Ariel reports to Prospero

Act 1 Scene 2 – Key Scene

In this scene, Ariel describes for Prospero what the storm was like for those on the ship and how he terrified everyone on board the ship with his magical antics.

You can take a look at the scene and watch it in performance here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and if you’re watching the scene for the first time, don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at once.

  • Look
    Take a look at the scene. Who has the most lines? Are they using prose or verse? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. We’ve added some definitions (in green), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in blue) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.
    Come away, servant, come. I am ready now.
    Approach, my Ariel, come
    Enter ARIEL.
    All hail, great master! Grave sir, hail! I come
    To answer thy best pleasure; be’t to fly,
    To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
    On the curled clouds: to thy strong bidding task
    Ariel and all his quality.

    Learned and respected gentleman.

    Ariel may be talking about all the skills or 'quality' he has here, or he may be talking about the other spirits of the island who work with him.

    Hast thou, spirit,
    Performed to point the tempest that I bade thee?
    To every article.
    I boarded the king’s ship: now on the beak,
    Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
    I flamed amazement:
    sometime I’d divide
    And burn in many places; on the topmast,
    The yards and bowsprit would I flame distinctly,
    Then meet and join. Jove’s lightning, the precursors
    O’th’dreadful thunderclaps, more momentary
    And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks
    Of sulphurous roaring, the most mighty Neptune
    Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble,
    Yea, his dread trident shake.

    I went on-board the king’s ship and appeared as fire on the prow of the ship, then in the middle of the ship, on the deck and in the cabins.

    Quicker than the eye can follow.

    What do these lines suggest about the strength of the storm?

    My brave spirit!
    Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil
    Would not infect his reason?

    Who was so calm and together that this turmoil would not make him go mad?

    Not a soul But felt a fever of the mad and played
    Some tricks of desperation. All but mariners
    Plunged in the foaming brine and quit the vessel,
    Then all afire with me:
    the king’s son, Ferdinand,
    With hair up-staring — then like reeds, not hair —
    Was the first man that leaped; cried ‘Hell is empty
    And all the devils are here.’

    Everyone except the sailors jumped into the turbulent sea and left the ship which was all flaming with my presence.

    Why, that’s my spirit!
    But was not this nigh shore?

    Why do you think Prospero seems so pleased that everyone on the ship was scared?

    Close by, my master.
    (Text edited for rehearsals by Gregory Doran)
  • Watch
    Read the scene aloud, then watch the actors trying it in different ways. Which way feels right? What in the language makes you think that? Are there any words or lines that really stand out? At the end of the film you will see their final performance. How do the characters come across in this?
  • Imagine
    Explore some images from past versions of The Tempest at the RSC. Which sets and costume choices for this first scene between Prospero and Ariel feel right to you?