Study Guide

The Tempest Act 2, Scene 2

By William Shakespeare

Act 2, Scene 2

  • On another part of the island, Caliban is busy fetching wood and cursing Prospero for the mean things he does to Caliban, like sending spirits to torment him while he works. As Caliban complains of apes that chatter at and bite him, hedgehogs that prick his feet, and snakes that hiss him to madness, Trinculo enters, and Caliban assumes the stranger is another one of Prospero's nasty spirits.
  • Trinculo, a jester and member of the shipwrecked group, wanders alone searching for cover, should another storm come. He spots Caliban, and seeing he is maybe a man or a fish (or both), immediately thinks of how people in England would pay to see an odd thing like this. Then he decides Caliban's deformed shape is simply that of a native islander recently hit by lightning.
  • Brain Snack: In sixteenth and seventeenth-century England (and the rest of Europe), people paid money to see American Indians who had been brought over from the New World and were exhibited like circus animals.
  • Hearing more thunder, Trinculo (quite a wuss, to put it delicately) immediately jumps under Caliban's cape, seeking shelter.
  • Just then, Stefano, the drunken butler, wanders in singing saucy songs about which women will put out for sailors, and which women won't. Surprised at seeing Caliban as a four legged creature (because Trinculo is under his cape), Stefano announces he did not escape drowning to fall to savages.
  • Caliban, thinking Stefano is another of Prospero's spirits, cries out.
  • Stefano is shocked that this four-legged monster knows his own language, and thinks the monster suffers from some fever. Stefano will give the monster a drink to ease him, but also hopes he might drunkenly tame the monster and lure him back to Naples as a present for a European emperor.
  • Stefano makes Caliban drink wine from his flask; the still scared and hiding Trinculo thinks he recognizes Stefano's voice and calls out to him.
  • Finally, after some silly nonsense, Stefano and Trinculo discover each other, and Caliban realizes the two are not spirits, but must be gods, what with the celestial liquor Stefano carries.
  • Stefano doesn't deny it, and drunkenly claims that he was the man in the moon until recently, when he fell down.
  • Caliban, steadily drinking, swears himself to be Stefano's servant and agrees to show his new master the best stuff of the island.
  • Stefano and Trinculo, drunk and sure everyone else is dead, are happy to be kings of this island, with Caliban as their subject. Caliban, now also drunk, is happy to be free of Prospero's tyranny (even though he's just volunteered to be Stefano's servant).