Study Guide

The Tempest The Divine

By William Shakespeare

The Divine

Act 1, Scene 1

All lost! To prayers, to prayers! All lost! (1.1.52)

This is a particularly interesting moment. It makes sense that the mariners would call everyone to prayers, either to save the ship or their souls, but the very storm they suffer through is Prospero's doing.  It seems the stage is set for Prospero's magic to be at odds with divine forces.

Act 1, Scene 2

How came we ashore? 
By providence divine. (1.2.189-190)

Even if you know magic, some things are just dumb luck—or divine intervention.


O, a cherubin
Thou wast that did preserve me. Thou didst smile,
Infusèd with a fortitude from heaven, 
When I have decked the sea with drops full salt,
Under my burden groaned, which raised in me
An undergoing stomach, to bear up
Against what should ensue. (1.2.182-188)

Even Prospero, who at the time of his exile no doubt had some grasp of his art, found strength in Miranda, who seemed "infused with the fortitude of heaven." This is Prospero's own rejoinder—he doesn't work against the divine, but is subject to and inspired by it.

Act 2, Scene 1

GONZALO [to Alonso]
Beseech you, sir, be merry. You have cause,
So have we all—of joy, for our escape
Is much beyond our loss. Our hint of woe
Is common; every day some sailor's wife,
The masters of some merchant and the merchant 
Have just our theme of woe; but for the miracle—
I mean our preservation—few in millions
Can speak like us. Then wisely, good sir, weigh
Our sorrow with our comfort. (2.1.1-9)

Gonzalo speaks of their preservation as a miracle, which would be the realm of the divine. Again, the divide between divinity and magic is highlighted, as it was not a miracle, but Prospero's magical instruction that preserved those aboard the ship.

Act 2, Scene 2

[aside] These be fine things, an if they be not
sprites. That's a brave god and bears celestial liquor. 
I will kneel to him.   He crawls out from under the

Caliban thinks the liquor divine because it is unknown to him. Is Shakespeare commenting that much of our own sense of what is divine simply springs from what we don't know?

Act 3, Scene 1
Prince Ferdinand

O heaven, O earth, bear witness to this sound,
And crown what I profess with kind event
If I speak true; if hollowly, invert 
What best is boded me to mischief. I,
Beyond all limit of what else i' th' world,
Do love, prize, honor you.
                                          I am a fool
To weep at what I am glad of. 
PROSPERO [aside] 
                                                Fair encounter
Of two most rare affections. Heavens rain grace
On that which breeds between 'em! (3.1.81-91)

Though Prospero has practically thrown the two lovers into each other's laps, he still calls out for the heavens to bless them. It seems his homage to a power greater and beyond his own.

Act 3, Scene 2

If thou be'st a
man, show thyself in thy likeness. If thou be'st a
devil, take 't as thou list.
O, forgive me my sins! (3.2.140-143)

Stefano and Trinculo are influenced by the magic of the island to think they are beyond the realm of their own morality. Stefano agreed to murder Prospero, but a sign that seemed divine was enough to shake him out of his foolishness. This illustrates the fact that divinity can't be forgotten just because there's magic afoot.

Act 4, Scene 1

Then, as my gift and thine own acquisition
Worthily purchased take my daughter. But
If thou dost break her virgin-knot before 
All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite be ministered,
No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall
To make this contract grow; but barren hate,
Sour-eyed disdain and discord shall bestrew 
The union of your bed with weeds so loathly
That you shall hate it both. Therefore take heed,
As Hymen's lamps shall light you. (4.1.14-24)

Though Prospero has succeeded in bringing Ferdinand and Miranda together by magic, their union is not in any way meaningful until it is recognized by holy rites and ceremonies. Religious traditions and what they stand for are as important, if not more important, than the practical accomplishments of magic.

Prince Ferdinand

Let me live here ever. 
So rare a wondered father and a wise
Makes this place paradise. (4.1.137-139)

Man, Wife, and Father in Paradise, eh? Miranda and Ferdinand seem to stand in for the first pair of true lovers, and they do bring a new hope to all those on the island we thought were lost. Maybe this is an Adam-and-Eve thing?

Act 5, Scene 1
Prince Ferdinand

Sir, she is mortal,
But by immortal Providence she's mine.
I chose her when I could not ask my father
For his advice, nor thought I had one. She 
Is daughter to this famous Duke of Milan,
Of whom so often I have heard renown,
But never saw before, of whom I have
Received a second life; and second father
This lady makes him to me. (5.1.224-232)

Ferdinand seems to say the two were fated to be together, but of course they wouldn't have found each other at all had it not been for Prospero's magic. Here's a chicken and egg question—does Prospero bring the pair together to satisfy Providence, or is Ferdinand mistaking Prospero's magic for a divine plan?


I have inly wept,
Or should have spoke ere this. Look down, you
And on this couple drop a blessèd crown,
For it is you that have chalked forth the way 
Which brought us hither. (5.1.239-244)

Gonzalo credits God for paving the way for the two lovers to be together. Does this mean divine providence is ultimately guiding Prospero's magic, or does Gonzalo just not understand the full depth of the magic being worked here?