Prospero is a complex character with a variety of emotions and aspects to his personality. These different characteristics are revealed in the language he uses. For example, Prospero comes across as violent when he threatens Ariel with a further twelve years of imprisonment, this time wedged into an oak tree. Prospero says, “If thou more murmur’st, I will rend an oak and peg thee in his knotty entrails till thee hast howled away twelve winters.” This shows that Prospero will threaten Ariel until he does what is asked of him. “Murmur’st”, in this context, means to utter a word in defence or to argue back. If Ariel does this then Prospero will carry out this cruel punishment on someone who he should be very grateful to. This also shows that Prospero is confident that he can control Ariel. Also, Prospero is quite offensive when he talks to Caliban. He calls him “A devil, a born devil”. This shows that Prospero thinks Caliban to be the highest evil. He shows this aggressiveness again when he says “I’ll rack thee with old cramps”. This shows that Prospero is not afraid to make threats and then carry them out. Another example of this is when Caliban admits “I must obey; his art is of such power.” For Caliban, a monster, to obey a human (Prospero), shows that Prospero is very powerful indeed. He clearly exercises this power a lot for Caliban to have such a fear of angering Prospero and facing his wrath. When Prospero’s brother and crew get shipwrecked, Prospero is concerned for the safety of the people on the ship. He says, “But are they Ariel, safe?” This shows that Prospero cares about the people on the ship and doesn’t want any harm to come to them. This also shows that Prospero can be kind under his harsh exterior. Another way to interpret the above quote is that Prospero is only concerned for the people so that he can torment them later – in which case this shows us that he is evil minded.
Prospero is also quite domineering. He says to Ariel, “Hast thou, spirit, Perform'd to point the tempest that I bade thee?” Prospero likes to get his own way - he knows Ariel will do as he is told but is showing him who is boss by making him say what he has done. This shows that Prospero is a demanding master who enjoys being in charge. On the other hand, Prospero is loyal. We know this because he says, “after two days I will discharge thee”. By saying this Prospero is honouring his agreement with Ariel and thus being loyal and showing kindness. As well as this, Prospero says to his brother Antonio, “For you, most wicked sir, whom to call brother, would even infect my mouth”, which shows Prospero is very impassioned and has strong views on things. Prospero is kind and loving because he says to Miranda, “Awake, dear heart, awake! Thou hast slept well; Awake!” He is being very kind to Miranda and calling her a dear heart which is a term of affection. As well as this, Prospero is often encouraging, especially towards Ariel. He says, “why that’s my spirit!” Prospero is encouraging Ariel so he will continue do his work well and look up to Prospero as a great master. This shows that Prospero is diplomatic and knows how to get his own way. Furthermore, Prospero is forgiving to his brother Antonio when he says, “I do forgive thy rankest fault.” This means Prospero is forgiving all of Antonio’s crimes against him. This shows that Prospero is merciful. Also, when Ferdinand offers to make Miranda his queen, Prospero steps in. He is worried that his plan won't work if Ferdinand wins Miranda's heart too easily. Prospero says, “but this swift business, I must uneasy make, lest too light winning make the prize light.” He means he can’t let Ferdinand think it was too easy for him to get Miranda to be his girlfriend, because he might not treat her well if it’s really easy to make her love him. This shows Prospero plans ahead and is organised so his plans work out. Prospero says that Ferdinand is lying about being a king and accuses him of being a spy. Miranda tries to speak up for him but Prospero tells her off and threatens to imprison Ferdinand. When Ferdinand draws his sword, Prospero uses magic to make it impossible for Ferdinand to move. Prospero calls Ferdinand a 'traitor'. He threatens to manacle his neck and give him sea water to drink and acorn shells to eat. Prospero doesn't mean any of these threats, but in making them he shows that he has power over Ferdinand and could make him a slave just as he made Caliban his slave. This means he likes to show off his power. On the other hand, Prospero is quite sure of himself and loving towards Miranda. We know this because he says to Miranda, “I have done nothing but in care of thee.” This shows us that Prospero is concerned for Miranda’s wellbeing and for her life.
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