Ariel is an airy spirit bound in service to Prospero and impatient for his release.
He was confined to a tree by the witch Sycorax for refusing to serve her, and only freed when Prospero arrived on the island. The memory of this imprisonment and the threat of being so confined again is enough to keep him from complaining overmuch at Prospero’s demands. A shape-shifter, he is the main source of Prospero’s magic, using his own powers to accomplish Prospero’s wishes. He stage-manages the opening storm and by various means leads the various castaways to their respective punishments and purgations while making sure that they neither die nor commit any truly serious crimes. He is an accomplished singer, backed by a chorus of the lesser spirits that he commands, and portrays Ceres in the masque. He also plays the tabor and pipe. He is mischievous, but not completely insensible: he recognizes human emotions and what causes them even though he cannot feel them himself. He is set free once he has safely sent the ship back to Naples.