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The Significance of Sound and Music in The Tempest Essay

Decent Essays
The Significance of Sound and Music in The Tempest

‘The Tempest’ is on a basic level a play about a magical island, complete with its own wizard, monster and handsome prince. However, it is much more than a fairytale. Complex themes such as usurpation, colonialism and the supernatural are interwoven into the plot to produce a play so diverse that it is widely considered to be one of Shakespeare’s finest works.

Music and sound are dramatically significant in this diversity. This makes ‘The Tempest’ very different to other Shakespeare plays. For example, ‘The Tempest’ –along with ‘Twelfth Night’- contains nearly three times the amount of music normally present in his plays. In this essay I will
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The thunder displays Prospero’s anger towards his usurping brother, Antonio.

In Act 1 Scene 2, Prospero again uses music and sounds to portray his feelings about his brother. He uses musical imagery –‘set all hearts I’ th’ state to what tune pleased his ear’- to indicate the disharmony of the relationship he has with Antonio.

Sounds are significant to the play in this circumstance because they reflect the mood and feelings of the characters. It helps the audience to gain an insight into the minds of the characters and to empathise with the emotions that they are experiencing.

Whilst Prospero is the composer of the play, Ariel is his main performer. He/she is the main musical contributor to the play, and this is much of what his role involves. He uses music subliminally to create the mood and affect the activities of the characters. For example, in Act 1 Scene 2, Ariel lures Ferdinand to Miranda with the song, ‘Come unto these yellow sands.’ In this same scene Ariel attempts to console Ferdinand (who thinks that his father has been killed by the shipwreck) with a soothing song: ‘Full fathom five thy father lies…’

In Act 3 Scene 3, he torments Antonio, Sebastian and Alonso with a banquet. At the beginning of the scene he produces a banquet, accompanied by ‘solemn and strange music.’ This affects the characters in a positive way, their language
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