An Examination Of Prospero

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An Examination Of Prospero’s Character Essay, Research Paper Prospero’s magical powers allow him to single-handedly take control of a situation of slowly developing chaos, caused by his eviction from Milan, and turn the plot of The Tempest towards comedy by sheer force. That he has powers over his surroundings, far greater than those of an ordinary mortal, is inconceivable, as is the fact that he uses them for good in the course of the play. However, it remains to be asked whether Prospero combines his magic with power over the self, and whether Shakespeare actually presents him as an ideal ruler. Although we hear the story of Prospero’s eviction from Milan from him, the manner in which he tells his history suggests distrust — Prospero is pompous, self-pitying and

apparently unforgiving. The nature of Prospero’s rule as revealed by Act I is notpleasant. When duke of Milan, he trusted his brother Antonio too much, and consequently nearly lost his life, as well as his dukedom. On the island, he befriended Caliban, brought him into his house and treated him as a member of the family — and repeated the pattern of trust, which was again betrayed, when Caliban attempted to rape Miranda. Although Prospero learns from this second betrayal, he goes to the other extreme. Prospero’s apparently cruel stance is revealed in his exile and verbal abuse of Caliban, as well as his outbursts and threats to imprison Ariel again “till / Thou hast howl’d away twelve winters”. Aside from the sin of dictatorship, Prospero also seems unforgiving

towards Caliban and Antonio. When we see Caliban willingly serving Stephano and Trinculo, we begin to realize that Caliban is not evil of himself, and could in fact be a most affectionate servant. Seeing Caliban fear cramps and speak of Prospero as a “tyrant”, Shakespeare implies that the fault of alienating Caliban lies with Prospero’s failure to understand Caliban’s limitations and accept them, while teaching him to be what he can achieve. Also, Prospero’s treatment of the party seems to show that he is interested only in frightening them, and at this point we do not realize that he wants to educate them. When we see Alonso dashing offstage apparently to kill himself, we can only assume that Prospero wants to take his revenge on the relatively blameless Alonso by

allowing him to commit suicide. As yet, we have heard no other speech from Prospero about his intentions for the court party except for the long history he told to Miranda, when he called Alonso “an enemy / To me inveterate” and spoke bitterly about Antonio. Prospero is also consistently self-indulgent and vain. At the beginning of the play, he calls himself “poor man” in his story to Miranda, and answers her question in extremely redundant fashion, suiting his own wishes rather than hers. Although he says that his only care has been to serve Miranda, the first thing we see after that is Miranda serving him by helping him take his cloak off ˆ implying a shallow display. When Stephano’s party is getting ready to kill Prospero and the party is apparently going to commit

mass suicide, aided by Antonio, Prospero indulges his vain desire to show off his art to his children, and make the most of it before he gives it up. Even at the end, we are slightly uneasy at Prospero’s desire to tell everyone his life story — a wish that seems somewhat selfish. However, this has been but one side of the coin. Although Prospero appears cruel at the beginning of the play, our impressions of him change drastically by the end. His last lines to Ariel are that once he has blown them safely home, he is free; and at a point when Ariel again reminds him of his promise, he reacts calmly, unlike his earlier outburst. We also discover that while Prospero has punished Caliban ever since his offence, he has also constantly searched for an opportunity to educate him