The nature of discovery entails a journey that is transformative and concerns one’s relationship with one’s self or one’s world. Discoveries can be either sought or serendipitous and can lead to good or bad consequences, but ultimately they are all concerned with the acquisition of greater knowledge and a new perspective. In William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero comes to realise not only the limitations of his art, but also the importance of love and redemption in redefining one’s place in the world, as well as one’s view of it. Relative text.
The Tempest, as its title suggests, is partly concerned with the forces of nature, but mostly it is about the need for the liberating and redemptive power of forgiveness in the face of man’s inhumanity towards man. Prospero conjures a storm, with Ariel’s forced assistance that brings to the island those who have wronged him. The scene seems set for a revenge plot to unfold. However, we soon discover that Prospero has changed in the 12 years that he has been exiled on the island. He realises that he is as much to blame for his exile as his treacherous brother Antonio to whom he relegated his ducal responsibilities in order to pursue his selfish interests: ‘And to my state grew stranger, being transported/And rapt in secret studies.’ Just as Miranda discovers her true identity, her history and her future husband, Prospero has discovered his error and will return to Milan a wiser, more forgiving and less self-indulgent ruler: ‘I’ll break my staff, / Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, / And deeper than did ever plummet sound/ I’ll drown my book.’ Through the dramatic device of the masque and Ariel (music) he comes to see that even on the island his powers are unable to change those unwilling to change, just as he has realised his powers did not prevent his exile from Milan, and comes to accept the need for himself to change his perspective on human nature; one that sees it as a combination of both Caliban...
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