The Tempest: Act I

Contributor: Emily Love. Lesson ID: 10741

Have you ever done something with the best of intentions and had it backfire? That's nothing new; Shakespeare's characters have had the same problem! Prospero and Ariel teach you about motivations!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

  • What do you think that saying means?

Try to rewrite the phrase in your own words, then see how it relates to the characters you are about to meet.

When people use this phrase, they are usually trying to say that a person who has done something wrong or even evil may have had good intentions.

Good thoughts or goals can sometimes translate into bad actions or actions with unexpected negative consequences.

If you missed a lesson or want a refresher, find all of the Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar. You may also access The Tempest: No Fear Translation online if you do not have a hard copy.

In the first act of The Tempest, Shakespeare introduces most of the play's cast and sets the stage for the action to follow.

To understand each character more fully, you need to understand some of the key components authors use to help readers grasp a character's behavior throughout a work. Consider the following three levels of characterization.

  1. Physical: the character's appearance; consider age, gender, race, distinguishing features, illnesses, physical disabilities, unusual mannerisms, etc.
  1. Mental: the character's inner thoughts and motivations; consider goals, fears, religion, political views, relationships, moral convictions, etc.
  1. Social: the character's relationships with others and society as a whole; consider actions, speech, friendships, occupation, etc.

Once you have fleshed out these three levels of a character, you need to ask two other important questions.

  • Why does this character do what they do? Into which level of characterization would this motivation fall?
  • How does Shakespeare communicate this character's motivations? Does he have the character share their thoughts? Does he have the character do something unusual? Do you have to understand the character's past to understand their motivation?

When you are ready to examine some of Shakespeare's characters, continue to the Got It? section.

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