The Tempest Summary

In the opening scene of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, The King of Naples and his cohorts, along with the ships crewmen, struggle to remain afloat as the ship they are navigating is overtaken by a terrible storm. On land, the sorcerer Prospero, and his daughter, Miranda, look on as the storm blankets the vessel. The storm was the conjured by Prospero, and as he explains, the men on the ship are enemies to him and his daughter.

Prospero begins by telling Miranda the truth about her family linage. He proclaims that he is the true Duke of Milan and explains how Antonio, his younger brother, deceived him and stole his title and his land. Twelve years prior, when Miranda was just three years old, she and her father had been exiled from their homeland. The pair had been forced onto a small raft and sent out to sea, with little provisions, under the hope that they would perish. It was a pure dumb luck that they not only survived the ordeal, but also landed safely on the island they now call home. Once on the island, Prospero learned to control the powers granted to him, eventually perfecting his craft well enough to use it to manipulate every one of the island’s inhabitants – including his own daughter. When they initially came to the island, Prospero came to the rescue of Ariel, the sprit, who had been enslaved by the evil witch Sycorax. Ariel longs for his freedom and has been promised that he will be truly free in two days.

The last inhabitant of the island is Caliban, the dreadful spawn of Sycorax and the devil. Initially Prospero had endeavoured to refine Caliban, teaching him how to communicate and act in a more presentable manner. However, he grew agitated when Caliban was unable to comprehend the true effect of his teachings and began to regard him as a savage, incapable of cohabiting on the same level as man. Although he once viewed Caliban almost as a friend, his disdain grew stronger the more he felt that his attempts were in vain. His disdain turned to anger when Caliban attempted to assault Miranda.

After many failed attempts to ‘civilize’ Caliban, Prospero turns him into his slave and dictates that he must carry out the tasks that are too menial or boorish for a noble man to do. Caliban, while referred to as ‘savage’ and unintelligent, is a simple being and wishes only to have his land returned to him and to be left alone so that he can go about his business and life out the rest of his days in peace.

Not much time passes before the ship’s travellers are cast ashore and find themselves divided into three groups. Ferdinand, the son of the King of Naples, is guided to Prospero, where he lays eyes on Miranda and falls deeply in love. Elsewhere, the King, Alonso, and the rest of his men have ventured ashore on a different part of the island. Alonso fears that his son has died and falls into a state of mourning. Prospero’s younger brother, Antonio, has also come ashore with the Sabastian, the younger brother of the King. Without much challenge, Antonio persuades the drunkard Sabastian to plot against his brother and to overthrow the King – dethroning him and claiming the title of King. The ploy to murder the King is striking similar to the plot Antonio took against Prospero twelve years prior.

More of the ship’s travellers – a butler and a court jester – make their way ashore. Stefano and Trinculo run into Caliban, and each immediately begins strategizing how to turn a profit by exploiting Caliban and showcasing him as ‘a monster recovered from an uninhabited island.’ Stefano made his way to shore in a wine cask, and it isn’t long before the trio are intoxicated. Having never experienced the effects of alcohol, a drunken Caliban mistakenly regards Stefano as a sorcerer and pledges to serve him, however, later realizes that he has made a grave mistake. During their drunken adventure, Caliban orchestrates a plan to bring Prospero to death and entices his new friends to assist him. However, their plan is overhead by Ariel, who brings news of the plot to Prospero.

Back at the homestead, Prospero keeps Ferdinand busy with chores and has forbade him from interacting with Miranda. However, this doesn’t prevent to the two young lovers from sneaking away to meet with each other, and from eventually declaring their undying love. Prospero had planned for the two to fall in love and throws a celebration to announce the betrothal of Miranda and Ferdinand. Many celestial beings were in attendance, including nymphs and goddesses who entertained the bridal party with song and dance.

As Miranda and Ferdinand celebrate their love for one another, Alonso and his men continue their search for the son of the King. Knowing that the men are tired and hungry from their journey, and stricken by the King’s despair of possibly never seeing his beloved son again, Prospero instructs a group of spirits to create an imaginary feast and to encourage the men to join them. A godly voice reprimands Alonso, Antonio, and Sabastian for their wrongdoings and the feast disappears before their eyes. The men are all very noticeably terrified and begin to flee.

Prospero, knowing of their plot against him, punishes Trinculo, Stefano, and Caliban by forcing them to run through a briar patch and swim across a murky pond. Having accomplished everything that he had planned to do in order to regain his position of power, Prospero summons the King and his men to his location, aided by the assistance of Ariel’s entrancing music. Once there, they see Prospero clothed in garments fit for a man of nobility. Prospero stands before them in the true image of the Duke of Milan. After Prospero’s spell has been removed, Alonso renounces the title that he had stolen from his brother and seeks forgiveness for his wrongdoing. Mere moments later, Prospero shares with the King the news that his son, Ferdinand, is very much alive. Alonso is overjoyed to hear that Miranda has survived and extremely pleased to learn that she will soon be the wife of Ferdinand.

Prospero looks boldly towards Antonio, his own flesh and blood, who expresses no remorse and offers no apology for his wickedness. Regardless of Antonio’s inability to repent or accept guilt for the things he has done, Prospero pledges to spare his brother – not punishing him as a traitor. He further goes on to tell the men that the storm has been calmed and promises them a safe venture home.

As Caliban is led in, he pleads for forgiveness and proclaims that he has learned his lesson and will now only serve Prospero, for he is a righteous leader. The men he was in cahoots with, Stefano and Trinculo, however, will not receive leniency. They will be reprimanded and punished by the King for their treason and plans to overthrow him. Soon after, the entire group, with the exception of Prospero, leave to celebrate not only their survival but also the pending marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda and to await their journey home.

In his final monologue, Prospero summons the attention of the audience and explains to them that it is only by the power of their ovation that he will be freed from the island and permitted to return, along with the rest of the men, to his true home to regain his rightful role as the Duke of Milan.

The audience begins to applaud and Prospero exits the stage.

End scene.