Study Guide

The Tempest

by William Shakespeare

The Tempest Characters

List of Characters

Prospero—the rightful Duke of Milan whose dukedom has been usurped by his brother Antonio. Prospero controls the island and its inhabitants with a God-like power.

Miranda—Prospero’s fifteen-year-old daughter who has been living with him on the island since their banishment from Milan when she was only three years old. Her father and Caliban are the only humans she remembers. When she meets Ferdinand, she falls in love with him almost immediately and innocently ffers herself to him as his wife.

Ferdinand—He is the son of Alonso, King of Naples. Though he is a man of royal blood, he must endure the dishonor of carrying logs for Prospero as a trial of his love for Miranda.

Ariel—an airy spirit who has suffered a twelve-year imprisonment in a “cloven pine” for refusing the “earthy and abhorr’d commands” of the evil witch, Sycorax. Prospero releases Ariel, only to subject him to further servitude. With the aid of Prospero, Ariel conjures up the tempest and performs other acts of magic throughout the play. Prospero finally gives him his freedom at the end.

Caliban—Prospero refers to him as a “born devil” whose mother was the evil witch, Sycorax. He is a deformed monster whose bestial nature cannot be changed, though he has been taught to speak a language. Paradoxically, Caliban usually speaks in verse and is given some of the most poetic lines in the play.

Alonso—Ferdinand’s father,...

(The entire section is 541 words.)

The Tempest Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Prospero

Prospero (PROS-peh-roh), the former and rightful duke of Milan, now living on an island in the distant seas. Years earlier, he had been deposed by his treacherous younger brother, Antonio, to whom he had given too much power, for Prospero had always been more interested in his books of philosophy and magic than in affairs of state. Antonio had the aid of Alonso, the equally treacherous king of Naples, in his plot against his brother, and the conspirators had set Prospero and his infant daughter, Miranda, adrift in a small boat. They were saved from certain death by the faithful Gonzalo, who provided the boat with food and Prospero’s books. Eventually, the craft drifted to an island that formerly had been the domain of the witch Sycorax, whose son, the monster Caliban, still lived there. Through the power of his magic, Prospero subdued Caliban and freed certain good spirits, particularly Ariel, whom Sycorax had imprisoned. Now, in a terrible storm, the ship carrying the treacherous king of Naples, his son Ferdinand, and Antonio is wrecked. They, with their companions, are brought ashore by Ariel. Using Ariel as an instrument, Prospero frustrates the plots of Antonio and Sebastian against the king and of Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano against himself. He also furthers the romance between Miranda and Ferdinand. Convinced at last that Antonio and Alonso have repented of the wrongs they had done him, Prospero has them brought to his cell, where he reveals his identity and reclaims his dukedom. At the end of the story, he has the satisfaction of releasing Ariel, abandoning his magic, and returning to Milan for the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand. In the figure of Prospero, some readers have found William Shakespeare’s self-portrait; in Prospero’s burying of his books on magic, they have found a symbol of Shakespeare’s renunciation of the stage.

Miranda

Miranda (mih-RAN-duh), Prospero’s daughter, brought up on the island where her aged father is the only man she has ever seen. She falls instantly in love with Ferdinand. At the end of the play, they are to be married. The character of Miranda often has been taken as the depiction of complete innocence, untouched by the corruption of sophisticated life.

Ferdinand

Ferdinand (FUR-dih-nand), the prince of Naples and son of King Alonso. Separated from his father when they reach the island, he is captured by Prospero, who, to test him, puts him at menial tasks. He falls in love with Miranda and she with him. Prospero finally permits their marriage.

Alonso

Alonso (uh-LON-zoh), the king of Naples and father of Ferdinand. He aided the treacherous Antonio in deposing Prospero. When the castaways reach Prospero’s island, Alonso is so grief-stricken by the supposed loss of his son that he repents of his wickedness and is forgiven by Prospero.

Antonio

Antonio (an-TOH-nee-oh), Prospero’s treacherous brother, who has usurped the dukedom of Milan. He is finally forgiven for his crime.

Sebastian

Sebastian (seh-BAS-tyuhn), Alonso’s brother. On the island, he plots with Antonio to usurp the throne of Naples. Prospero discovers and frustrates the plot.

Gonzalo

Gonzalo (gon-ZAH-loh), a faithful courtier who had saved the lives of Prospero and Miranda.

Ariel

Ariel (AY-ree-ehl), a spirit imprisoned by Sycorax and released by Prospero, whom he serves faithfully. At the conclusion of the play, having carried out all of Prospero’s commands, he is given complete freedom.

Caliban

Caliban (KAL-ih-ban), the monstrous son of Sycorax, now a servant of Prospero. He represents brute force without intelligence and can be held in check only by Prospero’s magic. Some have seen in him Shakespeare’s conception of “natural man.”

Stephano

Stephano (STEHF-ah-noh), a drunken butler who plots with Caliban and Trinculo against Prospero and is foiled by Ariel.

Trinculo

Trinculo (TRIHN-kew-loh), a clown, a companion of Stephano and later of Caliban.

The Tempest Character Analysis

Alonso (Character Analysis)

He is the king of Naples and the father of Ferdinand. King Alonso, his son, and his courtiers get caught in the tempest on their way home...

(The entire section is 465 words.)

Antonio (Character Analysis)

He is the current duke of Milan and the treacherous brother of Prospero, the former duke of Milan. At the beginning of the play, Prospero...

(The entire section is 354 words.)

Ariel (Character Analysis)

He is a spirit of the air. In I.ii.250-93, we learn that Ariel was once the servant of Sycorax, a wicked sorceress who had imprisoned the...

(The entire section is 611 words.)

Caliban (Character Analysis)

Described in the character list as "a savage and deformed slave," Caliban is the son of Sycorax, an evil witch who has since died but who...

(The entire section is 690 words.)

Ferdinand (Character Analysis)

He is the son and heir of King Alonso of Naples. Ferdinand is the first to leap overboard during the tempest; and in keeping with Prospero's...

(The entire section is 398 words.)

Gonzalo (Character Analysis)

He is an honest and trusted advisor to King Alonso of Naples. In I.ii.160-68, we learn that twelve years ago, when Prospero was usurped and...

(The entire section is 382 words.)

Miranda (Character Analysis)

She is the daughter of Prospero, the usurped duke of Milan. Miranda, who is approximately fifteen years old, makes her first appearance in...

(The entire section is 658 words.)

Prospero (Character Analysis)

He is the usurped duke of Milan and the father of Miranda, as well as a powerful magician. Prospero is responsible for the tempest which...

(The entire section is 896 words.)

Other Characters (Descriptions)

Adrian
He is a lord attending King Alonso of Naples and a minor character in the play. After the tempest, Adrian is washed...

(The entire section is 1943 words.)