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Free Study Guide-The Tempest by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes
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CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Caliban

Caliban appears as a half-beast and half-human creature of the enchanted island. As the son of a witch, he is horrid in appearance and lacking in education and civility. After Prospero befriended him and taught him how to speak and think, Caliban betrayed him by trying to rape Miranda. As a result, Prospero enslaved him to a life of menial tasks, refusing to ever trust him again. Caliban hates his master and enslavement; he will do anything to be free. When he meets Trinculo and Stephano, he is easily taken in by these buffoons and even calls Stephano his "god." He urges them to kill Prospero, enticing them with images of ruling the island. The two royal servants quickly agree to the plan, even though they are too foolish and easily distracted to carry through with the plot. As a result, Caliban is pictured as less base than these two comics. He even shows an aura of grace about him, when he speaks in verse (although animalistic) and when he identifies with the natural beauty and enchantment of the island.

Ariel

Like Caliban, Ariel is a creature of the enchanted island. He, however, is all spirit, neither human nor animal. For years, he was enslaved by Caliban's mother, the evil witch Sycorax. When Prospero came to the island, he freed Ariel from his pine tree prison. As a result, the delicate and talented creature has faithfully served Prospero for twelve years. Ariel aids his master is his performance of magic and follows out the orders that Prospero gives. In appreciation for his faithful yeas of service, Prospero frees Ariel at the end of the play.


Alonso

Alonso, the King of Naples and the father of Prince Ferdinand, is depicted as the most noble and repentant of the royal party. Even though he helped Antonio overthrow Prospero, he is not an instigator or an evil man. In fact, he seems to truly repent his past wrongdoing and easily pledge his allegiance to Prospero in the future. He is a kind and sensitive man, as evidenced in the play. He is sad that his daughter Claribel is unhappy about marrying the King of Tunis for political reasons. He is also terribly grieved when he thinks Ferdinand is dead. When he learns that his son is alive and married to Miranda, he openly rejoices and blesses the marriage.

Antonio

At the start of the play, Antonio is the Duke of Milan, having stolen that honor and title from his brother Prospero. As a greedy and evil man, he has no trouble doing what must be done to have what he wants. He sent Prospero and his three-year-old daughter out in a boat on the open sea with nothing to sustain them. Although he was too weak to kill them directly, he assumed they would die at sea. In the twelve years that he has ruled Milan, it is obvious that things have degenerated, for his royal party is characterized by evil and treachery. In spite of his despicable nature, the noble and generous Prospero graciously pardons him from his sins.

Stephano and Trinculo

Shakespeare uses Stephano and Trinculo as the means by which he extends the themes of the play and develops the character of Caliban. The two of them are the characters of low comedy, playing buffoons and fools -- Trinculo as a jester and Stephano as a butler. They, in collaboration with Caliban, plot to murder Prospero and control the enchanted island. This comic conspiracy in the play is a humorous contrast to the serious conspiracy of Antonio and Sebastian. The two fools, however, are not capable of staying focused long enough to carry through with their murderous plot.

Stephano and Trinculo are impoverished specimens of humanity who, together with Caliban, form a kind of silly threesome, that mock the evil threesome of Antonio, Sebastian, and Alonso. The three buffoons have many typical Shakespearean vices of the lowest kind; Caliban is filled with lust for Miranda and Trinculo and Stephano are greed for spoils. All three are power hungry, as evidenced in the plot to overthrow Prospero and rule the island. Ironically, Caliban, who is half-beast, has more spirituality and redeeming qualities than Trinculo and Stephano, two "beasts" who masquerade as men.

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