The Tempest

Before the action of The Tempest begins, Antonio usurps his brother Prospero as Duke of Milan, with the help of Alonso, King of Naples and Alonso’s brother Sebastian. Cast off to sea, Prospero and his daughter Miranda land on a remote island, inhabited by the brutish Caliban and the spirit Ariel, whom Prospero uses his magical powers to enslave.

The play opens during a storm, summoned by Prospero to shipwreck the usurpers on his island. In the chaos, Alonso fears his son Ferdinand is drowned, while Sebastian plots to take the crown from Alonso by murderous force. In a sub-plot, Caliban persuades Trinculo the clown and Stephano the drunken butler to kill Prospero. The comic resolution comes when Ferdinand and Miranda fall in love. After setting Ferdinand a series of strenuous tasks, Prospero consents to the marriage and conjures a masque to celebrate their betrothal. Finally, Prospero prepares to return to Milan after confronting and forgiving his enemies, setting Ariel free, breaking his magical staff and drowning his magical book.

 

Click here for a short PDF summary of the sources relating to The Tempest from 'Discovering Literature: Shakespeare'.

Creator:
William Shakespeare
Published:
F (1623)
Forms:
Play
Genre:
Renaissance drama
Literary period:
Renaissance

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Character analysis: Ariel and Prospero in The Tempest

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Post-colonial reading of The Tempest

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Post-colonial readings of The Tempest were inspired by the decolonisation movements of the 1960s and 1970s in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Jyotsna Singh describes how these readings challenge more traditional interpretations of the play, questioning Prospero's ownership of the island and rethinking the role of Caliban.

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Martin Butler shows how Renaissance travel, trade and colonisation shaped the portrayal of Caliban and the Italians in The Tempest.

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The Tempest: Magic

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