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The Tempest

A scene from The Tempest

Introduction to the play

Putting romance onstage, The Tempest gives us a magician, Prospero, a former duke of Milan who was displaced by his treacherous brother, Antonio. Prospero is exiled on an island, where his only companions are his daughter, Miranda, the spirit Ariel, and the monster Caliban. When his enemies are among those caught in a storm near the island, Prospero turns his power upon them through Ariel and other spirits.

The characters exceed the roles of villains and heroes. Prospero seems heroic, yet he enslaves Caliban and has an appetite for revenge. Caliban seems to be a monster for attacking Miranda, but appears heroic in resisting Prospero, evoking the period of colonialism during which the play was written. Miranda’s engagement to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples and a member of the shipwrecked party, helps resolve the drama.

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Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of The Tempest

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

… The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.

Act 3, scene 2, lines 148–149

How beauteous mankind is! O, brave new world
That has such people in ’t!

Act 5, scene 1, lines 217–218

The Tempest in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to The Tempest. Find more in our digital image collection

Ariel: "On a bat's back I do fly, there I couch when owls do cry." By Louis Rhead.
Painting by William Hatherell.
William Haviland as Prospero. Photograph by J. & L. Caswall Smith.
Act 3, scene 3: "Enter several strange shapes, bringing in a banquet..." By Arthur Rackham.

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare

The Tempest

Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s The Tempest
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching The Tempest

Early printed texts

The Tempest was printed for the first time in the 1623 First Folio, and that text serves as the source for all subsequent editions.