Act IV

Before Prospero's cell.

[Enter Prospero, Ferdinand, and Miranda]

[to Ferdinand] If I have too austerely punished you,
Your compensation makes amends, for I
Have given you here a third of mine own life—
Or that for which I live—who once again
I tender to thy hand. All thy vexations(5)
Were but my trials of thy love, and thou
Hast strangely stood the test. Here, afore Heaven,
I ratify this my rich gift. O Ferdinand,
Do not smile at me that I boast of her,
For thou shalt find she will outstrip all praise,(10)
And make it halt behind her.
I do believe it
Against an oracle.
Then, as my gift and thine own acquisition
Worthily purchased take my daughter. But(15)
If thou dost break her virgin-knot before
All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite be ministered,
No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall
To make this contract grow; but barren hate,(20)
Sour-eyed disdain and discord shall bestrew
The union of your bed with weeds so loathly
That you shall hate it both; therefore, take heed,
As Hymen's lamps shall light you.
As I hope(25)
For quiet days, fair issue and long life
With such love as ’tis now, the murkiest den,
The most opportune place, the strong'st suggestion
Our worser genius can, shall never melt
Mine honour into lust to take away(30)
The edge of that day's celebration
When I shall think: or Phoebus’ steeds are foundered,
Or Night kept chained below.
Fairly spoke.
Sit then, and talk with her. She is thine own.(35)
What, Ariel! My industrious servant, Ariel!

[Enter Ariel]

What would my potent master? Here I am.
Thou and thy meaner fellows your last service
Did worthily perform, and I must use you
In such another trick. Go bring the rabble,(40)
O'er whom I give thee power, here to this place.
Incite them to quick motions; for I must
Bestow upon the eyes of this young couple
Some vanity of mine art. It is my promise,
And they expect it from me.(45)
Ay, with a twink.
Before you can say ‘Come’ and ‘Go,’
And breathe twice and cry ‘So, so,’
Each one, tripping on his toe(50)
Will be here with mop and mow.
Do you love me, master? No?
Dearly, my delicate Ariel. Do not approach
Till thou dost hear me call.
Well, I conceive.(55)


[to Ferdinand] Look thou be true. Do not give
Too much the rein: the strongest oaths are straw
To th” fire i'th” blood. Be more abstemious,
Or else, good night your vow!(60)
I warrant you, sir;
The white cold virgin snow upon my heart
Abates the ardour of my liver.
Now come, my Ariel! Bring a corollary,(65)
Rather than want a spirit. Appear and pertly!

[to Ferdinand and Miranda]

No tongue, all eyes! Be silent.

[Soft music]

[Enter Iris]

Ceres, most bounteous lady, thy rich leas
Of wheat, rye, barley, vetches, oats and peas;
Thy turfy mountains, where live nibbling sheep,(70)
And flat meads thatched with stover, them to keep;
Thy banks with pioned and twilled brims,
Which spongy April at thy hest betrims,
To make cold nymphs chaste crowns; and thy
Whose shadow the dismissèd bachelor loves,
Being lass-lorn; thy pole clipped vineyard;
And thy sea-marge, sterile and rocky-hard,
Where thou thyself dost air—the Queen o'th’Sky,
Whose watery arch and messenger am I,(80)
Bids thee leave these, and with her sovereign grace,
[Juno appears] Here on this grass-plot, in this very place
To come and sport. Her peacocks fly amain.
Approach, rich Ceres, her to entertain.

[Enter Ariel as Ceres]

Hail, many-coloured messenger, that ne'er(85)
Dost disobey the wife of Jupiter;
Who with thy saffron wings upon my flowers
Diffusest honey-drops, refreshing showers,
And with each end of thy blue bow dost crown
My bosky acres and my unshrubbed down,(90)
Rich scarf to my proud earth. Why hath thy queen
Summoned me hither to this short-grassed green?
A contract of true love to celebrate;
And some donation freely to estate
On the blest lovers.(95)
Tell me, heavenly bow,
If Venus or her son, as thou dost know,
Do now attend the queen. Since they did plot
The means that dusky Dis my daughter got,
Her and her blind boy's scandaled company(100)
I have forsworn.
Of her society
Be not afraid. I met her deity.
Cutting the clouds towards Pathos and her son
Dove-drawn with her. Here thought they to have done(105)
Some wanton charm upon this man and miad,
Whose vows are that no bed-right shall be paid
Till Hymen's torch be lighted—but in vain.
Mars's hot minion is returned again.
Her waspish-headed son has broke his arrows,(110)
Swears he will shoot no more, but play with sparrows
And be a boy right out.

[Music is heard]

High'st queen of state,
Great Juno, comes; I know her by her gait.

[Enter Juno]

How does my bounteous sister? Go with me(115)
To bless this twain, that they may Prospus be
And honoured in their issue.

[They sing]

Honour, riches, marriage-blessing,
Long continuance, and increasing,
Hourly joys be still upon you!(120)
Juno sings her blessings upon you.
Earth's increase, foison plenty,
Barns and garners never empty,
Vines and clust'ring bunches growing,
Plants and goodly burden bowing;(125)
Spring come to you at the farthest
In the very end of harvest!
Scarcity and want shall shun you,
Ceres’ blessing so is on you.
This is a most majestic vision, and(130)
Harmoniously charmingly. May I be bold
To think these spirits?
Spirits, which by mine art
I have from their confines call'd to enact
My present fancies.(135)
Let me live here ever!
So rare a wondered father and a wife
Makes this place paradise.

[Juno and Ceres whisper, and send Iris on employment]

Sweet now, silence!
Juno and ceres whisper seriously;(140)
There's something else to do. Hush, and be mute,
Or else our spell is marred.
Your nymphs, called naiads of the wandering brooks,
With your sedged crowns and over-harmless looks,
Leave your crisp channels and on this green land(145)
Answer your summons; Juno does command.
Come, temperate nymphs, and help to celebrate
A contract of true love. Be not too late.

[Enter certain nymphs]

You sunburnt sicklemen, of August weary,
Come hither from the furrow and be merry;(150)
Make holiday, your rye-straw hats put on,
And these fresh nymphs encounter every one
In country footing.

[Enter certain reapers, properly habited. They join with the nymphs in a graceful dance; towards the end whereof Prospero starts suddenly, and speaks.

[aside] I had forgot that foul conspiracy
Of the beast Caliban and his confederates(155)
Against my life. The minute of their plot
Is almost come. [to the spirits] Well done! Avoid;
no more!

[To a strange, hollow, and confused noise, the spirits heavily vanish]

[to Miranda] This is strange. Your father's in some
That works him strongly.
Never till this day
Saw I him touched with anger so distempered.
You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismayed. Be cheerful, sir.(165)
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,(170)
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life(175)
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vexed.
Bear with my weakness. My brain is troubled.
Be not disturbed with my infirmity.
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose. A turn or two I'll walk(180)
To still my beating mind.
We wish your peace.


Come with a thought! than thee, Ariel. Come!

[Enter Ariel]

Thy thoughts I cleave to. What's thy pleasure?
We must prepare to meet with Caliban.
Ay, my commander. When I presented Ceres,
I thought to have told thee of it, but I feared
Lest I might anger thee.
Say again: where didst thou leave these variets?(190)
I told you, sir, they were red-hot with drinking;
So fun of valour that they smote the air
For breathing in their faces, beat the ground
For kissing of their feet; yet always bending
Towards their project. Then I beat my tabour,(195)
At which, like unbacked colts, they pricked their ears,
Advanced their eyelids, lifted up their noses
As they smelt music. So I charmed their ears
That calf-like they my lowing followed through
Toothed briars, sharp furzes, pricking goss and thorns,(200)
Which entered their frail shins. At last I left them
I'th’ filthy-mantled pool beyond your cell,
There dancing up to th’ chins, that the foul lake
O'er-stunk their feet.
This was well done, my bird.(205)
Thy shape invisible retain thou still.
The trumpery in my house, go bring it hither
For stale catch these thieves.
I go, I go.


A devil, a born devil, on whose nature(210)
Nurture can never stick; on whom my pains,
Humanely taken, all, all lost, quite lost,
And, as with age his body uglier grows,
So his mind cankers. I will plague them all,
Even to roaring.(215)

[Re-enter] Ariel, loaden with glistering apparel, etc.]

Come, hang them on this line.

[Ariel hangs up the apparel. Exeunt Prospero and Ariel]

[Enter Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo, all wet]

Pray you, tread softly, that the blind mole may not
Hear a foot fall. We now are near his cell.
Monster, you fairy, which you say is a harmless fairy, has
done little better than played the Jack with us.(220)
Monster, I do smell all horse-piss, at which my nose is
in great indignation.
So is mine. Do you hear, monster? If I should take a
displeasure against you, look you—
Thou wert but a lost monster.(225)
Good my lord, give me thy favour still.
Be patient, for the prize I'll bring thee to
Shall hoodwink this mischance. Therefore speak softly.
All's hushed as midnight yet.
Ay, but to lose our bottles in the pool!(230)
There is not only disgrace and dishonour in that, monster,
but an infinite loss.
That's more to me than my wetting. Yet this is your harmless
fairy monster.
I will fetch off my bottle, though I be o'er ears for(235)
my labour.
Prithee, my king, be quiet. Seest thou here;
This is the mouth o‘th’ cell. No noise, and enter.
Do that good mischief which may make this island
Thine own for ever, and I, thy Caliban,(240)
For aye thy foot-licker.
Give me thy hand. I do begin to have bloody
[seeing the apparel] O King Stephano! O peer! O worthy
Look what a wardrobe here is for thee!
Let it alone, thou fool; it is but trash.
[putting on a garment] O, ho, monster! We know what
belongs to flippers. O King Stephano!
Put off that gown, Trinculo. By this hand, I'll have that(250)
Thy grace shall have it.
The dropsy drown this fool! What do you mean
To dote thus on such luggage? Let't alone,
And do the murder first. If he awake,(255)
From toe to crown he'll fill our skins with pinches,
Make us strange stuff.
Be you quiet, monster. Mistress lime, is not this my
jerkin? Now is the jerkin under the line. Now, jerkin,
you are like to lose your hair and prove a bald jerkin.(260)
Do, do! We steal by line and level, an't like your
I thank thee for that jest. Here's a garment for't. Wit
shall not go unrewarded while I am king of this country.
‘Steal by line and level’ is an excellent pass of pate.(265)
There's another garment for't.
Monster, come, put some lime upon your fingers,
and away with the rest.
I will have none on't. We shall lose our time,
And all be turned to barnacles, or to apes(270)
With foreheads villanous low.
Monster, lay to your fingers. Help to bear this away
where my hogshead of wine is, or I'll turn you out of my
kingdom. Go to, carry this.
And this.(275)
Ay, and this. [They load Caliban with the apparel]

[A noise of hunters heard. Enter divers spirits in the shape of dogs and hounds, and hunting them about; Prospero and Ariel setting them on]

Hey, Mountain, hey!
Silver! I there it goes, Silver!
Fury, Fury! There, Tyrant, there! Hark! Hark!

[Exeunt Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban followed by spirits]

[to Ariel] Go, charge my goblins that they grind their(280)
With dry convulsions, shorten up their sinews,
With aged cramps, and more pinch-spotted make them
Than pard or cat o'mountain.
Hark, they roar!(285)
Let them be hunted soundly. At this hour
Lie at my mercy all mine enemies.
Shortly shall all my labours end, and thou
Shalt have the air at freedom. For a little
Follow, and do me service.(290)



  1. Prospero’s statement that Caliban is “a born devil” who would be incapable of learning to behave any differently, reflects a common colonialist belief that native populations were inherently “savage” and “uncivilized.” Some Europeans believed that the native peoples could be taught the ways of the “civilized,” and colonizers would thus seek to “civilize” the local populations by forcing their own language, beliefs, and customs on them. Others claimed that non-European populations were naturally inferior and that it was impossible to “civilize” them, as Prospero does. These racist claims were essentially used as justification for enslaving the native populations, and Prospero’s comment echoes this violent ideology.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. To “hoodwink” is to conceal or deceive by false appearance. Since Caliban is going to show them to Prospero’s cell, he assures Trinculo that this “prize” will make them forget how smelly they are at the moment.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Venus is the Roman goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. Her son, Cupid, is the god of desire, attraction and affection. The gods and goddesses that Prospero calls upon throughout this scene are all able to bless different aspects of Ferdinand and Miranda’s relationship: prosperity, fertility, love, honor, etc.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. “Queen o’th’Sky” refers to Juno, the Roman goddess of the heavens and protector of the state. Juno is said to have looked carefully after the women of Rome. In Greek mythology, Juno’s equivalent if the goddess Hera.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. In Roman mythology, Ceres was the god of agriculture and fertility. Prospero has her join in the celebration and bless Miranda and Ferdinand’s union. In Greek mythology, Ceres is known as Demeter.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Prospero’s command for Ariel to make Caliban and the others suffer for their plot reveals the deep extent to which Caliban infuriates Prospero. Considering their relationship and Caliban’s refusal to acknowledge Prospero’s authority, the rage Prospero shows is likely the result of his inability to fully subdue Caliban’s will. If read through a colonial lens, Prospero’s anger at Caliban’s indignation may represent the discord between European colonizers and their colonies.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. In addition to demonstrating his power, Prospero orchestrates the play to celebrate Miranda and Ferdinand’s love. When Prospero starts acting strangely after remembering the murder plot, Ferdinand expresses concern. Prospero’s response is an odd way to reassure someone–pointing out that life is transient–so we can read it as applying on a more general and introspective level to the audience instead of to Ferdinand. Since many believe The Tempest to be the last play Shakespeare wrote, the play within a play here has significant meaning, paralleling Shakespeare’s own retirement from the theater. Prospero’s words can then be read as Shakespeare speaking through his character whose words “our little life” and the “insubstantial pageant” present to the audience a sense of humility on the part of the playwright. Of course, Shakespeare’s legacy proved to be more lasting than any other English writer in history, making such claims somewhat ironic.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Ferdinand responds to Prospero’s command by saying how he will respect Prospero’s wishes and that his love for Miranda is so deep that it keeps him from acting out any lustful behavior. The reason why Ferdinand refers to “the ardour of [his] liver” is that in Shakespeare’s time, many organs were associated with emotions. In this case, the liver is the physical home of desire.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. Caliban worries that should he and his fellow conspirators be found out, Prospero will transform them into horrible things. The idea of being turned into an ape with a very low forehead, even a villainous one, reveals a belief at the time that physical appearance equated to moral character. Therefore, a large, low, ape-like forehead would have not only been ugly, but it would also have been sign of evil. This belief persisted into the 19th century with the advent of the pseudoscience phrenology, which claimed character could be determined by skull shape. No evidence supports any claims that physical appearance is a manifestation of internal character.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. When Prospero tells Ferdinand to be more abstemious (meaning “showing restraint”), he says that Ferdinand should be even more sincere with his oaths and restrained in his behavior until he has properly married Miranda.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. Prospero’s metaphor refers to the pageant he has produced on the island using his knowledge of magic. He believes that in the end everything will “dissolve” into nothingness. After all, people are the “stuff” or substance that dreams are “made on,” or build of. “Little” suggests that people’s lives are insignificant, and ultimately their lives are “rounded,” or completed, by sleep; these words briefly touch on human mortality.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff