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What is the significance of sound and music in the play as a whole?

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Introduction

What is the significance of sound and music in the play as a whole? `The Tempest' is on a basic level a play about a magical island, complete with its own wizard, monster and handsome prince. However, it is much more than a fairytale. Complex themes such as usurpation, colonialism and the supernatural are interwoven into the plot to produce a play so diverse that it is widely considered to be one of Shakespeare's finest works. Music and sound are dramatically significant in this diversity. This makes `The Tempest' very different to other Shakespeare plays. For example, `The Tempest' -along with `Twelfth Night'- contains nearly three times the amount of music normally present in his plays. In this essay I will be exploring how this sheer amount of music and sound is significant. This will involve looking at the affect that they have upon the major themes, characters and the play as a whole. ...read more.

Middle

He uses music subliminally to create the mood and affect the activities of the characters. For example, in Act 1 Scene 2, Ariel lures Ferdinand to Miranda with the song, `Come unto these yellow sands.' In this same scene Ariel attempts to console Ferdinand (who thinks that his father has been killed by the shipwreck) with a soothing song: `Full fathom five thy father lies...' In Act 3 Scene 3, he torments Antonio, Sebastian and Alonso with a banquet. At the beginning of the scene he produces a banquet, accompanied by `solemn and strange music.' This affects the characters in a positive way, their language becomes much more harmonious and poetic e.g. `marvellous,' `sweet,' `heavens.' However, `Ariel ...claps his wings upon the table, and...the banquet vanishes.' Sounds of `thunder' can be heard at this point, contrasting with the `solemn' music at the beginning of the scene. Ariel has used music and sound in a way that inflicts strongly upon the emotions of the characters. ...read more.

Conclusion

Finally, the music and sounds have a subversive effect; it changes the behaviour of the characters. This also contributes towards the supernatural. Music and sounds have dramatic significance in the play. They are not just for decorative effect -although they do provide entertainment-, they serve a structural purpose. This is illustrated in the way that music is a continual cycle throughout the play. It is not just used in expected scenes, such as Act 3 Scene 3 with the banquet, it appears in the majority of scenes. The music helps to establish the emotional climate of a scene. In conclusion, music and sounds are a powerful instrument in this play. In addition to revealing the emotions of characters; supporting themes; and progressing the plot of the play, it also shows the multiplicity of Shakespeare. A number of critics believe that Shakespeare used such a high degree of sounds for the same reason that he adhered to the three classical unities (time, place and action). He believed that this was to be his last play so he wanted to conclude his writing career with evidence of his remarkable talent. ...read more.

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