ENGL 1302 M-W 2-3:30pm
Prospero: A True Villain
In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero is always pointed out as a truly moral main character. There are ideas that Prospero’s characteristics, his behavior, and the way he uses his magic contribute alternately to Prospero’s role as an undeniable protagonist of the play. Although there is evidence to support strongly his status as an unquestionable hero of The Tempest, Prospero still can be viewed in an opposite perspective. Throughout Shakespeare’s entire play, it is necessary to consider Prospero’s actions and his behavior to have a better view on this character. A careful examination on The Tempest, especially on Prospero, can create a new negative character in the play. In other words, Prospero can be discussed as a villain because of his behavior, his personality, and his abuse of magic. Prospero is usually known for his emotionless behavior. Some critics point out that Prospero’s behavior is one of elements that contribute to his status as a hero of The Tempest. However, Prospero’s actions throughout the play can turn him into a villain. First, Prospero usually gets angry and punishes Caliban. Other critics claim that Prospero just wants to educate Caliban. However, Hiewon Shin says that, “Prospero punishes Caliban not with love, but with hatred and anger which was strongly condemned” (379). Prospero’s punishment is so savage that it becomes Caliban’s fear. As Shin mentions, “Caliban’s fear of his adoptive father’s relentless punishment is obvious: ‘Do not torment me! O!’; ‘The spirit torments me. O!’; ‘Do not torment me, prithee! I’ll bring my wood home faster’ (II.ii.54, 61, 68-9)” (379). Furthermore, Prospero is quick to get angry whenever he thinks about Caliban. David Bishop claims, “At that moment, caught up again in his recurrent error, making the same mistake for the third time, Prospero suddenly, this time fortunately in time, recalls the plot of Caliban and his confederates”(1). Considering the way Prospero acts toward Caliban, his status as a hero should be removed. Prospero also gets angry at Miranda and uses a spell on his daughter. Bishop states, “Prospero reveals an inner reservoir of anger even in the way he talks to Miranda, whom he clearly loves” (1). Prospero is easy to let his emotion affect the way he treats other people. “He doesn't trust her to pay attention to his story, though she shows no sign of deserving his distrust. ‘Thou attendst not’, he accuses her--an accusation so obviously untrue that it reveals, at least, a worrisome irritability, and maybe a touch of paranoia” (Bishop 1). Moreover, Prospero’s behavior plays against him in the situation in which he uses a spell to put Miranda to sleep. Ledingham Angus says that, “In such actions the audience can see the mage’s power and Prospero’s enormous control, extending sometimes to tyranny, over friend and foe alike. He is willing to manipulate even his daughter Miranda and put her to sleep with terrifying self-assuredness: ‘I know thou canst not choose’” (1). Prospero’s attitude also needs to be mentioned as a problem of a true protagonist when he treats Ferdinand with anger. Eugenio Olivares Merino claims: “Sometimes, we cannot help feeling distress about Prospero’s behavior, we cannot avoid thinking he has fallen for his demon. Even his use of language has a contaminating quality. At times his diction is almost indistinguishable from Caliban’s. His threat to Ferdinand, ‘I’ll manacle thy neck and feet together./Seawater shalt thou drink. Thy food shall be/ The fresh-brook mussles, withered roots, and husks/Wherein the acorn cradled. (I. ii. 464-467) recalls Caliban’s earth-rooteed language.’”(227). In this situation, Prospero’s words play against him. He acts exactly as a villain who wants to punish others for no reason. Moreover, Prospero’s villainous behavior appears in the way he treats his closest slave, Ariel. Instead of asking Ariel for...
Cited: Angus, Ledingham. "Psychoanalyzing Prospero - A Sea Change in The Tempest." Emagazine. (2009): n. page. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
Bishop, David. "The Rage of Prospero." The Wheel of Ideals. N.p.,n.d. Web. 12 Apr 2014.
Giorno, Gabriella T. "The Reflected Tempest and Prospero’s Calling Word"." Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies (HJEAS) 11.1, The Voices of the English Renaissance (2005): 203-10. JSTOR. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
Henze, Richard. "The Tempest: Rejection of a Vanity." Shakespeare Quarterly 23.4 (1972): 420-34. JSTOR. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
Hoeniger, F. D. "Prospero 's Storm and Miracle." Shakespeare Quarterly 7.1 (1956): 33-38. JSTOR. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
Merino, Eugenio Olivares. On Prospero’s abjuration of his rough magic. 220-231. Web.
Petrescue, Melissa. "Prospero 's Metamorphosis:Character Transformation in Shakespeare 's The Tempest." META-An Interdisciplinary Journal. N.p.. Web. 12 Apr 2014.
Shin, Hiewon. "Single Parenting, Homeschooling: Prospero, Caliban, Miranda." Studies in English Literature 1500-1900.Vol. 48, No. 2, Tudor and Stuart Drama (2008): 373-93. JSTOR. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
Thompson, John. "Prospero 's Selfishness." Simegen. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr 2014.
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