The Tempest
The Tempest
by William Shakespeare

The Tempest Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

The Supernatural

In The Tempest, magic is a dazzling art form that infuses the play with a sense of wonder and a whole lot of spectacle. (Think "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" in Disney's Fantasia, but better.) This l...

Art and Culture

"Now my charms are all o'erthrown, / And what strength I have's mine own" (Epilogue). So says the newly retired magician as he bids adieu to the audience. Since The Tempest is likely the last play...

Contrasting Regions

Although the play takes place entirely on an island, The Tempest dramatizes the divide between the courtly worlds and the wilderness.  As the play opens, Prospero, a former Italian duke now li...

Freedom and Confinement

The Tempest is obsessed with the concept of imprisonment – both literal and figurative.  Prospero and Miranda are forced to live in exile on a remote island, where Prospero enslaves the isla...

Man and the Natural World

Is man more "noble" in a natural state than in a state of civilization?  The Tempest returns to this question over and over again – in its portrayal of the ambiguous "monster" Caliban and in...

Betrayal

Loyalty and betrayal are linked to The Tempest's larger themes of servitude and freedom; either feeling is motivated by how each individual perceives his position relative to others. Antonio's betr...

Compassion and Forgiveness

"The rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance" (5.1.2).  This is Prospero's startling revelation after years of living in exile and plotting his return to Italy.  The Tempest's empha...

The Divine

The divine is a parallel to Prospero's magic in The Tempest. Like nature, the divine is often given credit for Prospero's work, yet it has a special meaning for Prospero in particular. He is the on...

Versions of Reality

Perspective plays a large role in The Tempest. The island is dominated by magic, and it clouds the ability of all the new arrivals to tell the difference between reality and the magical illusions t...

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