Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” : The Character of Prospero
Prospero is the protagonist in the play The Tempest by William Shakespeare and he was the lawful Duke of Milan, who, along with his infant daughter Miranda, was put to sea on “A rotten carcass of a butt, not rigged, / Nor tackle, sail, nor mast …. To cry to th’sea, that roared to us…” by his usurping brother, Antonio, twelve years before the play begins. (I. ii. 146-9) The playwright presents this character as a very powerful person who is able to invoke some mighty magic, by using his spell books. The main plot of the play revolves round this character who is seeking his revenge by creating a terrifying tempest in the ocean, with the assistance of Ariel, which attacks and scatters his enemies. In a reflective exploration of the character of Prospero, it becomes lucid that the protagonist displays three chief character traits such as forcefulness, protective nature, and forgiveness.
One of the most essential character traits of the protagonist in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest is forcefulness or dynamism which helps Prospero in carrying out his plans of revenge. This feature of his character helps Prospero in taking control over the environment as well as people around him and he is a superior character influencing the course of the actions in the play. The most crucial display of his forcefulness is evident when he controls Ariel who was greatly instrumental in the protagonist’s strategy for revenge. Significantly, Prospero displayed the supremacy to control Ariel who was powerful enough to create a great tempest in the beginning of the play. Prospero refers to this crucial power of his character when he says, “Hast thou, spirit, performed to point the tempest / That I bade thee.” (I. ii. 193-4)
A reflective analysis of the character of Prospero confirms that he is highly protective of people close to him and this trait of his character is especially evident in his relationship with his daughter, Miranda. For the protection and good future of his daughter, Prospero prepares a plan for the love affair between Ferdinand and Miranda and he makes sure that their love does not die away quickly. In an aside, Prospero reveals his true plan for the protection of his daughter. “They are both in either’s powers; but this swift business / I must uneasy make, lest too light winning / Make the prize light.” (I. ii. 449-51)
The most important character trait of Prospero, which is revealed by the end of the play, is his forgiveness and he forgives various characters, such as Antonio and Caliban, by the end of the play. Thus, Prospero forgives Caliban by the end of the play, although he has attempted to rape Miranda, turned against Prospero, and planned to kill him. The protagonist’s forgiveness is evident when he says, “As you look / To have my pardon, trim it handsomely.” (V. i. 290-1) Similarly, Prospero forgives Antonio, his brother, who has caused him deep grief by deceiving him and leaving him on a ship with his daughter to die.
In conclusion, a careful analysis of the character of Prospero reveals three major character traits in the protagonist of the play, such as forcefulness, protective nature and forgiveness. It is essential to realize that these characteristics in Prospero have played a major role in the development of the plot and action in the play The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Therefore, Shakespeare has been greatly successful and convincing in the development of these important character traits in the protagonist of the play.
Shakespeare, William. The tempest. David Lindley. (Ed). London: Cambridge University Press. 2002. P 106.