What makes the opening act of William Shakespear'es The Tempest dramatically effective?

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“The Tempest” (storm), though he did not know it, was William Shakespeare’s very last play. Many people have argued that Shakespeare based the main character Prospero, on himself, though it is impossible to be sure. This essay is going to explore what techniques Shakespeare used in the opening act and how they are effective, the different ideas Shakespeare was trying to elucidate to the audience, and hopefully give new perceptions on the play. The stage directions used at the beginning of the play are specially chosen to grab the rowdy Shakespearian audience’s attention, using dramatic and dangerous effects. “Tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard.” Shakespeare’s plays usually took place in open air theatres at around midday, in the not so upmarket area of London. Many spectators of the play are loud, exited, unemployed commoners and not ready to calm down. Making all this noise through sound effects such as stamping feet, bashing heavy objects (behind the scenes) causes the audience to settle, ready for the play to begin. The stage directions Shakespeare chose in “The Tempest”, immediately draw the crowd’s attention to the play. Language is used brilliantly in the first scene. At the start of the play, the preliminary line spoken is “Boatswain!” It is an imperative and is said with a sense of urgency as it is short and commanding. Language is also used effectively to set the scene. This is probably due to that fact that when Shakespeare’s plays were performed, they did not have a set with countless amounts of props and clever lighting. Therefore words like “Boatswain”, “mariners” and “topsail” are nautical references which suggest that that scene is set on a boat. Adjectives like “howling” imply that they are in some sort of horror, and the aggressive, anxious tones of the characters accentuate that fact that they are in some sort of danger.
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