ISC Questions & Answers: English Literature - The Tempest (Act - V)

1. Explain the line, "The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance".

It is more noble to show compassion than to take revenge.

2. Explain the lines: "And as the morning steals upon the night; Melting the darkness, so their rising senses; Begin to chase the ignorant fumes that mantle; Their clearer reason."

The speaker (Prospero) uses a simile to describe the returning senses of Alonso and his nobles. Just as the dawn dispels the surrounding darkness, similarly, the returning sense of these people is chasing the ignorance that had covered and hidden their reason.

3. Explain the meaning of, "How sharp the point of this remembrance is!"

The memory of the manner in which Alonso had lost his son Ferdinand in the shipwreck is acting as a sharp point pricking his emotions and feelings.

4. What does Ariel mean by, "our work should cease"?

Ariel longs for his freedom and Prospero had promised him that once their work (i.e. his vengeance on the people who had wronged him) was done and his plan was achieved, Ariel would be free. Ariel once again reminds Prospero of his promise.

5. Explain the meaning of: "Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him; When he comes back.."

The elves and fairies that Prospero invokes, would chase the receding waves of the sea (the Roman god of the sea is Neptune) and then run away from the waves as they return.

6. Why does Prospero put on the clothes of a Duke to face his enemies?

Prospero realises that his enemies cannot recognise him in the garb of a magician, so he puts on his Duke's costume for them to recognise him better.

7. Can we say that Prospero took advantage of Antonio?

Antonio took advantage of Prospero's trust. However, Prospero was perhaps too trusting to leave the management of his Dukedom completely in Antonio's hands. Evidently, he did not know his brother well.

8. Why does Prospero call Gonzalo "noble friend"?

We have several instances in the play of Gonzalo's nobility and loyalty. Prospero acknowledges this as also the quiet help that Gonzalo had given him, when he addresses him as noble friend.

9. Why was Gonzalo the first person to regain his senses? Why don’t the others do it along with him?

Of all the people in the group, Gonzalo had sinned the least or not sinned at all. So, his period of suffering is the least.

10. What is the meaning of, "Was Milan thrust from Milan"?

There is a play of words here. It means: Was the Duke of Milan thrust from Milan?

11. Why does Gonzalo say, "I have inly wept"?

Gonzalo is a well-wisher of both Alonso and Prospero. He is happy to see the reconciliation of the two which is further sealed by the union of Miranda and Ferdinand. He says that he has silently wept tears of joy upon seeing this.

12. What does Gonzalo mean when he asks, "Hast thou no mouth by land"?

The boatswain had been very rough and rude in his behaviour to Alonso and his companions when the ship was caught in the tempest. Now, when Ariel wakes the sailors from the sleep that he had charmed them into and brought them before Alonso and Prospero on the island, the boatswain is probably struck dumb with wonder. Reminding him of his behaviour, Gonzalo asks him whether he cannot speak while on land.

13. What does Prospero mean when he says, "this thing of darkness I acknowledge mine"?

Prospero is referring to Caliban who is a thing of darkness probably because he was born to a witch. Moreover, the darkness of his mind, his ignorance and lack of refinement may also be alluded to through this description.

14. Can Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo be considered as characters of comic relief or as characters who are power hungry and revengeful?

Stephano and Trinculo provide much of the comic relief in the play. Caliban through his ignorance may contribute to the humour at times, but his role is much more meaningful, and his character has several shades.

The idea of power is put into the minds of Stephano and Trinculo by Caliban to serve his ends. Caliban wants revenge because he suffers from a strong sense of injustice. He feels that Prospero had treated him unfairly.

15. Why is Caliban afraid that Prospero will chastise him?

Caliban has had previous experience of Prospero’s harsh punishment. He now realises that he had plotted against Prospero and feels that just as Prospero had not pardoned his previous infringements, he is bound to chastise and punish Caliban.

16. Why did Prospero stop Alonso when wanted to ask Miranda's forgiveness?

Alonso had shown enough remorse. Prospero does not want Alonso to abase himself further. Moreover, now that Miranda would be Alonso’s daughter in law, it would not be proper for Alonso to ask her pardon.

17. What did Gonzalo want to inscribe on lasting pillars?

Gonzalo feels that the strange and wonderful tale of how the different characters lost and found themselves should be inscribed on lasting pillars for the world to know of and learn from.

18. What is Miranda's reaction when she sees Alonso and his courtiers? Why does she react in this manner?

Miranda has led a secluded life and has not seen anyone except her father. She is full of wonder and admiration at seeing Alonso and his nobles and exclaims that humankind is beauteous.

19. Is Prospero a manipulating ruler or a loving father?

Prospero is certainly a loving father. His care and concern for his daughter is evident throughout the play. He was certainly not manipulative in Milan, but on the island, he arranges and creates situations so that he can avenge himself on those who had wronged him.