The Tempest Characters
The main characters in The Tempest include Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand, Alonso, and Antonio.
- Prospero is the former and rightful duke of Milan. He practices magic and has been living on an island since his dukedom was usurped.
- Miranda is Prospero’s daughter, who falls in love with Ferdinand.
- Ferdinand is the son of King Alonso. He must submit to a series of tests before Prospero allows him to marry Miranda.
- Alonso is the King of Naples who helped Antonio usurp Prospero’s dukedom.
- Antonio is Prospero’s brother. He has maliciously usurped Prospero’s dukedom, but he is forgiven in the end.
Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Prospero is the protagonist of the play, and throughout the first three acts, the usurped duke is bitter and tyrannical. Prospero demands absolute control over the other characters in the play, even toying with them (as in the case of Caliban's ill-advised revenge plot). By the end of the play, however, the audience understands the positive motivations behind Prospero's vindictive attitude, as his actions lead to the restoration of his dukedom and the marriage of his daughter.
Miranda is Prospero's teenage daughter; she feels trapped in her life on the island. Having been exiled before her formative years, Miranda longs to meet and interact with someone other than her father or Caliban (who attempted to rape her). Most of the time, Miranda is passive until motivated to defy her father by her love for Ferdinand.
Ariel is the spritely slave of Prospero. He has served his master willingly and happily ever since the exiled nobleman freed Ariel from his imprisonment in a tree—a punishment dealt by the witch Sycorax. Ariel is just and even-tempered, yet Prospero often takes advantage of him. Ariel is the character most responsible for convincing Prospero to forgive the people who wronged him (by describing in detail the terror that Prospero's punishments have inflicted on his victims). He ensures his own freedom from Prospero's control in the process.
Caliban is Prospero's slave, yet he refuses to submit fully to Prospero's will. Caliban plots to have Prospero killed, because he is angry that Prospero arrived and took control of the island; Caliban lived there long before Prospero and feels he is the rightful ruler. Caliban is portrayed both as a trickster and an idiot, a savage and a sensitive man. These contradictions are what make Caliban such a compelling figure. He is often interpreted by scholars as a representation of native Caribbean peoples.
Gonzalo is an advisor who serves Alonso, but he used to work under Prospero when Prospero was the duke of Milan. As such, Gonzalo sympathizes with his former ruler and helps him survive after Prospero is betrayed by his brother. Gonzalo remains loyal to Prospero, and he upholds the values of dedication and kindness throughout the play.
Alonso is the king of Naples, and it is his ship that was at sea during the storm Prospero concocted in order to trap the king and his party on the island. Alonso aided Antonio in deposing Prospero, but he agrees at the end of the play that his actions were wrong.
Ferdinand is Alonso's son, and for most of the play, Alonso believes Ferdinand died during the tempest. Ferdinand is shown to be strong and gallant, and he undertakes grueling physical labor in order to win Miranda's affection and Prospero's approval. By the end of the play, Ferdinand and Miranda are engaged.
Sebastian is Alonso's brother, whom Antonio persuades to plot against Alonso while they are marooned. The two men plan to murder Alonso and Gonzalo in order to set up Sebastian as the king of Naples.
Antonio is Prospero's brother and the play's main villain, as he is the one behind Prospero's usurpation and exile, as well as the instigator of the conspiracy against Alonso. Prospero, though he begrudgingly forgives his brother, remarks at the end of the play that Antonio is the most vile of all those who have wronged him, proving the justice of his revenge.