The Tempest Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

The Tempest book cover
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What is the dramatic significance of storm in William Shakespeare's The Tempest? Is the title of the play appropriate?  

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title of The Tempest encapsulates the themes and action of the play in many dimensions. In fact, it is hard to think of a single character who is in a calm state. The action on the island in particular and general world affairs seems chaotic.

Prospero desperately wants to impose control over his own situation and over his daughter, Miranda. He is a powerful sorcerer who had nonetheless been deposed and exiled all the way from Italy to a desolate island. He summons up enough of his magic-making to create an actual hurricane that will set his plan in motion.

But the tempestuous nature of human emotions is something else entirely. As all the shipwreck survivors run around the island confused and disoriented, it becomes clear that Prospero has unleashed something uncontrollable. It seems he may be thwarted at every turn.

Miranda, living in isolation from society, has no practice dealing with young men, and then the sprite Ariel bewitches her with love. Although her father schemes to connect her to Ferdinand, it often seems his concern is more for his lost title and territory than his daughter's happiness. If the tempest in her heart tears her away from her father's domination, his plan may fall apart.

Caliban is intent on vexing Prospero even if he cannot gain release from slavery or recover his mother's island. Although the sorcerer's power restrains him, he still calls down a storm onto father and daughter (act 2, scene 2): "a south-west blow on ye /And blister you all o'er!"

Finally, as the plot is resolved to Prospero's satisfaction, he refers to his powers in terms of storms he caused:

I have [...] 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 [...].

Now, he gives up this power, abjuring his "rough magic" for good.

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The dramatic significance of storm in William Shakespeare's The Tempest is based on the hierarchy of being and the laws of sympathy as they were formulated in Shakespeare's period. The events in the heavens, especially unusual events such as novas, eclipses, or unnatural storms, herald changes in kingdoms specifically likely to affect kings, princes, and other important people. The storm is both a magical creation of Ariel that sets the entire plot in motion and also the upheaval in the human world that restores the rightful rulership of Naples. Thus the title of the play both works on the literal level, that the plot is what happens in the aftermath of the storm, and on a symbolic level.

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