Written during the early 17th century, around 1610-1611 by William Shakespeare, The Tempest is among Shakespeare’s most praised as well as criticized stage plays. It is also Shakespeare’s last dramatic piece which he penned all by himself since he wrote later on more plays, but with the help and assistance of others.
Different and distinct from Shakespeare’s well known tragedies, such as Macbeth, King Lear, and Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest is a stage play revolving around the themes of magic, appeasement, absolution, and the confidence in the future to guarantee such ceasefire. Nevertheless, even though the central theme and subject of forgiveness is apparent, there are many issues that are still, up to this day, being debated and discussed. Among these issues is the congruity of Prospero’s feelings, thoughts and ideas, the protagonist of the play, and that of Shakespeare’s. The underlying question remains: did Shakespeare really represent the character of Prospero, the protagonist of the play, as himself?
A lot of people and critics consider that since it was Shakespeare’s final literary piece of work written solely by himself, the feelings of the protagonist Prospero seem to reflect and resound his own. Early critics saw Prospero as an exemplification and image of Shakespeare himself. At the end of the play Prospero finally abandoned and gave up his ‘art’ – this also is parallel to Shakespeare’s life. At that moment he wrote down those very words, it was as though he was signing off his final farewell and departure to his ‘art,’ the stage.
Exasperated by sorrow and torment, Prospero in the play demonstrates his quality of strength and endurance. It is not until the very end of the play that he finally displays and shows his strong character of terrible, in-depth wide-ranging power. At this point of the story, Prospero has now become the great and irresistible magician, having been able to develop his ‘art.’ This can be compared to the success, fame and ‘power’ Shakespeare had possessed for so long. Prospero’s magic with sorcery can be compared to Shakespeare’s magic with words.
In summary, William Shakespeares own character and spirit flows and pours over the character of Prospero. Consequently, the great magician not only represents the noble and great-minded man that Shakespeare was, but also epitomizes the artistically defined literary genius that he was.
Furthermore, just as Prospero was finally able to experience absolution, at the end of Shakespeare’s career of a writer and director of stage productions and literary work, he appeared to have been able to resolve his inward and personal struggles and battles by holding back his violent and belligerent compulsions and by turning out to be exceedingly modest, humble, and quiet.
More important is the fact that instead of constantly looking for the bloody and physical vengeance that could have transformed the play into a tragedy just like the bulk of Shakespeare’s written work, Prospero finally finds himself realizing that our human nature has the capacity and ability to extend forgiveness and mercy to those who have wronged us. At the end, Prospero has changed his character of a bitter man into a more merciful and forgiving human being. After Prospero learns about the condition of those that survived the terrible shipwreck, he states, “the rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance” (5.1.2).
At this point of the story, it shows the parallelism in Shakespeare’s time in his career wherein William Shakespeare has become a household name due to the many great works he has written, especially his tragedies which have catapulted his career into greater heights as time passed by. The tragedies he has written, such as Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Othello and Titus Andronicus were for the most part centered in violence, suffering and death as a ‘resolution.’ However, in The Tempest, Shakespeare has created a character who, instead of holding on to the sword to solve his problems, decides to forgive and show mercy to those who opposed him, even to those who have betrayed and tuned their backs against him in the worst way possible.
Does this ultimately mean that Shakespeare has finally lost his strength, determination and his ‘magic’? Has he renounced his ‘art’ as Prospero has? That is still the question people continue to ask to this very day.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Champaign, Ill.: Project Gutenberg, 199. Print.