What Tempest is About?

‘Tales from Shakespeare’ is an English children’s book written by the siblings Charles and Mary Lamb in 1807 for children to get to know Shakespeare’s drama in form of short stories. The Tempest is a play written by William Shakespeare probably written in 1610–1611 and thought to be one of the last plays that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is a play about magic, betrayal, love, and forgiveness.

It is set on a deserted island where Prospero, the one-time Duke of Milan, and his beautiful daughter, Miranda, live with a spirit called Ariel and a strange monster called Caliban. Prospero is a powerful magician who creates a storm, that sets the scene for the play. In the events that follow we see a plot to kill Prospero, and a romance between Miranda and the King’s son, Ferdinand. In the end, everyone is forgiven and they all set sail for home.

Prospero and Miranda’s Residence 

In a deserted island lived Prospero, the former Duke of Milan, and his fifteen-year-old daughter, Miranda. Miranda did not remember how she reached there as she was too young when she had first arrived. They lived in a cave made of rock where he had a separate place to keep his books that treated to magic.

With the help of his magic, he released the spirits who were trapped by a witch called Sycorax in the bodies of large trees which made the spirit obedient toward him. Ariel, who was one of those spirits loved to trouble Caliban who was employed as a slave by Prospero to do the heavy duties such as fetching the woods and some laboratory works and was in charge of Caliban to make him complete his duties properly.

Storm raised by Prospero causes a shipwreck

With the help of the spirits, Prospero raised a storm in the sea and shows Miranda the shipwreck from their island, to which Miranda gets concerned for the people in the ship. Prospero tells her, for the first time, how they came to be on the island. Twelve years ago when he was the Duke of Milan, his brother Antonio had brutally dethroned him but with Gonzalo’s help he had escaped in a small boat with his infant daughter, Miranda, and his library of books about magic. This was one of the reasons why Prospero raised a storm as his enemies The King of Naples and his brother Antonio were on that ship.

The passengers reach the island safely

After telling his story Prospero puts his daughter into a sleeping spell and talks to Ariel who informs that the ship’s passengers are cast upon the island unharmed as instructed. The King of Naples believes his son to be dead, but Ferdinand has landed on another part of the island. Prospero orders Ariel to bring the young prince for Miranda to get to know him and Ariel uses magical sounds to lure Ferdinand to find Prospero.

Miranda meets Ferdinand

He is the first man, apart from her father and Caliban that Miranda has ever seen and instantly falls in love with him. Prospero puts Ferdinand to work manually, controlling all his movements with magic to see if he is worthy of his daughter’s love. Miranda feels pity for Ferdinand and tries to help him, according to Miranda It was Prospero’s time to study and meanwhile Ferdinand can take a rest but Ferdinand doesn’t agree to it.

All this while Prospero was invisible and listening to their conversation and appeared before them to approve their love for each other. Prospero releases Ferdinand and gives his blessing to the marriage of the two young people. 

Enemies are taught a lesson

When Prospero left the young couple, he called for Ariel who was eager to inform what he had done with Antonio and King of Naples. He had left them in fear and caused them to see and hear strange things. When they got tired of wandering around and starving Ariel had suddenly set before them a delicious meal and as they prepare themselves to eat Ariel appears before them in form of a greedy monster with wings and the feast vanishes away. Then to their shock, this monster reminds them of the cruelty they did to Prospero by leaving him and his infant daughter to die in the sea and that is the reason for their suffering in the wilderness.

Prospero and Miranda return to their actual home

The King of Naples and Antonio repents for their injustice done to Prospero. Prospero then orders Ariel to bring them to him, and he returns with the old Gonzalo as well who had helped Prospero in his hard times. Prospero reveals himself and when asked for repentance he forgives his brother and prepares to return to Milan to resume his dukedom. Miranda and Ferdinand are promised to each other. Prospero announces that the ship hasn’t been wrecked after all, and is safely anchored off the island. Ariel is set free before Prospero leaves the island.

Conclusion

The tempest represents a disturbance of the social order. It also seems to represent Prospero’s anger, as he is responsible for the storm. In the end, he asks Ariel to make sure the waves are calm on the way home, reflecting Prospero’s own internal calm. Prospero, the pardoner, implores pardon. Thus, the whole conduct of Prospero is a homily on the moral truth that it is far nobler to forgive than to take revenge. The happiness of life is to be attained by nobler forgiveness than cruel vengeance. 

Detailed Summary of The Tempest