shall not suffer
indignity. (3.2.38-41)

Stefano's leadership is a parody of the real court.  Though he is rooted in the spirit of the pastoral (bawdy, drunk, and quick to fight), Stefano puts on the airs of the court and reveals how silly these formalities are against such a backdrop (while also casting some doubt as to how serious they are in any context).

Act 5, Scene 1

Was Milan thrust from Milan, that his issue
Should become kings of Naples? 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. (5.1.246-254)

Will the changes that have occurred outside of the court still hold once everyone has reached the court again? Why did a courtly problem need to be solved in a pastoral setting?


Behold, sir king,
The wrongèd Duke of Milan, Prospero.
For more assurance that a living prince
Does now speak to thee, I embrace thy body,
                                                      [He embraces Alonso.]
And to thee and thy company I bid
A hearty welcome. (5.1.117-122)

The visitors to the island didn't recognize Prospero at first, so he changes into courtly garb, but he also changes his mannerisms from the mystical to the courtly. He doesn't have anything to bid them welcome to but his cell, highlighting the absurdity of these misplaced gestures.

Every man shift for all the rest, and let no
man take care for himself, for all is but fortune.
Coragio, bully-monster, coragio. (5.1.310-312)

Stefano, rather drunk, mistakes the saying "every man for himself."  What he comes up with, though it's supposed to be funny, is actually a pretty apt description of court rules, which place the nobles' welfare before all others. Stefano unintentionally outlines the underlying difference between the pastoral and courtly world.