The Tempest

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This page contains ideas for memorizing elements from Shakespeare's play, The Tempest. It includes a list of characters, a list of acts, a brief synopsis, and some famous quotes to memorize. There are also some memorable visual images and links to further reading at the bottom of the page.


The Tempest was probably written in 1610–1611.


  • Prospero, the main character. The overthrown Duke of Milan. He now lives on an island and has become a great sorcerer.
  • Miranda, Prospero's daughter, who then falls in love with the Prince of Naples, Ferdinand.
  • Ariel, a mischievous spirit who does Prospero's bidding and is visible only to him. He became Prospero's "slave" because he was saved by him from being trapped in a tree by Sycorax.
  • Caliban, a villainous island native, son of a witch named Sycorax, who ruled the island before Prospero arrived. He now works as Prospero's slave but despises him. Son of Sycorax, sorceress who was put into exile and transferred to the island.
  • Alonso, King of Naples
  • Sebastian, Alonso's treacherous brother.
  • Antonio, Prospero's brother, who usurped his position as Duke of Milan. He and Sebastian plot unsuccessfully to kill Alonso and his family so as to come to the throne.
  • Ferdinand, Alonso's son. Falls in love with Miranda.
  • Gonzalo, a kindly Neapolitan courtier, who secretly provided Prospero and Miranda with food, water, and books when they were pushed out to sea.
  • Adrian and Francisco, lords.
  • Trinculo, the King's jester and friends with Stephano.
  • Stephano, the King's drunken steward and friend of Trinculo who tries to help Caliban to overthrow his master
  • Boatswain -- pronounced "bosun"
  • Master of the ship
  • Iris, Ceres, and Juno, spirits and goddesses

The Acts

[NOTE: This section needs additional work]

A list of acts and major events that can be put into a Memory Palace:

  • Act I, scene I
    • The tempest hits boat carrying Alonso and company
    • Argument on deck
    • Gonzalo shows his character
    • Ship splits apart
  • Act I, scene II
    • Prospero and Miranda watch the ship in the tempest
    • Prospero assures Miranda that the crew will be safe
    • Prospero tells the story of their exile
    • Prospero casts a sleep spell on Miranda and summons Ariel
    • Ariel has scattered the crew about the island
    • Ariel departs, Miranda wakes
    • The call Caliban to fetch wood
    • Ferdinand wanders alone, let by Ariel's song
    • Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love at first sight
    • Prospero imprisons Ferdinand to test him
    • Prospero promises eventual freedom to Ariel
  • Act II, scene I
  • Act II, scene II
  • Act III, scene I
  • Act III, scene II
  • Act III, scene III
  • Act IV, scene I
  • Act V, scene I
  • Epilogue


The magician Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda, have been stranded for twelve years on an island after Prospero's jealous brother Antonio (aided by Alonso, the King of Naples) deposed him and set him adrift with the then-3-year-old Miranda. Gonzalo, the King's counsellor, had secretly supplied their boat with plenty of food, water, clothes and the most-prized books from Prospero's library.

Possessing magic powers due to his great learning, Prospero is reluctantly served by a spirit, Ariel, whom Prospero had rescued from a tree in which he had been trapped by the witch Sycorax. Prospero maintains Ariel's loyalty by repeatedly promising to release the "airy spirit" from servitude. Sycorax had been banished to the island, and had died before Prospero's arrival. Her son, Caliban, a deformed monster and the only non-spiritual inhabitant before the arrival of Prospero, was initially adopted and raised by him. He taught Prospero how to survive on the island, while Prospero and Miranda taught Caliban religion and their own language. Following Caliban's attempted rape of Miranda, he had been compelled by Prospero to serve as the magician's slave. In slavery, Caliban has come to view Prospero as a usurper and has grown to resent him and his daughter. Prospero and Miranda in turn view Caliban with contempt and disgust.

The play opens as Prospero, having divined that his brother, Antonio, is on a ship passing close by the island, has raised a tempest which causes the ship to run aground. Also on the ship are Antonio's friend and fellow conspirator, King Alonso of Naples, Alonso's brother and son (Sebastian and Ferdinand), and Alonso's advisor, Gonzalo. All these passengers are returning from the wedding of Alonso's daughter Claribel with the King of Tunis. Prospero contrives to separate the shipwreck survivors into several groups by his spells, and so Alonso and Ferdinand are separated, each believing the other to be dead.

Three plots then alternate through the play. In one, Caliban falls in with Stephano and Trinculo, two drunkards, who he believes have come from the moon. They attempt to raise a rebellion against Prospero, which ultimately fails. In another, Prospero works to establish a romantic relationship between Ferdinand and Miranda; the two fall immediately in love, but Prospero worries that "too light winning [may] make the prize light," and compels Ferdinand to become his servant, pretending that he regards him as a spy. In the third subplot, Antonio and Sebastian conspire to kill Alonso and Gonzalo so that Sebastian can become King. They are thwarted by Ariel, at Prospero's command. Ariel appears to the "three men of sin" (Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian) as a harpy, reprimanding them for their betrayal of Prospero. Prospero manipulates the course of his enemies' path through the island, drawing them closer and closer to him.

In the conclusion, all the main characters are brought together before Prospero, who forgives Alonso. He also forgives Antonio and Sebastian, but warns them against further betrayal. Ariel is charged to prepare the proper sailing weather to guide Alonso and his entourage (including Prospero and Miranda) back to the Royal fleet and then to Naples, where Ferdinand and Miranda will be married. After discharging this task, Ariel will finally be free. Prospero pardons Caliban, who is sent to prepare Prospero's cell, to which Alonso and his party are invited for a final night before their departure. Prospero indicates that he intends to entertain them with the story of his life on the island. Prospero has resolved to break and bury his magic staff, and "drown" his book of magic, and in his epilogue, shorn of his magic powers, he invites the audience to set him free from the island with their applause.

Famous Lines

Here are some famous excerpts that can be memorized. Feel free to add more to this section.

Ariel's song:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell
Burthen Ding-dong
Hark! now I hear them,--Ding-dong, bell.


Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Sebastian's insult to Boatswain, Act I, Scene I:

A pox o' your throat, you bawling, blasphemous,
incharitable dog!

Caliban's insult:

As wicked dew as e'er my mother brush'd
With raven's feather from unwholesome fen
Drop on you both! a south-west blow on ye
And blister you all o'er!

Image Gallery

For use in mnemonic images:

External Links