Know Before You Go: The Tempest
Shakespeare Royal Oak is proud to present The Tempest as this year’s Daylight Family Show. For Shakespeare newbies and long-time Bard fans alike, we’ve provided a little cheat sheet to help you brush up on your Tempest knowledge. Sail with us to a remote island as we dive into Shakespeare’s tale of wonder, vengeance, and love.
Prospero – The former Duke of Milan, usurped by his brother Antonio and Alonso, the King of Naples. He has spent the past twelve years on a remote island, raising his daughter Miranda and plotting his revenge.
Miranda – Prospero’s daughter who has spent most of her life on the island, sealed off from the world.
Ariel – A spirit on the island who is indebted to Prospero and acts as his magical servant.
Caliban – Another of Prospero’s servants, Caliban is a coarse and sometimes brutal native of who believes the island belongs to him by right.
Alonso – The King of Naples who helped usurp Prospero twelve years prior.
Ferdinand – Alonso’s son
Sebastian – Alonso’s brother
Antonio – The current Duke of Milan who usurped his brother, Prospero, twelve years prior.
Gonzalo – An old and honest lord who helped Prospero and Miranda escape Milan
Stephano – A drunken butler in Alonso’s party
Trinculo – A jester in Alonso’s party
The entire play takes place on a small remote island over the course of a day.
Alonso, King of Naples, is sailing home to Italy following his daughter’s wedding in Tunis. He is accompanied by Antonio, Ferdinand, Gonzalo, Sebastian, Stephano, and Trinculo. Their ship is hit by a storm and the passengers fear for their lives as they are washed ashore on a remote island.
On the island, Prospero watches the shipwreck as he tells his daughter Miranda the story of their past. Twelve years ago, Prospero had been the Duke of Milan, but a plot led by Antonio and Alonso forced Prospero and a young Miranda into exile, leaving them to die on a raft in the sea. With the help of supplies left for them by the kind Lord Gonzalo, Prospero and Miranda were able to make it to the island, where they have lived ever since.
Prospero also reveals that he caused the shipwreck with the magic of Ariel, a spirit indebted to his service. Now, with his usurpers stranded on his shores, Prospero can finally seek the justice he has craved for twelve years. However, everything is not always as it seems on this island filled with magic and mayhem ….
The Tempest was first performed in 1611 at the court of King James on All Hallow’s Day, November 1, exactly 7 years after the first production of Othello. It was one of Shakespeare’s last plays written and performed before his death in 1616 and is considered to be one of his romances, along with other later works such as A Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The Tempest was likely first performed in the Blackfriars theatre, an indoor winter counterpart to the long-standing open-air Globe theatre . Since its first performance, The Tempest has enjoyed a near-unbroken performance history, enchanting audiences worldwide with its magic and mystery.
The plot is fictional, but there was a real Duke Prospero of Milan who was deposed in 1461 and may have provided some inspiration. Various great works of literature provide additional inspiration; a mention of Virgil’s Aeneid is included as the play points out that Alonso’s journey from Tunis to Naples mimics Aeneas’ journey in Virgil’s work, and a speech of Prospero’s from Act V seems to be based on the sorceress Medea’s speech in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The structure of the play also bears similarity to the structure of the traditional commedia dell’arte theatre of Italy, which often featured a pair of clown characters represented by The Tempest’s Stephano and Triculo , a lecherous hunchback similar to The Tempest’s Caliban, and the clever Isabella accompanied by her scheming father Pantalone, a pair which reminds viewers of The Tempest’s Miranda and Prospero.
Shakespeare Royal Oak will present William Shakespeare’s The Tempest in Starr Jaycee Park Saturdays, July 27 and August 3 at 4:00 pm; Sundays, July 28 and August 4 at 1:00 pm; Wednesday, July 31 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $15/person and available online or at the park box office which opens one hour prior to show time.