Synopsis: The Tempest

from Thomas Adès


Scene 1: The court
Using his magical powers, Prospero has created a huge storm during which the ship carrying his brother Antonio (who has usurped his position as Duke of Milan) along with King Alonso, Duke of Naples, Alonso's son Ferdinand, and their courts is wrecked. Offstage the court is heard.

Scene 2: Miranda and Prospero
Miranda is horrified at the destruction which her father has caused, but Prospero explains how his brother usurped his position and how they were cast away on a small boat twelve years before, surviving with only the help of a faithful courtier, Gonzalo. Prospero sends Miranda to sleep.

Scene 3: Ariel and Prospero
Ariel explains that she has carried out Prospero's orders, and he further instructs her to restore the shipwrecked group with "Not a hair perished/ On their clothes no blemish". "I'll clean them and dry them/ And set them on the island" she obeys.

Scene 4: Caliban and Prospero (Miranda asleep)
Caliban appears and immediately questions why Prospero has caused such distress. Prospero dismisses him – "Abhorrent slave/ Go to your cave" – as he recalls Ariel.

Scene 5: Prospero and Ariel (Miranda asleep)
Ariel tells Prospero that she has obeyed his commands. He then orders her to bring the King's son, Ferdinand, to this part of the island. While loyal to Prospero, Ariel questions when she will be freed from his service and she is assured that after twelve years, this will happen. The pair then hides, leaving Miranda sleeping on the beach.

Scene 6: Ferdinand and Miranda (with Prospero and Ariel unseen)
Ferdinand arrives on the island to find Miranda asleep. At first he thinks that she is a spirit and, as she wakes up, she wonders who he is: "I never saw/ Your like before". They are immediately attracted to each other, but Prospero appears, confronts Ferdinand, tells him of Alonso's deeds, and immobilizes the young man. Ferdinand declares his love for Miranda and accepts anything which Prospero will do to him, but Prospero declares him unworthy of Miranda and then orders Ariel to bring Alonso and his party to him.


Scene 1: The King, and the court on the island. (Prospero and Ariel are unseen)
The chorus is amazed at how they come through the storm and shipwreck so unscathed. From his hidden vantage point, Prospero orders Ariel to "Taunt them, haunt them/ Goad and tease/ Prick them, trick them/ Give them no peace". The king laments the loss of his son and Gonzalo attempts to comfort him, but Ariel's trickery begins and, impersonating the voices of the group to confuse them and divide them, they begin to squabble. Conflict is avoided by the arrival of Caliban.

Scene 2: Caliban with the court
They confront each other in amazement and soon Trincolo and Stefano begin to ply Caliban with drink. As Ariel's trickery continues, he assures the group not to be afraid, that "the island's full of noises" and explains his presence there, but, before he can reveal Prospero's name, he is silenced and leaves the group. Confused, the King and Gonzalo leave to search the island with Prospero working his magic to send them to "search/ Where there's no path/ Go in circles/ Drink the salt marsh".

Scene 3: Caliban, Stefano, and Trinculo
Briefly, they plot to restore Caliban to his former position as head of the island.

Scene 4: Ferdinand, Miranda, (and Prospero unseen)
The couple expresses their love for each other and Miranda frees Ferdinand leaving Prospero to accept the loss of his daughter: "Miranda/ I've lost her/ I cannot rule their minds/ My child has conquered me/ A stronger power than mine/ Has set the young man free".


Scene 1: Caliban, Trinculo, and Stefano all drunk
The trio cavorts across the island proclaiming the coming moment when Stefano will be King of the island and Caliban will be free.

Scene 2: Prospero and Ariel, followed by the arrival of the court
Ariel explains that she has led the court around the island and, once more, asks to be freed. The King and the court arrive exhausted and ready to collapse; quickly all but Antonio and Sebastian fall asleep. The two begin to plot to kill the King but are interrupted by the unseen Ariel's plea to the sleepers to wake up. Creating a banquet out of thin air, she just as quickly causes it to disappear and then leads the group away into further confusion. Prospero comments on his power over his enemies.

Scene 3: Miranda and Ferdinand, return to Prospero
The couple tells Prospero that they are married and Ariel arrives with her good wishes in addition to telling the young man that his father is actually alive. As he causes Ariel to vanish, Prospero announces that he is ending the magic: "Our revels are ended/ Why do you stare?/ He's melted into air/ So cities will perish/ Palaces vanish/ The globe itself/ Dissolve/ Nothing stay/ All will fade". Caliban, Trincolo and Stefano return, the former re-affirming his lust for Miranda with whom "We'll have Calibans/ Many and strong". In disgust, Prospero makes them disappear, Ariel re-appears and is promised her freedom within an hour.

Scene 4: Everyone except Caliban
Prospero reveals himself to the King and his court, and reveals Ferdinand and Miranda to Alonso. With the re-appearance of Stefano and Trincolo the court is joyously reunited; "Bless this isle/ Where Prospero found his dukedom/ Ferdinand his bride/ And Naples Ferdinand" says Gonzalo as all make their way to their restored ship. Prospero makes his peace with the King, forgives his brother, and breaks his staff as Ariel departs. Her voice is heard offstage.

Scene 5: Caliban alone, with Ariel offstage
Caliban stands alone on the island musing on the changes: "Who was here / Have they disappeared?". Ariel's voice is heard off stage.