Ariel Monologue: The Tempest Act 1 Scene 2 | Monologes Unpacked
airel monologue

Ariel Monologue: The Tempest Act 1 Scene 2

Written by on | Monologues Unpacked

We’re going to take a closer look at one of Ariel’s best pieces of text from The Tempest. In this monologue, we really get to see the bright, fiery but dutiful side of Ariel. It is an active speech that is filled to the brim with playfulness and duty. Let’s take a look…

Prospero, having been banished to an island many years ago with his then-infant daughter Miranda has devised a cunning plan to exact his revenge on those who wronged him (including his brother) all those years ago in Milan. In order to bring his bait to shore, he has tasked his Spirit servant Ariel to conjure up a Tempest to direct their ship to the banks of Prospero’s Cell. In this monologue Ariel recounts exactly how they did it, and exactly what saw aboard the ship.

Original Text (Ariel Act 1 Scene 2)

To every article.
I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement: sometime I’d divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join. Jove’s lightnings, the precursors
O’ the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary
And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks
Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune (F)
Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble,
Yea, his dread trident shake.

Prospero. My brave spirit!
Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil
Would not infect his reason?

Ariel. Not a soul
But felt a fever of the mad and play’d
Some tricks of desperation. All but mariners
Plunged in the foaming brine and quit the vessel,
Then all afire with me: the king’s son, Ferdinand,
With hair up-staring,—then like reeds, not hair,—
Was the first man that leap’d; cried, ‘Hell is empty
And all the devils are here.’

Verse Breakdown

Bold = Stressed
Unbold = Unstressed
(F) = Feminine Ending
To every article.
I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement: sometime I’d divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast, (F)
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly, (F)
Then meet and join. Jove’s lightnings, the precursors (F)
O’ the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary
And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks
Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune (F)
Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble,
Yea, his dread trident shake.

Prospero:
My brave spirit!
Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil
Would not infect his reason?

Ariel:
Not
a soul
But felt a fever of the mad and play’d
Some tricks of desperation. All but mariners
Plunged in the foaming brine and quit the vessel, (F)
Then all afire with me: the king’s son, Ferdinand,
With hair up-staring,—then like reeds, not hair,—
Was the first man that leap’d; cried, ‘Hell is empty (F)
And all the devils are here.’ (*Continued line with Prospero)

Modern Translation

To the letter
I boarded the King’s ship, then I was on the bow
Then the waist, on the deck, in every cabin,
My fire astonished the sailors, sometimes I divided up,
And had fires in lots of places; on the topmast,
On the yards and bowsprit I had distinct fires
Then I’d come together and make one big fire. Joves lightning that comes before
The terrifying thunder claps wasn’t as fast as me, the fire and the cracks
Terrified even the sea god Neptune and made him tremble and shake

Prospero: That’s my spirit
Who was so brave that wasn’t even scared by that?

Not a single soul
They all lost their heads and pulled
Some desperate stunts, everyone but the sailors
Dove into the sea and abandoned
The burning ship: the Kings son, Ferdinand,
With his hair up on end,- which resemble reeds now, not hair-,
Was the first to jump crying ‘All the devils have come up from Hell to here’

Thought Breakdown & Analysis

To every article.
(I did everything you asked exactly)

Quite revealing of Ariel’s character, which serves as a direct contrast to Caliban, who by all accounts is quite defiant of Prospero.

I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
(I boarded the Kings ship, then went to the bow)

Here we’re going to get into Ariel recounting their duties. Which is really what this whole speech is about, but we’ll check in further down.

Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
(Then in the waist, on the deck, in every cabin)

These are all the places Ariel was on the ship. The waist is the widest part of a ship on the upper deck.

I flamed amazement: sometime I’d divide,
(My fires astonished the people on board: A few times, I divided up)

Here Ariel reveals to the audience that not only did they create the storm that brought the ship to shore, but made it seem as though there was an uncontrollable fire on board.

And burn in many places; on the topmast,
(And had fires in many places; on the topmast)

So they had lots of fires on the ship. The topmast is the highest point of the mast.

The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
(On the yards and bowsprit I had distinct fires)

Then meet and join. Jove’s lightnings, the precursors
(Then I’d come together into one big fire. Jove’s lightning that comes before)

O’ the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary
(The terrifying thunder claps were not faster than me)

Ariel says they were faster than Jove’s lightning itself. What an image. And what confidence.

And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks
(The fire and cracking sounds)

Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune
(Terrified even the sea God Neptune)

We’re at two references to Gods now.

Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble,
Yea, his dread trident shake.
(And made him tremble and shake)

Now’s probably a good point to check in and discuss some brief notes on performance. Like many of Shakespeare’s speeches one of the actors best tools is in the images. This whole section is a vast playground of grand sweeping images and heightened language. Relishing in that will really serve the actor well in performing this.

Prospero. My brave spirit!
Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil
Would not infect his reason?

Ariel. Not a soul
(No one)

But felt a fever of the mad and play’d
(They all went a bit mad and pulled)

Some tricks of desperation. All but mariners
(Some pretty desperate stunts. Everyone but the sailors)

So this was really the whole point of the mission. Terrify the Kings crew into separating from their ship. We see how below. And it’s pretty fun.

Plunged in the foaming brine and quit the vessel,
(Dove into the sea and abandoned ship)

Then all afire with me: the king’s son, Ferdinand,
(That I had lit on fire: the Kings son, Ferdinand)

With hair up-staring,—then like reeds, not hair,—
(With his hair standing up on end-which at this point looked like reeds not hair)

This is one of my personal favourite lines of the speech. It really speaks to the mischievous nature of Ariel, and the pleasure they derive from their deeds.

Was the first man that leap’d; cried, ‘Hell is empty
(Was the first man to jump off the ship crying ‘Hell is empty)

And all the devils are here.’
(And all the devils have come here)

And another incredible line of verse here. ‘Hell is empty and all the devils here’ really paints the picture of the scene and exactly how the court felt about what was happening on their ship. It’s also a pretty funny line. I’m sure we’ve all felt this way from time to time.

About the Author

Jake Fryer-Hornsby

Jake Fryer-Hornsby is an actor, writer, and educator based in Sydney, and originally hailing from regional Western Australia. Jake graduated from WAAPA in 2017 and since then has gone on to work on and off stages around the country. You can find Jake taking shelter from the sun in any number of outdoor areas and/or on the hunt for his next caffeine fix.

About the Author

Jake Fryer-Hornsby

Jake Fryer-Hornsby is an actor, writer, and educator based in Sydney, and originally hailing from regional Western Australia. Jake graduated from WAAPA in 2017 and since then has gone on to work on and off stages around the country. You can find Jake taking shelter from the sun in any number of outdoor areas and/or on the hunt for his next caffeine fix.

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