The Tempest Book Summary, by William Shakespeare

Want to learn the ideas in The Tempest better than ever? Read the world’s #1 book summary of The Tempest by William Shakespeare here.

Read a brief 1-Page Summary or watch video summaries curated by our expert team. Note: this book guide is not affiliated with or endorsed by the publisher or author, and we always encourage you to purchase and read the full book.

Video Summaries of The Tempest

We’ve scoured the Internet for the very best videos on The Tempest, from high-quality videos summaries to interviews or commentary by William Shakespeare.

1-Page Summary of The Tempest


The play begins with a ship captain and the boatswain trying to keep the ship from sinking in a storm. Alonso, King of Naples, is on board, as are his brothers Antonio and Sebastian. The king comes above deck just to give an unnecessary order; the boatswain asks that all passengers remain below deck so that they can do their jobs without distraction. However, Antonio and Sebastian take this opportunity to make rude remarks at the good boatswain. A spell falls over everyone on board; sailors flee in desperation while nobles stay behind saying goodbye to their king.

Prospero and Miranda are on the island. Miranda is upset that her father’s magic caused a ship to sink, but Prospero tells her that no one was hurt in the storm. He then begins to tell his daughter of his history, including how they came upon the island; he explains that she was very young when they left the island and doesn’t remember anyone but him. Prospero tells his daughter how his brother Antonio usurped him while he studied magic, and how King Alonso supported Antonio’s rule. When Alonso died, Antonio exiled Prospero from Milan with orders for both of them to be killed; however, Gonzalo arranged for their escape so they could land on an island where they would live happily ever after.

Prospero declares his intention to reclaim his dukedom. He also says that the tempest and the shipwreck were part of a plan to get rid of Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian. Ariel makes an entrance and says that everything went according to Prospero’s wishes; no one was hurt, while everyone is on the island. He reminds Prospero about freeing him from Sycorax by saying how generous he has been compared with her.

Caliban enters the scene, stating his claim to the island which he got from his mother. Prospero’s teachings have failed on Caliban and he remains in a primitive state of mind. However, Miranda and Ferdinand immediately fall in love with each other due to Ariel’s magic. But Prospero decides that Ferdinand will be a servant on the island for some time.

Act Two

King Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio have survived a shipwreck. They are on an island with Gonzalo, Adrian and Francisco. Alonso is depressed because his son Ferdinand has gone missing during the storm, as well as his daughter who was getting married in Africa. The brothers try to cheer him up by mocking others’ attempts to speak frankly about their situation. Ariel’s magic puts everyone except for the brothers asleep.

A strange seriousness falls upon Antonio and Sebastian, who are both plotting to murder Alonso. They think that if Ferdinand is dead, it will be easier for Sebastian to inherit the crown since his daughter is very far away in Tunis. Ariel wakes Gonzalo with a warning of the danger he’s in, but Ariel intends to let Prospero know about their plot so that he can keep Gonzalo safe because of how much he owes him for keeping Miranda alive all these years.

Caliban is angry because Prospero has returned to the island. He thinks that another storm means that something bad will happen, so he hides from it. Trinculo, Alonso’s court jester finds Caliban lying on the ground and covered with a cloak. He figures out that Caliban must be dead, but then realizes that there’s a storm approaching so he also hides under the cloak to protect himself from it.

Alonso’s drunken butler, Stephano, enters the room. He is drunk and singing a song about how he’s going to “kill” Alonso. He then sees two people under a cloak and thinks that they are some sort of monster. Caliban (the servant) thinks that Stephano is one of Prospero’s minions sent to torment him in his delirium. Meanwhile, Trinculo believes that Stephano is an actual angel who will help them escape from Prospero (who has been keeping them prisoner). Eventually, they get so drunk that Caliban actually offers his service to Stephano as if he were some kind of god!

The Tempest Book Summary, by William Shakespeare

Enjoy this summary?

Subscribe to get my next book summary in your email.