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All You Need To Know About Shakespeare
The Tempest

The Tempest

Romeo And Juliet
Much Ado About Nothing
Twelfth Night
A Midsummer Night's Dream
As You Like It

Characters:  
Prospero
- the former duke of Milan usurped by his brother;  he now lives on the enchanted island with his daughter where the play is set
Miranda- Prospero's daughter
Ariel- Prospero's spirit servant/helper
Caliban- a servant of Prospero's;  Caliban showed Prospero around the island when he first arrived
Ferdinand- son of Alonso
Alonso- King of Naples who helped Antonio over throw Prospero;  he is the father of Ferdinand
Antonio- Prospero's brother who usurped him in the first place
Sebastian- Alonso's brother
Gonzalo- an old lord loyal to Prospero and Miranda who helped them escape
Trinculo- a jester from Alonso's ship
Stefano- a butler from Alonso's ship;  he is often drunk

Plot:  We open with a storm.   A ship is caught in the middle of the storm. Alonso, Ferdinand, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, Stefano, and Trinculo are all on the boat.  They begin to fear for their lives, and all believe the ship is doomed except the Boatswain, who remains calm and collected through it all. Meanwhile, Miranda and Prospero are on the shore of their island, watching the ship.  Miranda begs her father to do something for the people on the boat. Prospero in turn explains to her that he created the storm.   He tells her the story of how they got to the island:  Prospero was once the duke of Milan, but his brother Antonio took over the dukedom with help from the King of Naples.  Aided by Gonzalo,  Prospero barely managed to escape with his daughter and some books.  The books are the source of all his power and magic.   They together found the island and have lived there for twelve years. However, Prospero tells Miranda, their enemies are in his hands, and it is up to him to make everything right.  
    Prospero places Miranda in an enchanted sleep, and calls his spirit helper Ariel.  Ariel informs Prospero that he has created the tempest and has set fire to the mast of the ship.  Ariel has made sure that all the party on the ship arrived safely on the island, although they are separated.  Ariel mentions to Prospero that Prospero promised to set Ariel free from servitude a year ago if he did all Prospero asked without complaint.  Prospero scolds Ariel for complaining and reminds Ariel of what Prospero saved him from.  Ariel had been bound by the witch Sycorax in a tree.  When Sycorax died Ariel was imprisoned forever.  Prospero set him free and placed him in servitude.  Ariel reassures Prospero that he knows where he stands, and the Prospero tells him to take the form of a sea nymph and only be visible to Prospero.
    Miranda wakes from her magic slumber, and she and Prospero go to visit Caliban, son of the late Sycorax.  Caliban curses Prospero, but Miranda and Prospero scold Caliban for being an ungrateful wretch.  They taught him and all he does is curse Prospero.  Caliban is ordered to get firewood.  Ariel lures Ferdinand with invisible music to the place where Prospero and Miranda are.  He is the first man Miranda has seen aside from her father and Caliban.  Miranda and Ferdinand are instantly attracted to each other.  Prospero is pleased that his plans for Miranda's future are going so well, but he doesn't want it to all happen to quickly.  He accuses Ferdinand of being an impostor of the Prince of Naples. Ferdinand draws his sword when Prospero threatens imprisonment, but Prospero enchants him and places him in a prison, ignoring Miranda's cries.
    True to his/her word (Ariel is androgynous in some opinions), Ariel has placed Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian, Gonzalo, and a few lords of little consequence on another part of the island.  Everyone is happy for surviving,  but all are concerned about Ferdinand's fate. Alonso moans that he wished he'd never set foot on the ship.  Gonzalo tries to cheer everyone by talking about the beauty of the place they have landed on, although he is greeted by sarcastic bitterness from Antonio and Sebastian.  Ariel plays music that puts Alonso, Gonzalo, and all the random lords to sleep.  Left to their own devices, Antonio and Sebastian plot to kill everyone around them.  Alonso convinces Sebastian that if he was to kill Alonso, then he (Sebastian) would become the King of Naples.  Ferdinand is presumed dead, and Claribel (Alonso's daughter.  They got shipwrecked on the way back from her wedding.) is too far away to do anything.  That's all it takes to convince Sebastian.  He draws his sword, but Ariel shouts and wakes Gonzalo up.   All the others awake too, to find Antonio and Sebastian with their swords drawn.  Nervous, they invent a fanciful and ludicrous story about lions and protecting the king.  Ariel has seen enough and goes to Prospero while the lords search for Ferdinand.  
    In the meantime, Caliban is carrying wood for Prospero.  He sees Trinculo, and thinking that Trinculo is a spirit of Prospero's, hides under his cloak.  A storm comes.  Trinculo (who is drunk) crawls under the cloak with Caliban, despite the smell.  Stefano comes bumbling about absorbed in alcohol and song.  Caliban hears the singing and cries out to the spirits to leave him alone.  Stefano decides that what Caliban needs is some alcohol and attempts to make him drink. Trinculo realizes that the voice he is hearing his friend Stefano, and comes out of the cloak.  Not long after, all three are sitting and drinking together.  Caliban quickly falls victim to alcohol and begins to sing.  
     Prospero has put Ferdinand to work gathering wood.  Ferdinand doesn't really mind the labour because it is for Miranda's sake.  Miranda thinks that Prospero is asleep, so she implores Ferdinand to rest awhile.  The two flirt awhile, and Miranda brings up marriage.  Ferdinand quickly accepts the idea of them getting wed.  Prospero meanwhile has been hiding, and is highly satisfied with the way things are going.  
    Stefano, Trinculo, and Caliban are all thoroughly drunk.  Ariel provokes them to argue, impersonating them at the right times, and inflaming the situation further.  Caliban insists that he knows where Prospero is sleeping, and can lead them there.  He goes on further to say that they can kill Prospero, take Miranda, and set Trinculo up as the king of the island. Stefano thinks this is a very good plan, and they all agree on it.  Before they can act, Ariel plays music that distracts the drunks and leads them in a different direction.  
    All the while, Alonso, Antonio, Gonzalo, and Sebastian are becoming fatigued.  They have all been searching for Ferdinand and everyone wants to rest.  Antonio and Sebastian plan to kill Alonso and Gonzalo tonight, given the condition of them.  Prospero is invisible to the men, and he orders spirits to lay out a banquet for the men.  All the lords are sitting down to eat when Ariel, in the guise of a harpy, takes away the banquet by making it disappear.  Ariel tells them that they are being punished for usurping Prospero, and that Ferdinand's disappearance is a result of their sins. Ariel vanishes, and Alonso is left feeling guilty. 
    Prospero begins to be kinder to Ferdinand, and he agrees with the marriage Miranda originally thought of.  Prospero asks Ariel to get some spirits to perform for Ferdinand and Miranda.  The spirits take the guises of Ceres, Iris, and Juno. The festivities are cut short when Prospero remembers that his life is in potential danger and all hasn't been made right. Prospero dismisses the spirits and calls Ariel to him.  He inquires as to the actions of Caliban, Stefano, and Trinculo. Ariel tells him of the plan, and goes on to tell Prospero how he had led the drunks with music until they fell into a pond near where Prospero lives.  They set a trap.  Trinculo, Stefano, and Caliban go to Prospero's room and finds expensive and fancy clothes there (set by Prospero and Ariel of course).  The men decide to steal the clothes, and are chased by spirits in the forms of dogs.  
    Prospero instructs Ariel to bring all the lords to him.  Then Ariel goes to the wrecked ship where the crew lies sleeping. He wakes them.  Prospero accosts Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian about usurping him.  However, he forgives them all. Alonso delivers the news to Prospero that he has lost Ferdinand to the tempest.  Prospero replies enigmatically that he too has lost a child.  Then Prospero reveals to everyone Ferdinand and Miranda playing chess.  All the lords are speechless about Ferdinand's state of being, and Miranda is amazed at so many people unlike anyone she has ever seen. Ferdinand seems to be just about the only one capable of speaking when he informs his father that he and Miranda are wed.  
    Ariel appears to the group of speechless people leading the crew of the ship.  The Boatswain tells everyone that the crew had been sleeping ever since the storm hit.  Ariel then, under orders of Prospero, releases Trinculo, Stefano, and Caliban who all show up in the clothes they stole from Prospero's cell.  Alonso and Prospero scold the men, order them to return the clothes, and make them clean Prospero's cell.  Prospero asks all to stay for one more night so that he may recount his past twelve years to them.  All prepare to journey back to Italy afterwards, where Prospero will be duke of Milan once again.  Prospero gives Ariel one last command, to keep the seas still for their return journey, and then releases him.  Then Prospero delivers the epilogue and asks for forgiveness  for his wrong doing and to be set free by applause.      
        
Quotes:
Prospero:
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
act v;  scene i

Miranda: 
O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!
act v;  scene i

Prospero: 
You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismay'd: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex'd;
Bear with my weakness; my, brain is troubled:
Be not disturb'd with my infirmity:
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose: a turn or two I'll walk,
To still my beating mind.
act iv;  scene i

Prospero:
Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers
And in her most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine; within which rift
Imprison'd thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years; within which space she died
And left thee there; where thou didst vent thy groans
As fast as mill-wheels strike. Then was this island--
Save for the son that she did litter here,
A freckled whelp hag-born--not honour'd with
A human shape.
act i;  scene ii

Review:  This play is about seeking justice, and how that can be good or bad.  Prospero wants the justice he deserves after he has been usurped.  To achieve that though, he  enslaves others, like Caliban or Ariel.  Often people are so caught up in finding justice for wrongs or perceived wrongs that they forget about the people they walk over in the process.  This happens more than one wants to admit, and many have done it themselves.  However, Prospero makes sure all is well in the end.  One metaphor many have drawn from this is one of the writer.  Their ways may seem unjust at first, but through careful orchestration everything becomes well.  To support this idea references to the theatre are  scattered about.  In Prospero's speech (act iv, scene i), "the great globe itself" has been taken to mean the Globe Theatre.  Others think that Shakespeare could've been referring to himself at times, as the orchestrater of so much.  Either that or he was speaking to the profession itself.

Sources:
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
www.sparknotes.com

en.wikipedia.org
thesaurus.reference.com
www-tech.mit.edu