Notes on Characters from The Tempest

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The Tempest Major Characters

Alonso: The King of Naples. He is returning from Tunis in Africa where he married his daughter to the local King. Twelve years previous to the play, he helped Antonio usurp the Dukedom of Milan from his brother Prospero. He is the father of Ferdinand and the brother of Sebatian.

Sebastian: Sebastian is with Alonso on the trip back from Tunis. During the play he is convinced by Antonio that he should plot against his brother and become the King of Naples himself. He is the brother of Alonso.

Prospero: Prospero’s attempt to return to Milan after twelve years of expulsion is the main plot of the play. As a sorcerer, he compels the elements of nature to do his will and he orders his slaves about. Through his plan of playing upon the consciences of his betrayers, he means to regain his kingdom and leave the island. He also intends to marry his daughter, Miranda, to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples. He is the brother of Antonio.

Antonio: Antonio took advantage of his brother’s (Prospero's) absorption in his studies to steal his Dukedom 12 years earlier. On the island, he continues this sort of behavior by attempting to convince Sebastian to betray his brother, Alonso.

Ferdinand: Ferdinand spends a good portion of the play believing his father, Alonso, to be dead. When he meets Miranda he becomes enchanted by her beauty and toils for her father. He pledges to her in marriage of his own accord.

Gonzalo: Gonzalo is the wise old man of the play. Twelve years earlier he had provided Prospero and Miranda with the goods that made their life on the island easier. He advises Alonso, although his advice is not always heeded and his words are often mocked by others.

Adrian: A member of Alonso’s court who accompanied him to the wedding of his daughter. His main function in the play is comedic as he pokes fun at Gonzalo with Francisco.

Francisco: He joins Adrian in ridiculing Gonzalo and providing comedic, perhaps even slapstick, relief in the performance.

Caliban: Caliban is the oldest resident of the island. His mother, Sycorax, came to the island from Algiers. When Prospero came to the island he took Caliban into his company and taught him English. Since then, Caliban has been enslaved by Prospero and has performed most of the hard labor. Caliban plots against Prospero with Trinculo and Stephano.

Trinculo: Trinculo is a jester who accompanies the drunk butler Stephano. He finds Caliban first and joins the pair in the plot against Prospero.

Stephano: Stephano is a drunk butler with delusions of grandeur. He is easily encouraged by Caliban’s tale of Prospero and the riches of the island. He takes Caliban as his own ‘servant’ and plots against Prospero.

Miranda: Miranda has lived most of her life on the island and has been educated by her father, Prospero. Her virginity is guarded sharply by her father from Caliban because Prospero wants to use her to create a union with the king of Naples. She immediately falls in love with Ferdinand, as Prospero plans.

Ariel: Ariel is Prospero’s other servant. He is less offensive and more powerful. While Prospero is the ‘sorcerer’ of the play, Ariel carries out most of his commands.

Sycorax: Although she is not actually in the play, Sycorax is a powerful symbol of the natural world as well as Prospero’s antithesis and Caliban's mother.

Master of a ship: The master opens the play and deals with the ensuing storm. The royal passengers do not heed his warnings, even though he is in command of the ship.

Boatswain: He aides the Master of the ship in trying to weather the storm.

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