In the second scene, Prospero's speeches, till the entrance of Ariel, contain the finest example, I remember, of retro-spective narration for the purpose of exciting immediate interest, and putting the audience in possession of all the information necessary for the understanding of the plot.
Human happiness (as represented by Prince Prospero) seeks to wall out the threat of death; however, the Biblical reference (I Thessalonians 5:2-3) at the end of the story reminds us that death comes "like a thief in the night," and even those who seek "peace and safety...shall not escape."
Observe, too, the perfect probability of the moment chosen by Prospero (the very Shakspeare himself, as it were, of the tempest) to open out the truth to his daughter, his own romantic bearing, and how completely any thing that might have been disagreeable to us in the magician, is reconciled and shaded in the humanity and natural feelings of the father. In the very first speech of Miranda the simplicity and tenderness of her character are at once laid open; it would have been lost in direct contact with the agitation of the first scene. The opinion once prevailed, but, happily, is now abandoned, that Fletcher alone wrote for women; the truth is, that with very few, and those partial, exceptions, the female characters in the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher are, when of the light kind, not decent; when heroic, complete viragos. But in Shakspeare all the elements of womanhood are holy, and there is the sweet, yet dignified feeling of all that continuates society, as sense of ancestry and of sex, with a purity unassailable by sophistry, because it rests not in the analytic processes, but in that same equipoise of the faculties, during which the feelings are representative of all past experience,not of the individual only, but of all those by whom she has been educated, and their predecessors even up to the first mother that lived. Shakspeare saw that the want of prominence, which Pope notices for sarcasm, was the blessed beauty of the woman's character, and knew that it arose not from any deficiency, but from the more exquisite harmony of all the parts of the moral being constituting one living total of head and heart. He has drawn it, indeed, in all its distinctive energies of faith, patience, constancy, fortitude,shown in all of them as following the heart, which gives its results by a nice tact and happy intuition, without the intervention of the discursive faculty, sees all things in and by the light of the affections, and errs, if it ever err, in the exaggerations of love alone. In all the Shakspearian women there is essentially the same foundation and principle ; the distinct individuality and variety are merely the result of the modification of circumstances, whether in Miranda the maiden, in Imogen the wife, or in Katherine the queen.
"There was a sharp cry-and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero....[Then] a throng of the revelers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and seizing the mummer...gasped in unutterrable horror at finding the grave cerements and corpselike mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness untenanted by any tangible form."
Set on an exotic island filled with magic, it can be examined from many different perspectives - a study of gender relationships (focused on Miranda and Prospero, the effects of colonialism (focused on Prospero and Caliban), the nature of revenge (focused on Prospero and his family), the nature of power (focused on Prospero's fascist control at the beginning of the play), ecological perspectives (focused on the role of the wilderness) ,and psychoanalyic analysis (focused on the role of dreams and desires) etc. Any of these perspectives could function as a framework for discussing the discoveries of the characters/responders.