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 The Tempest Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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The Tempest: Theme Analysis

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One of Shakespeare's lighter plays, The Tempest is a story about love, revenge, and greed.  Set on a mythical island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Prospero comes up with a plan to avenge a disservice that has been done to him, reclaim the title his brother stole, and in the process help his beautiful daughter find true love.  Through the use of magic and spirit servants, he also uncovers plots to kill the king and himself.
Unlike some other of Shakespeare's romantic comedies, the Tempest is less focused on the love story, and more on the plots of murder, and Prospero's plot to avenge himself.  Prospero himself is the most powerful character in the play in that he controls everyone to some degree.  He seems to know exactly what and when something is going to happen which makes his task simple. 
Prospero's revenge is simple, and not intended to hurt any of the characters involved in it.  He merely wants to show them what he had to go through when he was first stranded on the magical island.  He also wants to make the characters feel guilty for their plot against him, so that when he does show himself, he will be more likely to be welcomed with open arms.  Other than Prospero's revenge, Caliban also tries to plan his own.  His revenge for being a servant is, at first, trying to take Miranda.  After that, when he enlists the help of the drunkards, is to win the island for himself and kill Prospero. 
Greed, however, is the most powerful motive in the play.  Antonio and Sebastian are shown to be the greediest characters because they are willing to kill their own brothers to inherit the power they seek.  Caliban, as well, seeks to rule the island, and uses that as another incentive to attempt to kill Prospero.  His cohorts, taken with the thought of being leaders and not servants, go along with him and are willing to commit heinous crimes for it.  The only two characters in the play who are not greedy are the ones who fall in love.  Since love is often associated with innocence, this is not surprising.  Even Prospero, though often thought of as a righteous character, creates the plot in order to gain things for himself.  Ariel too, helps Prospero in hopes of buying his freedom from his servitude. 
The tempest was one of Shakespeare's last plays and even though it has a different style and themes than some of his other plays, it still remains a great classic today.




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