The Tempest Act 1 Scene 1

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How does Act 1 Scene 1 succeed in arresting the audience’s attention and provide the exposition to the play?

It is clear that Shakespeare was eager to set the scene and plant the audience in the world of the play with the opening word “Boatswain”. This first word immediately transports the audience on to the deck of the ship, ready for adventure. With the master’s second remark the audience finds itself in the eye of the storm. “We run ourselves aground”. The effect of these words on the audience, together with the rushing around on the deck of the ship, is to make them panic, as they begin to realise there is trouble ahead. The sense of danger is further enhanced by the Master’s and Boatswain’s use of plosive alliteration. “Bestir, bestir” and “Blow till thou burst!”. There is an instant anxiety between both men’s attempts to remain calm and the emotional effect of the alliteration. This highlights to the audience the urgency of the situation, but also shows them that the Boatswain is not really scared by the circumstances. It is clear that the Boatswain is no stranger to violent storms by the quote “Cheerly, cheerly”. Shakespeare’s use of this alliteration shows that the Boatswain is confident with the storm and feels in control. He gives orders to the noblemen travelling on his ship to “keep below” and this illustrates to the audience that he feels it is safer and easier for him to control the ship if the passengers are not in the way. This gives the audience a sense of relief and calms them, as they feel he is a capable sailor who can manage the ship successfully. Alonso’s high status will be marked by his regal costume. This gives tension to the play, because during Shakespeare’s lifetime, royalty were considered far more important than the ordinary person. Therefore, if the King was to drown it would be considered to be far more tragic than if it was an common person. The audience will be initially shocked to hear the Boatswain utter the words...
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