The Tempest Act 1 Scene 2 | Text Detectives Key Scene | Royal Shakespeare Company


So, shall we have a look at this little scene
in Act 1 Scene 2. Mark, do you want to tell us what has just
happened? What has Ariel just done? Yes, so Ariel has just performed this incredible,
magical act of summoning a sea storm, a Tempest, in order that the various nobles aboard the
King’s ship have been washed ashore, so that Prospero can enact his revenge. And we’ll
be looking at the point where Prospero is about to say ‘we’ve got more work to do’ and
I think Ariel believes this to be his last act before he’s granted freedom. Prospero’s been sitting on this island for
twelve years, and suddenly this chance arrives to enact his revenge. Personally, I don’t
think he quite knows what he’s going to do next, so he’s said to Ariel “Go and do the
storm”. Ariel comes back and says “I’ve done the storm”, and then Prospero has to work
out what to do next. It might be that Prospero wasn’t anticipating
there was going to be more work but now has to somehow persuade the servant that he’s
just promised to let free that there’s still more stuff to do. Yes, yes, yes and I think funnily enough right
the way through the play that happens, doesn’t it, and I think he spends a lot of the play
saying to Ariel – which is why I think Ariel probably resents it – ‘Oh, it isn’t finished
yet, I promise you it’ll finish soon, it isn’t finished yet’, and that goes right the way
through the play, doesn’t it. There are therefore different ways in which
you could play this scene. I guess one of which is with Ariel being defiant, and that
his liberty, you know, that he is saying, ‘this is the contract, you are reneging on
the contract’, which provokes Prospero’s response. Ariel thy charge exactly is performed but
there’s more work, what is the time of the day? Past the mid season. At least two glasses. The time ’twixt six
and now. Must by us both be spent most preciously. Is there more toil? Since thou dost give me
pains, Let me remember thee what thou hast promised
Which is not yet performed me. How now! moody? What is thou canst demand? My liberty. Before the time be out? no more! I prithee. Remember, I have done thee worthy
service; Told thee no lies, made no mistakings, served
without or grudge or grumblings: thou didst promise to bate me a full year. How about Prospero’s few jokes, by the way…moody? Yes, he’s not a man known for his sense of
humour, but that’s one of them. It can go in any number of ways, his relationship
with Ariel, and his own anger can go in any number of ways. But the thing about the moody
joke, saying ‘oh, you’re moody’, is you can only make jokes like that to people who you
know very well, isn’t it, I mean, you can’t or trust, or like, you know, and I think their
relationship is not affectionate. Yes. It’s a really interesting thing to call Ariel
actually, given that he is seemingly emotionless. Moody is also a rather demeaning insult to
him isn’t it because if he has done this spectacular job of wrecking the ship and saving all the
mariners and depositing all the relevant people on the right bits of the island, he a) deserves
more congratulation than he gets, but also, at that point when he is expecting his liberty,
to demean him by saying he’s being a bit moody, and a bit sulky, is… It’s infuriating, I mean the difficulty for
Ariel of course is that he does owe these years of servitude to Prospero, who freed
him from being trapped in a cloven pine. But, Ariel’s magnificent. He performs all your
biddings. I get up a midnight to fetch dew from the Bermuda Triangle! Perhaps we should look at Ariel being more
anxious and perhaps more subservient to his master who is all powerful as far as he’s
concerned. Ariel thy charge exactly is performed but
there’s more work, what is the time of the day? Past the mid season. At least two glasses. The time ’twixt six
and now. Must by us both be spent most preciously. Is there more toil? Since thou dost give me
pains, Let me remember thee what thou hast promised
Which is not yet performed me. How now! moody? What is thou canst demand? My liberty. Before the time be out? no more! I prithee. Remember, I have done thee worthy
service; Told thee no lies, made no mistakings, served
without or grudge or grumblings: thou didst promise to bate me a full year. What is thou canst demand? My liberty. There’s something very familiar about knowing
the breathing pattern of the other person, that you know when they’re coming to a conclusion
and you can get your point in quickly, or assert that opinion. Although they might not have had this specific
argument before, you get the feeling that they’ve had arguments before, and arguments
about the contract. In fact, a couple of lines later in the scene, Prospero does say, ‘can
I remind you what I’ve done for you’ and ‘I have’, ‘once in a month I have to remind you’,
and there’s a sense in which Ariel’s constantly just checking that the contract is still in
place. I think it’s very clear that there is a power
struggle, and that the power fluctuates. It’s odd, I think they’re sort of equals,
bizarrely, and because, as Mark said earlier, this thing about human feeling, that Ariel
supposedly doesn’t have, and he learns during the play about human emotions; if he’s very
subservient, there’s something rather more human about him. If he’s just giving Prospero
facts, ‘I’ve done this, I’ve done this, that’s according to my contract, let me go’, then
it becomes both less human and more equal. And I think Prospero quite enjoys the power
play. Since thou dost give me pains,
Let me remember thee what thou hast promised Which is not yet performed me. How now! moody? What is thou canst demand? My liberty. Before the time be out? no more! I prithee. Remember, I have done thee worthy
service; Told thee no lies, made no mistakings, served
without or grudge or grumblings: thou didst promise to bate me a full year. Dost thou forget from what a torment I did
free thee?

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