Summary of Character of Dramatis Personae from The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Character Sketch of Prospero

Prospero is the principal character or the protagonist of the play, 'The Tempest'. All the actions emanate from him and because of him. The opening episode which depicts a fierce storm is masterminded by him and the play ends with an epilogue addressed by him to the audience.

Prospero's story unfolds through his own words to Miranda. The events of the story reveal his character. We come to know that he used to be the powerful ruler of Milan, whose power was usurped by his own brother, whom he loved like his own son. The deep interest he had in philosophy and magic compelled him to indulge in studies more and more. With the result, he handed over the governance of his State to his brother Antonio. That was the tragic flaw in his character, which brought about his disaster. He and his daughter were bundled off in a flimsy boat, unfit even for rats, to the mercy of the sea. But the gallant Prospero survived and established himself as the ruler of an uninhabited island with the help of his magic. He used his magical powers to dominate the spirits of the island. It is as though he was born to rule, and he ruled everyone's destiny, including those of his enemies.

Prospero comes across as a doting parent who lavishes all his love and care on his only daughter Miranda. His training has been impeccable so that Miranda grows up to be a gentle, loving and graceful being, with a tender heart. Everything Prospero does is for the well-being of his daughter, even the storm brings the life partner of his daughter. With the help of Ariel, he makes the young people fall in love. The protective father that he is, he creates impediments in their way to strengthen their bond. He makes Ferdinand perform menial tasks to test his sincerity. Once he is assured of Ferdinand's sincerity, he gives his daughter's hand to the young lover but with a warning, that is, not to take advantage of her innocence.

Even though his enemy is powerful, vengeful and dangerous, yet he is tender, forgiving and divine. In spite of the grievous wrong done, he forgives his enemies wholeheartedly, as he believes in humanity rather than revenge. He releases Ariel to his elements and leaves the island to Caliban.

Like all humans, Prospero has flaws in character. He enslaves Ariel and Caliban and exploits them. He is especially cruel to Caliban but this can be excused, considering the wicked nature of the son of a witch. Also, he is relentless in the pursuit of his enemies and makes them go through pain and depression but just to make them repent.

Once his purpose is fulfilled, Prospero renounces his magical powers and returns to his kingdom, which is restored to him. Towards the end of the play, we see him as a mature man full of philosophical insight, who is able to see life with equanimity of mind.

Thus, Prospero encaptures the qualities of a philosopher, moralist, and a human with saintly qualities; a man of wisdom who willingly gives up his supernatural powers with which he could control even the forces of Nature. Only an enlightened person can do that.

Character Sketch of Antonio

Antonio, the brother of the protagonist in 'The Tempest', is an embodiment of villainy. He will go to any length to fulfil his ambition. He will instigate others also to follow the path of evil. He does not have any pangs of conscience. In fact, he is the only person who does not undergo any remorse even after the strange and gruelling experiences on the island.

Antonio is a schemer and plotter. After getting the reins of Milan, he deliberately makes a plan to oust his brother. He makes friends with those who are ambitious enough to go against his brother and those who did not go against their conscience, he strips them of their designations and responsibilities. Living a life of borrowed powers, he starts considering himself to be the actual Duke of Milan. To make that dream true, along with Alonso, the King of Naples, he plots against the life of his own brother and leaves him and his daughter to die among the waves of the sea. He does not have any filial considerations and does not even flinch at the thought of their suffering. That is Antonio, an inveterate evil being, completely opposite in nature to his brother, Prospero.

Antonio's villainy reaches another plane when he instigates Sebastian to kill Alonso, who actually supported him to gain the dukedom of Milan. He is not even afraid of the anger of Fate, even when Ariel, in the form of Harpy, reprimands him and tells them to repent. In fact, he is ready to attack it and even draws his sword against it.

Antonio's arrogance knows no bounds. We meet him in the first scene itself, cursing at the boatswain, "Hang cur! hang you whoreson, insolent noisemaker!" He keeps making fun of the boatswain who is trying his best to save the ship. He also makes fun of Gonzalo, throughout the play. He hardly cares about Alonso's grief of losing his son.

Antonio, no doubt, is a hardened criminal. His character is marked by total ingratitude and treachery. He is a man without feelings, crafty and cunning and a veritable apology for a human being.

Character Sketch of Alonso

Alonso, the King of Naples, plays an important role in the play, 'The Tempest'. He is like a foil for Prospero. He is villainous, ambitious and scrupulous in the beginning. But his suffering makes him undergo a transformation of character. In fact, he is the only one, among the sinners who repent for his sinful actions and change for the better.

We meet Alonso in the opening scene itself. He seems to be a religious sort of person, as he prays to God to save the ship tossed by the sea. But later on, we get to know that he is not so god-fearing as to refrain from sinful deeds. Towards the end of the play, he turns for the good and we are able to sympathize with him for the humane qualities he exhibits.

We can assume from the story that Alonso is a powerful king wielding immense power and wealth. His ambitious nature makes him support the move to oust Prospero from Milan. He takes annual tribute from Antonio, in exchange for power over the land. He is also cold at the act of disposing of Prospero and his infant daughter in a flimsy boat, exposing them to the dangers of the furious waves.

When Alonso thinks he has lost his son to the sea, he is inconsolable. His pessimistic mood does not allow him to feel happy at the news that Francisco had seen Ferdinand swimming strongly against the current, searching dry land. His sorrow makes him feel irritated at the silly banter of his brother and Antonio. He is angry with Gonzalo for talking incessantly to cheer him up.

Alonso even appears as a dominating influence on his family too. Sebastian criticizes his heavy-handed decision to marry his daughter off to a king far away in Tunis, where even messages take years to reach. She is almost dead to him because of the distance, and his son is lost, or so he believes, to the rage of the sea. The twin tragedies make him desperate and miserable.

In a way, Alonso's life runs parallel to Prospero's, as he blindly trusts his brother and is unaware of the plot against his life by his brother Sebastian along with Antonio. He is saved only because of Gonzalo, who is woken up by Ariel's song. At this time, our sympathies are with him.

When Prospero casts a magic spell over Alonso and his companions, we see him suffer the most. His grief and the spell together ultimately bring a positive transformation in him. The Harpy's reprimand shakes him to the core, and after that, he is in a dazed state. When ultimately, he meets Prospero, he feels that his senses are returning. He regrets his past actions and apologizes to Prospero. He is humble enough to apologize to Miranda too, who has suffered due to his cruel acts.

Alonso as a loving father invites our sympathy. His heart-wrenching words strike a chord in one's heart. In fact, he loses all interest in living and hopes to lie at the bottom of the sea with his son. His delight at meeting his supposedly drowned son, and his loving attitude to his would-be daughter-in-law make us forget the earlier image we have of him. Even Prospero forgives him; so who are we to condemn him?

Character Sketch of Gonzalo

Calm, considerate and compassionate, are the words that describe this elderly courtier of Alonso's court. He is one of the finest characters of the play, 'The Tempest' and essays a vital role by providing essential things to Prospero that enable him to survive.

We meet Gonzalo in the first scene itself, keeping his calm and wit even at the time of crisis. He believes in God and Fate and is absolutely sure that he will not perish as the boatswain has the mark of gallows and not of drowning. His witty nature is evident whenever he appears on stage and that contributes a lot to the entertainment value of the play.

We get to know about the kindness and thoughtful nature of this compassionate man through the words of Prospero. Miranda comes to know about the kind gentleman, how he kept some basic things for survival and her father's magic book so that he could escape the anger of the sea and could make a comfortable living in the uninhabited island. Prospero is grateful to the man whom he embraces before anyone else and is all praises when he meets him on the island.

Gonzalo is full of sympathy for his king's misery. He understands his grief and tries to comfort him with his humorous remarks and encouraging words. He says that there are many people in the world who undergo worse kind of misery; at least he should take comfort from the fact that they have survived. Also, their clothes look much better than they were, and that should be considered as an encouraging sign. This Utopian description of the Commonwealth also shows his wit and humour. He himself may know that his ideal state is not possible but such a place is worthwhile dreaming of. He also tells his king not to be afraid of the strange apparitions of the island as there are strange people like them in the various corners of the world.

Although Gonzalo seems to be gentle and peace-loving, he does not allow the sarcastic remarks of Antonio and Sebastian to affect him. In fact, he pays them in the same coin by remarking on their nimble lungs which make them laugh at silly things. He says he will lift the moon from its path if it does not change in five weeks.

Gonzalo comes across as a fine gentleman with all courtly manners, sympathetic and concerned about anybody in distress, witty to the core, sarcastic at times but never hurtful. He keeps equanimity of mind even in distress offering comfort to the king by soothing words. He is a lovable gentleman whom even the kings respect.

Character Sketch of Sebastian

A villain without initiative or courage; this is how Sebastian's character can be put in a nutshell. He is the brother of Alonso, the King of Naples. His dormant desire to become the king surfaces when Antonio instigates him to kill his brother. He is as unscrupulous as Antonio but lacks vision and direction.

Sebastian's story runs parallel to Antonio's. Both do not baulk at fratricide. The only difference is that Antonio deliberately makes things happen whereas Sebastian follows the directions given by Antonio. Both do not have a genuine love for family. Sebastian criticizes Alonso as the sole person responsible for his own grief. He accuses his brother of getting his daughter married to a king in Tunis and on their way back their ship is caught in a storm and he loses his son.

Sebastian's character also does not undergo much change in spite of all the supernatural experiences. He also draws his sword against the Harpy and is not affected by its threat and warning. He is also not panicky at the storm and indulges in mockery and abuses at the boatswain's efforts. He says, "A pox o our throat/ you bawling blasphemous, uncharitable dog.

Sebastian also makes fun of Gonzalo and has no respect for him. He is not sensitive enough to understand that Gonzalo goes on speaking and jesting to make his king a bit cheerful and optimistic and so is highly critical of him.

Sebastian possesses a perverted sense of humour and provides some fun to the audience. The way he mocks at Gonzalo's vision of the Commonwealth provides some amusement. This is the only redeeming feature of his character; otherwise, he is frivolous and worthless and deserves our contempt.

Character Sketch of Ferdinand

Ferdinand is the hero of the subplot of 'The Tempest'. Along with Miranda, he renders the much-needed love angle to the love story. Theirs is a whirlwind romance in the middle of a lonely island. As expected of a romantic hero, he is valiant, ardent and yet prudent in his love.

Ferdinand is the son of Alonso, King of Naples, and heir to the throne. While voyaging back from Tunis, after attending his sister's marriage, he is shipwrecked. He leaps into the angry sea and manages to escape by striding the waves with sinewy strokes. This is ample proof of his courage, physical strength, and willpower.

The young man is an ardent lover. He is drawn to the divinely beautiful Miranda at the first glimpse of her and is hooked for life. He knows by instinct that she is perfection embodied and the right partner for him. As he himself says, he has met many women but they fade in his eyes after he meets the lovely daughter of Prospero. He is willing to do the manual labour entrusted to him, just so that he can be with Miranda. He is a chivalrous young man who gently refuses to take the help of the lovely lady. His sense of responsibility and honesty makes him resist the temptation of taking a respite from his arduous task.

Ferdinand is a true lover. His love is not just infatuation. He promises that he will not take advantage of the innocence of Miranda, under any temptation. He is prudent enough to think of the future of their marriage as he wants peace, trust, and the happiness of an enduring marriage and family life in the company of healthy children.

The heir of Naples proves to be a loving son. He is beyond consolation when he realizes that his father has drowned. He automatically assumes the position left by his father but not with glee or any ambitious goal. His delight in reuniting with his father is genuine, without any trace of pretence. He also admits to his father that he has taken the liberty to choose Miranda as his wife, under the impression of he being no more. Now, he is more than happy to get parental approval.

That he is brave, we already know from his fight against the waves but he is also ready to put up a fight with Prospero when he guesses the other's intention of arresting him. He draws his sword but is rendered helpless by the magical powers which he cannot fight against.

Although Ferdinand has the qualities required for a hero, however, he falls short of that larger than life caricature, usually meant for romantic figures. This is mainly because he is only the hero of a subplot and is overshadowed by Prospero, the protagonist of the main plot. At the same time the integrity of his character, his passion for his lady love, his genuine respect for his father and would-be father-in-law, his delight at the wonderful masque and other supernatural happenings in the island, all portray him as a lovable young man who has to learn a lot with experience and exposure.

Character Sketch of Miranda

Amidst the raging storm, villainy, murderous plots, and scheming characters that mark the atmosphere of 'The Tempest' comes a whiff of fresh air in the form of Miranda, the lovely daughter of Prospero. Intelligent, charming and graceful, she is one of the most charming heroines of Shakespeare.
Miranda is introduced in Act 1 scene 2 of the play and the first impression the audience gets is that of a very innocent girl who can empathize with the hardships of fellow beings. This is clear when she says, 'I have suffered from those that I saw suffer'. The very virtue of compassion in her makes her wish that no harm should come to the passengers of the ship that has been wrecked. She also says that if she had been any god of power, she would have sent the sea within the earth. This shows that she not only empathizes with the tragedy of others but also gives expression to her feelings without reservation.

Prospero assures Miranda that no harm is done to the passengers and whatever he has done is for her. He goes on to narrate the story of their past to justify his actions, and she shows curiosity to know more. So far, she has been a picture of patience and waited for the right time when her father chose to tell her. When ultimately, he reveals to her what had happened, her first thought is for her father to whom she would have been trouble. She also asks intelligent questions like why the plotters did not kill them right there and then.

When she comes to know that Gonzalo had helped them, she expresses a wish to see him. She is thankful for the fact that all those misfortunes had ended. Thus, the whole conversation reveals that Miranda is intelligent, loving, gentle and sympathetic by nature.

Miranda's innocence, simplicity, and trusting nature come to fore when she meets Ferdinand. He is the first man that she has seen, apart from her father. She instantly falls in love with this divine thing and feels that her father is very harsh on him. She offers to carry the logs for him as he is not used to such hard work. She is modest but at the same time expresses her love for him without any hesitation. She is not used to worldly ways and does not become coy or pretentious. She openly says, 'I am your wife if thou will marry me: / If not, I'll die your maid:' Thus her love, simplicity, inexperience with life, and her innocence make her an extremely lovable character.

That Miranda is worthy of admiration is revealed in the way her father describes her, Ferdinand worships her and Alonso admires her. Prospero boasts to Ferdinand that she will outstrip all praise And make it halt behind her'. Ferdinand, in turn, feels that all the hardships are worth if he could see Miranda once a day. He finds her peerless; she surpasses all the girls, he has met. He finds her worthy to become his wife and Queen of Naples. Alonso finds her so beautiful that he mistakes her for a goddess.

Miranda is undoubtedly one of the most charming creations of Shakespeare. Without her 'The Tempest' would be deprived of its beauty and appeal.

Character Sketch of Ariel

Ariel, as the name suggests is an air spirit. He is unlike any spirit created by dramatists. He is dainty, swift and sprightly. He is cheerful, obedient and trustworthy. He is loved by Prospero and he, in turn, is willing to do whatever his master says.

We meet Ariel quite early in the play and he is active almost till the end, making his presence felt through his endless acts. He hardly appears in his original form as he appears as a flame, a nymph, and a harpy; at other times, he is mostly invisible, executing all the tasks most efficiently and promptly. His songs are the highlights of the play and very often help in the development of action.

The most important feature of Ariel is his love for freedom. He wants to roam about the island as freely as the element, of which he is a product. He serves Prospero because he feels indebted to him for releasing him from the curse of Sycorax, the witch. He once reminds Prospero about his promise to release him, for which he is harshly reprimanded by his master. He accepts it humbly and promises to serve him till his release, although he longs to sleep in the blossom hanging from some branch and wants to be as free as mountain winds.

Ariel is a super spirit, who can command the other spirits of the island. He manipulates the tempest most efficiently, as per Prospero's command. He makes the waves rise high, sends panic in the minds of the passengers by appearing as a flame here and there and brings everybody to the island without harming even a hair of theirs. He conducts the masque most superbly, and his reprimand in the shape of Harpy is praiseworthy.

That there is a playful side to the spirit of the air, is evident in the way he misleads the three rascals, Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo. First, he makes Caliban and Trinculo fight making comments in his invisible form. Then he leads the drunken trio into a pond with stinking water and leaves them there to dance around. He also makes the spirits chase the three.

Ariel is instrumental in making Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love. He saves Alonso by singing into the ears of Gonzalo. He sends shivers into whom he calls the three sinners by reminding them about their sin and warning that only genuine repentance would save them.

Ariel is unique in the sense that he is a pleasant spirit with human qualities like sympathy and consideration. He feels pity for the sufferers and tells Prospero that he would also feel the same if he were to see them. He is a dainty, delightful being with child-like simplicity. He is cheerful, playful but at the same time very responsible. Prospero would not have been able to do his great magic without the delicate spirit's help. This is the reason why the master magician calls him, 'my brave spirit', 'my quaint Ariel', 'my dainty Ariel' and 'fine apparition'. It is difficult to imagine 'The Tempest' without Ariel.

Character Sketch of Caliban

Caliban is a contrast to Ariel. He is evil by birth, as he is the son of a witch. He is the spirit of the earth but represents the darker side of it. That he is deformed both in mind and body is, reflected through his words and actions.

We come to hear about the 'freckled whelp hag-born' Caliban, from the conversation between Ariel and Prospero. He has been the master of the island before Prospero took overcharge with the help of his magic. The savage resents this but he does not have the power to subdue the invader. Prospero makes him a slave and forces him to do all the manual labour. So, in a sense, his hatred for Prospero is justified. But his subsequent actions and behaviour towards Miranda are despicable.

Although Prospero tries to refine Caliban, yet he realizes that nurture cannot convert the basic nature of the savage. He is taught language and civilized behaviour but he mouths such bad language to Prospero and behaves atrociously with Miranda. He listens to his master only because he fears the tortures he will have to undergo at his hands. He wants to leave Prospero, but only to follow another master, Stephano. Thus he represents the barbaric tribes who have to be governed by some superior power.

Caliban is ungrateful to Prospero who treats him well in the beginning. In turn, he shows all the lovely and useful places on the island and how to use its resources. Later, he feels that his master's love for him has diminished. This has developed some sort of dissatisfaction in him and his attitude worsens. He even makes a plan to kill Prospero but later on, he admits that following Stephano, the drunkard, has been a foolish move. He is intelligent enough to realize the worth of his former master.

Being unexposed to other humans, Caliban does have a sort of innocence and gullibility. This is proved when he accepts the drunken Stephano as his new master. But later he realizes the frivolous nature of the butler and regrets his decision. It is the drink offered by the 'God' that makes Caliban lose his mind. He regains his reason by watching Stephano run after gaudy clothes and foppery. In fact, here, Caliban seems to be more civilized than Stephano and Trinculo who actually come from a 'civilized' background.

One noteworthy feature of the savage is that he is endowed with poetic sensibilities. His poetic description of the island is like an oasis in a desert. In his words, the island is 'full of noises, Sounds, and sweet airs which give delight and hurt not.' This has a poetic ring to it. Moreover, he loves music just like an animal that is untutored but has a natural affinity to it.

Caliban's character is most significant in the play as he represents various themes of the play. He is the embodiment of inherent evil that cannot be set right by any tutoring. Further, he represents the savage section of people who are forcefully subdued and taken advantage of by the mighty ones. His name recalls to our mind the cannibal tribes who are at the primordial level and exhibit their cruelty and crassness.

Summary of Characters of Stephano and Trinculo

Stephano and Trinculo are two farcical characters introduced to add entertainment to the play. They get into all sorts of funny situations making fools of themselves, which elicited laughter from their audience.

Character Sketch of Stephano

Stephano is the butler of Alonso. He is drunk most of the time. He had clung to a cask of wine and floated ashore. In a semi-drunk state, he roams around the lonely island, singing a sailor’s song. He sees Caliban and Trinculo in a sack and concludes in a sack and concludes that it is a four-legged strange creature, with two mouths. "This is some monster of the isle with four legs, who hath got, as I take it, an ague." The situation is quite funny. In order to give some relief to the fever, he pours drinks into the mouth of Caliban and makes him his slave. Caliban considers him to be a god with celestial liquor. He kisses his sole as though it is Bible and also asks Trinculo to kiss it showing gratitude for his escape.

Stephano is frivolous and lacks purpose in life. Inebriated by wine, he declares himself as the king of the island. Caliban encourages him to conspire against Prospero. He is enamoured by the authority that he will be wielding and becomes more enthusiastic when Caliban says he can marry Miranda. He shouts, "Monster, I will kill this man; his daughter and I will be king and queen Trinculo and thyself shall be viceroys." But he loses interest when he is enamoured by the gaudy clothes which Prospero makes Ariel hang outside his cave. This shows that he is easily distracted by frivolous things and lacks commitment.

Character Sketch of Trinculo

Trinculo is the court jester and does his job as is expected of him. He is not merely a buffoon but a witty clown. He provides fun through his humorous remarks. Like Stephano, he thinks he is the sole survivor of the storm. We see him looking for shelter from another storm. He sees Caliban under the gaberdine and mistakes him for a fish. "A fish; he smells like a fish, a very ancient and fishlike smell." He also says that he will be able to make a lot of money if he could take it to England as the English people would give a lot of money to see a strange creature but not a penny for the needy. Just then he hears the sound of thunder and decides to take shelter with the strange stinking creature. The situation becomes farcical here as Caliban thinks that some spirit has come to torture him and Trinculo feels that he is lying with a corpse.

The court jester takes a potshot at Caliban a number of times which elicit laughter from the audience. He calls him a puppy-headed, ridiculous and a howling monster. Ariel, in order to create misunderstanding among the three talks in Trinculo's voice which leads to a fight that is most entertaining.
Trinculo inadvertently becomes a partner in crime when the other two plot against the life of Prospero. He also participates in drunken songs and dances and makes a fool of himself in the stinking pool. He is also chased by dogs and runs for his life.

Trinculo also starts considering Stephano his king as he is also interested in the wine Stephano has in custody. "O, King Stephano! o peer! O worthy Stephano! Look what a worthy wardrobe here is for thee", he shouts as he sees the gaudy clothes hung on a string.

Thus, Trinculo offers farcical situations and witty remarks to keep the elite and the common people of the audience equally amused.

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