Explore How the Character of Prospero Develops in the Course of the Tempest. How Does the Prospero of Act One Scene Two Compare to That We Hear in the Final Scene of the Play? Compare Your Interpretation of the Play with That of Other Critics.

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Prospero is the most central character in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. The play revolves around his personal task to regain his dukedom, which his brother Antonio usurped from him. Throughout the play it is shown how Prospero develops and changes as a character and seems a different person to the character we first meet in Act One Scene Two. How Prospero’s character develops happens in a variety of ways, one of the most potent ways appearing to be the treatment of the other characters within the play. Prospero’s character is introduced into the play in Act One Scene Two, after the tempest has shipwrecked Antonio and Alonso’s ship. We firstly come to realise that Prospero and Miranda are looking down upon the tempest and so the shipwreck and that Prospero is the cause for the storm. This makes the character of Prospero immediately appear powerful, in a physical sense. We learn this through Miranda. “Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.”(1)

This shows that Prospero has great physical power; we also learn that he has supernatural powers. These powers play a large part in the play and Prospero uses his own supernatural powers and Ariel’s powers to manipulate the other characters throughout the play. By the end of the play, Prospero repents these supernatural powers. “I’ll break my staff,”(2)

This shows a great change in Prospero’s character. As throughout the play, Prospero relies on the power he and Ariel possess to fulfil his ambition to once again become Duke of Milan. The most obvious reason for giving up his powers is that he only needed them when on the Island. Now that he is returning to Milan, he may no longer feel the need for these powers. Yet this change shows an immense change in his character. It could also be because in the time, this play was written and performed witchcraft and magic were prosecutable offences and could lead to the death penalty. Shakespeare may have Prospero dispose of all of his supernatural powers, as it would not have been viable to have a ruler of Europe taking part in criminal activities. In an essay by John Middleton Murray he suggests that the reason Prospero does not take his powers away from the Island with him is because “if Prospero's power extended to the world beyond the island so he could compel the voyage thither, the drama would be gone"(3) This seems an accurate point to make, as it seems the Island is the catalyst for Prospero’s power, and so if Prospero took his powers away from the Island it would take away from the drama that the powers create on the Island. Therefore, it appears throughout the play that Prospero is not as powerful as is suggested in Act One Scene Two (him creating the tempest). It appears that Ariel is the one who possesses the true power and Prospero is only powerful because Ariel is doing his bidding. So, at the end of the play when he lets Ariel go free this appears to be when Prospero loses his power not in Act five when he says he will rid himself of his powers. It seems Prospero’s character does not realise this, as his God like complex seems a constant throughout the play, this seems so as he has power over all of the other characters throughout the play. Yet even these changes as he develops from having a supernatural power over them to once again becoming the duke and so continuing to have power over the other characters.. The Shakespearian people would have seen their rulers as chosen by God and so would have seen Prospero –as a Duke- as a God like figure. Therefore, although the view as Prospero being a God does not change completely it does alter. This is because by the end of the play, he has developed and now he is returning to Milan does not require the supernatural power he needed on the Island to control the other characters. However, he has developed and so realised that this power is not longer necessary. He required the power on the Island partially to control his slave Caliban. At the beginning of the play,...
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