William Shakespeare was born on the 23rd of April 1564. As the son of an alderman, he was educated in the schools of the literate upper middle class. At eighteen he was hastily married to Anne Hathaway. Within the next seven years he left his home region of Stratford and joined a company of players in London called the Queen's Men. Around 1592, his first play Henry VI was produced. Shakespeare earned critical and financial acclaim in his lifetime only to die at age 52 in April 1616.Shakespeare's plays were an essential part of an 'English renaissance' known better as the Elizabethan period. The reign of the 'virgin' queen saw the resurgence of art in England as well as the proliferation of translations of the classics: Virgil, Cicero, Homer, Plutarch and Horace, to name a few. The writings of Spenser and Chaucer were enjoying great acclaim and wide readership during this period, as the English theater began to evolve. A group of revolutionary dramatists appeared in Shakespeare's youth, clearing the way for the emergence of Shakespeare and his contemporary, Christopher Marlowe.Simultaneously with the development of dramatic literature was the evolution of the theater and its actors. Acting troupes grew in size and numbers as theaters themselves became more permanent structures as opposed to clearings and squares at fairgrounds. Theater was popular entertainment: a melange of drama, poetry and county fair. In 1599, Shakespeare's new troupe, Chamberlain's men (cap this?), built the Globe theater.Shakespeare was not only a playwright, however. His sonnets are read in schools to this day. So famous and influential were these poems, that his rhyming pattern has become codified in the English poetic tradition as the Shakespearean sonnet.The Tempest, one of his later plays, was produced in 1611. It is one of his last compositions, and many critics feel it differs significantly from many of his other works. This play incorporates themes of the newly discovered Americas and the difficulties inherent in colonization. It is also considered to be very personal. Edward Dutton says that there is a "theory that Prospero in The Tempest represents Shakespeare himself," (Dutton, 152). Although he counters this theory, this indicates how seriously many scholars take this play. In addition, Stanley Wells says that "The Tempest resists clear-cut allegorical readings; this is a measure of its success. It is a supremely poetic drama, not just because it includes some of Shakespeare's greatest poetry but because it speaks, as the greatest poetry does, on many levels, universally relevant and?if we can hear Ariel's music?universally effective."(Wells, 74).Shakespeare's influence is also practically universal. To this day his plays are staged around the world. They provide inspiration and subject matter for movies. Modern authors still quote him. Aldous Huxley titled his book from Miranda's famous quote in Act 5. Shakespeare persists as a poet and playwright who is immensely quotable and irrefutably universal. In the paraphrased words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "None of the plays of Shakespeare were built upon anything but what was absolutely necessary for our existence, and consequently must be permanent while we continue [to be] men" (Foakes, 87).Major Characters Alonso: The King of Naples. He is returning from Tunis in Africa where he married his daughter to the local King. Twelve years previous to the play, he helped Antonio usurp the Dukedom of Milan from his brother Prospero. He is the father of Ferdinand and the brother of Sebatian. Sebastian: Sebastian is with Alonso on the trip back from Tunis. During the play he is convinced by Antonio that he should plot against his brother and become the King of Naples himself. He is the brother of Alonso. Prospero: Prospero's attempt to return to Milan after twelve years of expulsion is the main plot of the play. As a sorcerer, he compels the elements of nature to do his will and he orders his slaves about. Through his plan of playing upon the consciences of his betrayers, he means to regain his kingdom and leave the island. He also intends to marry his daughter, Miranda, to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples. He is the brother of Antonio. Antonio: Antonio took advantage of his brothers (Prospero's) absorption in his studies to steal his Dukedom 12 years earlier. On the island, he continues this sort of behavior by attempting to convince Sebastian to betray his brother, Alonso. Ferdinand: Ferdinand spends a good portion of the play believing his father, Alonso, to be dead. When he meets Miranda he becomes enchanted by her beauty and toils for her father. He pledges to her in marriage of his own accord. Gonzalo: Gonzalo is the wise old man of the play. Twelve years earlier he had provided Prospero and Miranda with the goods that made their life on the island easier. He advises Alonso, although his advice is not always heeded and his words are often mocked by others. Adrian: A member of Alonso's court who accompanied him to the wedding of his daughter. His main function in the play is comedic as he pokes fun at Gonzalo with Francisco. Francisco: He joins Adrian in ridiculing Gonzalo and providing comedic, perhaps even slapstick, relief in the performance. Caliban: Caliban is the oldest resident of the island. His mother, Sycorax, came to the island from Algiers. When Prospero came to the island he took Caliban into his company and taught him English. Since then, Caliban has been enslaved by Prospero and has performed most of the hard labor. Caliban plots against Prospero with Trinculo and Stephano. Trinculo: Trinculo is a jester who accompanies the drunk butler Stephano. He finds Caliban first and joins the pair in the plot against Prospero. Stephano: Stephano is a drunk butler with delusions of grandeur. He is easily encouraged by Caliban's tale of Prospero and the riches of the island. He takes Caliban as his own 'servant' and plots against Prospero. Miranda: Miranda has lived most of her life on the island and has been educated by her father, Prospero. Her virginity is guarded sharply by her father from Caliban because Prospero wants to use her to create a union with the king of Naples. She immediately falls in love with Ferdinand, as Prospero plans. Ariel: Ariel is Prospero's other servant. He is less offensive and more powerful. While Prospero is the 'sorcerer' of the play, Ariel carries out most of his commands. Sycorax: Although she is not actually in the play, Sycorax is a powerful symbol of the natural world as well as Prospero's antithesis and Caliban's mother. Master of a ship: The master opens the play and deals with the ensuing storm. The royal passengers do not heed his warnings, even though he is in command of the ship. Boatswain: He aides the Master of the ship in trying to weather the storm.