- Prospero, the main character. The overthrown Duke of Milan. He now lives on an island and is a great sorcerer.
- Miranda, Prospero's daughter, who falls in love with the Prince of Naples, Ferdinand.
- Ariel, a spirit who does Prospero's bidding and is, at times, visible only to him. He became Prospero's "slave" because he was saved by Prospero from being trapped in a tree by Sycorax. Ariel obeys all of Prospero's demands and is eventually granted freedom.
- Caliban, a villainous island native, the deformed son of a witch named Sycorax (see below), who ruled the island before Prospero arrived. He now works as Prospero's slave but despises him. In the play, he is known to have spoken many colorful curses, an example being, "a southwest wind blow on ye and blister you all o'er".
- Sycorax (unseen), a deceased Algerian sorceress and mother of Caliban, who was banished to the island before Prospero arrived and enslaved the spirits on the island, including Ariel.
- Iris, Ceres, and Juno, spirits who perform the roles of goddesses in a masque presented to the young lovers.
- Alonso, King of Naples
- Sebastian, Alonso's treacherous brother.
- Antonio, Prospero's brother, who usurped his position as Duke of Milan. He and Sebastian plot unsuccessfully to kill Alonso.
- Ferdinand, Alonso's son. Falls in love with Miranda.
- Gonzalo, a kindly Neapolitan courtier, who secretly provided Prospero and Miranda with food, water, books, and other "stuffs and necessaries" when they were pushed out to sea.
- Adrian and Francisco, lords.
- Trinculo, the King's jester and friend of Stephano.
- Stephano, the King's drunken butler and friend of Trinculo who tries to help Caliban overthrow his master
- Master of the ship