An Extract from Charles Lamb's - Tales From Shakespeare
There was an island in the sea, the only inhabitants of which were
an old man, named Prospero, and his daughter Miranda, a very beautiful young
lady. She came to this island so young, that she had no memory of having seen
any other human face than her father’s.
They lived in a cave made out of a rock; it was divided into
several apartments, one of which Prospero called his study; there he kept his
books, which chiefly treated of magic. By virtue of his art, he had released
many good spirits from a witch called Sycorax who had them imprisoned in the
bodies of large trees. These gentle spirits were ever after obedient to the
will of Prospero. Of these Ariel was the chief.
Ariel took rather too much pleasure in tormenting an ugly monster called
Caliban, because he was the son of his old enemy Sycorax. Caliban was employed
like a slave, to fetch wood, and do the most laborious offices; and Ariel had
the charge of compelling him to these services.
With the help of these spirits, Prospero could command the winds,
and the waves of the sea. By his orders they raised a violent storm, in the
midst of which, he showed his daughter a fine large ship, which he told her was
full of living beings like themselves. “Oh my dear father,” said she, “if by
your art you have raised this dreadful storm, have pity on their sad distress. See! the vessel will be
dashed to pieces. Poor souls! they will all perish.”
“Be not so amazed, daughter Miranda,” said Prospero; “there is no
harm done. I have so ordered it, that no person in the ship shall receive any
hurt. What I have done has been in care of you, my dear child. You are
ignorant. Can you remember a time before you came to this cell? I think you
cannot, for you were not then three years of age.”
“Twelve years ago, Miranda,” continued Prospero, “I was Duke of Milan,
and you were a princess, and my only heir. I had a younger brother, whose name
was Antonio, to whom I trusted everything; My brother Antonio being thus in
possession of my power, began to think himself the duke indeed. The opportunity
I gave him of making himself popular among my subjects awakened in his bad
nature a proud ambition to deprive me of my dukedom: this he soon effected with the aid of the King
of Naples, a powerful prince, who was my enemy.”
“Wherefore,” said Miranda, “did they not that hour destroy us?”
“My child,” answered her father, “they dared not, so dear was the
love that my people bore me. Antonio carried us on board a ship, and when we
were some leagues out at sea, he forced us into a small boat, without either
tackle, sail, or mast: there he left us, as he thought, to perish. But a kind
lord of my court, one Gonzalo, who loved me, had privately placed in the boat,
water, provisions, apparel, and some books which I prize above my dukedom.”
“O my father,” said Miranda, “what a trouble must I have been to
“No, my love,” said Prospero, “you were a little angel that did
preserve me. Your innocent smiles made me bear up against my misfortunes. Our
food lasted till we landed on this desert island, since when my chief delight
has been in teaching you, Miranda, and well have you profited by my
“Heaven thank you, my dear father,” said Miranda. “Now tell me,
sir, your reason for raising this sea-storm?”
“Know then,” said her father, “that by means of this storm, my enemies,
the King of Naples, and my cruel brother, are cast ashore upon this island.”
Having so said, Prospero gently touched his daughter with his
magic wand, and she fell fast asleep; for the spirit Ariel just then presented
himself before his master, to give an account of the tempest, and how he had
disposed of the ship’s company, and though the spirits were always invisible to
Miranda, Prospero did not choose she should hear him holding conversation (as
would seem to her) with the empty air.
“Well, my brave spirit,” said Prospero to Ariel, “how have you
performed your task?”
Ariel gave a lively description of the storm, and of the terrors
of the mariners; and how the king’s son, Ferdinand, was the first who leaped
into the sea; and his father thought he saw his dear son swallowed up by the
waves and lost. “But he is safe,” said Ariel, “in a corner of the isle, sadly
lamenting the loss of the king, his father.
“That’s my delicate Ariel,” said Prospero. “Bring him here: my
daughter must see this young prince. Where is the king, and my brother?”
“I left them,” answered Ariel, “searching for Ferdinand, whom they
have little hopes of finding, thinking they saw him perish. Of the ship’s crew
not one is missing; though each one thinks himself the only one saved: and the
ship, though invisible to them, is safe in the harbour.”
Ariel then went to fetch Ferdinand.
“O my young gentleman,” said Ariel, when he saw him, “I will soon
move you. You must be brought, I find, for the Lady Miranda to have a sight of
your pretty person. Come, sir, follow me.”
He followed in amazement the sound of Ariel’s voice, till it led
him to Prospero and Miranda, who were sitting under the shade of a large tree.
Now Miranda had never seen a man before, except her own father.
“Miranda,” said Prospero, “tell me what you are looking at
“O father,” said Miranda, in a strange surprise, “surely that is a
spirit. Lord! How it looks about! Believe me, it is a beautiful creature. Is it
not a spirit?”
“No, girl,” answered her father; “it eats, and sleeps, and has
senses such as we have. This young man you see was in the ship. He is somewhat
altered by grief, or you might call him a handsome person. He has lost his
companions, and is wandering about to find them.”
Miranda, who thought all men had grave faces and grey beards like
her father, was delighted with the appearance of this beautiful young prince;
and Ferdinand, seeing such a lovely lady in this desert place, and from the
strange sounds he had heard, expecting nothing but wonders, thought he was upon
an enchanted island, and that Miranda was the goddess of the place, and as such
he began to address her.
She timidly answered, she was no goddess, but a simple maid, and
was going to give him an account of herself, when Prospero interrupted her. He
was well pleased to find they admired each other, but to try Ferdinand’s
constancy, he resolved to throw some difficulties in their way: therefore
advancing forward, he addressed the prince with a stern air, telling him, he
came to the island as a spy, to take it from him who was the lord of it.
“Follow me,” said he, “I will tie your neck and feet together. You shall drink
sea-water; shell -fish, withered roots, and husks of acorns shall be your
food.” “No,” said Ferdinand, “I will resist this” and drew his sword; but
Prospero, waving his magic wand, fixed him to the spot where he stood, so that
he had no power to move.
Miranda hung upon her father, saying, “Why are you so ungentle?
Have pity, sir; I will be his surety. This is the second man I ever saw, and to
me he seems a true one.”
“Silence,” said the father: “one word more will make me chide you,
girl! What! An advocate for an impostor! You think there are no more such fine
men, having seen only him and Caliban.” This he said to prove his daughter’s constancy;
and she replied, “My affections are most humble. I have no wish to see a
“Come on, young man,” said Prospero to the Prince; “you have no
power to disobey me.”
Prospero had commanded Ferdinand to pile up some heavy logs of
wood. Kings’ sons not being much used to laborious work, Miranda soon after
found him almost dying with fatigue. “Alas!” said she, “do not work so hard; my
father is at his studies, he is safe for these three hours; pray rest
“O my dear lady,” said Ferdinand, “I dare not. I must finish my
task before I take my rest.”
“If you will sit down,” said Miranda, “I will carry your logs the
while.” But this Ferdinand would by no means agree to.
Prospero, who had enjoined Ferdinand this task merely as a trial
of his love, was not at his books, as his daughter supposed, but was standing
by them invisible, to overhear what they said.
Ferdinand inquired her name, which she told, saying it was against
her father’s express command she did so.
And then Ferdinand, in a fine long speech, told the innocent
Miranda he was heir to the crown of Naples, and that she should be his queen.
Prospero then appeared before them.
“Fear nothing, my child,” said he; “I have overheard, and approve
of all you have said. And, Ferdinand, if I have too severely used you, I will
make you rich amends, by giving you my daughter. All your vexations were but trials of your
love, and you have nobly stood the test. Then as my gift, take my daughter.”
When Prospero left them, he called his spirit Ariel, who quickly
appeared before him, eager to relate what he had done with Prospero’s brother
and the King of Naples. Ariel said he had left them almost out of their senses
with fear, at the strange things he had caused them to see and hear. When
fatigued with wandering about, and famished for want of food, he had suddenly set before
them a delicious banquet, and then, just as they were going to eat, he appeared
visible before them in the shape of a harpy, a voracious monster with wings, and the feast vanished
away. Then, to their utter amazement, this seeming harpy spoke to them,
reminding them of their cruelty in driving Prospero from his dukedom, and
leaving him and his infant daughter to perish in the sea; saying, that for this
cause these terrors were suffered to afflict them.
The King of Naples, and Antonio the false brother, repented the injustice they had
done to Prospero.
“Then bring them here, Ariel,” said Prospero.
Ariel soon returned with the king, Antonio, and old Gonzalo. This
Gonzalo was the same who had so kindly provided Prospero formerly with books
and provisions, when his wicked brother left him, as he thought, to perish in
an open boat in the sea.
Grief and terror had so stupefied their senses, that they did not
know Prospero. He first discovered himself to the good old Gonzalo, calling him
the preserver of his life; and then his brother and the king knew that he was
the injured Prospero.
Antonio with tears, and sad words of sorrow and true repentance,
implored his brother’s forgiveness and Prospero forgave them; and, upon their
engaging to restore his dukedom, he said to the King of Naples, “I have a gift
in store for you too;” and opening a door, showed him his son Ferdinand playing
chess with Miranda.
Nothing could exceed the joy of the father and the son at this
unexpected meeting, for they each thought the other drowned in the storm.
The King of Naples was almost as much astonished at the beauty and
excellent graces of the young Miranda, as his son had been. “Who is this maid?”
said he; “She is the daughter to this Prospero, who is the famous Duke of
Milan, of whose renown I have heard so much, but never saw him till now: of him
I have received a new life: he has made himself to me a second father, giving
me this dear lady,” said Ferdinand
“No more of that,” said Prospero: “let us not remember our
troubles past, since they so happily have ended.” And then Prospero embraced
his brother, and again assured him of his forgiveness.
Prospero now told them that their ship was safe in the harbour, and
the sailors all on board her, and that he and his daughter would accompany them
home the next morning.
Before Prospero left the island, he dismissed Ariel from his
service, to the great joy of that lively little spirit.
About the author
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He was an
English poet, playwright and actor. Widely regarded as both the greatest writer
in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. His surviving
body of work includes 37 plays, 154 sonnets and two narrative poems, the
majority of which he penned between 1589 and 1613.