The Tempest Summary

The Tempest is a unique and beautiful play that focuses on love and forgiveness at the crossroad of betrayal and magic. The main actions happen on a small island somewhere near Italy. The ship crushes there after a storm. An old magician Prospero and his daughter, Miranda, who live there with a spirit and a wild man, find some survivors.

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Looking for The Tempest summary? Acts 1 – 5 and all the key events of the play by Shakespeare are described on this page by experts. A short synopsis and an illustrated timeline of The Tempest are also here.

📈 The Tempest Timeline

Below is a plot infographic of The Tempest by William Shakespeare. It describes all the key events of the play.

The picture contains a plot infographic of The Tempest that describes all the key events of the play.

🌊 The Tempest Act 1 Summary

Act 1 Scene 1

The Tempest summary begins with the wild sea storm. It appears that there are royals on the ship that cruises among the waves. King Alonso of Naples is on board. He is sailing home from the wedding of his daughter with his son Ferdinand. They are accompanied by Antonio, Gonzalo, and Sebastian.

The king enters and interrupts the sailors that are trying to save the ship. He demands to know where the captain is. The boatswain doesn’t want the passengers to interfere, so he sends everyone below the deck.

Do you not hear him? You mar our labour: keep your
cabins: you do assist the storm.

The Tempest Act 1 Scene 1

Gonzalo, the king’s counselor, finds the answer quite rude. However, the boatswain replies that if the king can’t use his great power to stop the storm, he should proceed below the decks. The royalty retreats from the scene, perhaps, to do as they are told.

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However, three men return almost immediately. Gonzalo, Antonio, and Sebastian are cursing the boatswain, who is already quite annoyed with the unwanted party on the deck. He is still trying his best to save the ship, but at the same moment, some of the sailors come in. They are devastated but have to admit that it is not possible to save it. It seems to be the most tragic moment in Act 1 of The Tempest. Antonio, Sebastian, and Gonzalo feel the approaching death and decide to go hide in fear.

Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an
acre of barren ground, long heath, brown furze, any
thing. The wills above be done! but I would fain
die a dry death.

The Tempest Act 1 Scene 1

They join the rest of the royal team below the decks to pray for their lives there. That is where The Tempest’s Act 1 summary proceeds to Scene 2.

Act 1 Scene 2

Act 1 Scene 2 of The Tempest starts with the change of the setting. Prospero and Miranda are on the island, watching the ship tossed by the wind and waves. Prospero has created the storm. His daughter begs him to stop as it’s painful to watch. He refuses and claims that it is for her protection. Prospero then proceeds to explain the details of her birthright and their lives before they came there.

Thy mother was a piece of virtue, and
She said thou wast my daughter; and thy father
Was Duke of Milan; and thou his only heir
And princess no worse issued.

The Tempest Act 1 Scene 2

It appears that Prospero is the duke of Milan and Miranda is the princess. He was so obsessed with the books in the library that he delegated most of the duties to his brother, Antonio. Books play an important symbolic role in The Tempest. However, it was a mistake since Antonio used his position and plotted a betrayal with the king of Naples. They put Prospero and Miranda in a tiny boat and sent them away. Gonzalo pitied them so provided them some clothes and even a few books. The boat reached the island where they have been living ever since.

When he finishes the story, he puts Miranda to sleep. The spirit, Ariel, appears to update on the state on the ship and its passengers.

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Not a hair perish’d;
On their sustaining garments not a blemish,
But fresher than before: and, as thou badest me,
In troops I have dispersed them ’bout the isle.

The Tempest Act 1 Scene 2

All the crew members are asleep, and the ship itself is hidden, while the passenger split and disembarked in different parts of the island. Prospero still wants to use Ariel, so he refuses to let him go. Then he wakes Miranda up and has a chat with Caliban, son of the witch. Caliban is controlled by Prospero’s magic and serves as a slave. Colonialism and slavery are essential literary themes in The Tempest. Then Ariel enters with Ferdinand, who instantly falls in love with Miranda.&

🏝️ The Tempest Act 2 Summary

Act 2 Scene 1

The Tempest Act 2 Scene 1 starts with the gathering of all the survivors. King Alonso is grieving over his missing son, Ferdinand, while Gonzalo is trying to cheer up the rest with the speech about their miraculous survival. Antonio and Sebastian do not show much sympathy for the king’s feelings. They join the general conversation and start telling Alonso off for allowing his daughter to marry an African. The men state that they wouldn’t even be on that ship in the middle of the storm if Alonso was more sensible. The counselor steps in since those words seem too harsh for the ears of a grieving father.

The spirit arrives and puts everyone to sleep, except Sebastian, and Antonio. They immediately begin to plot against the crown. Sebastian wishes to throw his brother off the throne, just like Antonio did to Prospero. Even though he has some doubts, Antonio is much more confident, and he encourages them to take action before everybody wakes up.

With little to no hesitation, the two of them draw their swords, ready to kill the king. It’s a very tense moment of The Tempest’s Act 2 summary. However, Ariel wakes up Gonzalo to prevent the tragedy.

My master through his art foresees the danger
That you, his friend, are in; and sends me forth –
For else his project dies – to keep them living.

The Tempest Act 2 Scene 1

Now, Sebastian and Antonio have to cover up their true intentions. They say something about loud roaring, presumably coming from lions or tigers. The king doesn’t need much to believe that his brother is innocent. Therefore, the whole party leaves to look for Ferdinand.

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Act 2 Scene 2

Caliban appears to open Act 2 Scene 2 of The Tempest. He curses his master but suddenly hears someone approaching. In fear of another torture from Prospero’s spirits, Caliban hides under the coat on the ground and only leaves his feet out. The king’s jester, Trinculo, comes out instead of the spirit. He is looking for shelter from the storm. When he sees Caliban, he thinks it’s some kind of monster since there is only a part of the human’s body visible. Trinculo’s first thought is to use this monster for profit, creating a freak show. But after a closer examination, it appears that Caliban is an islander, so Trinculo hides under his coat, using it as a shelter.

Stefano, who is the king’s butler, appears and sees a weird object with four legs sticking out.

Four legs and two voices: a most delicate monster!

The Tempest Act 2 Scene 2

He’s quite drunk, and his course of thought is similar to Trinculo’s. However, after all the poking Stefano does, Caliban is alarmed since he thinks it’s another torture. Then the butler pulls the cloak of the men and pours some wine into Caliban. Trinculo is just happy to see that he is not the only survivor. So, the three of them are now drinking together. Caliban proclaims Stefano his new God and promises him the best provision on the island.

‘Ban, ‘Ban, Cacaliban
Has a new master: get a new man.

The Tempest Act 2 Scene 2

With all of them leaving, The Tempest’s Act 2 Scene 2 summary ends.

💞 The Tempest Act 3 Summary

Act 3 Scene 1

The opening of Act 3 of The Tempest falls on Ferdinand’s shoulders. It appears that he is carrying those heavy logs as a punishment. However, this tough task doesn’t seem to bother him much as the thoughts about Miranda ease his ordeal. Miranda enters and insists on helping him, but Ferdinand doesn’t need any rest, so he refuses. The girl knows she is not allowed to tell him her name, but she still does it. Meanwhile, Ferdinand replies that Miranda is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

Admired Miranda!
Indeed the top of admiration! worth
What’s dearest to the world!

The Tempest Act 3 Scene 1

Miranda confesses that Ferdinand is the only man she met besides her father. Still, she knows for sure that he is her only one.

At this moment, the girl remembers that she is not supposed to talk to their guest and gets quiet. Ferdinand uses this chance to offer his service, and Miranda wants to know about his feelings. The king’s son declares his love, making her cry.

Miranda feels like she is not worthy of his attention, but if he accepts her, marriage is her desire. She goes beyond the traditional gender role and works up the courage to propose to Ferdinand. The latter agrees in a heartbeat, and the couple finally touch hands. Prospero has overheard the whole conversation and seems quite pleased with the turn of events. He considers them as a perfect couple but needs to return to other important business and leaves, finishing Act 3 Scene 1 of The Tempest.

Act 3 Scene 2

In this scene, the audience has the chance to see how Stefano, Trinculo, and Caliban are doing. It is obvious that they are extremely drunk already. Caliban finally opens up about his plans to murder Prospero and asks his new friends to assist him. He begins to explain why he should be considered the rightful owner of the whole island while Ariel arrives. However, the spirit only listens without showing itself. Caliban wants to kill Prospero and burn all his books out of revenge. Then, Stefano can marry Miranda so that she becomes the queen of the island. They all agree with such an idea.

Monster, I will kill this man: his daughter and I
will be king and queen – save our graces!

The Tempest Act 3 Scene 2

Ariel decides to tell Prospero about it later. The men are so cheerful that they begin to sing, and the spirit accompanies them with some music. It scares Stefano and Trinculo, but the islander reassures them that everything is alright. Caliban explains that he hears this music a lot on the island. Therefore, Stefano turns it into a good thing and takes it as a good sign. The man is sure of the success of their plan, and all of them leave the scene, following the sound of music. Meanwhile, Act 3 summary of The Tempest proceeds to Scene 3.

Act 3 Scene 3

The focus is back on the royal party. They searched for Ferdinand as hard as they could but failed. Now, tired and hungry, they are resting on the beach. Prospero watches them from the hiding. Then, the men notice that several shapes resembling ghosts appear. Moreover, it seems like the lavish banquet emerges out of nothing as well. The spirits try to point out the royal party at the food, inviting them to come closer and enjoy it. A moment later, the shapes disappear. It is understandable that the people are skeptical and afraid. However, they are too hungry to resist.

At the same moment, Ariel emerges wearing a disguise of a harpy. He makes the banquet vanish in a second and starts accusing the king, Sebastian, and Antonio of their sins.

You are three men of sin, whom Destiny,
That hath to instrument this lower world
And what is in’t, the never-surfeited sea
Hath caused to belch up you.

The Tempest Act 3 Scene 3

The other men take out their swords, seemingly ready for defense, but in fact, they are too scared. Their bodies are frozen in the face of the unknown magic. Meanwhile, the whole scene and Ariel’s words make Alonso terrified, and he chooses to flee. Antonio and Sebastian follow his steps soon after that. However, Gonzalo is worried about the king, so he sends two men, Francisco and Adrian, to watch the escaped company.

🧙 The Tempest Act 4 Summary (Scene 1)

Prospero agrees that his behavior has been somewhat unfair and offers a reward to Ferdinand and Miranda. Since Prospero sees that their love is true after all the challenges, he blesses Ferdinand to marry Miranda. Ariel is supposed to organize a celebration now. Some of the other spirits offer a special performance. Now, The Tempest’s Act 4 summary takes another turn. Prospero remembers the three men who want to get rid of him. He stops the celebration to talk to Ariel. The spirit reports that he led the men into the filthy pond. They were so drunk that they stayed there wallowing.

I told you, sir, they were red-hot with drinking;
So fun of valour that they smote the air
For breathing in their faces…

The Tempest Act 4 Scene 1

Prospero asks Ariel to leave nice clothes for them nearby as a trap.

Stefano, Trinculo, and Caliban appear covered in mud and smelling. Stefano and Trinculo are upset about losing the bottles with alcohol the most. When they notice the clothes, it cheers them up a little bit. However, Caliban tries to warn them about possible dangers as it might be Prospero’s trap. But the king’s staff ignore him and refuse to stay on track. Soon, Prospero and Ariel appear, accompanied by the spirits and disguised as hunters and hounds. The three men run away with the spirits chasing them. Prospero promises to free Ariel soon enough.

💫 The Tempest Act 5 Summary + Epilogue

Act 5 Scene 1 of The Tempest opens up with Ariel telling Prospero that Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian are lost and scared, while Gonzalo is still worried about the king.

…The king,
His brother and yours, abide all three distracted
And the remainder mourning over them,
Brimful of sorrow and dismay…

The Tempest Act 5 Scene 1

Ariel leaves to bring them, and Prospero talks about his magic. He promises to get rid of it now. The royal party enters enchanted by Ariel’s magic. Prospero, dressed in duke’s outfit, wakes them up. The king feels so guilty that he grants the man his position back. Meanwhile, Sebastian and Antonio are forgiven for their betrayal. But the summary of The Tempest Act 5 is not done yet.

Alonso is still grieving over his son when Prospero presents him with the newlyweds. The king is happy to welcome Miranda into the family. Then, Ariel leads in the boat’s crew, who have no idea how their boat survived. Caliban, Stefano, and Trinculo, finally sobering up, beg for mercy. Meanwhile, Prospero offers everyone to stay there for the night so that he can tell them about his adventures over the last twelve years. The last Ariel’s duty is to make sure the sea is calm in the morning when the party will be leaving.

Even though The Tempest Act 5 is finished, there is still an Epilogue. Prospero is now alone on the stage. After he got rid of magic and forgave his enemies, he wants to go back home to Naples. To do that, he needs the audience to free him from this island that has been his prison for so long. The audience’s applause is a sign that Prospero is freed. His last words are that forgiveness of one’s enemies is what all men desire.

As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

The Tempest Epilogue

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