The Tempest Plot Summary (Read Only 2 Min)

Act I
The play opens with a ship-wreck. The passengers are very distinguished and important personages. They are Alonso, the King of Naples; Sebastian, his brother; Antonio, the usurping Duke of Milan; Ferdinand, the son of the King of Naples; Gonzalo, and honest old Counselor and others. A very furious storm is blowing accompanied with noise of thunder and lightning. There seems to be no hope of survival. Most of the passengers are screaming and shouting in desperation.

We are now taken to an island where Prospero lives with his daughter, Miranda. We learn that the storm on the sea had been brought about by. Miranda’s heart is full of pity at the sad fate which the ship and her passengers must have met. But Prospero assures her that the ship, the sailors and the passengers are all absolutely safe. He then narrates to her the story of the misfortunes which he and she had undergone. Miranda had absolutely no knowledge about what Prospero now tells her. She learn from him that twelve years ago he was the Duke of Milan but that having been excessively devoted to study and meditation, he had entrusted the business of administration to his brother Antonio. Finding Prospero too busily engaged in studies, Antonio had conspired with the leading officers of the State and also with Alonso, the King of Naples, to drive Prospero out of the country and become the Duke himself. Accordingly, Prospero and his infant daughter Miranda were put on a boat which was left to the mercy of the winds and waves. A kind lord, Gonzalo had put on the boat necessary provisions, and a number of books which Prospero valued more than even his Dukedom. Prospero and his daughter had drifted to this island where by constant study he acquired powers. Prospero further informs Miranda that the ship by which his enemies were making a voyage has been brought by his music to the shores of this island and that he intends to make the best use of this opportunity. Prospero by his supernatural powers. Commands the obedience & of many spirits of air, earth water arid fire. He also commands many fairies, goblins and elves. Arid is the principal spirit at the beck and call of Prospero and through the medium of Ariel Prospero commands the other spirits. There also lives on this island Caliban, the son of a witch. Caliban is half-human and half-monster. Prospero had tried his utmost to civilize Caliban but in vain, so much so that Caliban once tried to violate the honour of Miranda and since then Prospero has been subjecting him to all kinds of drudgery. Caliban, of course feels very bitter towards Prospero but he is helpless.

Through Ariel’s agency, Prospero has brought all the passengers to the shore and has scattered them in groups on the island, while the sailors have been sent into a charmed sleep in the hold of the ship which is quite safe. After a while, Ariel, under the directions of Prospero lures Ferdinand towards Prospero’s cell. There the young prince is astonished to see Miranda whom at first he thinks to be a goddess. They both fall deeply in love with each other at first sight. Prospero in order to test Ferdinand’s love , pretends to be annoyed with him and subjects him to a humiliating kind of labour.

Act II.
King Alonso is under the impression that his son Ferdinand has been drowned in the sea. Actually, as we know, Ferdinand is safe and, by Prospero’s magic, has been separated from the rest of the party. Gonzalo tries to console Alonso in his grief. Ariel appears, invisible, and by his sleepy music sends all members of the party, except Antonio and Sebastian to sleep. Antonio, the villain that he is, instigates Sebastian to kill Alonso and Gonzalo in their sleep in order that he (Sebastian) might then become the King of Naples. As the two conspirators are about to murder Alonso and Gonzalo, the intended victims are awakened by the invisible Ariel. The plot is thus frustrated, but the conspirators still hope to implement their plan at night.

Caliban happens to meet Stephano who is King Alonso’s butler, and Trinculo, King Alonso’s jester. The trios are a source of a lot of humour in the play, though it must be admitted that the humour is not of a very refined variety. Stephano is drunk and he makes the other two drunk also because he was washed ashore clinging to a cask full of wine. Under the influence of liquor, Caliban begins to think Stephano a god. He promises to become Stephano’s life-long servant if the latter will manage to kill Prospero. Stephano assures him that he will do so.

In the meantime the love between Ferdinand and Miranda has further developed: Miranda cannot bear to see Ferdinand being subjected to the labour of carrying logs of wood. She tells him that either she would become his wife or not marry at all. Having invisibly overheard this conversation between the lovers, Prospero feels happy.
Act Ill.
Having overheard the whole scheme of Caliban and Stephano to kill Prospero, Ariel conveys it to his master Prospero. Playing an irresistible tune on a drum and a pipe Ariel lures the three drunkards into a filthy pond.
Under the directions of Prospero, Arid spreads a banquet before King Alonso and his lords, all of whom are extremely hungry. When they are about to start eating, the banquet disappears as mysteriously as it had appeared before them. Ariel, in the disguise of a harpy, reminds Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian of the wrong they did to Prospero many years ago. Ariel warns them that if they do not repent of their misdeeds and do not take a vow to lead a sinless life in future, they would suffer all kinds of torment and would die a lingering death. King Alonso is frightened almost out of his wits on hearing these words. The sense of guilt overwhelms all the three sinners.

Act IV.
Prospero is now fully satisfied about the genuineness and depth of Ferdinand’s passion for Miranda. He sees the overwhelming love of Miranda for Ferdinand. He therefore, offers Miranda to Ferdinand and says that in due course they would get married. In honour of the engagement of the young lovers, Prospero exercises his supernatural powers to arrange a masque for their entertainment. The masque is performed by spirits appearing in the guise of various goddesses and deities like Iris, June, Ceres,etc. The goddesses shower their blessings on the young couple. When the masque is over and the spirits have melted into the thin air, Prospero says that the whole earth with all its riches, treasures, palaces and temples is itself an illusion that will soon pass away. “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep,” says Prospero.
Prospero has now to deal with Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo, the conspirators. Arid lures them towards Prospero’s cell. There certain spirits appear in the shape of dogs and hounds and they chase away the three conspirators who run away helter- shelter. Prospero then orders the spirits to torment the conspirators with aches, pains and cramps. Prospero also tells Ariel that soon he will release him from his service and make him perfectly free.

Act V. Prospero now softens towards Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian, who have gone almost crazy. He decides to forgive them if they are repentant. “Rare action is in virtue than in vengeance,” he says. He reminds Alonso of the cruel manner in which the latter treated him and his daughter, Miranda. He accuses Sebastian of his share in the intrigue. He calls Antonio an unnatural brother who, for the sake of his ambition, expelled all sympathies and natural affections from his heart. He pays a tribute to Gonzalo for his sympathetic nature. He then reveals his true identity to all of them. They are, of course, astonished to see Prospero alive. They can hardly believe their eyes. Prospero then takes Alonso and others to a cell where Ferdinand and Miranda are playing chess. Alonso is delightfully surprised to see his son alive and on learning that the girl is Prospero’s daughter whom Ferdinand will marry, Alonso feels even more happy. Meanwhile Ariel has awakened the sailors from their charmed slumber. The sailors are astonished to see their ship safe. Prospero now also relents towards Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo. It is decided that the party should spend the night on the island and that they should sail for Naples the next morning from where, after attending the marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda, ‘Prospero proposes to go to his native Milan, the Dukedom of which has now been restored to him. Prospero tells Ariel that after they have all sailed away, he (Ariel) will become absolutely free.

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