Predominantly Prosperous Prospero

The first act of The Tempest introduces a lot of interesting elements which we know by Shakespeare’s writing styles to be highly important to this fictional storyline.  The magical world coinciding with the real world is going to play a pivotal role like we have seen this semester in A Midsummer Nights Dream. Prospero’s magical abilities can be seen as either a gift or a curse to some characters in the play and also describe the kind of person he can be.  For example; Prospero shows a lot of warm emotion to Ariel and states that he will let her go free as soon as she finishes the tasks that he asks of her.  His kind feelings shown towards her reveal one side of Prospero’s character, and that is one of genuine good doing.  But as we know with Shakespeare’s works we cannot always take someone for face value.  Just shortly after seeing a likeable Prospero, we see one of cruel intent.  Prospero takes a turn when we see him dealing with Caliban, and we do not know if it is justified yet but in my opinion it is not.  He is very cold and mean to Caliban and he shouldn’t wonder why Caliban curses him in such ways.  “With raven’s feather from unwholesome fen drop on you both!  A southewest blow on ye and blister you all o’er!” (1.2.325-327).  This response from Caliban is something that does not seem unusual and i mean can you blame him?  Prospero seems to me like an unstable character who can have many layers to him that will be discovered more as the play continues. 

Along with the way he treats Ariel, he treats his daughter Miranda very similarly.  He talks with her in a very supportive and understanding way that again shows how he can be a good guy.  As this happens we discover what the first act, the shipwreck, was all about.  Prospero, like many other characters in Shakespeare’s works, was cheated out of his throne as Duke of Milan.  We see here a kind of Richard III complex going on with Antonio, Prospero’s brother.  But undoubtedly the play looks like it will be about the shifting of power like in Richard III but with a mixture of A Midsummer Night’s Dream quality of magic in it.  Prospero’s name meaning prosperous or fortunate could either be ironic or foreshadowing for this play because we do not know exactly what his plan is by causing this shipwreck solely based on the first act.  But i can say that i do not think he is as vileness as some other characters because he kept all of the people alive and seemed to care that none of them were hurt.  “But are they, Ariel, safe?” (1.2.217).  But even though he is not a murderer, that does not mean he is not interested in regaining power.  The idea of shifting power seems to be a common motif in Shakespeare’s works and now we get to see something like this in a Romance play.

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2 thoughts on “Predominantly Prosperous Prospero

  1. Cyrus

    The variance in Prospero’s character (which Alex nicely observes here) has been the basis for different interpretations of this character over time. Prospero was typically once identified as a noble character fallen on hard times. More recently his villainy has been highlighted, especially in his interactions with Caliban. We will have opportunity to talk more about these different points of view on his character as we continue the play!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Secondary Character(s) Saturday: Ariel and Caliban (The Tempest) | ritaLOVEStoWRITE

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