The Tempest: by Shakespeare - Summary

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      The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, published in the First Folio of 1623. No single main source has been established, and this very eclecticism has given strength to those who argue that, in writing what he felt might be his last work for the stage, Shakespeare was consciously summarizing his theatrical art.

      Prospero, exiled Duke of Milan, has taken up a 12-year residence on a remote island, previously inhabited only by the airy spirit, Ariel, arid the earthy Caliban, deformed son of the dead witch, Sycorax. With Prospero is his innocent daughter, Miranda, together with the books and the staff that enable him to practice magic. It is by magic that he brings about a stone and arranges for the arrival on the island of a group of shipwrecked figures from his past. From Milan come his usurping brother Antonio and the loyal counselor Gonzalo, who gave Prospero what help he could when he was cast adrift 12 years before; and from Naples come King Alonso, his son Ferdinand and Sebastian, the king’s scheming brother.

      The play recounts the various adventures of these characters during their days on the island, all overseen by Prospero and organized by Ariel. The outcome is that Miranda, who could recall no man save Caliban and her father, falls in love with Ferdinand, that Sebastian’s malice is exposed to Alonso, and that Antonio restores. The dukedom of Milan to Prospero. At the play’s end, Prospero releases Ariel from his service, returns the island to a chastened Caliban, breaks his staff and buries his books. All will sail for home, guided by the gentle winds Ariel has corjured up.

      Although formally a comedy, The Tempest is more aptly associated with the group of tragi-comic romances with which Shakespeare greeted his company’s move into the indoor theatre of the Blackfriars: Pericles, Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale. It is a complex poetic work, whose mechanical plotting serves to draw attention to wider aesthetic and philosophical themes.

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