A quick overview of the plot of The Tempest.
  • Prospero used to be Duke of Milan but his brother Antonio overthrew him with the help of Alonso, King of Naples.

    Did you know? Naples and Milan

    Many of Shakespeare’s plays are set in Italy or have connections with Italy. In Shakespeare’s time, Italy was divided up into regions ruled by cities like Milan and Naples. In The Tempest, Naples is the more powerful city.

  • Prospero was cast out to sea in a boat with his three-year-old daughter Miranda and they landed on a magical island which they made their home.

  • Now, Alonso is on a ship sailing near to the island. He is with his son Ferdinand, his brother Sebastian and Prospero’s brother Antonio. Prospero knows this and uses magic to create a sea storm.

  • Miranda watches the storm and the ship from the shore of the island and asks Prospero to calm the storm down.

    Did you know? Uncharted Seas

    Although it is clear in the play that Alonso’s ship was sailing across the Mediterranean, because the island is magical it could be anywhere. When writing The Tempest, Shakespeare was probably influenced by stories that sailors brought back from their explorations into the New World of Central and North America.

  • Prospero has developed magical powers. He created the storm with the help of Ariel, a spirit who has become his servant.

  • Ariel does what Prospero asks him to and makes sure all the people on the ship get washed up on the island. He also makes sure Ferdinand is separated from his father Alonso.

  • Miranda and Ferdinand see each other and fall in love. Prospero pretends not to agree to them getting married straight away and tests Ferdinand's love.

  • Two of Alonso’s servants, Stephano and Trinculo, also get shipwrecked on the island. They meet Caliban, a creature from the island who Prospero treats like a slave. Caliban hopes Stephano and Trinculo will help him get rid of Prospero.

  • Ariel appears to Alonso and his nobles and tells them they are being punished for how they treated Prospero. Alonso apologises to Prospero and makes him Duke of Milan again.

  • Prospero then reveals to Alonso that Ferdinand is still alive and is engaged to Miranda. Ariel punishes Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo for trying to harm Prospero and also reveals that the ship is safe and ready to sail back to Naples.

Teacher Notes

The following summary from the Little Angel Theatre company is a great way to introduce the story of The Tempest to a group of students who are getting to know the play and can even be used to think about how they might stage their own versions with puppets or objects.

The story of the Tempest (2011)

The summary can be found on page 3.

You can also print the ten lines on this page and ask students to work in pairs to arrange them in the order they take place in the play.