When reading reviews and commentary on Shakespeare, one most likely expects to see great praise and admiration for his work. It is not surprising to come across such commentary as "Shakespeare had developed a remarkably fluid, dreamlike sense of plot and a poetic style that could veer, apparently effortlessly, from to tortured to the ineffably sweet." (Norton, pg. 1027). The commentary that is not so expected, in this case with regards to Shakespeare's play The Tempest, is that his work is "An insubstantial fantasy, nothing more." While the play most definitely contains the qualities associated with a fantasy, it hardly lacks substance. Simply because a piece of work is a fantasy does not mean that real substance can't be valued in the work. By placing The Tempest in a fantasy setting, Shakespeare is able to make a unique account of human nature and power and is able to ask the question of whether the ends justify the means. .
On the surface, it is understandable that one may view the Tempest as insubstantial. The play is filled with all sorts of magic and manipulation; throughout the entire play Prospero is orchestrating a fantastic manipulation with his magical powers. Prospero does everything from having storms created to bring a ship onto his island to having his servant Ariel become invisible to the island's guests and perform all different sorts of trickery. Such magic and far-fetched plots can be deceiving to an audience that is looking for substance. As long as the audience is able to see past the fantastic events in the play, value can be taken away from it. Shakespeare's use of a wide range of different characters of different social standing allows him to make comments on human nature.
The Tempest is filled with a range of characters that almost all show some striking similarities in human nature. The characters vary from servants, jesters, and butlers to kings, dukes, and princes.