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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
The Tempest is a romantic comedy that observes the structure of a classical play, observing unities of time, place, and action. The play takes place in a single day in the single location of the enchanted island. All of the action of the main plot revolves around Prospero's plan to bring his betrayers to repentance so that he can forgive them and bring about total reconciliation, causing the play to end as a comedy with the protagonist overcoming his antagonist. The sub-plots reinforce the action and themes of the main plot.
Act one is largely introductory in nature, when Prospero tells Miranda their history and begins to plan a resolution to his exile on the enchanted island. Acts two, three, and four present the rising action of the main plots and subplots as Prospero begins to put his plan into place; he entraps the betrayers and ensures the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand. Act five presents the climax, when Prospero confronts his enemies, brings them to repentance, and forgives them. The conclusion shows how the reconciliation is brought about with Prospero being given his rightful position of Duke of Milan and making plans to return to his homeland to restore the proper order of things. The brief epilogue contains the denouement.
The entire play is held together by the singularity of action, by a series of parallels, and by the repetitive building of the themes. Shakespeare also uses a technical problem, that of bridging the gulf between the supernatural and the real, to unify the play. Shakespeare solves the problem partially by creating an atmosphere of enchantment throughout the action and by making the supernatural real to a skeptic like Sebastian. When Sebastian sees with his own eyes the strange shapes presenting a banquet, he has to believe in the magical. If Sebastian can believe, so can the others. By this incident, Shakespeare creates in his readers and in his audience a willingness to suspend disbelief throughout the play, which is a masterful measure of artistic faith.
In conclusion, it can be said that The Tempest is a masterpiece in construction, because it accepts and masters the technical difficulties of presenting the long process of reconciliation in a short period of time in a single location and of bridging the gulf between the natural and the preternatural.