Catching and holding

The Tempest

How does Act 1 Scene 1 succeed in catching and holding the attention of the audience? How is the exposition (setting, characters, themes and plot) introduced?

In Act 1 Scene 1, Shakespeare introduces setting, characters, themes and plot to explain what is happening and to grab the audience's attention, as well as laying the ground for the rest of play. He also uses literary techniques to make his play more interesting. Shakespeare also does this through the language and style of his writings he gives to the individual characters, and also the very few stage directions. Shakespeare had very restricted assets to work with, and so needed his actors and speeches to work for him. His language gives us clues as to how the characters should act and how they should project their personalities to create a sense of realism. The first scene is important in catching and holding the attention of an audience in any play.

The play opens on board a ship that is being battered by a storm - or tempest. The first word of the play tells the audience where it is set. The ship's crew are hard at work trying to stop the ship from sinking. The Master then lets the audience know that the ship is in a storm. Quoting 'fall to it or we run ourselves aground', this tells the audience immediately where the play is set. The audience immediately knows that the action is taking place on a ship

Shakespeare uses alliteration in speeches by the Master and the Boatswain. Quoting from Act 1 Scene 1 Shakespeare writes, 'take in the topsail'. This here is already having an effect on the audience because it creates tension and suspense, making them anxious and nervous as to what is going to happen next. Both characters try to remain calm, but the use of alliteration catches the attention of the audience. This has the effect of helping sentences to flow easily and it also draws attention to the particular adjective used and/or the subject/verb involved.

This is further illustrated when Gonzalo reminds the Boatswain of the important status of his passengers. However the Boatswain replies as if Gonzalo, the king and the lords are his equal in status. Quoting 'none that I love more than myself, the chain of being is composed of a great number of hierarchical links, from the most basic and foundational elements up through the very highest perfection, in other words, God.

On a stormy sea, mariners try to keep a ship, with its passengers Alonso, the King of Naples, his brothers Sebastian and Antonio, his son Ferdinand, and his advisor, Gonzalo from running ashore. The boatswain reckons that even the king cannot "instruct these essentials" of wind and water, and tells Antonio and Sebastian that they can either "keep below" or assist the sailors. The audience are reassured by the Boatswain, who seems to know what to do in such a storm. The boatswain says 'do you not hear me? You mar our labour. Keep to your cabins. You do assist the storm'. It's also empathising that you can also see here an overturning of hierarchies. Storm (a G-d given event) shows that there are times when social status does not count

Alonso, king of Naples's high status is mostly reflected on the clothes he is wearing at first not his language, to know that there is a king on board will frighten the audience to know if he is going to survive not, they will be scared for him and they will have a lot of respect for the king at first until their expectations are proved wrong. Quoting, 'Good boatswain, have care. Where's the master?' the audience find out now that the king in fact is getting in the way of the boatswain and causing allot of unnecessary commotion. Another theme is the challenge to authority and the existing social status.

The ship appears to be sinking, and those on board prepare for the worst. Quoting 'where is the master, boatswain, a pox o' throut, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog! Their speech shows an overturning hierarchy and this disrupts the audiences understanding of hierarchies. The effect of this is to judge a person on their actions, no matter what they wear; attitudes can always change in any situation. You can see by this how people in a high level of a hierarchy command other people in the same category to do stuff and the high status are acting like the low status in language in this scene.

Moshe, this still needs a lot of tuning. Your main targets are:

  1. You need a brief introduction as per my comment/ DONE
  2. Make sure that your paragraphs follow the PQE format, with a topic sentence to start. DONE
  3. Think about the flow of the essay ...Intro...Setting...Grabbing attention...theme...theme...technique...technique...conclusion. Not sure
  4. The conclusion should mirror the introduction...I'll talk you through that when you have sorted out the other stuff. Sorted out the other stuff

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