play’s protagonist, and father of Miranda. Twelve years before the
events of the play, Prospero was the duke of Milan. His brother,
Antonio, in concert with Alonso, king of Naples, usurped him, forcing
him to flee in a boat with his daughter. The honest lord Gonzalo
aided Prospero in his escape. Prospero has spent his twelve years
on the island refining the magic that gives him the power he needs
to punish and forgive his enemies.
in-depth analysis of Prospero.
daughter of Prospero, Miranda was brought to the island at an early
age and has never seen any men other than her father and Caliban,
though she dimly remembers being cared for by female servants as
an infant. Because she has been sealed off from the world for so
long, Miranda’s perceptions of other people tend to be naïve and
non-judgmental. She is compassionate, generous, and loyal to her
in-depth analysis of Miranda.
spirit helper. Ariel is referred to throughout this SparkNote and
in most criticism as “he,” but his gender and physical form are
ambiguous. Rescued by Prospero from a long imprisonment at the hands
of the witch Sycorax, Ariel is Prospero’s servant until Prospero
decides to release him. He is mischievous and ubiquitous, able to
traverse the length of the island in an instant and to change shapes
at will. He carries out virtually every task that Prospero needs
accomplished in the play.
in-depth analysis of Ariel.
of Prospero’s servants. Caliban, the son of the now-deceased witch
Sycorax, acquainted Prospero with the island when Prospero arrived.
Caliban believes that the island rightfully belongs to him and has
been stolen by Prospero. His speech and behavior is sometimes coarse
and brutal, as in his drunken scenes with Stephano and Trinculo (II.ii,
IV.i), and sometimes eloquent and sensitive, as in his rebukes of
Prospero in Act I, scene ii, and in his description of the eerie
beauty of the island in Act III, scene ii (III.ii.130-138
in-depth analysis of Caliban.
and heir of Alonso. Ferdinand seems in some ways to be as pure and
naïve as Miranda. He falls in love with her upon first sight and
happily submits to servitude in order to win her father’s approval.
of Naples and father of Ferdinand. Alonso aided Antonio in unseating
Prospero as Duke of Milan twelve years before. As he appears in
the play, however, he is acutely aware of the consequences of all
his actions. He blames his decision to marry his daughter to the
Prince of Tunis on the apparent death of his son. In addition, after
the magical banquet, he regrets his role in the usurping of Prospero.
brother. Antonio quickly demonstrates that he is power-hungry and
foolish. In Act II, scene i, he persuades Sebastian to kill the
sleeping Alonso. He then goes along with Sebastian’s absurd story
about fending off lions when Gonzalo wakes up and catches Antonio and
Sebastian with their swords drawn.
brother. Like Antonio, he is both aggressive and cowardly. He is
easily persuaded to kill his
brother in Act II, scene i, and he initiates the ridiculous story
about lions when Gonzalo catches him with his sword drawn.
old, honest lord, Gonzalo helped Prospero and Miranda to escape
after Antonio usurped Prospero’s title. Gonzalo’s speeches provide
an important commentary on the events of the play, as he remarks
on the beauty of the island when the stranded party first lands,
then on the desperation of Alonso after the magic banquet, and on
the miracle of the reconciliation in Act V, scene i.
in-depth analysis of Gonzalo.
Trinculo & Stephano
a jester, and Stephano, a drunken butler,
are two minor members of the shipwrecked party. They provide a comic
foil to the other, more powerful pairs of Prospero and Alonso and
Antonio and Sebastian. Their drunken boasting and petty greed reflect
and deflate the quarrels and power struggles of Prospero and the
only in the first and last scenes, the Boatswain is vigorously
good-natured. He seems competent and almost cheerful in the shipwreck
scene, demanding practical help rather than weeping and praying.
And he seems surprised but not stunned when he awakens from a long
sleep at the end of the play.