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The Tempest: Character Study of Prospero

By nightr1x Oct 03, 2010 1303 Words
Character Study of Prospero in The Tempest

"The Tempest" is a play written by Shakespeare in 1611. It is a play about a man called Prospero who's brother (Antonio) attempts to murder him and his 3 year old daughter Miranda in order to become the Duke of Milan. Antonio plans to kill them by sending them out in a boat that would sink at sea. However, his plan failed as Prospero and Miranda survived and ended up shipwrecked on an island. After 12 years on the island, Prospero decides to claim revenge on his brother and everyone who was involved in his attempted murder. Everyone is unaware Prospero and Miranda are alive and well so Prospero uses this to his advantage, and causes Antonio and other members of the Italian nobility to shipwreck on the same island Pospero is on using his magic he has developed over the years and a spirit called Ariel.

William Shakespeare was an English poet and play wright in the late 15th to early 16th century. Of his surviving work he has 154 sonnets, 38 plays and two long narrative poems.It is believed Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon but many facts about his life are unclear, and there is actually a long period of time when there are no records of him these are known as the "Lost Years". At the age of 18 he married 26 year old Anne Hathaway who was 3 months pregnant, with one of their three children Susanna. Hathaway and Shakespeare later had twins called Hamnet and Judith. He died on 23 April 1616 at the age of 52.

In the play "The Tempest", Prospero is the central character. The whole story has evolved from his past and all of the events in the story unfold with him or around him. In the play he has the power of magic, a spirit called Ariel (who he freed from a log in return for servitude until such a time that it was no longer necessary.) and Caliban ( a monster who believed he owned the island until Prospero and Miranda arrived and Prospero tamed Caliban to protect and be their personal servant.We know Prospero treats him as a servant because he is only allowed near Miranda when he is doing tasks such as gathering firewood. We know that Prospero does not value Caliban because he refers to him as "thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself". This shows that Prospero looks on Caliban in a very negative way and also refers to him as "slave" frequently. However Prospero does pardon Caliban towards the end of the play which shows that he can forgive. Prospero is a very diverse character and is portrayed as a good character but also as a character that has his downfalls.

Prospero is shown in many different ways and we see different sides to him. For example when he decides he wants Ariel to cause a shipwreck he makes sure that nobody is killed and the people who do not need to be involved are put into a slumber and the ship is hidden in a bay on the island. While this shows that he is fair because he does not wish to punish those who do not deserve it or have not wronged him in any way, but his daughter Miranda asks him to save anyone from harm. Prospero replies "No harm. I have done nothing but in care of thee- Of thee my dear one, thee my daughter" this shows that the main reason he did not kill everyone who he did not want alive was because Miranda did not want any harm to come to any of the innocent people. However the fact that the main reason he did not kill everyone was because Miranda did not want him to also shows that he may have no problem killing the innocent. He does show appreciation of his daughters compassion when she asks him to spare the men on the ship. We know he shows appreciation when he says "The very virtue of compassion in thee."
Prospero shows different opinions of Ariel too. When Ariel returns from the ship after causing it to be destroyed Prospero refers to him as "My brave spirit", but when Ariel refers to the promise Prospero made of eventually setting him free, Prospero takes offence and treats Ariel more as a slave than as a companion at that point in the play. This suggests that Prospero only values Ariel on the level that he will do what he asks without question, but when he is reminded that he must set him free one day he does not treat him as a slave but a friend. This could be interpreted as Prospero only being able to value somebody if they will do what he requires with no complaints. Prospero does set Ariel free at the end of the play along with breaking his staff so he can no longer use magic, but this is only after all his needs had been satisfied. This suggests that Prospero did value Ariel but perhaps not on a friendship level and only on the level that he could perform what he required and when he had no more use for him he set him free.

Ferdinand is the son of Alonso who assisted Antonio in the attempted murder of Prospero. Prospero chooses a fitting way to punish him by making him believe his son has perished in the shipwreck when he is actually alive and well. This shows Prospero's fair and caring side as he does not over punish Alonso because he wants revenge, instead he thinks of a fair punishment and does not let him self be consumed by revenge which shows self control. While Alonso believes Ferdinand is dead Ferdinand also believes that Alonso is dead which is a creul punishment for him since he has done nothing wrong towards Prospero or Miranda. Prospero could have easily avoided Ferdinand having to share the punishment that Alonso had by making a different punishment that would be of the same harshness but have no effect on Ferdinand. Prospero's plan is to test Ferdinand's loyalty to see if he is fit to become Miranda's husband. While this gives of the impression that Prospero wants what is best for his daughter it is also quite scheming, as he did not leave it to a natural situation he had to conjure the situation Miranda was in to try and make her fall in love with Ferdinand. Ferdinand to prove his loyalty to Miranda had to perform sevaral tasks for Prospero such as collecting firewood etc,Prospero makes Ferdinand do this because he believes "too light winning make the prize light", but these tests could have easily been avoided for a much less taxing test for Ferdinand. This could however be argued that Prospero merely wants the best for his daughter so he wants Ferdinand to undergo the hardest of test to prove himself worthy.

In conclusion I believe that Prospero cannot be catagorised into good or evil as he lies in the middle. While he does show alot of kind deeds such as sparing everyone, not choosing too harsh punishments and not becoming overun by revenge the reasons for these sometimes appear to be slightly corrupt. He shows that he is a good father and wants the best for Miranda but he sometimes is over protective and causes uneccasary trouble for others where it could be easily avoided. At the end of the play he does break his staff and "drown" his spellbook (which means he can no longer use magic) and he does set Ariel free. I also believe that Prosperos true meanings and nature are brought to light when his

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