Figurative Language

The Tempest
Study Guide
Figurative Language
Shakespeare uses figurative language as he speaks with metaphors, similes, and personification
and alliteration. Recognizing when his characters are speaking figuratively helps in understanding
the play. Note in each example what form of figurative language is used.
The winds did sing it to me, and the thunder,
That deep and dreadful organ-pipe, pronounc’d
The name of Prosper; it did base my trespass (3.3.97–99).
Then all afire with me, the King’s son, Ferdinand,
With hair up-staring (then like reeds, not hair),
Was the first man that leapt; cried, “Hell is empty,
And all the devils are here” (1.2.213–215).
This music crept by me upon the waters,
Allaying both their fury and my passion
With its sweet air; thence I have follow’d it,
Or it hath drawn me rather (1.2.392–395).
Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made (1.2.397–398).
Prose and Verse
When does Shakespeare use verse in this play (and what kind) and when does he use prose and
Key Passages, Sayings and Lines:
Methinks he hath no drowning mark upon him, his complexion is perfect gallows.
—Gonzalo, 1.1.28–30
In the dark backward and abysm of time?
—Prospero, 1.2.50
This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me. When thou camest first,
The Tempest
Thou strokedst me and madest 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' the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:
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' the island.
—Caliban, I.ii.337-53
You taught me language, and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse.
—Caliban, 1.2.363–364
Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.
—Ariel, 1.2.397–403
There’s nothing ill can dwell in such a temple.
If the ill spirit have so fair a house,
Good things will strive to dwell with’t.
—Miranda, 1.2.457–459
He receives comfort like cold porridge.
Study Guide
The Tempest
—Sebastian, 2.1.10
Whereof what’s past is prologue, what to come
In yours and my discharge.
—Antonio, 2.1.253-254
They’ll take suggestion as a cat laps milk.
—Antonio, 2.1.288
Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.
—Trinculo, 2.2.39–40
Keep a good tongue in your head.
—Stephano, 3.2.35
Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
—Caliban, 3.2.135–136
As I told thee before, I am subject to a tyrant
A sorcerer, that by his cunning hath
Cheated me of the island
—Caliban, III.ii.41-3
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air,
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The Tempest
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which is 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.
—Prospero, 4.1.148–158
Where the bee sucks, there suck I
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.
—Ariel, 5.1.88–92
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in’t!
—Miranda, 5.1.182–184
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Study Guide
The Tempest
Study Guide
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
—Prospero, Epilogue
Study Questions
1. Prospero’s speech to Miranda (1.2) is unusually long. What purpose other than clarifying the
narrative background and how the father and daughter came to be on the island, does this section
of the scene serve?
2. Compare and contrast Ariel and Caliban. In what ways are they the same? In what ways are
they different?
3. Describe the first meeting between Miranda and Ferdinand. How is Ferdinand introduced and
what is Miranda’s impression of him?
4. How are the purposes of Antonio and Sebastian thwarted time and again?
5. What was Prospero’s purpose in giving laborious work to Ferdinand?
6. What sort of duke was Prospero before he was overthrown? What sort of duke is he likely to be
after he reclaims his dukedom?
The Tempest
Study Guide
7. Nature and society are frequently contrasted in The Tempest, and they occasionally conflict.
Trace this theme throughout the course of the play. Consider Rousseau!
8. The Tempest is a play with relatively little action. What do you think are some of the reasons
for its continued production?
9. In Greek mythology, Ceres, who appears in the masque of Act 4, is associated with the concept
of rebirth, a return to life, a theme that a number of the characters refer to in their closing
speeches. In your opinion, has Shakespeare restored the characters to their former selves, or has
he changed or developed them during the course of the play?
10. The epilogue of the play is, in many ways, ambiguous. What are some possible interpretations
of its meaning? What do you feel may have been Shakespeare’s reasons for including it?
11. What is symbolized when Prospero breaks his staff and buries his books of magic?
12. Lastly, what is a Romance? How does it differ from a Comedy?
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