The Tempest: How Prospero Reflects Arete

Topics: The Tempest, Nobility, William Shakespeare Pages: 8 (3078 words) Published: August 16, 2012

Xalapa, Ver. Lunes, 09 de julio de 2012.

“The Tempest” is Shakespeare’s last work. During his life, Shakespeare wrote many dramatic works in which the main characters were noble men and women who represented the greatest qualities of “human excellence”. Prospero represents some important values of human excellence, or ‘arête’, according to different roles he takes during the play. These values are the core of this paper and the way Prospero reflects them will be analyzed below. The main character of “The tempest”, Prospero, is a noble from birth. That is, during his whole life, Prospero reflects the perfection of human beings. He is protective with his people and they love him. He also is just and disciplined. He starts to study “the liberal Arts—the secret studies” and trusts his dukedom of Milan to his brother, Antonio. Lately, Antonio usurps the dukedom and sends Prospero, his little daughter and his beloved Arts’ books into the sea, leaving them to their fate. Prospero realizes that he had made a mistake when he became obsessed with Art. Because of that error, now he is trying to instruct his daughter, Miranda, to be an excellent woman. Prospero continues studying his books, and the perfect opportunity of recovering his dukedom comes when the ship of the King of Italy, with Antonio in it, reaches Prospero’s island. Prospero will use his wisdom and his Art to ‘teach those noble men a lesson’. Finally, we have two essential concepts need to be clarified. In one hand, ‘Art’ is both nobility and the power of magic, in this sense the word is spelled as ‘art’. On the other hand, ‘Nature’ refers to the basic instincts and the fulfillment of primitive needs. These opposite but complementary concepts are the soul of the dynamic included in The Tempest. Prospero: Shakespeare’s last reflect of human excellence

To begin with, we have to explain the role of aristocracy in Shakespeare. According to the Online Etimological Dictionary (2012), “aristocracy” comes from the Greek kratos, “rule or power”, and arête that means “virtue, excellence”, especially for manly qualities, (superlative: artistos). The word ‘aristocracy’, the government of those who represent human excellence, was derived from this Greek roots. In this sense, it is of central importance to take into account that all the Shakespeare’s main characters are noble men and women. All the plays he wrote are located in an aristocratic context. This may be because Shakespeare lived during the times of important Kings and Queens of England. In that time, aristocrats were the example of human excellence for the society. There are two views of nobility: first, nobility that comes from birth, so aristocrats are virtuous as an extension of their birth. Second, Shakespeare saw nobility as the perfection of Nature. In other words, nobility is shown through nobles’ behavior and merits. The dynamic of Shakespeare’s works start when that aristocratic character suffers a change in his “excellent condition”. As we now, Macbeth, an entirely honorable man, murders King Duncan to usurp the royal crown. Another example is Brutus, a Roman noble who is convinced without true foundations that Julius Caesar has to be killed to stop him from becoming a tyrant. Prospero does not commit such a horrible act to change his honorable state. Yet, he commits the terrible error of becoming obsessed with Arts, or magic, and then, he trusts his dukedom of Milan to Antonio. Antonio wants the dukedom for himself and, with King Alonso’s support, Prospero is sent into the sea with his little daughter, some food and all his beloved books to the sea. Prospero: (…) they hoists us,/ To cry to th’ sea that roar’d to us; to sigh/To th’ winds, whose pity, sighing back again,/Did us but loving wrong.--------...
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