The Dictatorial Prospero of Shakespeare's The Tempest
The Dictatorial Prospero of The Tempest
Motivation often propels people to achieve high goals. Sometimes, however, motivation is too strong a tool and can manifest into selfish desires. The exploitation of the weak invariably results from the strong abusing their power, especially in a political setting. In William Shakespeare's ‘The Tempest’, Prospero is displayed as a tyrannical character who spawns a disastrous storm as part of a grand scheme to regain his title of Duke of Milan. His subsequent treatment of each character in the play, even his beloved daughter are purely based on his self-centered motives. Prospero can be seen as an overbearing racist, as well as a usurper to land that does not belong to him, but rather to Caliban. Being that Prospero's nature is dictatorial, every aspect of his life concerns achieving his narrow and self-centered goals of regaining political power through his former title of Duke of Milan.
Prospero treats his young daughter, Miranda, in a controlling way by sheltering her from the outside world and even devises a marriage for her to the son of his enemy, King Alonso to better his efforts of obtaining back the dukedom. Whilst Prospero is explaining how they once were royalty, he continually interjects "Dost thou attend me?" (1.2.77) and "Dost thou hear?" (1.2.106) to his acquiescent daughter. Prospero impatiently desires to be in control of every situation and be at the center of attention and thus this can explain his constant questioning. To the more sympathetic view it can be seen that these questions are not from a controlling point of view, but paranoia regarding how his daughter perceives the conversation. However, after his long speech, he then uses his magic to control her into lulling her into a sleep when he is done talking to her. Is this the action of a loving or a controlling father, a question which individually you can answer differently.
Even Miranda's romantic affairs are not free from her father's meddling and controlling. Prospero admits, "It goes on [Ferdinand and Miranda's amorous glances], I see, as my soul prompts it" (1.2.422-424). Even though he has created this love affair through his magic, he plays with both Ferdinand's and Miranda's emotions by enslaving Ferdinand to menial work while the rest of his evil demise is carried out. Driven only by selfish motives, Prospero is not concerned with his daughter's state of well-being but how she can be used as a pawn within his games. As the play progresses Prospero gives his daughter away in marriage to Ferdinand without even consulting first with her. His selfish motives become more apparent when he extensively warns Ferdinand against pre-marital sex. Prospero view upon Miranda's virginity is that it is a prize for him to give away. Without her virginity, she would not be a valuable asset to him, which is why Prospero calls upon the help of the three goddesses Iris, Ceres, and Juno to protect Miranda's virginity. Prospero's relationship with his daughter displays how he is an authoritative figure, caring not for his daughter, but working only for his own selfish motives. In gaining political power and status with King Alonso through his daughter's magically arranged marriage, Prospero is sacrificing his relationship with his daughter.
Not only must Prospero have power over his daughter's life, but he also must control Ariel and Caliban through their enslavement in order to gain power over the land that is not rightfully his. Prospero's racism is evident through his discriminatory treatment of Ariel and Caliban. Though Ariel is a slave of Prospero's, just as Caliban is, he is treated better because Ariel represents "white magic", while Caliban is associated with "black magic." Nonetheless, Prospero enslaves them both because of his selfish motives of being in complete ruling power over the island inhabited by only...
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