The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Hi, I’m Cecilia Elise Wallin.
And this is a video in my series Learn from the Classics of literature.
In some of the videos in this series, we will learn from the incomparable Shakespeare. Twelve of
Shakespeare’s greatest plays have been summarized into beautiful groundbreaking short stories
by the British poet and novelist Edith Nesbit, and these short stories have been recorded by great
LibriVox readers. One of these exquisite short stories is The Tempest, which we are going to listen to now.
Check your knowledge: The Tempest Quiz
Prospero, the Duke of Milan, was a learned and studious
man, who lived among his books, leaving the management
of his dukedom to his brother Antonio, in whom indeed he
had complete trust. But that trust was ill-rewarded, for Antonio
wanted to wear the duke’s crown himself, and, to gain his ends,
would have killed his brother but for the love the people bore him.
However, with the help of Prospero’s great enemy, Alonso, King
of Naples, he managed to get into his hands the dukedom, with all
its honor, power, and riches. For they took Prospero to sea, and
when they were far away from land, forced him into a little boat
with no tackle, mast or sail. In their cruelty and hatred they put
his little daughter, Miranda (not yet three years old), into the
boat with him, and sailed away, leaving them to their fate.
But one among the courtiers with Antonio was true to his right-
ful master, Prospero. To save the duke from his enemies was im-
possible, but much could be done to remind him of a subject’s love.
So this worthy lord, whose name was Gonzalo, secretly placed in
the boat some fresh water, provisions, and clothes, and what Pros-
pero valued most of all, some of his precious books.
The boat was cast on an island, and Prospero and his little one
landed in safety. Now this island was enchanted, and for years had
Iain under the spell of a fell witch, Sycorax, who had imprisoned in
the trunks of trees all the good spirits she found there. She died
shortly before Prospero was cast on those shores, but the spirits,
of whom Ariel was the chief, still remained in their prisons.
Prospero was a great magician, for he had devoted himself
almost entirely to the study of magic during the years in which
he allowed his brother to manage the affairs of Milan. By his art
he set free the imprisoned spirits, yet kept them obedient to his
will, and they were more truly his subjects than his people in Milan
had been. For he treated them kindly as long as they did his bid-
ding, and he exercised his power over them wisely and well. One
creature alone he found it necessary to treat with harshness : this
was Caliban, the son of the wicked old witch, a hideous, deformed
monster, horrible to look on, and vicious and brutal in all his
When Miranda was grown up into a maiden, sweet and fair to
see, it chanced that Antonio, and Alonso with Sebastian, his
brother, and Ferdinand, his son, were at sea together with old
Gonzalo, and their ship came near Prosperous island. Prospero,
knowing they were there, raised by his art a great storm, so that
even the sailors on board gave themselves up for lost; and first
among them all Prince Ferdinand leaped into the sea, and, as his
father thought in his grief, was drowned. But Ariel brought him
safe ashore; and all the rest of the crew, although they were
washed overboard, were landed unhurt in different parts of the
island, and the good ship herself, which they all thought had been
wrecked, lay at anchor in the harbor whither Ariel had brought
her. Such wonders could Prospero and his spirits perform.
While yet the tempest was raging, Prospero showed his daugh-
ter the brave ship laboring in the trough of the sea, and told her
that it was filled with living human beings like themselves. She, in
pity of their lives, prayed him who had raised this storm to quell
it. Then her father bade her to have no fear, for he intended to
save every one of them.
Then, for the first time, he told the story of his life and hers,
and that he had caused this storm to rise in order that his enemies,
Antonio and Alonso, who were on board, might be delivered into
When he had made an end of his story he charmed her
into sleep, for Ariel was at hand, and he had work for him to do.
Arielf who longed for his complete freedom, grumbled to be kept
in drudgery, but on being threateningly reminded of all the suffer-
ings he had undergone when Sycorax ruled in the land, and of
the debt of gratitude he owed to the master who had made those suf-
ferings to end, he ceased to complain, and promised faithfully to do
whatever Prospero might command.
“Do so,” said Prospero, “and in two days I will discharge thee.”
Then he bade Ariel take the form of a water nymph and sent
him in search of the young prince. And Ariel, invisible to Ferdi-
nand, hovered near him, singing the while.
“Come unto these yellow sands
And then take hands:
Court’sied when you have, and kiss’d,
(The wild waves whist),
Foot it featly here and there ;
And, sweet sprites, the burden bear !”
And Ferdinand followed the magic singing, as the song changed
to a solemn air, and the words brought grief to his heart, and
tears to his eyes, for thus they ran —
FERDINAND AND MIRANDA.
“She would have helped him”
“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes ;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.
Hark! now I hear them, — ding dong bell!”
And so singing, Ariel led the spell-bound prince into the presence
of Prospero and Miranda. Then, behold! all happened as Prospero
desired. For Miranda, who had never, since she could first remem-
ber, seen any human being save her father, looked on the youthful
prince with reverence in her eyes, and love in her secret heart.
“I might call him,” she said, “a thing divine, for nothing natural
I ever saw so noble!”
And Ferdinand, beholding her beauty with wonder and delight,
“Most sure the goddess on whom these airs attend !”
Nor did he attempt to hide the passion which she inspired in
him, for scarcely had they exchanged half a dozen sentences, be-
fore he vowed to make her his queen if she were willing. But Pros-
pero, though secretly delighted, pretended wrath.
“You come here as a spy,” he said to Ferdinand. “I will manacle
your neck and feet together, and you shall feed on fresh water
mussels, withered roots and husk, and have sea-water to drink.
“No,” said Ferdinand, and drew his sword. But on the in-
stant Prospero charmed him so that he stood there like a statue,
still as stone; and Miranda in terror prayed to her father to have
mercy on her lover. But he harshly refused her, and made Ferdi-
nand follow him to his cell. There he set the prince to work, mak-
ing him remove thousands of heavy logs of timber and pile them
up; and Ferdinand patiently obeyed, and thought his toil all too
well repaid by the sympathy of the sweet Miranda.
She in very pity would have helped him in his hard work, but
he would not let her, yet he could not keep from her the secret of
his love, and she, hearing it, rejoiced and promised to be his wife.
Then Prospero released him from his servitude, and glad at
heart, he gave his consent to their marriage.
“Take her,” he said, “she is thine own.”
In the meantime, Antonio and Sebastian in another part of the
island were plotting the murder of Alonso, the King of Naples, for
Ferdinand being dead, as they thought, Sebastian would succeed
to the throne on Alonso’s death. And they would have carried out
their wicked purpose while their victim was asleep, but that Ariel
woke him in good time.
Many tricks did Ariel play them. Once he set a banquet before
them, and just as they were going to fall to, he appeared to them
amid thunder and lightning in the form of a harpy, and immedi-
ately the banquet disappeared. Then Ariel upbraided them with
their sins and vanished too.
Prospero by his enchantments drew them all to the grove with-
out his cell, where they waited, trembling and afraid, and now at
last bitterly repenting them of their sins.
Prospero determined to make one last use of his magic power,
**and then,” said he, “I’ll break my staff and deeper than did ever
plummet sound I’ll drown my book.”
So he made heavenly music to sound in the air, and appeared to
them in his proper shape as the Duke of Milan. Because they re-
pented, he forgave them and told them the story of his life since
they had cruelly committed him and his baby daughter to the
mercy of wind and waves. Alonso, who seemed sorriest of them
all for his past crimes, lamented the loss of his heir. But Prospero
drew back a curtain and showed them Ferdinand and Miranda
playing at chess. Great was Alonso’s joy to greet his loved son
again, and when he heard that the fair maid with whom Ferdinand
was playing was Prosperous daughter, and that the young folks
had plighted their troth, he said —
“Give me your hands, let grief and sorrow still embrace his
heart that doth not wish you joy.”
So all ended happily. The ship was safe in the harbor, and
next day they all set sail for Naples, where Ferdinand and Mir-
anda were to be married. Ariel gave them calm seas and auspicious
gales ; and many were the rejoicings at the wedding.
Then Prospero. after many years of absence, went back to his
own dukedom, where he was welcomed with great joy by his faith-
ful subjects. He practised the arts of magic no more, but his life
was happy, and not only because he had found his own again, hut
chiefly because, when his bitterest foes who had done him deadly
wrong lay at his mercy, he took no vengeance on them, but nobly
As for Ariel, Prospero made him free as air, so that he could
wander where he would, and sing with a light heart his sweet
“Where the bee sucks, there suck I :
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After Summer, merrily:
Merrily, merrily, shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough “
The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, adapted into a short story by Edith Nesbit