Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan has been living for twelve years on an island,
after his jealous brother Antonio - helped by the King of Naples - deposed him and set
him adrift on the Mediterranean with his three year old daughter Miranda.
Possessed of magic powers due his great learning and prodigious library, Prospero is reluctanly served
by a spirit of the air, Ariel, whom he had rescued from imprisonment in a tree.
Prospero maintains Ariel's loyalty by repeatedly promising to release him from servitude, but continually
defers that promise to a vague distant date.
Caliban is a deformed monster and the only non-spiritual
inhabitant before the arrival of Prospero. He taught Prospero how to survive on the island,
while Prospero and Miranda taught Caliban their own language.
Following an attempt to violate Miranda he had been compelled by Prospero to serve as a slave,
carrying wood and gathering pig nuts.
In slavery Caliban has come to view Prospero as an usurper, and grown to resent both him and his daughter
for what he believed to be their betrayal of his trust.
The play opens as Prospero, having divined that his brother, Antonio, is on a ship passing close by the
island ( having returned from the wedding of Alonso's daughter Claribel with the King of Tunis),
has raised a storm, the Tempest, which causes the ship to run aground. Also on the ship are Antonio's
fellow conspirator, King Alonso, Alonso's brother Sebastian, Alonso's royal advisor Gonzalo, and Alonso's
Prospero, by his spells, divides the survivors of the wreck into several groups and Alonso and Ferdinand
are separated believing one another dead.
Three plots then alternate through the play. In one, Caliban falls in with Stephano and Trinculo,
two drunken crew members and attempts to raise a rebellion against Prospero.
In another, Prospero nurtures a romantic relationship between Ferdinand and Miranda; the two immediately
fall in love, but Prospero worries that "too light winning [may] make the prize light", and so compels
Ferdinand to become his servant so that his affection for Miranda will be confirmed.
He also decides that after his plan to exact vengence on his betrayers has come to fruition, he will
break and bury his staff, and "drown" his book of magic.
In the third subplot, Antonio and Sebastian conspire to kill Alonso and his advisor Gonzalo.
Just as they attempt to murder them they are thwarted by Ariel, who appears to the three "men of sin"
as a harpy, reprimanding them for their betrayal of Prospero. Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio are deeply
affected. Prospero manipulates the course of his enemies path through the island, drawing them closer
and closer to him.
In the conclusion, all the characters ar brought together before Prospero. He forgives Alonso,
neglects to mention his brother's betrayal of him, or Sebastian's attempted betrayal of Alonso,
and finally uses his magic to ensure that everyone returns saftely to Italy.