The Tempest Book Summary - The Tempest Book explained in key points
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The Tempest summary

Embark On an Enchanted Journey Through a Magical Island Realm

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Brief summary

The Tempest by William Shakespeare is a captivating play that explores themes of power, revenge, and forgiveness. It follows the sorcerer Prospero, who uses his magic to orchestrate a tempest that brings his enemies to the island where he has been exiled.

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    The Tempest
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    A stormy beginning

    The Tempest begins in medias res – in other words, right in the thick of action. We open on a ship. Amid turbulent waves and high winds, a boatswain and a shipmaster are growing increasingly stressed, shouting at each other about passing ropes and taking in the topsail. Their anxiety is heightened by the knowledge that they’re carrying some very important passengers: Alonso, the King of Naples, along with his son Ferdinand, his brother Sebastian, Antonio, the Duke of Milan, and a suite of various other courtiers.

    We cut to the next scene. On the shores of a wild island, the magician Prospero, who also happens to be the exiled Duke of Milan, is watching the wild seas with his daughter, Miranda. Miranda pleads with her father: “If by your art, dearest father, you have put these wild waters in this roar, allay them.” She suspects Prospero has conjured the storm on purpose; the gleeful way her father watches the wind-tossed ship is not exactly assuaging her suspicions. 

    And it’s true – Prospero has magicked up the storm with the help of his servant, Ariel. Some backstory here: Ariel is an air-spirit who was imprisoned in a tree by the evil (and now-dead) witch Sycorax. When Prospero rescued him, he harnessed the spirit’s magic powers for himself. Ariel does Prospero’s bidding in the hope that one day he will finally be freed.

    Prospero proudly admits that the storm is his handiwork, and sends Ariel off to calm the waters. Then he explains to his shocked daughter exactly why he conjured the storm in the first place. Miranda has never known anything apart from the strange island where she now lives. But, as Prospero explains, he was once the rightful Duke of Milan – until his brother, Antonio, with the help of Alonso, the King of Naples, ousted him from the throne. Prospero and his then-infant daughter, Miranda, were sent to this desolate enchanted island, which had been inhabited only by the air-spirit Ariel and the monstrous Caliban, son of Sycorax. Now, Prospero has cast a spell to draw this ship, and its passengers – especially the back-stabbing neapolitan King Alonso – to the island where he can exact his revenge on them.

    Ariel returns from his mission to report that the spell has worked. The sailors and passengers onboard are shaken but unharmed, and the ship is now floating inexorably toward the island’s shore.

    Caliban enters, and it’s immediately clear there’s bad blood between him, Prospero, and Miranda. Miranda calls him “abhorred slave” and Prospero refers to him as “hag-seed,” while Caliban reminds the pair, “This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother.” In fact, ever since Caliban made advances on Miranda, Prospero has forced Caliban, like Ariel, into servitude. 

    Meanwhile, Alonso, his courtiers, and the ship’s crew have landed on one side of the island – and Ariel has lured Alonso’s son, Ferdinand, to the other side. When Ferdinand wonders what’s become of his father, Ariel leads him to believe he’s drowned, singing “Full fathom five thy father lies.” Ferdinand is plunged into grief. But his grief soon turns to passion when he encounters the beautiful Miranda.


    Throughout The Tempest, Shakespeare blurs the lines between man and monster, civilization and savagery. Prospero represents European civilization and nobility. With his arrival on the island, he brings order and education to its inhabitants, especially to the grotesque Caliban. In fact, many critics have read the play as a commentary on colonialism, with Prospero as colonizing European and Caliban as the “reviled” colonized other. 

    Yet, as the play wears on, the so-called civilized Italian noblemen will begin to act in decidedly uncivilized ways, while Caliban will display a rich, eloquent appreciation of the island which is, as he reminds Prospero, rightfully his. We can see how Shakespeare sets up a dichotomy between enlightened European and uncivilized savage; then, through the introduction of moral complexity, he dismantles this same dichotomy to show there’s good and bad on both sides of the divide.

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    What is The Tempest about?

    The Tempest (1623) is the ultimate revenge story. After being exiled from Milan by his scheming brother, the sorcerer Prospero uses his magical powers to conjure a storm that shipwrecks his enemies on his island, where he uses a series of magical illusions to take his vengeance. 

    The Tempest Review

    The Tempest (1611) is a captivating play that we highly recommend reading. Here's why it's worth your time:

    • This book is a good book because of its fascinating storyline of a shipwrecked group on a magical island, filled with love, revenge, and forgiveness.
    • With its exploration of power and control, it delves into complex human emotions, raising thought-provoking questions about societal norms.
    • Shakespeare's genius shines through in the vivid characters and lyrical language, making the play an engaging and rich literary work.

    Who should read The Tempest?

    • Shakespeare-lovers looking to fill the gaps in their knowledge of the bard’s repertoire
    • Fantasy enthusiasts interested in one of the earliest treatments of magic in literature
    • Anyone whose interest is piqued by shipwrecks, sorcery, and vengeance

    About the Author

    William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was an English poet and playwright who wrote nearly 40 plays and over 150 poems during the Renaissance period. Though details of his personal life are scarce, his works such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear have profoundly impacted literature and culture.

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    The Tempest FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Tempest?

    The main message of The Tempest is that forgiveness and reconciliation have the power to overcome past wrongs.

    How long does it take to read The Tempest?

    The reading time for The Tempest varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Tempest a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Tempest is an intriguing play that explores themes of power, illusion, and redemption. It's definitely worth reading for its complex characters and poetic language.

    Who is the author of The Tempest?

    The author of The Tempest is William Shakespeare.

    What to read after The Tempest?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Tempest, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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