The Tempest – Background Info, Characters, Review Questions

What kind of play is The Tempest? Tragic comedy
The Tempest is Shakespeare’s ___ ___? last play
Setting On a ship and an island
Characteristics of Shakespeare comedies The play names events (Ex: A Mid Summer Night’s Dream, 12th Night, Taming of the Shrew). Its a situation; sitcom comedy.
Characteristics of Shakespeare tragedies The play names people. (Ex: Macbeth, Lear, Hamlet.)
Comedy in The Tempest verbal/word play, puns, jokes, malaprop, sexual innuendos, appearance (facial expressions), physical actions
Prospero The play’s protagonist; father of Miranda. Twelve years before the events of the play, Prospero was the duke of Milan. His brother, Antonio, working with Alonso, king of Naples, usurped him, forcing him to flee in a boat with his daughter. The honest lord Gonzalo aided Prospero in his escape (gave them food, water, clothes, Propero’s books). Prospero has spent his twelve years on the island refining the magic that gives him the power he needs to punish and forgive his enemies.
Miranda The daughter of Prospero, Miranda was brought to the island at an early age and has never seen any men other than her father and Caliban, though she dimly remembers being cared for by female servants as an infant. She falls in love with Ferdinand at first sight. Because she has been sealed off from the world for so long, Miranda’s perceptions of other people tend to be naïve, innocent, and non-judgmental. She is compassionate, generous, and loyal to her father.
Ariel Prospero’s spirit helper. Ariel’s gender and physical form are ambiguous. Rescued by Prospero from a long imprisonment at the hands of the witch Sycorax, Ariel is Prospero’s servant until Prospero decides to release him. He is mischievous and ubiquitous, able to traverse the length of the island in an instant and to change shapes at will. He carries out virtually every task that Prospero needs accomplished in the play.
Caliban Another of Prospero’s servants. Caliban, the son of the now-deceased witch Sycorax, acquainted Prospero with the island when Prospero arrived. Prospero hates Caliban because the monster tried to rape Miranda. Caliban believes that the island rightfully belongs to him and has been stolen by Prospero. His speech and behavior is sometimes coarse and brutal, as in his drunken scenes with Stephano and Trinculo, and sometimes eloquent and sensitive, as in his rebukes of Prospero in Act I, scene ii, and in his description of the eerie beauty of the island in Act III, scene ii.
Ferdinand Son and heir of Alonso. Ferdinand seems in some ways to be as pure and naïve as Miranda. He falls in love with her upon first sight and happily submits to servitude in order to win her father’s approval.
Alonso King of Naples and father of Ferdinand. Alonso aided Antonio in unseating Prospero as Duke of Milan twelve years before. As he appears in the play, however, he is acutely aware of the consequences of all his actions. He blames his decision to marry his daughter to the Prince of Tunis on the apparent death of his son. In addition, after the magical banquet, he regrets his role in the usurping of Prospero.
Antonio Prospero’s brother. Antonio quickly demonstrates that he is power-hungry and foolish. In Act II, scene i, he persuades Sebastian to kill the sleeping Alonso. He then goes along with Sebastian’s absurd story about fending off lions when Gonzalo wakes up and catches Antonio and Sebastian with their swords drawn.
Sebastian Alonso’s brother. Like Antonio, he is both aggressive and cowardly. He is easily persuaded to kill his brother in Act II, scene i, and he initiates the ridiculous story about lions when Gonzalo catches him with his sword drawn.
Gonzalo An old, honest lord, Gonzalo helped Prospero and Miranda to escape after Antonio usurped Prospero’s title. Gonzalo’s speeches provide an important commentary on the events of the play, as he remarks on the beauty of the island when the stranded party first lands, then on the desperation of Alonso after the magic banquet, and on the miracle of the reconciliation in Act V, scene i.
Trinculo & Stephano Trinculo, a jester, and Stephano, a drunken butler, are two minor members of the shipwrecked party. They provide a comic foil to the other, more powerful pairs of Prospero and Alonso and Antonio and Sebastian. Their drunken boasting and petty greed reflect and deflate the quarrels and power struggles of Prospero and the other noblemen.
Boatswain Appearing only in the first and last scenes, the Boatswain is vigorously good-natured. He seems competent and almost cheerful in the shipwreck scene, demanding practical help rather than weeping and praying. And he seems surprised but not stunned when he awakens from a long sleep at the end of the play.
Characters in the masque Iris, Ceres, Juno, Nymphs, Reapers
What is a masque? A play within a play.
What might have been Shakespeare’s purpose in starting the play with “a tempestuous noise of thunder and lighting”? For dramatic effect and to get the attention of the crowd.
How is Nature the “great equalizer” in Act 1, Scene 1? Nature doesn’t care about social class or the amount of wealth person had, it will wreak havoc on anything in its vicinity.
What request does Miranda make of her father as Act 1 Scene 2 opens? To stop the storm
What does Miranda remember about her childhood? She remembers she had maids/nannies.
How long have Prospero and Miranda been on the island? 12 years; since she was 3
What was Prospero’s title? Duke of Milan
How did Gonzalo help Miranda and Prospero when they fled Italy? He gave them food, water, and Prospero’s books
Why did Prospero hand over the duties of government to his brother? Prospero wanted to pursue his studies but Antonio usurped him.
With whom did Antonio conspire with to usurp Prospero? Alonso, King of Naples
Why didn’t Antonio and Alonso kill Prospero and Miranda? They were loved be the people.
Why did Prospero cause the storm? to bring his enemies within his grasp.
Ariel reminds Prospero of his promise. What was that promise? And what does Prospero then remind Ariel? That he would free Ariel after 1 year. Prospero reminds Ariel that he freed Ariel from the tree that Sycorax bounded him to.
What has happened to the crew? They are asleep on the ship.
Where was Ariel trapped and for how long? Why was he trapped there? In a tree for 12 years. For disobeying Sycorax.
What was Miranda’s contribution to Caliban’s education? She taught him to speak and tell time. Caliban learns to curse from her.
What was Miranda’s reaction when she first sees Ferdinand? Ferdinand’s reaction to Miranda? Miranda thinks Ferdinand is a spirit and Ferdinand thinks Miranda is a goddess.
When Miranda speaks, what surprises Ferdinand? She speaks his language.
Why were the king and his men at sea when the storm hit? They were on their way from from Tunis, in Africa, where Alonso’s daughter, Claribel, was married to a prince.
What regrets does Alonso express regarding the marriage of his daughter? He regrets having his daughter marry a man so far away from him. He is scared he has lost her.
What is Gonzalo’s description of the commonwealth he would establish if he had the government of it? Gonzalo’s ideal world is one where ownership of everything would be shared. He believes they can create this harmonious society on the island.
What do Sebastian and Antonio plot once the others are put to sleep by Ariel? Why prevents them from doing so? How do Antonio and Sebastian explain their threatening attitude? They plot to kill Alonso so Sebastian could become king. Ariel awakens Gonzalo who screams and wakes everyone else up. Antonio and Sebastian’s excuse is that their swords were drawn to protect the king from lions.
What does Prospero do to test Ferdinand’s character? Prospero orders Ferdinand to pile up logs (normally Caliban’s job).
What do Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano plot to do? Kill Prospero
Major themes of the play Usurpation; nature vs. nurture; imprisonment and freedom; forgiveness and reconciliation; illusion and magic; colonialism; sleep and dreams; change and transformation.
List the roles that Prospero plays Magnus and scholar; prince; father; revenger; man; master; actor; Shakespeare
Whom does Caliban mistake for one of Prospero’s spirits sent to torment him? Trinculo
From which country is Alonso’s ship returning when it is caught in the tempest? Tunis
What was the name of Caliban’s mother? Sycorax
What do we see Miranda and Ferdinand doing in the play’s final scene? Playing chess
What shape does Ariel assume at the magical banquet in Act III, scene iii? a harpy
What do Prospero and Ariel set out as bait for Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano? gaudy clothing
What does Caliban say must be done before Prospero can be killed? His books must be seized
What is the final task Prospero orders Ariel to perform? To give the fleet calm seas on its return to Italy

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