Shakespeare's The Tempest - Managing
Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, living in exile on an island.
Caliban, Prospero’s servant and native of the island.
Ariel, a magical spirit serving Prospero.
Miranda, Prospero’s 15-year-old daughter.
Antonio, the new Duke of Milan and Prospero’s brother.
Alonso, king of Naples.
Sebastian, Alonso’s brother.
Ferdinand, Alonso’s son.
Gonzalo, an old wise man from Naples.
- Prospero was played many times by the great English actor, John Gielgud.
- Coined the phrase “brave new world”, used by Aldous Huxley
(pictured right) as the title of his book.
Shipwrecked in a violent storm (or tempest) are:
- Ferdinand (Alonso's son).
- Sebastian (Alonso's brother).
Landing on an island, they are unaware that the storm has been created by the magical spirit,
Ariel, the servant of Prospero, the vengeful ruler of the island.
Prospero arrived there with his daughter, Miranda, 12 years earlier after his brother Antonio
had overthrown him as the Duke of Milan with the help of Alonso.
(John William Waterhouse's 1916 painting of Miranda seeing the shipwreck is pictured right)
Prospero has another servant, Caliban, whom he deposed as ruler of the
To murder Prospero, Caliban gains the assistance of:
- Trinculo (Alonso's jester).
- Stephano (Alonso's butler) .
But they are thwarted by Ariel, who also stops three attempted murders of
- Antonio (twice).
Ferdinand and Miranda (Elisabeth Hopper, pictured right, in a 2011 production):
Then Antonio, Alonso and Sebastian are looking for Ferdinand when Ariel makes a banquet:
- vanish (before they can eat as punishment for deposing Prospero).
Ariel then leads them to Prospero (Ralph Fiennes, pictured right, in a 2011 production) who:
- reveals his true identity.
- forgives Antonio and Alonso (who apologizes).
Ferdinand and Miranda join them, and they are all reunited and reconciled.
Ariel and Caliban (forgiven after repenting) are given their freedom, and Prospero is
reinstated as the Duke of Milan.
Lessons for managing change
1. Change can be exaggerated
Prospero creates the storm only to get Alonso and his companions onto the island. None of
them are injured, or ever in danger.
Prospero’s cruellest trick is to make Alonso temporarily believe that his son, Ferdinand, has died in the
But ,even here, Prospero is being cruel to be kind, because Alonso’s grief makes him sorry for
deposing Prospero, leading to their final reconciliation.
2. Unity is strength
At the end of the play, everyone is happier after their reconciliation.
Prospero seeks revenge against his brother, Alonso, but finally realizes that
forgiveness and reconciliation are much better alternatives.
So he gives up manipulating people by magic.
Crisis brings people together.
In the storm Trinculo says:
“Misery acquaints a man with strange bed-fellows”.
3. Good leadership is essential
The ship’s captain:
- acts calmly under pressure in the storm.
- orders his panicking passengers to go down below deck.
Prospero is also a good leader:
- tough enough (to ask Antonio, Alonso and Caliban for their
- kind enough (to forgive them).
4. Integrity is important
Even when things are changing and difficult, the leading characters’ best actions come from sticking to
their principles ,particularly
5. Learn from experience
Miranda falls for Ferdinand, only the third man she has ever seen (after her father and Caliban).
She rashly declares the arrival of a “brave new world”.
The wiser and more experienced Prospero reflects that the world can hardly be brave (or wonderful) with
potentially evil people like Sebastian, Alonso and Antonio in it.
6. People can transform themselves
Ariel observes that the storm has made Alonso a better person.
To achieve such a transformation, you must have:
a) ambitious aims
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on”.
b) effective time management
This is because
“Our little life is rounded with sleep [i.e. death] ” , Prospero
Ariel and Caliban both suffer from being slaves until the end of the play.
Caliban’s only solace is dreaming of freedom.
He also suffers the degradation of hearing Trinculo and Stephano’s plan to show him off for money in
7. Control your own destiny
- don’t let other people and events dictate what you should do.
- concentrate on what needs to be done to improve (not on what has happened, Antonio tells
- don’t dwell on the past but look to the future.
“Let us not burden our remembrance with a heaviness that's gone”, says Prospero.
8. Face reality
Prospero is successful because he bases his dreams on an honest assessment of his;
The play continually shows the difference between illusion and reality -
for example, the:
- violent storm that appears to be dangerous but isn’t.
- vanishing banquet (to punish the hungry Antonio, Alonso and Sebastian).
Prospero also says that the permanence of material things is an illusion unlike the
eternal truths of love and forgiveness.
“The great globe itself, yea, all which it inherits, shall dissolve”, he
9. Be prepared for the unexpected
The guilty Antonio and Alonso were surprised by:
- seeing the person they wronged (Prospero).
10. Humour helps
In the storm Gonzalo, an old man from Naples, jokes that the ship cannot sink,
because its captain looks as though he was born to be hanged and so cannot die from drowning!
Key quote on objectives and vision
We are such stuff as dreams are made on, Prospero.
Key quotes on happiness
Misery acquaints a man with strange bed-fellows, Trinculo.
He receives comfort like cold porridge, Sebastian.
Key quote on learning
Thought is free, Stephano (in a song).
Key quote on society
How beautiful mankind is! O brave new world that hath such people in ’t!, Miranda (the origin
of the title of Aldous Huxley’s book, Brave New
Key quote on stress and pain
Let us not burden our remembrance with a heaviness that's gone, Prospero.
Key quote on ethics
The rarer action is in virtue, than in vengeance,