The Tempest-Key themes



  • Prospero and Ariel in the play and a number of other characters also disguise their true selves.


  • Common in Shakespeare's plays, animals are used to describe many characters, particularly Caliban to reflect his earthly nature.


  • Dominates all the groups.


  • There are many potential leaders in the play, but few good ones.


  • The key to Prospero's downfall and his revenge.

Earth, air 

  • Links to Caliban and Ariel as slaves/servants


  • Prospero is mainly responsible for justice and forgiveness.
  • Unjustice act of the usurpation of Prospero's throne by his brother and Prospero's quest to re-establish justice by restoring himself to power.

Breakdown of communication in The Tempest

  • Between family members 
  • Prospero and Miranda- Act 1, Scene 2
  • Antonio and Prospero- Act 1, Scene 2
  • Alonso and Sebastian- Act 2, Scene 1
  • Between other characters
  • Miranda and Ferdinand- Act 1, Scene 2
  • Gonzalo and other characters- Act 2, Scene 1

Language as a form of control

  • Prospero over:
  • Miranda Act 1, Scene 2
  • Caliban Act 1, Scene 2
  • Ariel Act 1, Scene 2

Caliban over:

  • Stephano and Trinculo, Act 3, Scene 2

Ariel over: 

  • The other characters- Act 3, Scene 3


  • Critics believe that Shakespeare is saying 'farewell' to Theatre- shown through character 'Prospero'.
  • How natives may not always be Cannibals.
  • However, Caliban is a natural slave.
  • Ends in resolution.


  • Prospero and Miranda travel to a new land, settle there and impose their language and culture on the native people.
  • This reflects what happened in the early 17th century when people travelled from Europe to new lands such as America.
  • They claimed the territory for themselves and like Prospero, took over and imposed their own culture and language


The illusion of Justice

The Tempest tells a fairly straightforward story involving an unjust act, the usurpation of Prospero's throne by his brother, and Prospero's quest to re-establish justice by restoring himself to power. However, the idea of justice that the play works toward seems highly subjective, since this idea represents the view of one character who controls the fate of all the other characters. Though Prospero presents himself as a victim of injustice working to right the wrongs that have been done to him, Prospero's idea of justice and injustice is somewhat hypocritical- though he is furious with his brother for taking his power, he has no qualms about enslaving Ariel and Caliban in order to achieve his ends. At many moments throughout the play, Prospero's sense of justice seems extremely one-sided and mainly inolves what is good for Prospero. Moreover, because the play offers no notion of higher order or justice to supersede Prospero's interpretation of events, the play is morally ambigious. 

As the play progresses, however, it becomes more and more involved with the idea of creativity and art, and Prospero's role begins to mirror more explicitly the role of an author creating a story around him. With this metaphor in mind, and especially if we accept Prospero as a surrogate…


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