A Tragedy can be described as a particular kind of drama where characters experience temporary reversals of fortune leaving the principal character with some sort of misfortune. The makings of this concept can be seen in “The Tempest” Act 2 with the characters Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban.
These three characters come into agreement to the plot to murder Prospero as they believed that they could profit from their violent act and to force things to work out in their favor. The fact they contemplated the possibility of killing Prospero shows a reversal of morality in some ways as this act of murder would not have been considered if they did not end up on the remote island because in their homeland murder would have been punishable by death and far too risky for men of their status. Stephano’s goals are to marry Miranda and become king of the island at which time he promised to appoint Trinculo and Caliban as viceroys. This shows a reversal of power as in their former positions they were relatively powerless as the butler and court jester, while in their “new positions” they would be the most powerful people on the island.
However I think that there is another reason they conspired to commit the murder in the first place. In my opinion, Stephano enjoys his present status as Caliban’s god which can be described as another kind of reversal as he experiences a sudden increase in status from being only the butler of the king. This is similar to the reversal of power that Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban hope to experience by killing Prospero. Stephano takes great pleasure in the sudden improvement in status in the eyes of Caliban which could be described as a reversal of wisdom as a god is presumed to be wiser than a butler would have been. Due to his greed, Stephano wants to further increase his status sets the foundation for the plans to murder Prospero.
“In what ways does the concept of reversal appear in the start of Act 1?”
By: Taylor Edwards
The first act describes a boat in the middle of a tropical storm where the boatswain and some of the members of the royal family were above deck. When the boatswain was confronted by some of the members of the royal family, he orders them to return below deck so that he could do his jobs properly. In such an important time, to stop working in response to Alonso would rick the lives of the people on board. The boatswain showed that at the moment he cared little for Alonso’s rank as king and commands, “Keep to your cabins. You do assist the storm” (Line 14). This could be considered a form of reversal as it is usually the job of the king or member of the royal party to conduct, command or order people around in order to accomplish his goals, but in this case it is the king who is being told what to do. This would have caught the king off guard as it is likely that he has never been spoken to in such a manner.
Gonzalo responded with a reminder to the boatswain that the king and his party are passengers on the ship, this could imply that the boatswain’s social rank makes him secondary to the royal party, even in the severity of the current situation. This serves as a testament that even in such a storm, status remains an important part of life. Although, the boatswain does not seem intimidated by this and upon the return of the royal party remarked “Yet again? What do you here’shall we give o’er and drown? Have you a mind to sink?” (Line 39). It could be said that as far as the boatswain is concerned, all the men are equal in status in this storm as all of them are equally at risk. This is also reversal as it should be the kings responsibility to ensure the safety of all of his subjects on board the ship.