Act one begins at sea with the storm, which gives the play its title. The King of Naples Alonso, his brother Sebastian, the Duke of Milan Antonio and the other mariners begin to fear for their lives.
On the island Prospero and Miranda are introduced. Miranda pleads with her father to use his magic powers to calm the storm. He explains to her that he has orchestrated the entire event and assures her that no one will be harmed in the storm. He recounts the story of how they came to live on this island. His brother Antonio usurped Prospero, formerly the Duke of Milan. Prospero had devoted himself to his books and studies; this negligence enabled Antonio aided by the King of Naples to usurp the Dukedom.
Prospero then puts his daughter to sleep and summons Ariel, his magic airy spirit who was responsible for the storm. The fairy assures him that all members of the King’s ship made it ashore unharmed but have been scattered to various locations around the island. Prospero and Miranda visit Caliban their servant. Caliban is described as an ugly deformed beast. His hatred for Prospero is evident. Shipwrecked, Ferdinand the King’s son makes it ashore and sees Miranda. It is love at first sight but Prospero does not wish their relationship to develop too hastily. He imprisons Ferdinand on grounds that he is merely impersonating the Prince.
Act Two takes place on another part of the island where the King and his retinue come ashore. The King laments the certain death of his son and heir to the throne. Gonzalo, his wise and trusted counsellor encourages him to remain optimistic but his brother Sebastian deepens his despair claiming Ferdinand is surely dead. A deep sleep mysteriously falls on all except for Sebastian and Antonio, the current Duke of Milan. Antonio persuades Sebastian that he should take advantage of the King’s slumber and that of his retinue to murder him and usurp the throne. As they draw their swords with murderous intent Ariel awakens the others and their plan is foiled. They quickly invent ridiculous excuses to explain their actions. Trinculo discovers Caliban, Trinculo is a court jester who believes that such a novelty creature could earn him a fortune on show. Stephano, a drunken butler enters and makes Caliban drink some of his alcohol. Caliban mistakenly believes that the powerful effects of the alcohol are synonymous with Stephano and consequently that he must be more powerful than Prospero. He foolishly pledges service to his new master.
Act Three opens with a tender scene between the two lovers. Prospero’s ill treatment of Ferdinand does not vex him as the sight of Miranda makes his labour pleasant. Believing her father to be asleep Miranda convinces Ferdinand to rest. She proposes marriage to him and vows that should he deny her she will remain a maid. The Prince gladly accepts her proposal. Prospero, who has seen all, is glad but does not reveal himself.
Caliban and his companions are intoxicated. They argue and Ariel impersonating their voices makes their arguments more heated. Caliban persuades Stephano that he could be ruler of this island. He convinces him to murder Prospero. The drunken men make for Prospero’s cell but are led astray by Ariel’s bewitching music.
Alonso and his companions are weary from travelling and are compelled to rest. Sebastian and Antonio resolve to execute their plan that very night and murder King Alonso. Prospero conjures up an elaborate banquet before them but before they can touch it Ariel appears and verbally admonishes Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio for supplanting Prospero.
Act Four begins with Prospero welcoming Ferdinand into his family. He conjures up a masque for the young lovers where spirits celebrate the rites of marriage and the abundance of nature. The celebration is halted abruptly when Prospero remembers it is almost time for Caliban and his companions to carry out their murderous plan. Ariel reveals that she has led them on a painful path...
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