The Tempest

“The Tempest” is a romantic drama written by the biggest English dramatic William Shakespeare. It was written between 1619 and 1611 but it was published more than 10 years later, in 1623. The main theme is a conflict between Prospero, a Duke of Milan who is also a sorcerer banished from Italy and his brothers Antonio and Alonso who threw him into the sea. He found a new (invented) island in the middle of the Mediterranean and he tries to establish his reign over the indigene. At first sight the drama seems to be about art, nature and love but it actually speaks of the American colonization problems.  The theme itself was one step ahead of time it was written in.

“The Tempest” is interpreted like a metaphorical political play. The metaphor can be seen when Prospero usurps Caliban as a slave and Caliban, in a narrow sense represented the Americans, an in a wider sense he represented living human beings and basic human instincts. On the other hand, Prospero represented the European imperialists and he was the embodiment of people’s ruler. On the colonized island Prospero contoles everything and leaves an expression of a know-it-all. As every leader he has to be calm and have full control but he also has his weaknesses. They are shown through water and tempest that are symbols of control loss and the tempest itself is his materialized anger. Except political power this story talks about social responsibility. Discussions about the human spirit, marriage love and culture are led. Even though the drama seems like a fairytale it is a metaphor for all life aspects.

The play is a clear author’s future prediction and his image of the world. It is revealed in Gonzalo’s display of the utopian world that would exist if he had the power over the island. The vision in a way is a fulfilled prophecy of modern ages because it shows an ideal society that lives in freedom. Even though the modern society is far from ideal we have to admit that we increased the level of humanity and individual freedom when we compare it to the 17th century.

This plays differs from others because it has a more organized neoclassicism structure. The theme goes has three dimensions – time, space and dramatic dimension that defines the plot. All of them are united to show Prospero’s intention to establish his reign even though not in the same place where he had lost it.  There are also three stories. One is a love story, the other one is about the brother’s greed and the third one is about land ravishment and imposing power over others. The play has a happy ending and that is a big turn in Shakespeare’s writing but he still holds onto his five acts structure.

Genre: play – comedy

Time: unspecified

Place: island, ship

Book Summary

The plot is settled in a lonely island and it revolves around Prospero, a duke of Milan. After he was banished from Milan he comes to the island with his daughter Miranda. His power lies in books and the spiritual and during the twelve years on the island his knowledge grows so he becomes the ruler of natural forces.

The plot begins on a ship. A bit tempest arrived and it destroyed everything in front of it. The tempest started when a group of friends was coming back from a weeding in Tunisia. Alonso, king of Naples and his faithful helpers Antonio, Gonzalo, and Sebastian were on the ship.

The tempest was sent by Prospero out of protest because they banished him from Milan where he was a duke. Prospero gets his revenge over his servant and helper Ariel. Ariel sent the storm but all of the crew members managed to save themselves. Prospero’s daughter Miranda was happy because of their salvation since she had feelings for Fernando.

The witch Sycorax and the slave Caliban are mentioned in the book. Sycorax conceived Caliban with Satan and Prospero thought him how to speak and now he only swears. Caliban believed the island was his.

After they were saved Ferdinand went to the island where Prospero and Miranda lived and he fell in love with Miranda but Prospero didn’t believe him. He provoked him for a while to see if his intentions with Miranda were honorable and they were.

The plot goes back to Alonso. He believes that his son was dead after the storm. They all talked and then went to bed but Sebastian and Antonio stayed up late and plotted on how to kill Alonso. They already reached for the sword when the ghost of Ariel appeared and woke up Gonzalo who took care of everything. Ariel told Prospero about everything.

Sebastian took Prospero off his throne but the truth is unrevealed. In reality everything was a scam made by his brother Antonio.

Caliban, the unnatural slave, joined forces with the drunk Stefano and Trincul. They got Caliban drunk and he told them that Prospero should be killed so that Stefano could be the king. Trinculo couldn’t stand Caliban and mocked him all the time.

After that the plot goes back to Miranda and Fernando who state their love for one another. Prospero tells Ferdinand that he will accept their love because he tested his intentions.

Caliban, Trinculo and Stefano keep on drinking wine and they argue a lot.

Ariel informed Prospero that a gang ruled by Caliban wants to kill him. Ariel wants to trick him so he lured them onto a thorny road and they all got stuck. Alonso’s company had the same destiny.

Ferdinand decides it’s time to marry Miranda and Prospero calls Ariel again to summon the female ghosts. They appear and bring them love, wisdom and other valuable gifts.

After a happy ending Caliban and his crew that were stuck in the mud are described. Ariel calls his ghost friends that turn into dogs and chase CAliban, Trincul and Stefano.

The story unweaves when Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo and Alonso come to Prospero’s chambers. Alonso is surprised to see his son alive and they hug.

The ship’s crew comes to the chamber. Prospero banished the drunk crew that wanted him dead and he wants to  go back to Milan and marry his daughter in Naples. Prospero also wanted the justice to be satisfied and that he becomes the duke again or he will speak of everything he knows.

In the end Prospero sets his ghost Ariel free.

With this play Shakespeare speaks about ghosts, weird events and the play contains many fairytale elements. The characters from the story aren’t real and they have characteristics derived from fairytales.

Characters: Prospero, Ariel, Ferdinand, Miranda, Sebastian, Alonso, Gonzalo, Caliban, Stefano, Trinculo

William Shakespeare biography