The Tempest by William Shakespeare

The Tempest was written by William Shakespeare between 1610-1611. Many critics and historians believe it to be one of the last plays he wrote alone. For centuries The Tempest was somewhat disregarded and viewed as an inferior piece compared to others in Shakespeare's collections. It was not performed frequently before a ban on the performance of plays in 1642, and thereafter only gained popularity after the Restoration. In the twentieth century scholars began a re-appraisal of the play's value and today it is considered one of Shakespeare's most well-written plays.

The play opens with the magician Prospero, who with his daughter Miranda, has been purposely stranded for twelve years on an island by Prospero's usurping brother Antonio. Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan, but Antonio, supported by Alonso, the King of Naples, have deposed him, though they packed their boat with food, books, and fine clothing.

Prospero, described as being a good and noble magician, is attended to by the sprit Ariel, who he rescued from purgatory after the cruel witch Sycorax placed him there. Sycorax's monstrous son, Caliban, was initially on the island when Prospero and Miranda arrived. Caliban taught Prospero how to survive on the island while Prospero and Miranda instructed him on their language and religion. As all grew older, Caliban has begun to resent Prospero and Miranda, and they view him with contempt.

Prospero senses his brother is on a ship nearby and raises a tempest that makes the passengers believe they are stranded. The ship was transporting a wedding party of Alonso's daughter, so countless friends and fellow conspirators of Antonio are onboard. Using his magic Prospero begins to separate all the shipwreck survivors into groups. Alonso's son Ferdinand is separated from his father and both believe the other to be dead.

Three different plot lines begin to intermingle throughout the play. In one, Caliban becomes enamored with two drunk survivors, Stephano and Trinculo. He believes their 'celestial liquor' to be magic. They aspire to overthrow Prospero but do not succeed.

Another plot of the story is Prospero's hand in encouraging a romance between Ferdinand and Miranda. They fall in love quickly, but needing to be assured of Ferdinand's character, Prospero tells him he must become his servant before any match is made.

The third subplot finds Antonio and Sebastian (Alonso's brother),conspiring to kill Alonso so that Sebastian can take the throne. The sprit Ariel, at Prospero's order, stops their murderous plot by appearing to them as a harpy. Prospero leaves to check on Miranda and Ferdinand.

Prospero betroths Miranda to Ferdinand and celebrates them by calling on spirits to entertain the young couple. While the spirits present a blessing, Prospero chases away Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano, finishing their unsuccessful plot against him.

Prospero's enemies are all still under his power and believe in the charm he brought upon them. Ariel tells him he would pity them if he were human, and Prospero decides to forgive them and lift the spell. Ariel makes rue the proper sailing weather is to be expected as his daughter Miranda and Ferdinand will travel back on the Royal Fleet to Naples and be married.

Prospero also pardons Caliban, who is sent to prepare Prospero's room aboard. It is not explicitly clear if Caliban is to stay on the island or leave for Naples. Ariel completes the last task Prospero requires of her and is finally free. Prospero says he now resolves to "break and bury his magic staff and drown his book of magic." He invites the play's audience in his epilogue to set him free from his magical powers with their applause.