Is it just me, or is Prospero a slight maniac?

One thing that I noticed was the role of the daughter, Miranda, in comparison to her father, Prospero. She has little to no agency when it comes to her own personal choices, and her father seems sort of manic. When she asks him “Sir, are not you my father?” (1.2.55), he evades answering the question. Obviously he is, but he goes on to talk about Miranda’s mother and father as separate people from his past because of what he has gone through. It is as if he has lost his identity because his brother usurped the throne. He again demonstrates this by referring to his past self in third person, saying: “And Prospero the prime duke—being so reputed / In dignity…” (1.2.72-3). Here, he references his past self (the one who trusted his brother and was in power as a Duke) as dignified and educated (even though his studies distracted him from his brother’s ways). Prospero also evades answering Miranda’s question about why he started the storm in the first place (“And now I pray you, sir— / For still ‘tis beating in my mind—your reason / For raising this sea-storm” [1.2.176-178]). He responds to her, but it is not straightforward; she must figure out the meaning behind his evasive language.

I LOVE CALIBAN’S CHARACTER. That had to be said. He reminds me so much of Kreacher from Harry Potter (hopefully you’re familiar). When Prospero calls him in, he enters and automatically starts rambling absurd insults and I thought of Kreacher’s interactions with Sirius Black. He even begins speaking to himself as he exits the room, telling himself that he’d better do what his master tells him to because he is so (magically) powerful (“I must obey. His art is of such power…” [1.2.375]). I think that the exchange between Caliban and Prospero in this scene is kind of hilarious, because they are just going back and forth saying things like “I hope you get blisters all over your body!” (Cal) and “I’m gonna curse you with really bad cramps!” (Prosp). It’s also a pretty important exchange in balancing out their characters while simultaneously stirring up this awkward chaos. By this I mean that because I found Prospero to be a bit manic, he is nothing compared to Caliban. Cal’s character shows the downfall of descendants of evil and how they can be judged and oppressed before given a chance. Finally, Miranda gains a sense of agency here, when she scolds the slave for being so rude and expresses her regret for teaching him the gift of language, which he now uses to say foul curses.

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2 thoughts on “Is it just me, or is Prospero a slight maniac?

  1. Michelle D.

    I honestly love how you just connected all of that because it really does change the way I looked at it. It’s as though the emphasis of the conversation is more noticeable because of the humorous exchanges, it’s almost childlike in the respect that the exchanges are to out-do the other. I found the bantering between the two characters kind of much at first but seeing the almost dark humor of it that way brings new light.

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  2. karissakeir

    I love your comparison of Caliban to Kreacher! I didn’t think of that, but once you pointed it out, I could definitely see the similarities. I know that J.K. Rowling has been influenced and inspired by many classic authors, and (especially being British) I’m sure she’s read her Shakespeare! Whether or not she consciously drew on the character of Caliban to create Kreacher, I think the fact that you saw that similarity shows how influential Shakespeare is, and how relevant the themes and characters in his plays still are today.

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