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The Role Noises Play in The Tempest

  • What role have noises played in the tempest?

Look at a few of the many passages in the play in which there is mention of noises, sound, or music. Focusing on one or two characters, discuss the role of noise in The Tempest.

Shakespeare’s The Tempest is full of noises and sounds of all kinds. Sometimes there are horrible noises, hauling winds, clinking chains and sometimes its the sweet music of a harp. Shakespeare has used these sounds perfectly to maintain the intensity of his drama and to create several distinct moods.  ‘The Tempest’ opens with loud noises of a storm and people aboard a sinking ship. All throughout the drama, sorts of noises can be heard.

Some of them are intended to create fear. Some to give rise to a feeling of mystery and others to give a feel of the romance blooming on the island . Shakespeare has used all types of sounds to add salt to the curry. Their  role is most important with regards to the settings. These sounds also relate to the characters who react differently to different noises. In the initial scene noise sets the mood of the drama. The hauling winds, thunder and lightning create a mood of fear that the ship has met a fierce storm and is about to sink.

 

However, Shakespeare’s The Tempest is full of both comic scenes and moments of heightened emotion. The sounds also support the comic and tragic elements of the drama. Two of the characters in the drama are particularly important in this regard. The first is Caliban, the poor offspring of the wretched witch Sycorax. He serves Prospero after the witch has died. Sounds have a special effect on him and several of the comic scenes including noises also include him.

He is familiar with most of the noises for he has lived long on the island. He dreads some of these sounds and the others are like lullabies that  put him to sleep. Another important character is Stephano. The meeting between Caliban and Stephano takes place amid various noises. Trinculo is also present when Caliban gratefully talks to his new master Stephano. While Stephano and Trinculo fear the noises, Caliban explains their meaning to them.

However, these are only the noises people can hear. There is more noise on the inside. These noises lend meaning to the central theme of ‘The Tempest. Literally, it means a violent storm and when there is a storm, there are bound to be noises. These noises also reflect the storm that is at the core of the drama; the storm that changed Prospero’s life and sent him with his daughter to the island he was living on. He treats Caliban harshly. As readers get to see that Prospero rebukes Caliban calling him a piece of filth as if ready to pour out all his frustration on him. Since Prospero was deprived of his throne, the tempest in his heart has never calmed down and unless his daughter and the prince had fallen in love, the fate of his usurper might have been different.

 

However, all the noises in the drama are not violent or chaotic. Sometimes sweet tunes play in the background. Caliban incites Stephano to kill Prospero. While  they are on the move Ariel plays a music while he is invisible. Invisible sounds have also played an important role in the drama adding to the mystery of the island since Antonio and his  team have set foot on it. The drama has the elements of mystery and magic. The music on the harp and other tunes set the magical mood and invisible Ariel adds to the sense of mystery and fear by playing his music. Stephano and Trinculo are scared to hear the music because they cannot identify its source. Stephano challenges the invisible musician to show up but he is full of fear.

Caliban asks him if he is afraid. He explains to Stephano the several sounds he will hear on the island. These sounds are of different sorts including noises, music and several types of voices but they harm no one. Sometimes these voices hum him to sleep. Thus, it is visible that the noises found on the island are an important part of its mysterious environment making it both beautiful and terrifying for the visitors. At the end of the drama, all the noises have subsided and the magic and spell is over. The real storm has calmed down and life is musical for Ferdinand and Miranda. Apart from everything the sounds or noises in the drama support the supernatural element in it. Without the music many things in ‘The Tempest’ might not as natural and real as they do.

 

Written by Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.

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