The Tempest Characters

Prospero The rightful Duke of Milan who was overthrown and exiled by his brother Antonio and Alonso, the King of Naples. Prospero has lived for 12 years with his daughter Miranda on a deserted island, where he has become a powerful enchanter and the master of the spirit Ariel and the “monster” Caliban. Prospero has become a powerful enchanter, and his magical skill gives him almost complete control over everyone on the island. He’s not shy about using his enchantments either, whether on his enemies or on his daughter, to manipulate events to his liking. In fact, Prospero’s power on the island is so complete that many critics compare him to an author of a play—just as an author controls the actions of the characters in a play, Prospero controls the actions of the people on the island. Prospero is domineering, and expects gratitude and devotion from both his daughter and his servants. Yet he is not bloodthirsty, and at the end of the play, rather than taking revenge on those who wronged him when he has them at his mercy, he instead choose to give up his magic power and reconcile with his enemies.
Ariel A spirit and Prospero’s servant. Prospero rescued Ariel from a prison in which he was placed by the dead witch Sycorax. Now Ariel uses magic to carry out Prospero’s commands. Ariel wants his freedom, which Prospero has promised to grant someday. In the meantime, Ariel serves Prospero loyally, and seems to enjoy the mischievous tricks he pulls on Prospero’s enemies. At the play’s end, Ariel’s compassion for those enemies moves Prospero to release and forgive them.
Caliban Prospero’s unwilling slave. As the son of the witch Sycorax, who ruled the island before she died years prior to Prospero’s arrival, Caliban believes that he should be master of the island. When Prospero initially came to the island, Caliban showed him friendship, and in return Prospero educated Caliban. But Caliban eventually came to realize that Prospero would never view him as more than an educated savage. Though capable of sensitivity and eloquence, Caliban is furious and bitter and wants nothing more than to rid himself of Prospero. Caliban’s name is a near anagram for the world “cannibal,” and in many ways he is a symbol of the natives that European explorers encountered. Through Caliban, and his relationship to Prospero, Shakespeare explores the themes of colonization and the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized.
Miranda Prospero’s daughter, the rightful princess of Milan. Miranda knows nothing of her past until Prospero fills her in during the second scene of the play. Miranda is a compassionate, dutiful daughter, and her only harsh words in the play are directed at Caliban, who tried to rape her at one time. Completely isolated from other people except her father, Miranda is amazed when she sees other humans, and immediately falls in love with Ferdinand, even though he is only the third man she can remember meeting in her life.
Antonio Prospero’s brother. Antonio once plotted to overthrow Prospero and later encourages Sebastian to do the same to Alonso. He is a power-hungry and conniving character, and never shows remorse for his cruel schemes or their consequences. Antonio is noticeably silent in response to his brother’s offer of forgiveness at the end of the play.
Gonzalo Alonso’s advisor. Gonzalo was charged with carrying out the kidnapping of Prospero and Miranda. A kind soul, he pitied the pair and arranged for them to have provisions for survival in exile. Gonzalo makes the best of every situation, while others seem to tire of his unfailingly positive attitude. Though he is an object of Antonio and Sebastian’s ridicule, he always maintains his dignity.
Alonso The king of Naples. Alonso plotted with Antonio to overthrow Prospero, but he expresses genuine remorse when confronted with his crimes. Alonso also shows a sincere love for his son Ferdinand and is distraught for much of the play, believing that Ferdinand has drowned in the tempest.
Ferdinand Alonso’s son. Ferdinand finds love with Miranda. Their union seals the reconciliation between Alonso of Naples and Prospero of Milan. Ferdinand is kind, courteous, and dutiful. His love for and loyalty to his father (who he thinks is dead for most of the play) is sincere, as is his love for Miranda.
Sebastian Alonso’s brother. Sebastian is easily persuaded by Antonio to try to murder his brother so that he can become king. It is later revealed that he also played a part in the overthrow of Prospero. Though Sebastian does inquire of Antonio whether his conscience bothers him, he never expresses remorse for his plans.
Stephano Alonso’s butler. Stephano is a comical character who spends the whole play drunk. When Caliban mistakes him for a god because he gives Caliban wine and gets him drunk, Stephano begins to fancy himself a king. Caliban’s plot to murder Prospero is therefore very appealing to him, as are the showy garments Prospero and Ariel lay out to trap him.
Trinculo The king’s jester. Trinculo is another comical character, and like Stephano, he is drunk for much of the play. Trinculo is less charismatic and more cowardly than Stephano. He resents Caliban’s worship of Stephano but readily follows along with the plot to murder Prospero.
Boatswain A member of the ship’s crew. The boatswain speaks commandingly to the courtiers in the first scene. His assertion of his authority angers the courtiers, especially Antonio and Sebastian.
Sycorax A vicious witch, and Caliban’s mother. Sycorax ruled the island, imprisoned Ariel when he refused to do her nasty bidding, and died before Prospero’s arrival.
Iris The Greek goddess of the rainbow. She appears in the wedding masque.
Ceres The Greek goddess of the harvest. She blesses Miranda and Ferdinand with wishes of prosperity at the wedding masque.
Juno The queen of the Greek gods. She blesses Miranda and Ferdinand with wishes of wealth and honor at the wedding masque.