The Tempest is often considered to be the last work that William Shakespeare wrote by himself, without collaboration. 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.
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 3: CLIMAX
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 4: FALLING ACTION
ACT 2: RISING ACTION
Alonso, Antonio, Gonzalo, and their men are wandering on the island. Alonso believes Ferdinand is dead. 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. He throws himself at their mercy and vows to worship them as gods.
ACT 5: DENOUEMENT
Miranda goes to see Ferdinand and they confess their love to each other, agreeing to get married. Caliban convinces drunk Stephano and Trinculo to kill Prospero in his sleep and marry his daughter. Prospero arranges for a phantom banquet to appear and suddenly vanish in front of Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian, and Gonzolo. Ariel appears as a harpy and declares that the men have been brought here to be punished for what they did to Prospero, leaving the men cowering in fright.
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.
Prospero feels bad about imprisoning Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian, and Gonzolo, 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. He frees Ariel from his servitude, and breaks the spell that binds Caliban to him. Caliban realizes the error of his ways, and Prospero forgives him and the sailors. They ready the boat to sail. Prospero asks the audience to set him free with their applause.