* Prospero is the usurped Duke of Milan, a magician and the play's protagonist
* Miranda is Prospero's daughter
* Ariel is an airy spirit
* Caliban, enslaved by Prospero, is the son of the witch Sycorax
* Alonso is the King of Naples
* Sebastian is Alonso's brother
* Antonio, the usurping Duke of Milan, is Prospero's brother
* Ferdinand is Alonso's son
* Gonzalo is a counsellor who gave aid to Prospero and Miranda
* Adrian and Francisco are lords
* Trinculo is a jester
* Stephano is a drunken butler
* Master of the ship
* Iris, Ceres and Juno are spirits and goddesses
A huge storm batters a ship carrying Alonso, (the King of Naples), Sebastian, (Alonso's brother), Ferdinand (Alonso's son), Antonio, Gonzalo and others. They are likely to die by shipwreck...
On the island near the storm, Prospero and his daughter Miranda are introduced. We learn that Prospero has created the storm battling Alonso and company's ship. Miranda asks Prospero to stop the storm. We also learn that Prospero was once the Duke of Milan but was banished to this island with Miranda by Antonio, his brother who took over Prospero's dukedom of Milan.
We are introduced to Ariel, Prospero's magic fairy who tells us that the men onboard the ship have all made it ashore unharmed as planned. Caliban, a misformed beast is also introduced. Ariel leads Ferdinand to Miranda and the two immediately fall in love. Prospero decides to be rude to Ferdinand, fearful of too rapid a courtship.
The rest of the shipwreck survivors wake up on the island. They are surprised that their clothes smell and feel as fresh as if they had just been bought at a market...
Ariel's song puts them all to sleep again except for Sebastian and Antonio. Antonio who replaced his brother Prospero as Duke of Milan manipulates Sebastian, King Alonso's brother into doing the same thing by replacing King Alonso. The two are about to kill Alonso in his sleep but Ariel awakens everyone and the two men quickly make an excuse for drawing their swords out.
Trinculo, a jester on the ship, discovers Caliban and quickly realizes that such a beast would earn a fortune for him as a novelty in England. Stephano, Trinculo's friend eventually finds Trinculo under Caliban's huge frame. Stephano gives Caliban alcohol, causing Caliban to think Stephano is more powerful than Prospero whom Caliban hates. The three men set off together later deciding to kill Prospero...
Prospero who is now invisible to Ferdinand and Miranda, witnesses Ferdinand and Miranda expressing their deep love for one another in words that rival Romeo and Juliet in their tenderness. Ferdinand, realizing he is witnessing a truly rare meeting of hearts, approves of Ferdinand for his daughter. The scene ends with Ferdinand taking Miranda for his wife. Prospero is pleased but must now leave to attend to matters before supper...
Bottle in hand, Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban continue on their merry way together. Stephano starts getting delusions of grandeur, which Caliban blindly follows. Trinculo thinks Caliban is being foolish to follow Stephano so blindly. Caliban succeeds in convincing Stephano into killing Prospero and taking over the island and suggests several gruesome ways of killing Prospero. Ariel lures the group away with his entrancing sounds...
Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, Adrian and Francisco and others witness a banquet on the island but it is an illusion. Ariel returns and verbally punishes Alonso (King of Naples), Antonio and Sebastian for their roles in exiling Prospero, Ariel's master...
Prospero tells Ferdinand that he no longer will punish him, but instead will freely give his daughter's hand in marriage to him. Prospero conjures up a beautiful, mythical, illusory party to celebrate, complete with goddesses and nymphs.
Prospero instructs Ariel to lead the shipwrecked men on the island before him. Remembering Stephano, Caliban and Trinculo, Prospero has Ariel distract them with clothes, Caliban failing to keep his friends focused on killing Prospero. Prospero promises Ariel that he will soon be free...
Prospero brings everyone except Stephano, Caliban and Trinculo before him in a circle. Spellbound, he verbally reprimands several of the men who exiled him. Prospero tells Ariel that he will soon be free and that he will miss him. Prospero also intends to destroy his ability to use magic.
Making his presence known, Prospero forgives King Alonso, and tells Sebastian and Antonio he will keep secret their plan to kill Alonso, forgiving both.
The famously sweet scene of Ferdinand playing chess with Miranda occurs. King Alonso is overjoyed to see his son Ferdinand and soon learns of Ferdinand's imminent marriage to Miranda.
Prospero forgives Stephano and Trinculo. Caliban is embarrassed that he followed a fool (Trinculo). Caliban is given his freedom. Prospero announces that in the morning they will all set sail for Naples. Ariel is at last set free.
Prospero asks the audience to free him to travel back to Naples reclaiming his life as Duke of Milan.