Summary of The Tempest

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Key facts

Compose date: Most probably between 1610 and 1611

First performance: Most probably in 1612

First publication: 1623 in First Folio

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Number of acts: Five act play but very short.

Time setting: Jacobean period of Renaissance

Place setting: A small island in the Mediterranean sea between Malta and the Coast of Africa.

Protagonist: Prospero

Antagonists: Alonso and Antonio

Themes in The Tempest

The theme refers to an extending thought, belief, or point of view presented in a literary work. The themes in The Tempest including themes of betrayal, compassion, and love present the issue of freedom and confinement. The major themes of the greatest play of William Shakespeare entitled “The Tempest” are analyzed below.

The infatuation of justice

Prospero who was once the duke of Milan is expelled from his own dukedom when his elder brother rises against him and usurps his powers. The entire play is about Prospero’s conspiracy on restoring his powers from Alonso. This emphasizes that justice will be done if Prospero gets back his throne.

The superiority of the human being

The play revolves around a happy ending and a certain display of human superiority. When Prospero and his daughter Miranda were stranded on the island, they lived there for about twelve years. Yet, they know how to use other humans and animals for their benefit. Ariel, a spirit, and Caliban, a half animal and half human being in body structure, are enslaved by Prospero, and Miranda speaks to Caliban although Caliban tries to attack her. Though Ariel is faithful, Prospero does not trust him. He believes he should keep Ariel until he finds a way to escape or leave the island.


Prospero uses magic to protect himself and Miranda. He controls the spirits like Ariel and the half-witch Caliban. The tempest and throwing of the ship during the storm show the power of magic. But Prospero finally learns to forgive and releases Ariel from his magical power.

Revenge and forgiveness

At first, Prospero was shown reigning on an island, enslaving Ariel and Caliban. He learns magic from books to take proper revenge on enemies. He is determined to take the rightful place of the Duke who was ousted by his brother. This revenge takes him far away because he exploits Caliban, the son of Sprite named Sycorax, and Ariel. Prospero manages to avenge and eventually forgives his brother.

The power of language

Most of the characters in the play use the power of language to grab power or manipulate. Prospero is tall among other characters because he uses superior language. He is good at talking because he reads books. Through his intellect and words, he uses Ariel for his higher purposes. This becomes even clearer in the case of Caliban, who not only learns the language from Prospero but also tries to use it against Prospero. When Prospero and Caliban fight for power using language, their speeches become rhythmic. Caliban tells Prospero that others hate him for his language skills.


When Prospero and his daughter Miranda landed on the island after being deported, Caliban and Ariel were the original inhabitants. However, Prospero uses his power and knowledge to demonstrate his superiority over the original inhabitants. Because of this colonization, Ariel mourns for the loss of his independence, and Caliban curses Prospero and even tries to rape Miranda. Ariel and Caliban consider Prospero and his daughter as settlers who have colonized their land. Prospero does think that Caliban is not fit to rule his island. Caliban also conspires to expel Prospero from his country. Thus, Shakespeare can be considered the father of introducing colonization in literature though Conrad and Dickens are considered the powerful writer in perpetuating colonization.

Character Analysis

Prospero: He is the protagonist of the drama and a powerful magician. He is deposed duke of Milan. He has a daughter named Miranda. The characteristic features of Prospero are:

  1. A fond reader of magical books
  2. Very gentle and wise
  3. Very sympathetic
  4. An ideal father
  5. Believe in mutual love and familial life
  6. Vengeful and forgiving

Miranda: She is heroine of the play and the only beloved daughter of the powerful magician Prospero. Her father Prospero and she has been living in the island for long twelve years. She never sees any human being before the shipwreck. Her characteristic features are:

  1. A naive young girl
  2. Passionate and compassionate
  3. Innocence and simplicity
  4. Honest and pure
  5. Sweet and Loving
  6. Very beautiful

Ferdinand: He is the prince of Naples, one of the dukedoms of Italy. He falls in love with Miranda. His characteristic features are:

  1. A passionate lover
  2. Very gentle but lack of presence of mind
  3. Unadulterated

Ariel: He is a spirit of air and slave of Prospero. He wants to get rid of slavery but he cannot because twelve years ago Prospero made him free from the magical force of Sycorax. Sycorax turned Ariel into a tree by her magical force. His characteristic features are:

  1. Longing for freedom
  2. Faithful
  3. Affectionate to Prospero
  4. Chief lieutenant of Prospero
  5. Pathetic at the end

Caliban: He is a half-witch and slave of Prospero. He does all household chores of Prospero such as collecting woods for fire and so on. His characteristic features are:

  1. Savage and malignant nature
  2. Imaginative nature
  3. Not honored
  4. Demi-devil
  5. A promising character to be better

Alonso: He is the duke of Naples. He influences Antonio to usurp his elder brother Prospero. His characteristic features are:

  1. Criminal attitude
  2. Paradigm of ideal father
  3. Repentant

Antonio: He is the younger brother of Prospero. He usurped Prospero being influenced by Alonso.

Gonzalo: He is one of the gentlemen of Prospero. He helps Prospero to survive providing foods, clothes and water. He also gives Prospero his magical books which are only source of Prospero’s power.

Sebastian: He is the foolish brother of Alonso.

Stephano: Stephano is the drunken butler of King Alonso.

Trinculo: Trinculo is King Alonso’s jester.

Sycorax: Sycorax is Caliban’s mother, a witch who uses magic in evil ways.

Claribel: She is the daughter of Alonso. She is married to Tunisian Prince.

The keywords of the story

  1. Starting with shipwreck
  2. Prospero’s past story
  3. Ariel’s demand for freedom from Prospero’s magical power
  4. Three groups
  5. The love between Miranda and Ferdinand
  6. Alonso’s search to find out Ferdinand
  7. Antonio and Sebastian’s conspiracy to kill Alonso and Gonzalo
  8. Ariel’s torture on Antonio, Alonso, and Sebastian
  9. Caliban’s conspiracy to usurp Prospero from the island
  10. Masque regarding Miranda and Ferdinand’s marriage
  11. Forgiveness and a happy ending


A ship coming back from a North African country named Tunisia after completing the wedding between the Tunisian prince and Alonso’s daughter is caught in a powerful storm. There are terror and confusion on board, and the vessel is shipwrecked. But the storm is a magical creation carried out by the spirit Ariel in the command of Prospero who was once the Duke of Milan before his dukedom was usurped by his brother Antonio with the help of Alonso, the King of Naples.

Seeing the destructive condition of the ship on the sea, Miranda asks his father Prospero to do something but Prospero smilingly says to his daughter not to worry about the ship and the passengers. Miranda wants to know the reason. Then Prospero thinks that this is the right time to expose the truth and he starts to say to his daughter Miranda that it was twelve years ago when he and Miranda were kidnaped by his brother Antonio and were set adrift on the sea so that they die. But fortunately, they were stranded on an island and Gonzalo provided them with food to survive that this why he, Prospero, wants to take revenge on Antonio and Alonso who are the main culprits.

After this great success, Ariel demands his master Prospero to free him from magical control but Prospero reminds Ariel about his past suffering that Ariel was a tree, and Prospero also orders Ariel not to appear before him with such awkward demands.

However, using magic, Prospero separates the shipwreck survivors into groups on the island to make them the worst sufferers. Ferdinand is found by Prospero and Miranda. Ferdinand is found by them because it is part of Prospero’s plan to encourage a romantic relationship between Ferdinand and Miranda, and eventually they do fall in love.

King Alonso’s jester Trinculo, and the king’s drunken butler or chief manservant named Stephano are found by Caliban, a monstrous figure whom Prospero enslaved. These three raise an unsuccessful coup against Prospero.

Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, and two attendant lords are kept in a group. Antonio and Sebastian conspire to kill Alonso and Gonzalo so that Sebastian can become King but at Prospero’s command, Ariel restricts this conspiracy. Then in the guise of a Harpy or witch, Ariel confronts and frightens the three nobles, Antonio, Alonso, and Sebastian. Ariel also forces Antonio, Alonso, and Sebastian to confess their crimes which they did to Prospero and each other.

Now the story turns to an interesting issue that Prospero arranges a party so that his daughter Miranda can marry Ferdinand. Prospero then instructs Ariel to bring some other spirits and produce an entertaining party. The entertaining party will feature classical goddesses, Juno, Ceres, and Iris, and they will bless Miranda and Ferdinand and celebrate the betrothal or engagement. The goddesses will also instruct the young couple on marriage, and on the value of chastity until then.

Finally, Ariel brings on Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian. Prospero forgives all three. Alonso and Antonio return Prospero his dukedom. Ariel fetches the sailors from the ship. Now the question may come to the mind of the audience how the sailors are alive. It is a mystery like Christopher Marlowe’s famous play “Doctor Faustus” because it is that magical power by which the ship’s captain and boatswain, along with the other sailors, are asleep until the final act. At the end of the story, Caliban is seemingly filled with regret and promises to be good. Before the reunited noble group leaves the island, Ariel is told to provide good weather to guide the king’s ship back to the royal fleet and then to Naples, where Ferdinand and Miranda will be married. After this, Ariel is set free.

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SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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