Summary of the Play
Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, has been living on a primitive island with his fifteen-year-old daughter, Miranda, for the past 12 years. His dukedom had been usurped by his own brother, Antonio, whom Prospero had entrusted to manage the affairs of government while he was concentrating on his study of the liberal arts. With the support of Alonso, the King of Naples, Antonio conspired against his brother to become the new Duke of Milan. Prospero and his three-year-old daughter were put on “a rotten carcass of a butt” without a sail. Gonzalo, a member of the king’s council, took pity on them, and stocked the leaky vessel with food, fresh water, clothing, and Prospero’s books. Providence has now brought his enemies to the shore of the island, and Prospero must act quickly.
The action begins with a tempestuous storm at sea. Afraid for their lives, Alonso and Gonzalo urge the Boatswain to do all he can to save the ship, but he rudely orders the royal party to stay in their cabins and “trouble us not.” They are finally convinced to go below and pray for mercy.
Ariel, an airy spirit, raised the tempest just as he was instructed by Prospero, his master, informing Prospero that all except the mariners plunged into the sea. Ariel reports that he has left the ship safely docked in the harbor with the mariners aboard. The rest of the passengers, with garments unblemished, have been dispersed around the island. Ariel then lures Ferdinand, Prince of Naples, onto the island with his songs, informing him of his father’s supposed death by drowning. The young prince is led past Prospero’s cave where he meets Miranda, and they fall in love. To keep Ferdinand from winning his prize (Miranda) too quickly and easily, Prospero uses his magic to force Ferdinand to yield to the indignity of stacking logs.
Elsewhere on the island, Ariel, with the help of Prospero’s magic, puts Alonso and Gonzalo to sleep. While they sleep Antonio and Sebastian conspire to kill Alonso and Gonzalo and take over the throne. Just as they draw their swords, Ariel awakens Gonzalo and he, in turn, rouses the king. The conspirators claim that they heard wild animals and drew their swords. The king readily accepts their excuse.
Caliban enters, cursing his master, Prospero, for enslaving him. Trinculo, the king’s jester, appears, hiding under Caliban’s cloak to escape a rainstorm. Stephano approaches them, thinking it is a monster with four legs. He finally recognizes Trinculo and is surprised to see him alive. Stephano, having drifted ashore on a barrel of wine, offers Caliban a drink. Unaccustomed to the effects of the alcohol, Caliban kneels to Stephano, taking him for a god who “bears celestial liquor.” Determined that Stephano should be lord of the island, Caliban leads the pair to Prospero’s cave where they plan to murder him.
Prospero magically sets a banquet for the royal party, but Ariel, disguised as a harpy, claps his wings over the table, and it vanishes. Ariel warns the royal party that the storm was a punishment for their foul deeds, and there is no way out except repentance. In another part of the island, Prospero relieves Ferdinand of his duties, telling him he has endured the difficult trial of love and has won Miranda’s hand in marriage. Ariel arranges a masque in honor of the happy couple, but while the masque is in progress, Prospero suddenly remembers Caliban’s plot to kill him, and the masque vanishes. Ariel has lead the conspirators from the filthy-mantled pool to Prospero’s “glistering apparel” hanging on a lime tree in front of his cave. Though Caliban is annoyed, his companions are gleefully sidetracked, stealing the royal robes and forgetting their purpose at hand which is to murder Prospero. Finally, spirits in the shape of dogs are released, and the thieving trio are driven out.
The king and his party are brought to Prospero where he charms them in his magic circle, praising Gonzalo for his kindness, but censuring Alonso for his cruelty and Antonio for his ambition. Removing his magician’s robe, Prospero gives up his magic powers, presenting himself to Alonso as the “wronged Duke of Milan,” and the repentant king immediately restores his dukedom. In a sudden spirit of forgiveness, he pardons all of them for their crimes against him. He then leads Alonso to his cell where Ferdinand and Miranda are making a pretense of playing chess. Alonso is overjoyed to see his son alive.
Ariel enters with the master and boatswain of the ship. To the king’s amazement the ship is undamaged and docked in the harbor. The three conspirators, driven by Ariel, appear in their stolen royal apparel. Caliban calls himself a “thrice-double ass” to have taken Stephano for a god. Prospero invites the king’s entire party to spend the night in his cell where he will give them an account of his last 12 years on the island. In the morning they will return to Naples where they will prepare for the marriage of the betrothed pair, Ferdinand and Miranda.
Prospero rewards Ariel for his services by giving him his freedom and releasing him to the elements. In the epilogue Prospero tells the audience his magic powers are gone, his dukedom has been restored, and he has forgiven his enemies. He now asks them to praise his performance with their applause and, thereby, release him from the illusory world of the island.
Estimated Reading Time
Most Shakespeare plays, written to be viewed by an audience, usually take approximately three hours to perform on the stage. The Tempest is an unusually short play with a performance time of about two hours. It would be possible to read it almost as fast the first time around to get the plot of the story. The Tempest is impressive theater with its magical manipulations, its masque, including spirit-like goddesses, its spirits in the form of dogs, and, perhaps above all, its songs. For this reason an auditory tape of The Tempest, available at most university or county libraries, is an excellent device that can be used to follow along with the text, making the drama more interesting by bringing the characters alive with the use of sound effects. After the initial reading, it should be read more carefully, taking special note of the difficult words and phrases that are glossed at the bottom of most Shakespeare texts. This reading would probably take about 4-5 hours for the entire play, allowing a little less than an hour for each of the five acts. Since the acts of The Tempest vary from one to three scenes each, the length of reading time for each act will, of course, vary. It should be noted that the length of the scenes also varies from 63 to 504 lines.
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
When Shakespeare came to write The Tempest in 1610, the recent establishment of English colonies in the New World spurred interest among the dramatist’s contemporaries in the differences among peoples in the two hemispheres. That led to philosophical speculations about human nature itself: Are all people the same, no matter where they live? How much does one’s environment affect one’s behavior and, more importantly, one’s outlook on life? These are the questions that underlie Shakespeare’s last drama, a play that transcends the traditional definitions of tragedy or comedy to encompass elements of both.
The action in The Tempest is set on a remote island where Prospero, the rightful duke of Milan, has been living in exile with his daughter, Miranda. They are attended by airy spirits and by the subhuman creature Caliban. As the play opens, Prospero creates a storm that causes a shipwreck. The castaways from the ship include the young nobleman, Ferdinand, whose interest in Miranda becomes apparent from the moment he sees her. For her part, Miranda does not know how to respond to Ferdinand’s attention. She has never seen a man other than her father, although Caliban, certainly a male, displays some lurid interest in her, and she is appropriately repulsed by him. While the young lovers are working out their relationship, Prospero’s brother, Antonio, who had usurped Prospero’s throne, arrives at the island in search of...
(The entire section is 612 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Alonso, the king of Naples, is returning from the wedding of his daughter to a foreign prince when his ship is overtaken by a terrible storm. In his company are Duke Antonio of Milan and other gentlemen of the court. As the gale rises in fury and it seems certain the vessel will split and sink, the noble travelers are forced to abandon ship and trust to fortune in the open sea.
The tempest is no chance disturbance of wind and wave. It was raised by a wise magician, Prospero, when the ship sails close to an enchanted island on which he and his lovely daughter, Miranda, are the only human inhabitants. Theirs is a sad and curious history. Prospero is the rightful duke of Milan, but being devoted more to the study of philosophy and magic than to affairs of state, he gave much power to his ambitious brother, Antonio, who twelve years earlier seized the dukedom with the aid of the crafty Neapolitan king. Prospero and his small daughter were set adrift in a boat by the conspirators, and they would have perished miserably had not Gonzalo, an honest counselor, secretly stocked the frail craft with food, clothing, and some of the books Prospero valued most.
The exiles drift at last to an island that is the refuge of Sycorax, an evil sorceress. There Prospero found Caliban, her son, a strange, misshapen creature of brute intelligence, able only to hew wood and draw water. In addition, there were many good spirits of air and water who became obedient to...
(The entire section is 1019 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Act I, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis
Alonso: king of Naples who has conspired to usurp Prospero’s dukedom
Gonzalo: an old councilor who has shown compassion to Prospero and Miranda
Antonio: Prospero’s brother, the usurping Duke of Milan
Sebastian: Alonso’s brother
Ship–master: master or captain of the ship
Boatswain: the ship’s officer in charge of the crew and the rigging of the sails
Mariners: the ship’s crew who take orders from the Boatswain
The play begins with flashes of lightning, the cracking of thunder, and the urgent shouts of the Ship–master, ordering the Boatswain to mobilize his crew and prevent the ship from running aground. The Boatswain responds promptly, commanding his men to “take in the topsail” and prepare for the storm at sea. The swaying of the ship drives its royal passengers to the top deck in fear. Alonso and Antonio do not immediately see the master of the ship and assume he is shirking his duty. They urge the Boatswain to prod his men into action. The scurrilous Boatswain minces no words, ordering the royal party to stay in their cabins. He reminds Alonso that even the king has no authority over the raging sea, and he is only hindering them from doing their job.
Gonzalo finds comfort in his belief that the Boatswain is the kind of impudent fellow who was born to be hanged and, consequently, will not drown. Sebastian...
(The entire section is 853 words.)
Act I, Scene 2, lines 1-188 Summary and Analysis
Prospero: the rightful Duke of Milan whose dukedom has been usurped by his brother, Antonio
Miranda: Prospero’s fifteen-year-old daughter
The scene is set on an island at the mouth of Prospero’s cave where he and Miranda have been living for the past 12 years. From the shore they have been watching the sinking ship and listening to the heartrending cries of the people on board. Aware that her father has raised the tempest with his magic, Miranda begs him to calm the “wild waters” and end the suffering. Prospero assures her that no harm has been done, and that he has acted solely on her behalf.
He expresses his regret that she is ignorant of her true station in life. Moreover, she does not know that he is a man of high rank. She admits that the idea has not occurred to her. Convinced that the time is now right, Prospero begins the account of their precarious voyage to the island when she was not quite three years old. He asks her whether she has any memory of her life before she came to the island. She replies that she can remember four or five women who tended her, but has no recollection of her arrival at the island with her father. He goes on to explain that he is the rightful Duke of Milan whose dukedom had been usurped by his own brother, Antonio, who had been entrusted to manage the affairs of state so that Prospero could be free to concentrate on his “secret...
(The entire section is 1365 words.)
Act I, Scene 2, lines 189-320 Summary and Analysis
Ariel: an airy spirit under Prospero’s servitude who performs acts of magic for him
Prospero calls forth his spirit, Ariel, who appears, reporting that he has created the tempest just as he was instructed to do. Moreover, he has created quite a spectacle on board ship. He has caused the lightning and thunder claps while the mighty sea roared and the “bold waves trembled.” Prospero praises him for maintaining his composure in spite of the uproar. Ariel continues, telling him that all except the mariners plunged into the foaming sea in fear and desperation. They have all landed, safe and unblemished, on the shore. He has dispersed them in troops around the island, but left Ferdinand, the king’s son, by himself. The king’s ship has been stowed in a deep inlet of the harbor with the mariners sleeping under the hatches. The passengers on the other ships of the fleet, thinking the king is dead, are on their way back to Naples.
Prospero again commends Ariel for an excellent performance but tells him there is still more work to be done. Ariel complains, reminding Prospero of his promise to give him his liberty. Prospero tells him to remember what he has done for him. He has saved Ariel from the “foul witch Sycorax” who had imprisoned him in a “cloven pine.” Meanwhile, she died and left him in torment for 12 years. When Prospero arrived on the island, he heard Ariel’s painful cries and...
(The entire section is 980 words.)
Act I, Scene 2, lines 321-374 Summary and Analysis
Caliban: a deformed, subhuman monster; born from the union of the evil witch Sycorax and a devil
With harsh and abusive language, Prospero rudely calls for Caliban, his slave. Caliban, in turn, curses his master and Miranda for subjecting him to the hard labor of carrying logs. Prospero threatens to punish Caliban for his show of disrespect by having urchins or goblins in the form of hedgehogs trouble him all night long with their painful pinches.
Caliban retaliates further by declaring that the island really belongs to him since he has inherited it from his mother, Sycorax. Before Prospero took it from him, Caliban was his own king, but now he has been relegated to the position of Prospero’s only subject on the island. Reminiscing about better days, Caliban remembers the time when Prospero and Miranda had just arrived on the island. Prospero treated him with kindness then, giving him food to eat and teaching him the names of the sun and moon. Out of love for Prospero, Caliban had shown him where to find fresh water and land fertile enough to grow food. He regrets his former show of kindness because he is now forced to stay imprisoned in a rock and engage in hard labor for Prospero. He curses himself for what he has done, calling upon the magic of Sycorax to bombard Prospero with toads, beetles, and bats.
Prospero is furious, calling him a “lying slave” who can only be made to...
(The entire section is 1090 words.)
Act I, Scene 2, lines 375-504 Summary and Analysis
Ferdinand: the son of Alonso, the King of Naples; the prince is later betrothed to Miranda
Ariel, invisible to all except Prospero, appears as a “nymph o’ th’ sea,” playing and singing as he leads Ferdinand, the king’s son, onto the shore of the island. Addressing his invisible attendant spirits, Ariel instructs them to hush the “wild waves” into silence as they imitate the dance. He welcomes Ferdinand onto the island of domestic habitation with its sounds of dogs and roosters in the distance and the graces of music and harmony to soothe his troubled spirit. The music seems like a supernatural presence to Ferdinand who is unable to locate its source. Drawing him out of the water, the song has had a soothing influence on him, allaying both the fury of the tempest and his grief over his drowned father.
For a while the music stops, but then it begins again. This time in “Full Fadom Five thy Father Lies,” Ariel, still invisible, addresses Ferdinand directly to confirm his fears that his father has drowned. He is lying at the bottom of the sea where each part of his body, otherwise doomed to decay, is being transformed into a rich sea substance. Ferdinand is convinced that the music that honors the memory of his drowned father must have some ethereal quality.
As Ferdinand appears on the island, Miranda perceives him as a spirit, but Prospero informs her that he is human....
(The entire section is 1466 words.)
Act II, Scene 1, lines 1-184 Summary and Analysis
Adrian and Francisco: lords who accompany Alonso’s royal party
The scene is set on another part of the island, some distance from Prospero’s cell, where Alonso is grieving the supposed loss of his son, Ferdinand. Gonzalo attempts to offer words of comfort by pointing out that losing someone at sea is a common occurrence. It is a miracle that they have survived, considering the odds against them, and he advises Alonso to weigh that comforting thought against his sorrow. In a mood of pensive reflection, Alonso is unable to receive comfort and quietly pleads to be left alone. Insensitive to Alonso’s grief, Sebastian and Antonio begin baiting the king about his inability to engage in conversation and even go so far as to make a wager about who will break the silence, Alonso or Adrian. When Adrian speaks, Sebastian bursts out in raucous laughter for having won the wager. Adrian continues, commenting about the sweetness of the air on the island, but Sebastian and Antonio only jeer, muttering about the “rotten” air that is “perfumed by a fen.” Conversely, Gonzalo observes the lush, green grass on the island where everything is advantageous to life, but Sebastian tells him he has completely missed the truth.
Gonzalo then points out an unusual phenomenon. Though their clothes have been drenched in the storm at sea, they look as fresh and new as they did the day they put them on in Africa...
(The entire section is 1388 words.)
Act II, Scene 1, lines 185-328 Summary and Analysis
Sebastian and Antonio are bantering with Gonzalo when Ariel arrives, playing his somber music. The soothing sound quickly works its magical effects, lulling all except Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio to sleep. Longing for sleep to shut out his depressing thoughts, Alonso soon feels unusually tired. Antonio assures him that they will stand guard, keeping him safe while he takes his rest.
Sebastian and Antonio are puzzled about the “strange drowsiness” that has suddenly come over the royal party. After the king is asleep, Antonio wastes no time trying to persuade Sebastian that this is his opportunity to replace his brother as king on the throne. With Ferdinand dead and Claribel, his sister, living in the distant land of Tunis, Sebastian is next in line as heir to the throne of Naples. This has not occurred to Sebastian, however, and he is stunned by Antonio’s suggestion. Sebastian later admits that, where his political ambition is concerned, he is “standing water.” Responding to his metaphor, Antonio tells Sebastian he will teach him “how to flow.”
As Sebastian struggles indecisively, he questions Antonio about his conscience regarding the usurpation of his brother’s dukedom, but Antonio tells him he feels no guilt. Finally convinced, Sebastian gives Antonio his consent to kill the king. Antonio will draw his sword on Alonso while Sebastian does the same to Gonzalo who would be an obstacle to them if he were...
(The entire section is 1169 words.)
Act II, Scene 2 Summary and Analysis
Trinculo: the king’s jester; companion to Stephano
Stephano: the king’s drunken butler; Caliban worships him as lord of the island
Amidst the noise of thunder, Caliban enters, burdened with wood he is carrying for Prospero, who has enslaved him to his service. Cursing Prospero for the way he is being treated, Caliban delivers a long blustering diatribe describing his torment. When Trinculo enters, Caliban mistakes him for another spirit who has been sent by Prospero to torture him further. Trinculo is wandering around, trying to find shelter from the storm that is brewing when he stumbles onto Caliban. Thinking he has run across a fish-like monster, he decides that someone in England who would exhibit him and charge admission could make a fortune. Just then he hears the rumbling of thunder again and decides to find shelter under Caliban’s cloak.
Stephano staggers onto the island in his drunkenness, singing a raucous and bawdy tune. He is happy to be ashore since he has just escaped drowning in the storm at sea and never wants to go to sea again but wishes to live out his life on dry ground. He then discovers Caliban and Trinculo, both sheltered under one cloak, and thinks it is a monster with four legs. Moreover, this strange creature has, somehow, learned his language. If he can “keep him tame,” he will take him back to Naples with him and sell him for whatever he can get....
(The entire section is 1263 words.)
Act III, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis
As the scene opens, Ferdinand is carrying logs under the command of Prospero who has enslaved him with his magic. Though he is forced to stack thousands of logs, “sweet thoughts” of Miranda refresh his labors. Miranda enters, pleading with him to take a rest. Unaware of Prospero’s presence, she reasons that her father will be busy with his books for the next three hours, and it would be safe for Ferdinand to sit down for a while. He argues that the sun might set before he finishes his work. In desperation she begs him to relax while she takes over his log-carrying, but he refuses to subject her to such dishonor.
In an aside Prospero speaks of Miranda’s romantic love for Ferdinand as if it were an infectious disease. Ferdinand then asks Miranda her name in case he might decide to use it in his prayers. Despite her father’s previous warning, she divulges her name to Ferdinand. He goes on to tell her he has known several other women in the past, but each one has had some defect. Miranda is perfect, however, possessing the best virtues of these women all rolled into one. Miranda admits she has known no other women and no men besides Ferdinand and her father. The jewel in her dowry is modesty, and her desire is for Ferdinand alone. He informs her that he is a prince and possibly a king, though he wishes the latter were not true. He tells her that the minute he saw her, his heart became a slave to her services. He assures her that...
(The entire section is 1036 words.)
Act III, Scene 2 Summary and Analysis
Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo are now quite drunk, and they are concerned about what they will do when they run out of wine. Stephano announces that they will simply “drink water” when the time comes, but not a minute before. Stephano relishes the attentions from Caliban, his servant-monster, and Trinculo ridicules both of them, reasoning that if their group represents three out of the five people on the island, and the intellect of the other two is as low as theirs, the island government must be on the verge of collapse. Ignoring Trinculo’s remark, Stephano continues to focus his thoughts on Caliban, proclaiming that, when he becomes king, he will either appoint the monster as his lieutenant or his standard-bearer. At this point Caliban is too drunk to walk or even stand, but he feebly salutes Stephano as his king. Trinculo mocks Caliban, calling him an “ignorant monster” who tells “monstrous lies.” Responding to Caliban’s appeal, Stephano threatens to hang Trinculo on the “next tree” if he engages in mutiny. Declaring that the monster is his subject, Stephano swears that he deserves to be treated with dignity. Caliban thanks Stephano and asks him to listen to his proposal. Stephano agrees, instructing Caliban to kneel.
On his knees Caliban begins by explaining that he serves a tyrant who has cheated him out of the island. Ariel, who is invisible, is heard in the background, mimicking Trinculo’s voice with...
(The entire section is 1207 words.)
Act III, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis
The king and his royal party, still searching for Alonso’s son, are completely exhausted. Gonzalo suggests that they sit down to rest since his old aching bones cannot go any farther. Having lost hope that his son is alive, Alonso too has become weary and decides to rest. Antonio and Sebastian quickly catch Alonso’s mood of despair and decide to use it to their advantage. In hushed tones they conspire to murder the king that same night when he and Gonzalo, tired and filled with sorrow, will not be as vigilant as usual.
Prospero appears, invisible, to the tune of “solemn and strange music.” Several of Ariel’s spirits enter with a banquet, and dance around it. They invite the king to partake of the food as they quickly withdraw from the scene. The members of the royal court are filled with amazement, agreeing that this gives credence to the exotic stories that travelers bring back from their journeys to distant lands. Gonzalo declares that people in Naples would never believe him if he told them of these islanders whose manners are gentler and kinder than those of most humans. In an aside Prospero, applauding Gonzalo’s opinion, declares that some people in Naples are, in fact, “worse than devils.” Alonso is reluctant to eat, but Gonzalo finally convinces him. The king, in turn, invites Antonio to join him. Just as they reach for the food, Ariel, in the guise of a harpy, enters to the sounds of thunder and the flashes of...
(The entire section is 1257 words.)
Act IV, Scene 1, lines 1-163 Summary and Analysis
Iris: goddess of the rainbow; Juno’s messenger
Ceres: goddess of agriculture
Juno: goddess of the Pantheon; patroness of marriage; wife of Jupiter
Nymphs and Reapers: spirits of the dance
The scene begins with Ferdinand culminating his trial of log-bearing. Prospero assures him that his austere punishment has simply been a trial of his love for Miranda, and he has “stood the test.” As a reward, Prospero presents him with a “rich gift,” his daughter Miranda. He tells Ferdinand that he will soon realize she will be everything her father says she is and more. She now belongs to Ferdinand, but Prospero warns him that if he breaks “her virgin-knot” before they have taken their sacred vows of marriage, hate and discord will accompany their union. Ferdinand vows his honor will never give way to lust even under the strongest temptation. Prospero is satisfied, and he turns his attentions to Ariel, instructing him to gather his lesser spirits for the presentation of the betrothal masque in honor of the young couple. Ariel promises to bring them back in the twinkling of an eye.
Prospero again warns Ferdinand that even the “strongest oaths” can be weakened by one’s passions, but the young prince assures him he will keep his passions under control. Prospero directs Ariel to bring an extra spirit in case they need one and then hushes everyone to silence...
(The entire section is 1314 words.)
Act IV, Scene 1, lines 164-266 Summary and Analysis
Prospero anxiously summons Ariel, informing him that they must prepare for the coming of Caliban. Ariel then discloses the latest information about the whereabouts of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo. With tabor and pipe Ariel had charmed the three conspirators into following him and left them neck deep in the “filthy-mantled pool” beyond the cell. Prospero praises Ariel, instructing him to remain invisible as he gathers the former duke’s royal wardrobe to use as bait to catch the would-be murderers.
Ariel leaves promptly. Left alone, Prospero reflects on the pains he has taken to civilize Caliban. He decides it has all been in vain, considering the fact that Caliban is, after all, a “born devil” who cannot be reformed. His body grows uglier with age, and his
actions are becoming more malevolent. Prospero is determined to afflict harsh punishment on all three of the conspirators.
Ariel returns with his arms full of Prospero’s wearing apparel and hangs it on a lime tree next to the cell. Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo enter, wet and reeking with odor from the “filthy-mantled pool.” Disgruntled and humiliated, Stephano censures Caliban for assuring him that Ariel is a “harmless fairy.” He has, in fact, done nothing but mislead them so far. Caliban pleads with them to “speak softly” to keep from waking Prospero. He promises them that the prize that goes with the kingship, which is Miranda, will...
(The entire section is 925 words.)
Act V, Scene 1, lines 1-87 Summary and Analysis
Act V opens with Prospero’s declaration that the final resolution of his project is at hand. Ariel informs him the time is approaching the sixth hour when Prospero had promised their work would end. Ariel apprises him of the condition of the king and his followers, reporting that they are still confined, by Prospero’s magic, to the grove of trees that acts as a windbreak to his cell. Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio are completely distraught and the rest, particularly Gonzalo, can do nothing but mourn for them. Ariel is sure Prospero would sympathize with them in their afflictions if he could see them now. Prospero concedes that if Ariel, who is only air, has even a hint of feeling for them, surely he, who is human, would be more sympathetic to his own kind. Though he has been hurt by their “high wrongs,” Prospero is ready to forgive them now if they are penitent. He instructs Ariel to release them, and he will break the magic spell and restore them to their senses.
After Ariel leaves, Prospero uses his staff to draw a magic circle on the ground. In a soliloquy he addresses the elves, demi-puppets, and fairies whose help he has engaged to perform such magic as dimming the noonday sun, calling forth the wind, thunder, and lightning, plucking up trees, and raising people from the dead. Ready now to renounce his magic, Prospero declares that he will break his magic staff, burying it far under the earth, and drop his magic book into...
(The entire section is 1118 words.)
Act V, Scene 1, 88-171 Summary and Analysis
Prospero has taken off his magician’s robe so that the king and his royal party will be able to recognize him as the former Duke of Milan. After he disrobes, he promises Ariel that he will soon be free. While Ariel helps to attire Prospero in his duke’s clothing, he sings his freedom song. Identifying with the bee that gets its nectar from the flowers of the fields, he looks forward to his freedom when he will live “merrily” in the summer, making his home “under a blossom” hanging on the bough. Prospero tells him he will be missed, but he will, nevertheless, be given his freedom. Ariel is then instructed to remain invisible as he hurries to the king’s ship to bring back the master and the boatswain who will be awake. He will, however, find the mariners asleep under the hatches. Ariel cheerfully tells him he will be back before his pulse beats twice.
Prospero then reveals himself to the king as the “wronged Duke of Milan.” To prove he is really alive, he embraces Alonso and then Gonzalo and bids the others welcome. Filled with regret for his past deeds, Alonso immediately asks his forgiveness and restores his rightful title as the Duke of Milan. He wonders, however, how Prospero could possibly be alive and what he is doing here on this island. In an aside to Sebastian and Antonio, Prospero warns them that he could tell the king they are traitors, but, for now, he will remain silent. Cold and unrepentant, Sebastian...
(The entire section is 1010 words.)
Act V, Scene 1, 172-255 Summary and Analysis
As Prospero pulls aside the curtain to the opening of his cave, he discloses Ferdinand and Miranda pretending to play chess but engaging in a lovers’ conversation instead. Alonso thinks they are a vision of the island, and even Sebastian sees it as a “most high miracle” that Ferdinand has at last been found. When Ferdinand sees his father alive, he realizes that the threatening sea is merciful after all. Miranda is impressed with the handsome men of the royal court who come from the “brave new world” that she and Ferdinand will soon inhabit. Prospero simply replies that all this is new to her.
Alonso then inquires about Miranda whom Ferdinand could not have known for more than three hours. Ferdinand tells Alonso that he chose her to be his wife before he knew that he had a father who could have advised him. She is the daughter of the Duke of Milan about whom he has heard so much. Alonso knows he has sinned against Miranda as well as against her father. Realizing that Miranda will now be his daughter-in-law, Alonso is concerned about how it will sound for a father to ask forgiveness of his own child, but Prospero stops him, telling him not to dwell on past remembrances. Gonzalo invokes the gods to bless the young couple. He rejoices that in only one voyage, Alonso’s daughter, Claribel, found her husband in Tunis; Ferdinand found a wife, Prospero found his dukedom; and they all found their true identity on this poor island....
(The entire section is 974 words.)
Act V, Scene 1, Lines 256-330 Summary and Analysis
With Ariel in pursuit, Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo, arrayed in Prospero’s finery, appear to the men of the royal court. Stephano, too drunk to get his words straight, calls to his partners to shift for themselves. Trinculo thinks the king and his party are “a goodly sight,” but Caliban is afraid Prospero will chastise him, though he is impressed when he sees his master in a duke’s robe.
Sebastian and Antonio immediately see Caliban as a deformed fish-like monster, a marketable product to take back to Italy. Prospero informs Alonso and his royal court that Stephano and Trinculo have robbed him, and that Caliban, the son of an evil witch, has been plotting with them to take the duke’s life. Seeing that Stephano and Trinculo are drunk, Alonso wonders where they got the liquor and why they are in this predicament. Sebastian greets Stephano with a pat on his back, but he shrugs him off, telling him he is no longer Stephano. Prospero reminds him that he had professed to be the future king of the island, but Stephano admits he would have been a poor one. Prospero admonishes Caliban, ordering him to take his companions to his cell to return the stolen clothing if he wishes to be pardoned for his evil deeds. Caliban recognizes his mistakes and promises to “seek for grace” after this. He now understands the absurdity of taking “this drunkard for a god.”
Prospero then invites Alonso and his royal train to his...
(The entire section is 984 words.)