Do the preparation task first. Then watch the video and do the exercises to check your understanding.
Prospero was the ruler of Milan in Italy but he was betrayed by his brother Antonio. Antonio took control of the city, and ordered his soldiers to kill Prospero and his family. Prospero managed to escape in a small boat with his books about magic and his young daughter Miranda. Together they sailed away to an island, where they lived for the next 12 years, along with a strange half-human called Caliban, who Prospero has made his slave.
During this time, Prospero’s brother, Antonio, has ruled Milan. One day, he goes to a wedding in Tunisia. On the way back from the wedding, his ship passes close to the island where Prospero and Miranda are living. Prospero uses his magic to cause a violent storm with thunder and lightning. Antonio and all the other people on the ship are frightened, and think they are going to sink.
The ship’s passengers all survive the storm and land safely on the island, but they are in separate groups, so they don’t know if the others have survived too. One of the survivors of the shipwreck is a young man called Ferdinand, who was travelling on the ship with his father. Ferdinand and his father have both survived, but do not know that the other is alive. On the island Ferdinand goes exploring, and meets Miranda. Miranda has never seen a young man before, and she and Ferdinand fall in love at first sight. Prospero does not want things to develop too quickly between his daughter and this man, so he uses his magic to make Ferdinand work for him. Soon, Prospero frees Ferdinand from his work and agrees that Miranda and Ferdinand can get married. He prepares some magic for them, and the happy couple sit down to watch the performance.
Prospero’s slave, Caliban, also meets two other survivors of the shipwreck. They get drunk together, and he persuades the other two to kill Prospero. The three drunk men arrive at Prospero’s hut, all ready to kill him. But Prospero distracts them by leaving rich colourful clothes there. When the three drunks see the clothing, they decide to steal it instead of killing Prospero. They are then attacked by a group of dogs and run away.
When Antonio, Prospero’s brother, arrives at the hut, Prospero tells everyone his life story and what Antonio did to him 12 years earlier in Milan. Prospero says that he now forgives Antonio for betraying him. Prospero also forgives the three drunks for planning to murder him. He then reunites Ferdinand and his father.
Finally, some sailors arrive and announce that the ship is fine after all. It is safe and ready to sail to Italy. Prospero says that he does not want to be a magician any more. Instead, he will return to Italy and become the ruler of Milan once again.
The Tempest is thought to be Shakespeare’s last play, and his most original. It needed clever work to create the illusion of magic on stage, like early 'special effects'!
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Why do you think Prospero gives up his magic at the end of the story?