Stephano is a boisterous and comical character in William Shakespeare's play, The Tempest. He is a drunken butler who becomes stranded on the enchanted island alongside his fellow shipwreck survivors, Trinculo and Caliban. Despite his lower social status, Stephano proves to be a pivotal character in the play, adding humor and mischief to the storyline.
Stephano is introduced as a servant to Alonso, the King of Naples. However, it is his love for alcohol that defines him throughout the play. When the shipwreck occurs, Stephano seizes the opportunity to indulge in his favorite pastime, stumbling upon barrels of wine that have washed ashore. This discovery leads him to believe that he is the "king" of the island, and he quickly appoints himself as such.
One of the most memorable scenes involving Stephano occurs when he encounters Caliban, a deformed creature who is enslaved by Prospero, the play's protagonist. Caliban mistakes Stephano for a god due to his inebriated state and pledges his loyalty to him. Stephano, reveling in his newfound power, takes advantage of Caliban's devotion, manipulating him into plotting to kill Prospero and take control of the island.
Stephano's role in The Tempest is primarily that of a comedic relief, providing light-hearted moments in an otherwise serious play. His drunken antics and foolish behavior offer a stark contrast to the more serious and intellectual characters in the play. Stephano's humorous exchanges with Trinculo, another shipwreck survivor, further contribute to the overall comedic tone of the play.
Despite his comedic nature, Stephano's character also serves as a commentary on power and authority. Through his drunken delusions of grandeur, he highlights the absurdity of the hierarchical social structure of the time. His belief that he can become a king simply by finding a few barrels of wine reflects the arbitrary nature of power and the potential for anyone, regardless of their background or qualifications, to assume authority.
Stephano's character arc ultimately culminates in his downfall, as his plans to overthrow Prospero are thwarted. However, his presence in the play leaves a lasting impression on the audience, reminding them of the power of laughter and the importance of not taking oneself too seriously.