full title The Tempest
author William Shakespeare
type of work Play
genre Comedy, Romance
language Elizabethan English
time and place written 1610–1611; England
date of first publication 1623
publisher Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount
tone Dreamy, mysterious, magical
setting (time) The Renaissance
setting (place) An island in the Mediterranean sea, probably off the coast of Italy
major conflict Prospero, the duke of Milan and a powerful magician, was banished from Italy and cast to sea by his usurping brother, Antonio, and Alonso, the king of Naples. As the play begins, Antonio and Alonso come under Prospero’s magic power as they sail past his island. Prospero seeks to use his magic to make these lords repent and restore him to his rightful place.
rising action Prospero creates the tempest, causing his enemies’ ship to wreck and its passengers to be dispersed about the island.
climax Alonso and his party stop to rest, and Prospero causes a banquet to be set out before them. Just as they are about to eat, Ariel appears in the shape of a harpy and accuses them of their treachery against Prospero. Alonso is overwhelmed with remorse.
falling action Prospero brings Alonso and the others before him and forgives them. Prospero invites Alonso and his company to stay the night before everyone returns to Italy the next day, where Prospero will reassume his dukedom.
themes The illusion of justice, the difficulty of distinguishing “men” from “monsters,” the allure of ruling a colony
motifs Masters and servants, water and drowning, mysterious noises
symbols The tempest, the game of chess, Prospero’s books
foreshadowing Prospero frequently hints at his plans to bring his enemies before him and to confront them for their treachery. Prospero also hints at his plans to relinquish his magic once he has confronted and forgiven his enemies.