In the very first scene of The Tempest, we see the storm Prospero has raised by his art, which is magic, and in it, air (wind), water (the sea), and fire (lightning) are all controlled by him, in this case through his spirit servant, Ariel:
I boarded the king's ship; now on the beak / Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin, / I flamed amazement: sometime I'ld divide / And burn in many places; on the topmast / The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly / Then meet and join. Jove's lightnings, the precursors/O' the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary / And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks / Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune / Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble / Yea, his dread trident shake.
The island on which Prospero and his daughter dwell, representing earth, forms the fourth element. He speaks to Miranda of the elements as he describes their perilous ocean journey to their safe haven:
To cry to the sea that roar'd to us, to sigh / To the winds whose pity, sighing back again / Did us but loving wrong.
The sprite Ariel, whose very name evokes air, command the elements throughout the play, for example, as s/he chases Trinculo, Stefano, and Caliban, dunking them in pools of "horse piss."
Caliban, as a previous educator has pointed out, represents the "baseness" of the earth in both its meanings: it is the "base" of the natural world, but he is also "base" in the sense of being controlled by lower passions.
At the end of the play, as Prospero renounces his magic powers (thought, by the way to be Shakespeare's own farewell to his writing), he continues to use images of the elements, saying:
I have bedimm'd / The noontide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds / And 'twixt the green sea and the azured vault / Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder / Have I given fire and rifted Jove's stout oak / With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory / Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck'd up / The pine and cedar: graves at my command / Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let 'em forth / By my so potent art. But this rough magic / I here abjure, and, when I have required / Some heavenly music, which even now I do / To work mine end upon their senses thatThis 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.
It's not only Prospero who has been able to command the elements, but his creator, Shakespeare, who now renounces that power of words and theatrical magic.