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Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

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

protagonist Prospero

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.