Shakespeare/The Tempest


In The Tempest II, i lines 120-130 what is Francisco personifying? Also how does Shakespeare's uses of personification make descriptions more vivid?

Hello, Aly.

I'm having a bit of a problem answering your question, to be honest. To my analysis, there is only one personification in the speech, and it is a minor one, that is to say, it doesn't add much to the description, at least to me.  It occurs in the last few lines of the speech:  "the shore, that o'er his wave-worn basis bow'd, / As stooping to relieve him"-- here, the shore is personified as a person or creature that bowed itself over its own eroded bottom layer, as if it might be reaching out to help Ferdinand come to land more quickly.

I suppose that one could argue that the "enmity" of the water, the "contentious waves," and the fact that the waves "met" him are all personifications:  they render the ocean to be having hateful or combative emotional states; the waves "met" him implies willful or conscious action on the part of the waves. "Met," however, is a rather weak verb, compared with the verbs associated with Ferdinand's actions. Almost all the verbs that describe Ferdinand's actions are not personifications but implied metaphors, and, in my opinion, the most powerfully vivid aspects of Shakespeare's descriptions are almost always in his implied metaphors, a poetic device that can be called by a fancy name by which Shakespeare himself would have known it: the catechresis.  This device allows Shakespeare to throw the metaphor into the verb, and if there's one phrase I've lived by in my teaching it is this: if you want to analyze Shakespeare's verse, look first at his verbs, because he knew how to use verbs like no other writer in the English language before or since.

A metaphor, properly speaking, occurs when you make a comparison but omit the "like" or "as" of the simile:  for example, "My love is like a red, red rose" (simile) becomes "My love is a red, red rose" (metaphor).

However, the catechresis imbeds the metaphor into active verbs that give the description dynamic motion and, often, layers of imagery and meaning.  For example, in this passage:

       I saw him beat the surges under him,
       And ride upon their backs

You have to "unpack" the metaphors in this catechresis:  the surging waves are horses that Ferdinand beats as he rides them. The fact that he speaks in the plural of the surges/horses gives the image that he is beating the horses to ride faster (not slower, as we might expect), and that he is leaping from horseback to horseback-- from surge to surge-- as he rides faster and faster toward the shore.  This not only gives us the visual imagery of "what" Ferdinand was doing (he was upright in the rushing waves, and his arms were moving as if to beat or urge them baster) but also provides a triumphant reversal of what Alonso fears has happened to his son. Far from drowning, Ferdinand is mastering the sea and even is whipping it as a horseman whips a horse to run faster.

There are other instances of catechresis in this speech.  Do you see them? There are several, and they are the most powerful resevoirs of energy and imagery in the passage, in my opinion.

Happy hunting!
Dr. T.  


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Dr. T.


I can answer questions about Shakespeare's life and times, his plays and poems, the history of criticism and critics' responses to Shakespeare's works, other authors of the time period, the audiences of the time period, Queen Elizabeth I, women of the Renaissance or Early Modern age, history of rhetoric, British drama, etc.


I have taught Shakespeare, Early Modern literature, Early Modern women's literature, the history of rhetoric, Arthurian literature, and related general literary subjects and many others in university classrooms for more than 25 years.

Renaissance Society of America, South-Central Renaissance Society, John Donne Society

3 books with University Presses, 1 book with HarperCollins Press; articles with: Continuum Press, DLB, Gale Research Shakespearean Criticism and Shakespearean Criticism Yearbook, College English journal, Studies in English Literature journal, CEA Critic journal, Renascence journal, Texas Papers on Language and Literature journal, several others.

Ph.D. in British Renaissance Literature and Rhetoric; M.A. in English; B.A. English and Theatre

Awards and Honors
I was editor of a scholarly journal for 10 years; Recipient of my university's Recognition Awards for Research, Teaching, and Service; two Sabbatical awards; graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude

Past/Present Clients
Panelist/Reviewer for National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, DC, 2001, 1997, and 1993; Referee for College Literature, Yale University Press (numerous editions of Shakespeare’s plays), College English, Harper/Collins (1992 to 1995: full-length book manuscripts, including the complete manuscript of The HarperCollins World Reader, Volume I.); Dramaturg for local Little Theatre, 2001–03 (including productions of Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Dangerous Liaisons); Dramaturg for various productions in Theatre/Dance Dept at my University (including As You Like It, Midsummer Night's Dream, Measure for Measure, The Tempest)

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