Trinculo and Stephano have two major roles in The Tempest - comic relief and the theme of exploration. Because of this double nature to their characters, they are more important than they initially appear.
The Tempest is a comedy. The play may not seem to fit into the category of comedy as it exists today; but in the 17th century comedy was very different. Certainly, The Tempest would never be confused with a modern television comedy - the art of comedy has evolved too far. The main plot of the play - the plot involving Prospero regaining his rightful position as the Duke of Milan - seem to be overly serious for a comedy. The scenes containing Trinculo and Stephano, however are the exceptions here - their scenes are much closer to the modern interpretation of comedy than the majority of the rest of the play.
Trinculo and Stephano are introduced in act II, scene II. This scene is almost pure farce - the events are totally unrealistic but are, however, quite funny: A good description of modern comedy, in fact. While the previous scenes in the play have been mostly serious, detailing the back-story, this scene is blatantly visual comedy - in the hands of a good director and good actors, it could turn into a hilarious scene. This scene shows Trinculo and Stephano's main purpose in the play - to provide comic relief. As a direct contrast to the heavy plotting and comparatively serious themes being explored in the other scenes, the scenes involving these two men lighten the play's mood considerably. Without their impact on events, The Tempest would be a lot darker in tone.
If Trinculo and Stephano had been le...
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...use of this double nature to their characters, they are more important than they initially appear. It is for both these reasons that they are important to the play as a whole; without them the play would be missing some important aspects which help make it the success it is.
Works Cited and Consulted:
William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Frank Kermode, with an introduction by Frank Kermode, (Arden, 1964)
Montaigne, Selected Essays of Montaigne, trans. John Florio (1603) ed.Walter Kaiser, with an introduction by Walter Kaiser, (Riverside, 1964)
Curt Breight, " 'Treason doth never prosper': The Tempest and the discourse of treason, Shakespeare Quarterly, 41, no.1, (1990)
Eric Cheyfitz, The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from The Tempest to Tarzan, (Oxford University Press, 1991)
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