The first two acts of The Tempest share a couple of inconsequential similarities and have some very contrasting differences. The similarities are, on the whole, superficial: Both acts consist of just two scenes and both acts are of a similar length. However, the similarities end there.
The lengths of the scenes in each act differ somewhat: Act 1 has one extremely short scene and one very lengthy scene; Act 2 is composed of two scenes of similar length. Also, the tone of each act is very different, with Act 1 being serious and composed, whilst Act 2 is more comic, often descending into pure farce. Analysing one scene at a time will show just how different the two acts are.
Act 1, Scene 1 is entirely unlike the other three scenes in the first two acts. It is fast-paced, exciting and uncomplicated, allowing the audience to be drawn into the play before the more complex scenes begin. The only notable thing in this scene is the introduction of Gonzalo, who is shown to be a patient, calm and optimistic person. None of the other characters are defined particularly vividly, nor need they be - this scene is supposed to be action-oriented and too much characterisation and plotting would ruin the tense atmosphere.
Scene 2 contrasts greatly with the opening scene, being lengthy and dialogue-driven, with little action at all. This scene is very important to the rest of the play, as it sets up the main background to the main characters, as well as defining some of those same characters. It is Prospero's character which is explored the most in this scene; whilst he explains his history to Miranda, we begin to see the sort of person he is.
From his dialogue, one can see that Prospero is not concerned with pleasantries or small talk; he gets straight to the point and expects people to agree and obey him. His very first lines (lines 12 - 14) show this clearly:
No more amazement: tell your piteous heart
There's no harm done.
In this piece of dialogue, as in most of his speech, he uses the least amount of words possible to make his point. His daughter is clearly very distressed at the plight of the ship's crew, yet he simply commands her to "be collected• - this use of the imperative occurs frequently throughout most of his dialogue. It appears that he did not intend to comfort her further and only does so in order to calm her in preparation for his revelations about their past. This betrays a coldness in his personality, showing that he is incapable of the more subtle emotions.
Miranda's character is also developed somewhat in this scene. She is revealed to be a compassionate person by her worry for the ship's crew. Also, it is mentioned on lines 81-84 that she has never seen any other men, other than Caliban and the newly arrived Ferdinand. This indicates that she has never left the island and is therefore probably rather...