“Be not afraid. The isle is full of noises, / Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not”, is Caliban’s observation of the island in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. True to Caliban’s commentary, music serves to move the plot of the story. Whether by euphonious matrimonial hymns, or cacophonous deception, the sound and music of The Tempest move the characters to harmony. [pic]In comedy, the plot traditionally begins in chaos and moves toward peace.
Respectively, the play begins with the shrieks and moans of a sinking ship and the roar of a raging storm as the Ship master cries, “Blow till thou burst thy wind, if room enough”, challengingly to the maleficent sea. Therefore, by use of sound, Shakespeare has established that there is universal disorder in this world using the cracks of a breaking ship and the cries of a king sinking with his crew.
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As the play progresses to the island where Prospero, a well-learned man and former Duke of Milan, Miranda, his daughter, and Ariel, a supernatural shape shifter, live, it is revealed that this “tempest” was a plan devised by Prospero to lure Antonio, Prospero’s brother who usurped his thrown, Alonso, King of Naples, and Ferdinand, Alonso’s son, to the island by using Ariel’s power to create a storm. Ariel’s skills are used many times by Prospero in the play to deceive and control his unsuspecting guests, but, more importantly, Ariel uses music in many cases to do so. The music crept by me upon the waters, / Allaying their fury and my passion / With its sweet air. Thence I followed it”, comments Ferdinand as Ariel lures him to Prospero’s cave. This is not the only time Ariel is summoned to use his musical talents. Ariel’s music is also used to lure the king and his men to Prospero’s banquet, only to be cast away by the cacophony of thunder and lightning, and Ariel swooping down as a harpy in a plot to punish and intimidate Alonso and Antonio.
As the play closes, the music holds true to its archaic symbolism to bring cosmic harmony as marital psalms are played by gods for the wedding of Miranda and Ferdinand. Shakespeare is a masterful conductor as he directs the motion of the play through the crescendos of chaotic storms and the soft melodies of love. Finally, Shakespeare brilliantly ends his play with a final use of sound, the praise of the audience, used to free Prospero and ensure a happy ending, symbolizing the stipulating and freeing power only a joyful noise can bring.