The Tempest | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Tempest | Act 3, Scene 1 | Summary



The action returns to Ferdinand and Miranda's story as Prospero watches in secret. Ferdinand is carrying logs as required by Prospero, but he does not complain because it allows him to serve Miranda: "The very instant that I saw you did/My heart fly to your service, there resides/To make me slave to it." He only regrets that she is sad for his hard labor. Miranda encourages the exhausted Ferdinand to rest, and she even offers to carry the logs herself so that he doesn't have to. Miranda disobeys her father and tells Ferdinand what her name is. Ferdinand pledges his deep love and devotion to her.

Prospero, hearing their exchange, recognizes the true nature of their love and celebrates it. Then he sets his mind "to [his] book/For yet ere suppertime must [he] perform/Much business appertaining" and hurries away to perform the other activities he has to orchestrate that day.


Romantic love is the focus of the scene as the two young lovers explore the character of their affection. Ferdinand confesses that he has admired other women for some qualities, but it is Miranda alone who is perfection: "But you, O you,/So perfect and so peerless, are created/Of every creature's best." There's some humor in Ferdinand's declaration because Miranda has actually never seen another woman. She has been isolated on the island for as long as her memory goes back. Nor has she seen any other men to whom to compare Ferdinand except her father and Caliban. But while Prospero's treatment of Ferdinand may seem manipulative, it is noteworthy that Ferdinand mentions liking, and eventually rejecting, other women before Miranda. This suggests that Prospero's decision to make Miranda hard to get may actually be wise and necessary.

Shakespeare plays on the idea of slavery in this scene. The audience has encountered an actual slave in the story—the miserable Caliban, whose primary task is to carry wood for Prospero. But Ferdinand's slavery for Prospero is a different kind—a voluntary servitude intended to keep him near his beloved. Miranda, too, offers slavelike devotion to Ferdinand: "I am your wife if you will marry me./If not, I'll die your maid. To be your fellow/You may deny me, but I'll be your servant/Whether you will or no." Both lovers exhibit a romantic view of love in which lovers have no defects and allegiance is total.

Prospero's testing of Ferdinand and Miranda is complete when he realizes the extent of their devotion to one another, and he is able to say with a glad heart "Heavens rain grace/On that which breeds between 'em!" After he sees their love is genuine he is ready to move on as the magician and theater master to his next "act." Both the theme of magical power and the symbol of magical books continue as Prospero, the artist, rushes away to his book to help him juggle all the circumstances and individuals he is manipulating and orchestrating throughout the play.

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