For many teachers, the play “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare can be daunting to teach. With its complex language and fantastic characters, it may seem like a time-consuming endeavour that requires advanced planning to ensure your class has a successful experience.
However, with the proper preparation and organisation, you can lead your learners into awe of this timeless classic!
In this blog post, we will cover all you need to know about planning an engaging unit on “The Tempest” for your students – from pre-reading activities to discussion questions during reading and projects/essays for after reading. You’ll find practical advice that makes teaching this text manageable and fun for everyone involved!
Related: For more, check out our Planning Overview On Romeo and Juliet here.
The Tempest: A Summary of the Storyline and Acts
Prospero tells Miranda about how he was wrongfully exiled from Milan and promised revenge against those who betrayed him. In response to his laments, a tempest (storm) is conjured up, bringing a group of people to the island, including those responsible for Prospero’s exile.
On the island, a presentation is put on to highlight the trials and successes of what has happened so far. This provides some comedic elements and foreshadowing for later events in the play.
Prospero creates chaos amongst some characters through his magical abilities and builds relationships with other symbols to create eventual harmony among everyone on the island. Meanwhile, Caliban attempts to take control of Miranda with some help from Stephano and Trinculo; however, this plan fails due to Ariel’s interference.
Aires helps bring together two couples (Ferdinand and Miranda; Alonso and Sebastian) who were previously estranged due to past events (Prospero’s betrayal). At the same time, Gonzalo helps protect them from Caliban’s efforts at rebellion and helps them escape danger when they are kidnapped by Caliban’s other cohorts – Stephano and Trinculo.
After a masquerade wherein all of the characters come together correctly, it is revealed that Ferdinand has been betrothed to Miranda in marriage. Finally, Prospero forgives all of his enemies before giving up his magic powers upon leaving the island due to Ferdinand’s wish that he be able to return home safely with his daughter beside him. The play ends with everyone happily reunited.
Critical Themes in The Tempest
The story of The Tempest focuses heavily on the theme of power and how it can be used. Prospero, the main character, is a powerful magician who has been wrongfully exiled from his home. Throughout the play, he uses his magical powers to manipulate those around him to regain control of his former life and those who betrayed him.
Love is another important theme throughout the play. For example, Miranda’s young love for Ferdinand allows them to develop a strong bond despite their societal differences.
Similarly, Alonso’s reunion with his daughter Claribel demonstrates his deep love for her and hints at a possible reconciliation between him and Prospero.
Betrayal is an underlying theme running through the entire play. At its core lies Prospero’s betrayal by those who had conspired against him twelve years earlier; this quickly sets up some tension between characters in subsequent acts as Prospero uses his magic to engineer revenge against them.
In addition, other characters, such as Caliban, also face betrayal when Stephano and Trinculo trick them into believing they will overthrow Prospero’s rule on the island.
Characters in The Tempest
Prospero, the Duke of Milan, was betrayed and exiled twelve years before the play’s events. He is also a powerful magician who uses his magical abilities to manipulate those around him.
Miranda is Prospero’s daughter and one of the two survivors on the island. She falls in love with Ferdinand early in the play and questions her father’s magical practices when they seem unjust.
Ferdinand is the son of King Alonso and is a significant character throughout the play. He meets and quickly grows to love Miranda despite their social differences; later, he proposes marriage to her after obtaining her father’s blessing.
Ariel is an air spirit Prospero has enslaved as part of a previous bargain. He obeys Prospero’s commands but is often left feeling misused by his master.
Caliban is a deformed native of the island who wants to take control away from Prospero and be its ruler instead. He allies with Stephano and Trinculo to try to overthrow Prospero’s power but ultimately fails due to Ariel’s interference.
Miranda and Ferdinand’s Relationship
Miranda and Ferdinand develop a strong love for one another almost instantly, with Ferdinand proposing marriage to her after obtaining Prospero’s blessing.
Throughout their time together, they remain loyal to each other despite social differences and the obstacles posed by their respective fathers. Their relationship is also critical in helping bring about the play’s resolution, as Prospero ultimately allows them to marry in exchange for his redemption.
The Theme of Betrayal in The Tempest
The theme of betrayal is powerful in William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, as it drives the plot forward and builds tension between characters. The most obvious example of betrayal occurs early on when Prospero is overthrown by his brother Antonio and cast out to sea with his young daughter Miranda.
This act of deception causes great unrest and animosity between Prospero, Antonio and the other conspirators.
Throughout the play, further acts of betrayal are revealed with other characters, such as Caliban, who proves untrustworthy by trying to overthrow Prospero’s authority on the island. Additionally, Ariel is similarly betrayed by Sycorax when she is imprisoned in a tree for twelve years instead of being free as promised.
Finally, all the acts of betrayal throughout The Tempest bring about a resolution where justice eventually prevails; this ultimately serves as an example that any act of deception will eventually come full circle and be punished somehow.
The Theme of Love in The Tempest
The theme of love plays a vital role in William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. While the primary plot revolves around betrayal, genuine and powerful love between characters provides a contrasting element of hope and trust.
The most obvious example is the bond between Prospero and his daughter Miranda. Despite being cast away to sea by his brother Antonio, Prospero never fails to show his deep love for Miranda; she is always at the top of his priority list, and he goes out of his way to protect her from danger or harm.
Another example is Ferdinand and Miranda’s relationship; when they meet on the island, their instant connection represents true, unwavering love despite their differences in social class. In addition, Ferdinand’s unconditional devotion towards Miranda teaches us about loyalty and dedication within relationships, showing that it can still exist even after experiencing hardship and adversity.
Finally, all these moments of love provide a much-needed break from all the acts of betrayal throughout the play; this ultimately serves as a reminder that no matter what happens, true love will always prevail over anything else.
Prospero’s Relationship with Miranda
The relationship between Prospero and his daughter Miranda is a highlight of the play The Tempest. Prospero loves his daughter deeply, as evidenced by the numerous moments he tries to protect her from potential harm.
For example, when Prospero creates the illusion of a masque and invites Ferdinand over to meet Miranda, Prospero makes sure Miranda knows his true intentions.
She warns her not to get too attached. His desire to keep her safe extends beyond the island’s boundaries; when Antonio and Alonso come close to discovering their location, Prospero takes it upon himself to ensure she is taken away on his ship back to Naples.
Their bond serves as a reminder of the power of family and how important it is for fathers (or parental figures) to be honest and supportive of their children.
Despite all the challenges they face in The Tempest, Prospero’s dedication towards maintaining a loving relationship with Miranda never wavers– demonstrating how even during difficult times, simply being there for someone can make all the difference.
Why Prospero is Honest and Supportive with Miranda
Prospero and his daughter Miranda’s relationship is critical in William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. While it exemplifies true love, it demonstrates the importance of honesty and support within a family dynamic.
Prospero is honest with Miranda about his intentions for her. For instance, when he orchestrates the masque by inviting Ferdinand over to meet her, he warns his daughter not to get too attached or overwhelmed by the situation; instead, he encourages her to keep her composure while enjoying the moment.
In addition, Prospero always puts his daughter’s safety first– even when things begin to unravel due to Antonio and Alonso’s presence on the island. Rather than take any chances with Miranda’s safety, Prospero finds a way to ensure she gets away from it all unharmed; this shows that he values her happiness above anything else.
Ultimately, this relationship is significant because of the lessons taught about communication and empathy between family members; no matter what obstacles are thrown our way, being honest and supportive of one another can make all the difference in our relationships.
10 Essay Questions Based on The Tempest
- What themes are explored in the play The Tempest?
- Consider some of the characters in The Tempest and their journeys. What role do they each play in the story’s central themes?
- How does Prospero’s relationship with Miranda develop throughout the play?
- In what ways is power demonstrated in The Tempest?
- Analyse Ariel’s role in the narrative and how it affects other characters and the story arc.
- Evaluate how Caliban is portrayed concerning other characters within the text, and discuss its implications for that time.
- Examine how art and creativity shape the events of The Tempest, both metaphorically and literally.
- Discuss how music plays a part in advancing specific plot points throughout the play and why it is so crucial to Shakespeare’s work.
- Analyse how magic functions literally and figuratively in The Tempest and its relevance to modern-day literature/stories/films.
- Trace a thematic analysis through various soliloquies delivered by central or peripheral characters throughout The Tempest, such as Ferdinand, Alonso or Miranda — what do these monologues reveal about their respective characters?
5 Books About The Tempest
- The Tempest: Critical Essays
- Themes and Perspectives in The Tempest
- Shakespeare’s The Tempest: A Guide to the Play
- The Cambridge Companion to The Tempest (Cambridge Companions)
- Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations)
Lesson Plan on The Tempest
- Students will be able to identify and analyse the major themes of The Tempest.
- Students will be able to evaluate the relationships between characters in Shakespeare’s play.
Students will be able to discuss the role of art and creativity within the narrative.
- Copies of The Tempest (for each student)
- Whiteboard or chalkboard (with markers)
- Begin by introducing students to the basic plot and characters of The Tempest. Make sure to cover any background information they may need (such as who Prospero is, what caused him to flee to the island, etc.)
- Ask students about their initial reactions/thoughts on The Tempest and encourage them to share their ideas.
- Next, divide students into small groups and assign each group one central theme from the play for further discussion (e.g., power, loyalty, justice, etc.). Have them brainstorm examples from the text that fit this theme. Please encourage them to think about how these examples reflect current society today.
- As a class, review each group’s findings and discuss how each piece impacts other characters in or out of their group’s focus character’s life story arc in The Tempest. Allow everyone time to contribute here, so no one feels left out/not heard!
- Finally, have students write a short essay on a single character’s journey through The Tempest and how it relates to one of the themes discussed in class discussions earlier that day.
Take some time for discussion and reflections at the end; ask students what they learned throughout this lesson plan activity and what they enjoyed most about exploring different themes in Shakespeare’s work!