Details may have been inspired by a 1610 account of a real-life Atlantic shipwreck. The play was performed at Whitehall Palace on 1st November 1611, so it was written in 1610 or 1611.
The play first appears in the First Folio. It was probably typeset from a reliable manuscript, prepared by Ralph Crane (a professional scribe employed by the King’s Men). He would have copied it from Shakespeare’s manuscripts, or an earlier copy of them.
‘I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.’
The Tempest, V i
Brief synopsis of the play
Prospero – usurped as Duke of Milan by his brother Antonio, and exiled with his young daughter Miranda on a remote island – is served by his spirit Ariel and his slave Caliban. Contemplating revenge, Prospero conjures a great tempest that shipwrecks the treacherous Antonio and his confederates on his island. With his enemies in his power, and with the son of one, Ferdinand, and his daughter falling in love, Prospero has to choose between punishment and reconciliation.