Powerful Prospero

The character of Prospero already has me very interested in what’s to come in this play. He himself seems to be like one of the forces of nature over which he has control. In fact, one of the first things we learn about Prospero is that he was the one to create and hold power over the tempest that sank the King’s ship. Prospero seems to be a powerful wielder of magic and, as Caliban says in an aside, “I must obey. His art is of such power it would control my dam’s god Setebos, and make a vassal of him” (1.2.375-377).

Prospero’s power, however, is not limited to only his magic, but we see it in his language, as well. As in many of Shakespeare’s works, language holds a power that rivals that of magic or brute strength. As in Othello, we see Prospero as a master of weaving tales as he tells his daughter in the beginning of 1.2 the story of their unfortunate past. Through his tale he wins not only Miranda’s attention, but also her sympathies. It’s only when he has said sympathies that he continues on to tell her of the plan involving her Uncle and the King whose ship was lost in the tempest and the survivors cast onto their island.

We also see Prospero’s control of language and air of power when he first summons the spirit Ariel. We are instantly shown that Ariel and Prospero seem to be at odds because of a promise made by Prospero to Ariel that remains unfulfilled. We learn that Prospero was supposed to grant Ariel freedom, but demands that he stays in his service longer. Ariel begins to argue and demands freedom, but Prospero cuts him off. He instantly reminds Ariel of everything he has done for him, as Prospero says when Ariel first begins to try and defy him, “Doust thou forget from what a torment I did free thee?” (1.2.252-253). Prospero makes sure to work with fine rhetoric in order to maintain his contract with Ariel for some time longer, as well as keep his trust and respect. In the end, Ariel is convinced of Prospero’s greatness and trusts his promise to free Ariel from his service in two days time. Here we see Prospero use not only language to his advantage, but he skillfully inserts memory of his magical prowess and abilities, as well in order to solidify his agreement with Ariel and his plans for the future.

With all of this in mind I am interested to see the most recent movie adaptation of this play where the role of Prospero is changed to that of a woman. I would love to see how such power plays out in a female role. 


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