The Tempest


William Shakespeare

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The Tempest Themes

Read our modern English translation.
Themes and Colors
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Tempest, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Loss and Restoration

Prospero's attempt to recover his lost dukedom of Milan drives the plot of the Tempest. But Prospero isn't the only character in the play to experience loss. Ariel lost his freedom to Sycorax and now serves Prospero. Caliban, who considers himself the rightful ruler of the island, was overthrown and enslaved by Prospero. By creating the tempest that shipwrecks Alonso and his courtiers on the island, Prospero strips them of their position and…

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From the opening scene of The Tempest during the storm, when the ruling courtiers on the ship must take orders from their subjects, the sailors and the boatswain, The Tempest examines a variety of questions about power: Who has it and when? Who's entitled to it? What does the responsible exercise of power look like? How should power be transferred? The play is full of examples of power taken by force, and in each case…

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Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright

The Tempest is full of Prospero's magic and illusions. The play begins with Prospero's magic (the tempest), and ends with Prospero's magic (his command that Ariel send the ship safely back to Italy). In between, the audience watches as Prospero uses visual and aural illusions to manipulate his enemies and expose their true selves. At nearly every point in the play, Prospero's magic gives him total control—he always seems to know what will happen next…

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During the time when The Tempest was written and first performed, both Shakespeare and his audiences would have been very interested in the efforts of English and other European settlers to colonize distant lands around the globe. The Tempest explores the complex and problematic relationship between the European colonizer and the native colonized peoples through the relationship between Prospero and Caliban. Prospero views Caliban as a lesser being than himself. As such, Prospero believes that…

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