The daughter of Prospero, an exiled magician, falls in love with the son of his enemy, while the sorcerer's sprite, Ariel, convinces him to abandon revenge against the traitors from his earlier life. In the film, Prospero stands in for Shakespeare, and is seen writing and speaking the story's action as it unfolds. Prospero's Books is a complex tale based upon William Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Ariel is played by three actors a boy, an adolescent, and a youth. Each represents a classical elemental. The boy represents water, and is shown perpetually urinating. Conservative movie critic Michael Medved attacked the scene of Ariel urinating from a swing in "The Urge to Offend" chapter of his book Hollywood vs. America.