Key Themes

Here is a short video from eNotes which explains some of the play's themes:


Prospero and Ariel in the play and a number of other characters also disguise their true selves.


Common in Shakespeare’s plays, animals are used to describe many characters, particularly Caliban to reflect his earthy nature.


Dominates all the groups.


There are many potential leaders in the play, but few good ones.


The key to Prospero’s downfall and his revenge.

Earth, air

Links to Caliban and Ariel, who links to the theme of magic.

Slavery/ imprisonment

Prospero uses Caliban and Ariel as slaves/servants.


Prospero is mainly responsible for these.

Breakdown of communication in The Tempest

  • Between family members
  • Prospero and Miranda – Act 1, Scene 2 pg 63
  • Antonio and Prospero – Act 1, Scene 2
  • Alonso and Sebastian – Act 2, Scene 1 pg 93
  • Between other characters
  • Miranda and Firdinand – Act 1, Scene 2
  • Gonzalo and other characters - Act 2 Scene 1 pg 89

Language as a form of control

Prospero over:

  • Miranda – Act 1, Scene 2
  • Caliban – Act 1, Scene 2 pg 77
  • Ariel – Act 1, Scene 2 pg 74

Caliban over:

  • Stephano and Trinculo- Act 3 Scene 2

Ariel over:

  • The other characters – Act 3, Scene 3


  • Critics believe that Shakespeare is saying ‘farewell’ to Theatre – shown by character ‘Prospero’
  • How natives may not always be Cannibals
  • However, Caliban is a natural slave
  • Ends in resolution


  • Prospero and Miranda travel to a new land, settle there and impose their language and culture on the native people.
  • This reflects what happened in the early 17th century when people travelled from Europe to new lands such as America.
  • They claimed the territory for themselves and, like Prospero, took over and imposed their own culture and language.
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