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The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category.

Student Activities for The Tempest Include:

The Tempest is often considered to be the last work that William Shakespeare wrote by himself, without collaboration. It does not have much plot to it, and it is fast-moving; it is filled with music and supernatural elements, and there is not much in the way of character development. Yet, it is an enchanting play to read and watch, as Prospero wields his magic powers, aided by the fiery spirit Ariel, to right a wrong done to him by his own brother 12 years before. The play is also very funny, in a humor that still stands even with today’s students. The play covers important themes such as illusion vs. reality, revenge, discovery, and redemption.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Thought to be written in 1611, many scholars believe that Shakespeare was inspired by the story of an expedition of the Virginia Company which had been scattered in a storm. Miraculously, the flagship vessel called Sea Venture (sometimes also called the Sea Adventure ) ran aground in Bermuda, and the men aboard the ship were able to regroup and found the island delightful. They made it safely back to the Jamestown colony, and their stories of the mysterious but beautiful island of Bermuda created quite a buzz in the colonies, and in England. The most notable man to survive the voyage was Sir Thomas Gates, the future governor of Virginia. Have students read more on the connection between Bermuda and Jamestown.


Essential Questions for The Tempest

  1. What is betrayal, and how is it made worse by a family member?
  2. When is forgiveness necessary? Are there any instances in which a person should never be forgiven?
  3. Is revenge ever OK?
  4. How does one become noble?
  5. Is life controlled by destiny, or free will?
  6. What actions can turn a person into an actual monster?
  7. Can a monster be redeemed?

The Tempest Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Tempest Five Act Structure Diagram


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Students can create and show a storyboard that captures the concept of the Five Act Structure by making a six-cell storyboard, like the one below. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the acts in order: Prologue, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.



Example The Tempest Five Act Structure Diagram

Act 1: Prologue

The play opens with Gonzalo, Antonio, and Alonso arguing with the Boatswain and his crew who are in a sheer panic in the middle of a bad storm on the sea. The boat breaks up, and shipwrecks the men on an island. The storm was caused by Prospero, who has been practicing sorcery on the island for the 12 years he’s been exiled from Milan. He is aided by his supernatural assistant Ariel. Caliban, son of the evil witch Sycorax who imprisoned Ariel in a tree, hates working for Prospero.


Act 1: Conflict

Prospero arranged the shipwreck to get his traitorous brother Antonio and the King of Naples, Alonso, onto the island. Ferdinand is separated from his father, Alonso, and runs into Miranda and Prospero. He and Miranda immediately fall in love, which is all part of Prospero’s plan to make his brother see the error of his ways, but Prospero has to pretend to oppose the union at first.


Act 2: Rising Action

Alonso, Antonio, Gonzalo, and their men are wandering on the island. Alonso believes Ferdinand is dead. Sebastian is tactless, and mocks both Alonso and Gonzalo. Ariel plays a song to make all of the men except Antonio and Sebastian fall asleep. Antonio tries to convince Sebastian to kill Alonso and take the throne of Naples, but Ariel wakes the King and Gonzalo in time. Meanwhile, Caliban runs into Stephano and Trinculo and initially thinks they’re Prospero’s spirits, but discovers they’re lost sailors. Stephano is drunk, and his liquor intrigues Caliban. He throws himself at their mercy and vows to worship them as gods.


Act 3: Climax

Ferdinand is busy, stacking logs and doing manual labor at Prospero’s orders. Miranda goes to see him and they confess their love to each other, agreeing to get married. Prospero watches from afar. Meanwhile, Caliban convinces drunk Stephano and Trinculo to kill Prospero in his sleep and marry his daughter. Ariel intervenes and causes some confusion, then goes to tell Prospero. Back on the beach, Prospero arranges for a phantom banquet to appear and suddenly vanish in front of Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian, and Gonzalo. Ariel appears as a harpy and declares that Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian have been brought here to be punished for what they did to Prospero, leaving the men cowering in fright.


Act 4: Falling Action

Prospero gives his blessing for Ferdinand and Miranda’s marriage, and provides them with a vision of the goddesses Iris, Juno, and Ceres. Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban sneak into Prospero’s bedroom, stinking from the swamp that Ariel led them into. Trinculo and Stephano get distracted in their drunkenness by beautiful clothes laid out seemingly for them, and Caliban’s protests go unheard. Prospero and Ariel enter with spirits disguised as hounds and chase them out.


Act 5: Denouement

Prospero feels bad about imprisoning Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian, and Gonzalo, and tells Ariel to bring them in where he performs his last spell and reveals his identity. Alonso apologizes, and Prospero reveals Ferdinand and Miranda, alive and well. He proposes that they will all go back to Milan for the wedding, and he will retire. He frees Ariel from his servitude, and breaks the spell that binds Caliban to him. Caliban realizes the error of his ways, and Prospero orders him, Stephano, and Trinculo to go clean his room. The boat is magically in perfect condition and ready to sail. Prospero asks the audience to set him free with their applause.


Five Act Structure Diagram for The Tempest

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of The Tempest.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Separate the play into the Prologue/Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.
  3. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the acts.
  4. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Five-Act Structure Play Diagram Template

Example

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The Tempest Characters


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As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a play, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!


The Tempest Characters

  • Prospero
  • Miranda
  • Ariel
  • Ferdinand
  • Alonso
  • Antonio
  • Caliban
  • Gonzalo
  • Sebastian
  • Stephano
  • Trinculo
  • Boatswain

Character Map for The Tempest

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the major characters in The Tempest and type their names into the different title boxes. Add more cells as necessary.
  3. Choose a Storyboard That character to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  4. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  5. Replace the bold words in the text boxes with the following categories for each character: Physical Traits, Character Traits, and a Quote. Write sentences or bullet points to provide details for each category.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Character Map 3 Field 16x9

Example

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Literary Conflict in The Tempest


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Storyboarding is an excellent way to focus on types of literary conflicts.

Having students create storyboards that show the cause and effect of different types of conflicts strengthens analytical thinking about literary concepts. Have your students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict them using the storyboard creator. In the storyboard, an example of each conflict should be visually represented, along with an explanation of the scene, and how it fits the particular category of conflict.


Examples of Literary Conflict in The Tempest

MAN vs. MAN

Prospero entrusted his brother Antonio with his Dukedom duties because he wanted to spend his time on other things that interested him more. Antonio seized the opportunity to take Prospero’s place by forming an alliance with Alonso, the King of Naples, and exiled Prospero for 12 years. Prospero vows revenge.


MAN vs. SELF

Alonso believes his son Ferdinand is dead, and his daughter has just been married to the King of Tunis, very far away. He is deep in grief over losing both of his children, and Sebastian chides him for making the decision to marry Claribel off in the first place, sending Alonso further into guilt and despair.


MAN vs. NATURE

The tempest itself becomes its own force, spurred on by Ariel, that none of the sailors or men can handle. The boat catches fire and splits up in the sea, sending all of the men plunging into the raging waters.


Literary Conflict in The Tempest

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in The Tempest.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify conflicts in The Tempest.
  3. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  4. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  5. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Literary Conflict Template

Example

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The Tempest Themes, Symbols, & Motifs


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Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the play, and support their choices with details from the text.


The Tempest Themes to Look For and Discuss

Illusion vs. Reality

The supernatural elements and magic that both Prospero and Ariel utilize throughout the play create a world where no one is really sure if they can believe their senses. Ariel frequently plays music and sings as an invisible sea nymph, putting characters to sleep or confusing wandering sailors. Prospero instructs Ariel to appear as a harpy and lay out a phantom banquet for the noblemen, only to take it away and announce they are being punished. When Prospero reveals his true identity to the men and reveals Ferdinand is alive, they are still doubtful of whether or not what they are seeing is reality. Prospero bends reality for his illusions, and ends up giving up his powers at the end for true reality, reunited with his family in Milan.


Revenge

Prospero constructs this elaborate scheme of the terrible storm and the shipwreck so that he can get his archenemies onto his island to teach them a lesson. His brother, Antonio, stole his Dukedom from him after forming an alliance with Alonso, forcing him into exile on this island for the last 12 years with his daughter. Once he realizes that the men have gotten his point and are properly scared, Prospero is satisfied that his revenge is complete - as long as he gets to go home, and Miranda can marry Ferdinand.


Discovery

Gonzalo, the man who saved Prospero from death during his brother’s treachery, is so happy when he realizes who Prospero is and that he’s alright. He proclaims that everyone has found themselves on this doomed trip: “In one voyage / Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis; / And Ferdinand, her brother, found a wife / Where he himself was lost; Prospero, his dukedom / In a poor isle; and all of us, ourselves / When no man was his own.” Despite all of the bizarre events, everything seems to have happened the way it was supposed to, and the men have learned an important lesson from the experience.


Redemption

While other characters in Shakespearean dramas would probably get their revenge in a much bloodier manner, Prospero feels pity for Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian, and grants them his forgiveness instead. He even grants forgiveness to the drunken sailors and Caliban for plotting to kill him, as long as they clean up his room. Here, Shakespeare seems to be pointing at the idea that no one can commit a deed so wrong that they cannot find forgiveness and redemption: even treachery is forgivable. Perhaps he would like the audience to walk away with that in their minds so that they will approach their worlds with a more peaceful demeanor - including the monarchy.


The Tempest Motifs & Symbols to Look For and Discuss

The Tempest

The storm itself is a catalyst for this plan to unfold. It provides an opportunity for Prospero to catch Miranda up on his background, it allows Alonso (thinking his son was dead) to realize he needs to make amends for his deeds, and it reveals the treacherous natures of Antonio, Sebastian, and Caliban. It is a method of revenge, but it ultimately leads to the redemption of all of the characters.


Ariel and His Music

Ariel is a tool for Prospero to use to complete his work, but he also represents the ultimate freedom that Prospero hopes to have once his plan has been fully executed. He promises to grant Ariel his freedom in 2 days, as long as he remains loyal in his work until that point. Ariel is crucial to the story, manipulating characters with his music. He also warns Prospero of danger. Interestingly enough, Ariel is not bound by gender norms, which allows him to be a surprising shape-shifter. Without Ariel, Prospero’s plan would never have succeeded.


Monsters

When Stephano and Trinculo stumble upon Caliban hiding underneath his cloak, they mistake him for a fish-like monster, and continue to call him “Monster” throughout the play. While Caliban’s actions to escape Prospero’s service are indeed, monstrous, Stephano and Trinculo turn into monsters themselves as they plot to kill Prospero and marry his daughter. The simple thought of some sort of power turns them into monsters, much like Prospero’s own brother Antonio did.


The Chess Game

One of the most jarringly symbolic moments happens when right after King Alonso wails in grief that he wishes their children were alive and King and Queen of Naples, Prospero pulls back a curtain, revealing Ferdinand and Miranda playing chess: the game in which the sole purpose is to capture the king. Prospero has captured the King of Naples at last, restoring himself and his daughter to their rightful places.


Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in The Tempest

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Tempest. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from The Tempest you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Template: Theme

Example

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Romantic Elements of The Tempest


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Shakespearean Romances were once combined into the 18 Comedies Shakespeare wrote during his career. However, as scholars have analyzed these plays further, they’ve realized that five of them are more like “tragicomedies” than true Comedies, because they incorporate important qualities from the Medieval Romance genre. Thus, Shakespearean Romances have become a genre of their own, on par with his Comedies, Tragedies, and Histories.

Having students create storyboards that depict the elements of this genre will help them to understand the Romance elements in The Tempest. It will also help them follow the multiple plots and interweaving of characters, while bringing the genre to life!


Romantic Elements of The Tempest

Conflict Begins the Play / Resolved by the End

On the way home from Alonso's daughter's wedding, a storm strikes their ship and shipwrecks Alonso, Ferdinand, Antonio,Gonzalo, Stephano, Trinculo, and Sebastian on an island. The men are split up, and Alonso thinks Ferdinand is dead.


Central Older Male Figure of Nobility

Prospero, Antonio, and Alonso. Prospero was the Duke of Milan before his brother Antonio (in a plot with Alonso, the King of Naples) usurped his throne and forced him to flee.


Love Interest

Miranda, Prospero's daughter, and Ferdinand run into each other on the island, and they instantly fall for one another. This is part of Prospero's plot to take back his rightful place as Duke of Milan.


Elements of the Supernatural

Prospero has been studying sorcery for the 12 years he's been exiled. He causes the tempest to bring the boat with his brothers to the island. Ariel turns himself into a sea nymph and controls some of the men with music.


Themes on a Grander Scale

While Prospero regains his throne, the theme of the play looks at restoration and forgiveness on a grander scale. If Prospero can forgive his brother’s treachery, surely it is possible for real people to do the same. In doing so, both peace and stability are rewards for forgiveness. Instead of pursuing pure revenge, Prospero curbs his bloodlust and still regains his power.


Elements of Shakespeare Romances

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows the five elements of the Shakespearean Romance in The Tempest. Make sure to depict the scenes where the elements appear, and describe how the scene highlights the element you have identified. Make sure you craft the scenes with care, choose historically-appropriate art, and give clear, concise explanations. Proofread your work!

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify events or characteristics of the story that fit into the elements of a Shakespearean Romance.
  3. Illustrate the examples for each event or characteristic.
  4. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates The Tempest as a Shakespearean Romance.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Elements of a Shakespearean Romance Template

Example

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Vocabulary Lesson for The Tempest


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Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that use vocabulary from The Tempest. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the play, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.


The Tempest Vocabulary

  • elements
  • perdition
  • inveterate
  • importune
  • minister
  • prate
  • sot
  • nonpareil
  • jocund
  • surfeit
  • corollary
  • mantle

Vocabulary in The Tempest

Example

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Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in The Tempest by creating visualizations.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  3. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  4. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  5. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


5 Word Vocabulary Template

Example

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•   (English) The Tempest   •   (Español) La Tempestad   •   (Français) La Tempête   •   (Deutsch) Der Sturm   •   (Italiana) La Tempesta   •   (Nederlands) The Tempest   •   (Português) A Tempestade   •   (עברית) הסערה   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) العاصفة   •   (हिन्दी) आंधी   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Буря   •   (Dansk) The Tempest   •   (Svenska) Stormen   •   (Suomi) Myrsky   •   (Norsk) Stormen   •   (Türkçe) Tempest   •   (Polski) Burza   •   (Româna) Furtuna   •   (Ceština) Bouře   •   (Slovenský) Búrka   •   (Magyar) A Vihar   •   (Hrvatski) Oluja   •   (български) Бързината   •   (Lietuvos) Audra   •   (Slovenščina) Vihar   •   (Latvijas) Tempest   •   (eesti) Torm