The Tempest

The Performance of Power

"I must obey: his art is of such power."

Caliban, Act 1, Scene 2

I have bedimm’d
The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,
And ‘twixt the green sea and the azured vault
Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire and rifted Jove’s stout oak
With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory
Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck’d up
The pine and cedar: graves at my command
Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let ‘em forth
By my so potent art

(The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1)

Prospero has the most obvious power in this play, but there are other kinds. Ariel displays great supernatural power, Alonso would have the most power back in Italy, and yet some of the most powerful speeches in the play belong to the denigrated Caliban.

Students should themselves pick out speeches from the play that they feel describe or display power (if they need some help you could guide them towards Prospero (Act 5, Scene 1 and others), Antonio (Act 2, Scene 1), Ariel (Act 3, Scene 3) or Caliban (Act 2, Scene 2)). Don’t neglect the subtle kinds of power, like that Ferdinand and Miranda have over each other, or the power of persuasiveness Antonio exercises over Sebastian.

Discuss who demonstrates power of one kind or another during the course of the play. How many different kinds of power did you identify?



Much of how we interpret the truth is really about points of view. Sometimes power comes in the form of being the one allowed to tell the story. Write a piece from the point of view of one of the characters describing how they feel about their experience of the enchanted island. This might be about the island itself, or their relationship to people they encountered there.