PROSPERO AND SHAKESPEARE
The Tempest is an interesting play written by the famous, William Shakespeare. It is his official and last accomplishment. This play is thought of as one of Shakespeare’s romance plays. Shakespeare started to write toward the end of his career about magic and fantasy set in far-off lands. These realms that he created are written about in his plays. This particular play is famous for his usage of magic, which is carried through by the Duke of Milan (a state in Italy), who is also known as Prospero the magician. Prospero rules Shakespeare’s creation of an island set far away from all realities and creates ruckus for all that land on the island.
Prospero who is on an island with his daughter Miranda and some servants to assist with magic is stranded but he uses his magical powers to his advantage. Prospero is on this remote island because his brother Antonio usurped his position of Dukedom. His evil brother sent Prospero and his baby daughter sailing into sea with a boat full of wholes. Antonio sent Prospero away in such an abused boat that he assumes that Prospero had to died at sea, but this is not so. A kind-hearted man named Gonzalo changes Prospero and his daughter’s fate and Prospero in return uses his magic on the island to make it some what livable for them.
The play starts out so happily but then Prospero is offered a chance to use his magic and take revenge upon his evil, brother Antonio who took his place in Milan, Italy as the duke to rule. Antonio happens to set sail in waters that are close to Prospero’s island. His servant, Ariel who is an airy spirit, which Prospero rescued from imprisonment and now controls can fly, play magical music, misdirect people, turn invisible, and create storms and fire, among other abilities. Also Ariel’s gender is uncertain and probably indeterminate; it is referred to sometimes as he, but also takes on female forms (for instance, the nymph of I.ii.301 and the harpy of III.iii.53ff) and spends much time invisible. It is probably simplest to think of Ariel as androgynous-that is, neither male nor female) So Prospero and Ariel conjure up a huge storm (the tempest), and try and steer the ship towards the island so that his daughter and himself can return back to civilization. The ship wrecks near the island and Prospero uses his magic to make sure that all the passengers manage to make it safely ashore.
Many interesting figures wash upon shore. These figures include, Antonio, Alonso, the King of Naples, who conspired long ago to help Antonio get rid of Prospero; the good old counselor, Gonzalo; Sebastian, Alonso’s own power-hungry younger brother; and Ferdinand, Alonso’s son, the Prince of Naples. The characters basically divide up into two groups, the protagonists and the antagonists. Antonio is an antagonist. He is the evil brother of Prospero, from whom he usurped the position of Duke of Milan twelve years ago. He also plots with Sebastian to kill Alonso and Gonazalo. Alsonso, the King of Naples is one of the figures belonging to the protagonist group. He was long ago involved in Antonio’s plot to get rid of Prospero. He has a corruptible, power-hungry younger brother named Sebastian. He is the father of Ferdinand and the heir to the throne and he has a daughter named Claribel, who has just been married to a king fare across the sea. Gonzalo also belongs to the protagonists. He is a well-meaning, good-hearted elderly counselor of Alonso, who helped save Prospero and Miranda’s life long ago, when Antonio and Alonso betrayed them. The next character is Sebastian who is an antagonist and he is also the wicked brother of Alonso, King of Naples. He is corrupt and power-hungry, and he plots with Antonio to murder Alonso and Gonzalo. Ferdinand is part of the protagonist group and is the Prince of Naples, and the son of Alonso. He falls in love with Miranda the first time he sees her.
When Ferdinand is washed onto the island alone, Ferdinand and Miranda (the young, na?ve daughter of Prospero who has grown up on the island and has seen no other human being than her father for as long as she can remember.) meet and fall in love at first sight. This was Prospero’s secret goal all along, although he pretends to dislike Ferdinand at first. Meanwhile, Prospero lets the other noblemen-Alonso and Antonio, accompanied by Sebastian, Gonzalo and others wander around the island for a while, by the way of punishment. Alonso believes that his son Ferdinand has drowned, and he is suffering greatly over this.
Antonio and Sebastian, Prosper and Alonso’s wicked brothers, plot together to murder Alonso in his sleep in order to seize the crown of Naples, but Prospero sends his servant Ariel to prevent this. Meanwhile, another of Prospero’s servants-Caliban, a creature native to the island whom Prospero has made his slave-meets up with a couple of drunken servants from the ship, a jester named Trinculo. He is also part of the antagonists and is a clownish figure. He is Alonso’s jester, who washes up alone. Also a good friend of Stephano and very fond of wine, he gets involved in an incompetent conspiracy with Stephano and Caliban to kill Prospero and take over the island. But of course because he drinks his plans are not as efficient.
Prospero at work with his magic again, casts an enchantment on Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian to make them immobile with madness, guilt and fear. Meanwhile, Ferdinand and Miranda become engaged, and Prospero uses his magic to give them a beautiful wedding pageant, with spirits taking the form of classical deities. Finally, in the climatic concluding scene, all the characters are brought together once more. Prospero forgives the villains, but reclaims his dukedom from Antonio. Ferdinand and his father Alonso are reunited. Prospero and Miranda plan to set sail back to Naples with the rest, where Miranda will marry Ferdinand and become the future Queen of Naples. And Prosper, finally keeping the promise, which he has been making for ages, sets Ariel free from its servitude to him.
Prospero is the main character of The Tempest, he is the most powerful and he manipulates everything. From the start of the play he engineers the tempest that brings the other characters to his island, and after that he uses his magic to control where they go. He can send Ariel to make them fall asleep, freeze them in place, or lead them to wherever he wants them to be. He also seems to have guessed correctly what the psychological reaction of Alonso and the rest would be to Ariel’s terrifying accusation while in harpy form, and he seems to have known that Miranda and Ferdinand would fall in love. Caliban’s rebellion took him by surprise, though.
I also think that Prospero is like a stand-in for Shakespeare, saying goodbye to his career in the theater using Prospero’s magic as a way to refer to the magic of the stage. There are passages in the play, which seem to make connections between Prospero’s magic and the magic on the stage.
Prospero’s power of illusion as being a metaphor for the illusion of theater, and his magic and power over other people may be linked to the power, which the playwright himself-Shakespeare-has in creating worlds and characters. Prospero’s final scene in which he stands alone and is powerless on the stage, is a moving farewell to a great playwright who is about to lay aside his magic by writing into his play now my charms are all o’erthrown, and what strengths I have’s mine own. Prospero admits, now I want, spirits to enforce, art to enchant (1-2, 13-14). Even as Prospero pleads for the audience’s forgiveness and release and pleas, which is easy to interpret, as the usual formal pleas made in an epilogue that is actually Shakespeare’s final words, but coming through Prospero. Shakespeare is stopping his writing and saying goodbye through Prospero, when he lays his magical arts forever down and says a final farewell to an audience whom loved him. It is as if these final lines are the final ones that Shakespeare ever wrote for the stage. Then Prospero’s renunciation of his magic, and his begging the audience to, at long last, set him free, are very moving and complex. These final words are a fitting end to a magical play and to an end of a great career in the theater.