Prospero and Fernando in the Tempest

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Fatherly Figure
Prospero and Miranda in The Tempest

The relationship between Prospero and his daughter Miranda is one of the deepest and most interesting in the play. His paternal presence in her life is stronger than she is at first aware of, and Shakespeare displays this nicely through the sense of sight. In the first scene of the third act, Prospero oversees a pivotal conversation in the relationship between his daughter and Ferdinand, possibly by using his magic to stay invisible. It is unclear how exactly Shakespeare wanted the viewer to perceive this scene without seeing it directed by him, but one possibility is that he uses Prospero’s magic metaphorically to show the reader or viewer that he is more of a presence in Miranda’s life than she may know.

In the opening scenes of the play, Prospero displays an unmatched depth in character as he uses supernatural powers and steadily reveals important new details from his past, but as the story unfolds, Miranda is just as clueless about her father as the audience. The second scene of the first act serves as the opening into their relationship, where Miranda has a frantic reaction to the terrible storm and tragic shipwreck. While bothered by the notion that her father could have prevented the devastation and chose not to, Prospero tells her that she is unaware of the reality of the situation. He gently reprimands her by saying, “Of thee, my dear one, thee, my daughter, who Art ignorant of what thou art; naught knowing Of whence I am, nor that I am more better Than Prospero, master of a full poor cell, And thy no greater father.” This is really just a nice way of saying, “you know very little about yourself or me,” which perfectly sets up Prospero for a vital moment in his relationship with his daughter: explaining to her the detailed truth about their past. A long discussion allows her to learn a significant amount about him, but in the following scenes Miranda proves she still is unaware of her...
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