Written in 1611, The Tempest is a comedy that centres on a significant act of betrayal, unfair treatment, the development of magic and a scheme for retaliation. In this summary, you will learn the basic plot, key characters and themes of the play.
Gonzalo, Antonio, Alonso and Sebastian are arguing on a sinking ship in the middle of a storm. The men are shipwrecked on an island. A magician called Prospero caused the storm. He has been practicing magic for 12 years after his exile from Milan. He has supernatural assistants called Ariel and Caliban. Prospero wants revenge on his brother Antonio and King Alonso, as his brother was responsible for his exile. Ferdinand washes up on the island and finds Prospero and his daughter Miranda. Ferdinand and Miranda fall in love and Prospero pretends to hate the pair's love, despite using Ariel to bring the two of them together.
Alonso believes his son Ferdinand is dead as he is not on the same part of the island. Ariel plays music and makes the King fall asleep. Antonio tries to make Sebastian kill the King as with Ferdinand 'dead', Sebastian is next in line to the throne. Ariel wakes the King and stops this. Caliban encounters Stephano, a butler, and Trinculo, a jester.
When Miranda visits Ferdinand, they confess their love for one another and decide to wed. Caliban persuades Trinculo and Stephano to murder Prospero while he is sleeping. In front of Alonso, Antonio, and others, Prospero arranges for a phantom banquet to appear before abruptly disappearing. Ariel, disguised as a Harpy, announces that they have been brought here to be punished for what they did to Prospero.
Ferdinand and Miranda get Prospero's blessing for their wedding and he shows them a vision of goddesses. After being led into a swamp by Ariel, Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban sneak away into Prospero's bedroom. Due to Trinculo and Stephano's intoxication and the attractive clothes that appear to be laid out for them, Caliban's protests go unheard. They are chased out by Prospero and Ariel, who arrive with spirits disguised as hounds.
Ariel is instructed to bring Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian, and Gonzalo in by Prospero, who then casts his final spell and reveals his true identity. As Ferdinand and Miranda are revealed to be healthy and alive, Alonso apologises. He suggests that they all return to Milan. Prospero breaks the spell that binds Caliban to him and releases Ariel from his servitude. The play ends with them all sailing away.
After being overthrown as the rightful Duke of Milan by Antonio and Alonso, Prospero was banished. He lives on a desert island with his daughter. He is a skilled magician.
A servant of Prospero and a spirit. Ariel was imprisoned by the deceased witch Sycorax; Prospero freed them from that prison.
The reluctant servant of Prospero. Caliban feels entitled to the island's leadership because he is the Sycorax witch's son, who ruled it before she passed away.
Naples' ruler. When confronted with his crimes, Alonso expresses sincere regret for conspiring with Antonio to depose Prospero.
The legitimate Princess of Milan is Prospero's daughter. Miranda is unaware of her history.
Brother of Prospero. A former conspirator to depose Prospero, Antonio now urges Sebastian to do the same to Alonso. He is a character who is cunning and craves power.
Son of Alonso. Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love. Their union completes Alonso of Naples and Prospero of Milan's reconciliation. Ferdinand is amicable, polite and obedient.
Advisor to Alonso. Gonzalo is given the task of carrying out the abduction of Miranda and Prospero. He is a good man who feels sorry for the pair and sets up supplies for their survival in exile.
Brother of Alonso, Antonio has no trouble convincing Sebastian to try to kill his brother so that he can take over as King.
The butler of Alonso. Stephano is a funny character who stays drunk throughout the entire play.
Power is a topic that The Tempest explores in a number of ways, including:
Magic and deception are used by Prospero throughout The Tempest. Prospero has complete control thanks to his magic; he always seems to know or even influence what will happen next.
The Tempest's plot is driven by Prospero's attempt to reclaim his stolen Milan dukedom. However, Prospero is not the only play character to suffer from loss.
Miranda is Prospero's daughter. At the start of the play the pair have a close relationship but as Miranda gets closer with Ferdinand the pair become more distant.
Ferdinand is Alonso's son. Both believe the other has died in the storm. The pair are glad to be reunited.
Caliban is a slave to Prospero. Caliban feels entitled to the island's leadership because he is the Sycorax witch's son, who ruled it before she passed away. Prospero forces him to obey with magic. This relationship is in contrast to Prospero and Ariel.
Act 5, epilogue
'Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own—
Which is most faint. Now 'tis true
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples, let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island, by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails'
Prospero reflects on how his power has now changed. He notes that power has come from forgiving those he had a vendetta with.
Act 5, scene 1
'Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?'
Magic is all-powerful and can be used for deception. The quote discusses how magic can be used.
Act 1, scene 2
'O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel,
Who had no doubt some noble creature in her,
Dashed all to pieces.'
This quote discusses the pain of loss. Alonso mourns the loss of his son and the pain he feels.
Question: What are the themes of The Tempest?
Answer: Some key themes of The Tempest are magic, loss and power.
Question: Who caused the storm in The Tempest?
Answer: A magician called Prospero caused the storm. He has been practicing magic for 12 years after his exile from Milan. Prospero wants revenge on his brother Antonio and King Alonso as his brother was responsible for his exile.
Question: What is The Tempest about?
Answer: Written in 1611, The Tempest is a comedy that centres on a significant act of betrayal, unfair treatment, the development of magic and a scheme for retaliation.