Some Shakespearean scholars and critics, including Hallett Smith and Frank Kermode, suggest that the title of Shakespeare's last fully Shakespeare-written play should be The Island, or Prospero's Island, rather than The Tempest . They argue that the storm at sea occupies only one scene in the play, whereas...
Some Shakespearean scholars and critics, including Hallett Smith and Frank Kermode, suggest that the title of Shakespeare's last fully Shakespeare-written play should be The Island, or Prospero's Island, rather than The Tempest. They argue that the storm at sea occupies only one scene in the play, whereas the island itself remains constant throughout the play and is the location for all of the action in the play.
However, The Tempest isn't about the storm at sea. The raging tempest is simply an illusion that Prospero uses to deceive his intended captives and to bring all of those onboard the ship onto his island so he can manipulate and control them. Prospero shipwrecks his enemies and forces them to his island in much the same way that Prospero and his daughter, Miranda, were cast adrift and landed on this island twelve years ago, for which he intends to avenge himself against his enemies.
Rather than referring to the storm—which doesn't truly exist—the title is symbolic of the turmoil between, among, and within the characters themselves and the multiple subplots which compete for the audience's attention. There's no character in the play who isn't at odds at one time or another with another character or group of characters. Even Miranda, ever the loving daughter, is at odds with her father for bringing the violent storm against the ship and everyone aboard it.
MIRANDA. If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
... O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel,
Who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her,
Dashed all to pieces!
(act 1, scene 2, lines 1–8)
Prospero assures Miranda and the audience that it's all an illusion.
PROSPERO. Be collected.
No more amazement. Tell your piteous heart
There's no harm done.
The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touched
The very virtue of compassion in thee,
I have with such provision in mine art
So safely ordered that there is no soul—
No, not so much perdition as an hair
Betid to any creature in the vessel
Which thou heard'st cry, which though saw'st sink.
(act 1, scene 2, lines 14–16, 30–37)
No one was hurt by the storm or the shipwreck. In fact, Prospero does nothing to the involuntary guests on his island except frighten and confuse them with magic and illusions, humiliate Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio—who Ariel calls the "three men of sin"— in the banquet scene, and thwart the doomed-to-fail assassination plot initiated against him by his slave Caliban, and Caliban's cohorts, Trinculo and Stephano.
The Tempest is ultimately a play about the self-discovery, forgiveness, reconciliation, and reunion that arise from by the spiritual turmoil of the characters who were brought together by the illusion of a storm.
Prospero forgives and reconciles with his primary enemies, Alonso, the king of Naples, and Prospero's brother, Antonio, who usurped Prospero's dukedom of Milan twelve years earlier. Alonso agrees to the marriage of Miranda and his son, Ferdinand. Ariel receives his long-promised and long-delayed freedom. As the others sail away to Milan, Caliban is left once again the master of what was originally his own island.
Finally, as Prospero promised, when all of these things are accomplished, Prospero frees himself and everyone else from his magic.
PROSPERO. And, when I have required
Some heavenly music—which even now I do—
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I'll drown my book.
(act 5, scene 1, lines 56–62)