Overview of The Tempest by Shakespeare
In the middle of a storm, a ship, that is coming back from Tunis, because of the wedding of the king’s daughter, is tossed about the powerful waves. On the boat, there are the king of Naples, Alonso, his son, called Ferdinand, and his court. Also there are the king’s brother, called Sebastian, the Duke of Milan, called Antonio and Gonzalo, the King counsellor. Suddenly the wind splits the ship in half and they all are thrown on an Island. The Island is close by Prospero, the right Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda.
Miranda is horrified, and so Prospero says that they all are safe and that he was once the Duke of Milan, but he was more interested in the art of magic, than in the affairs of state. So, his brother, Antonio, helped by king Alonso, decided to overthrow Prospero, and to declare himslef Duke of Milan. So Antonio sent away Prospero and Miranda on that Island. Miranda makes a lot of questions to Prospero, so he casts a spell to pur her to sleep and then he calls his servant, called Ariel, a gentle spirit of air..
Ariel is his servant, because, once, the Island was closed by the witch Sycorax and her son, a strange creature, called Caliban; Ariel was imprisoned by Sycorax in a tree and then Prospero released him. Prospero tells Ariel to guide Ferdinand to him and that he will be free. Ariel flies away and Prospero calls Caliban. Caliban complains about his captivity but Prospero says that it is the payment for all the education that Prospero has given to him. Then Prospero sends Caliban to gather wood.
Meanwhile, Ariel, singing, conduces Ferdinand to Miranda, and they fall in love with each others. To test Ferdinand, Prospero makes him perform menial tasks. King Alonso is desperate, because he thinks that his son is dead. Then Ariel puts everyone to sleep, except Antonio and Sebastian. They plan to kill the King, but he suddenly wakes up and they say that they had heard a noise. Then, Caliban, meets Trinculo and Stephano, the King’s jester and the royal butler. So when Trinculo sees Caliban, he decides that he could take the moster in England to earn a lot of money.
Then all together, they drink the wine, and when Caliban drink the wine, he decides that Stephano will be his new master. Ferdinand meets Miranda and they declare their love and agree to be married as soon as possible. Prospero is so happy for that words and then he returns to his business with Antonio and the King. Stephano is having trouble in controlling Caliban because he hates Trinculo because he refers to him as ‘the moster’. Then they plan to kill Prospero and to rule on the Island and on Miranda. But Ariel, that has been listening the conversation, tells all to Prospero.
The King and the other are looking for Ferdinand. Suddenly, they see a banquet, and Ariel appears, disguised as a harpy, and he tells them that their will be tormented until they change their evil ways. All are shocked and think that they are crazy. Prospero accepts the union of Ferdinand and Miranda and he prepares a show with the spirits that he controls. Then, Prospero hears Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban and so he orders to Ariel to help him to stop them. So they prepare Prospero’s cell with many clothes. The three are distracted by the clothes.
Prospero then makes them hunt by a spirit, disguised as a fierce dog. After three days, Prospero clothed in his magic robes, tells to Ariel to guide Alonso and his court to him. Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio are now mad, instead, Gonzalo, is in mourning for the victims. Prospero in his soliloquy, says that he will restores the sanity of his enemies, and that he will renounce magic: he will break is magical staff, he will drown his books and he will exchange his magician’s robes for the clothing he wore when he was the Duke of Milan.
Then, Ariel puts Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo and the others, all in trance, in a circle made by Prospero and he breaks the spell. Alonso is reunited with Ferdinand, and Antonio accepts to resign the dukedom to Prospero and so Prospero forgives Antonio, but he doesn’t reconcile with him. Ariel is now free of all his obligations and Caliban will be left alone on the Island. Finally Ferdinand and Miranda marry, and all they are ready to return to Italy. The tempest is characterized by a serenity in human relationships.
There is no tragic ending: all the criminals are forgiven. Forgiveness is a theme: all ends in peace and reconciliation. Miranda represents the female perfection through her beauty and innocence. Other themes are: the wild, the exotic setting, the relationship between native and invaders, the problem of forced labour and the traffic of liquor. The most important theme is the magic. There are two types of magic. The dark magic is the one of the witch Sycorax that she uses for evil things and it is born by a pact with the devil.
Instead, the Magic of Prospero, is used for good purposes and his born by his study. The tempest is one of the most difficult to stage and to interpret of all Shakespeare’s plays. It can be seen as an exploration into the nature of the theatre itself. Infact, there is only a place in which Prospero’s magic become effective; in a special place, a magic Island, in the theatre. Arel can bee seen as some power that makes the effects of the theatre possible.
The word of the theatre can remind us of things that we can easily forget, but life must be lived in the real world. This is why Prospero has to surrender his magical powers. A lot of critics have seen this play as an exploration of some political issues. In fact, Prospero can be seen as an European colonial, who taken charge of a remote Island and he organized a life for himself and he controls the local inhabitants. He mantains his power by a combination of force and promises of freedom someday.