The Tempest begins with a ship caught in a storm on its way to a wedding. It crashes on an island whose only inhabitants are Prospero, his daughter Miranda, his slave Caliban, and a number of spirits. Prospero actually orchestrated the storm through Ariel, a spirit who owes Prospero service because Prospero saved his life.
One of the ship’s passengers is Prospero’s brother Antonio, who usurped Prospero’s dukedom and had him banished to the remote island . By shipwrecking Antonio on the island, Prospero intends to get his dukedom back. Raw human nature as well as the things that influence the characters personalities are very visible as Shakespeare strips away all normal social structure.
The first example of this raw look at human personality in The Tempest is during the shipwreck. The nobles and sailors have a very well defined social hierarchy. This hierarchy is destroyed when the ship wrecks on Prospero’s island. When the storm begins the Boatswain says “What cares these roarers for the name of king?”. This statement indicates that class doesn’t matter in a dire situation, and is something that would not be acceptable to say to a noble under normal circumstances. But because the king and his nobles are putting their lives in the hands of the Boatswain, they have no choice but to accept it.
The second example is the way Prospero hides his intentions and is often not truthful. When Prospero causes the storm, he doesn’t tell his daughter why he needed to cause the storm. As a reader, I wondered why he did this. He also has never told his daughter of their past, as seen in this quote: “You’ve often started to tell me who I am, but then suddenly stopped, leaving me asking questions that never get answered, telling me, “Wait. Not yet.”’ This is interesting because it implies that her father is keeping the truth from her. What could Prospero have gone through in the past to feel it imperative to lie?
In summary, The Tempest shows the human condition (what makes and shapes a person) through getting rid of normal social structure and causing the reader to wonder about a character’s backstory and what causes their behavior and feelings.