The Role of Prospero in The Tempest

The Role of Prospero in The Tempest

Prospero is the protagonist and the most complex character of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. He is a powerful magician, a deposed duke, a loving father, a masterful manipulator, and a forgiving ruler. His role in the play is multifaceted and dynamic, as he drives the plot, controls the action, and influences the other characters. In this article, we will explore the different aspects and dimensions of Prospero’s role in The Tempest, and how they reflect his personality, motives, and development.

Prospero as a Magician

Prospero’s role as a magician is central to the play, as he uses his magic to create the storm that shipwrecks his enemies, to conjure the spirits and illusions that shape the events on the island, and to orchestrate the resolution and reconciliation at the end of the play. Prospero’s magic is a source of his power and authority, but also of his isolation and vulnerability. He acquired his magic by studying books of philosophy and science, which led him to neglect his duties as the Duke of Milan and to be usurped by his brother Antonio. He was exiled to the island with his daughter Miranda, where he continued to practice his magic and to rule over the native inhabitants, Caliban and Ariel. Prospero’s magic enables him to achieve his goals and to protect his daughter, but it also alienates him from the natural and human world, and makes him dependent on his books and his staff.

Prospero’s role as a magician also reflects his role as a playwright, as he creates and directs the spectacle of the play, and invites the audience to participate in his imagination and vision. Prospero’s magic is a metaphor for the art of theater, which uses words, sounds, and images to create a fictional reality that can entertain, educate, and enchant the audience. Prospero’s magic also raises questions about the ethics and limits of his art, as he manipulates and dominates the other characters, and sometimes abuses his power and authority. Prospero’s role as a magician challenges the audience to consider the nature and purpose of art, and the relationship between the artist and the audience.

Prospero as a Duke

Prospero’s role as a duke is another important aspect of his character, as it reveals his past and his future, and his sense of justice and revenge. Prospero was the rightful Duke of Milan, but he was betrayed by his brother Antonio, who conspired with Alonso, the King of Naples, to overthrow him and to send him and his daughter to sea. Prospero’s role as a duke is a source of his dignity and legitimacy, but also of his resentment and bitterness. He seeks to restore his position and his honor, and to punish his enemies for their treachery. He uses his magic to bring them to the island, where he subjects them to various trials and torments, and exposes their guilt and corruption.

Prospero’s role as a duke also reflects his role as a father, as he cares for his daughter Miranda, and arranges her marriage with Ferdinand, the son of Alonso. Prospero’s role as a father is a source of his love and tenderness, but also of his control and authority. He educates and protects his daughter, but he also keeps her ignorant and obedient, and tests her and her lover’s fidelity and virtue. Prospero’s role as a father also raises questions about his role as a colonizer, as he claims and rules over the island, and exploits and oppresses its native inhabitants, Caliban and Ariel. Prospero’s role as a duke challenges the audience to consider the nature and consequences of power, and the relationship between the ruler and the ruled.

Prospero as a Forgiver

Prospero’s role as a forgiver is the most surprising and significant aspect of his character, as it shows his growth and his humanity, and his ability to transcend his magic and his politics. Prospero’s role as a forgiver is the culmination of his role as a magician and a duke, as he decides to renounce his magic and to reconcile with his enemies, and to restore the order and harmony of the world. Prospero’s role as a forgiver is a source of his wisdom and generosity, but also of his humility and vulnerability. He realizes that his magic and his revenge are not enough to satisfy his soul, and that he needs to forgive and to be forgiven, and to embrace his human nature and condition. He also realizes that his art and his power are not his own, but are dependent on the cooperation and the appreciation of the others, and that he needs to ask for their applause and their release.

Prospero’s role as a forgiver also reflects his role as a teacher, as he educates and enlightens the other characters, and the audience, about the values and the virtues of forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. Prospero’s role as a teacher is a source of his influence and his legacy, but also of his responsibility and his accountability. He teaches by example, and by sharing his knowledge and his experience, and he hopes that his lessons will be learned and remembered, and that his actions will be justified and rewarded. Prospero’s role as a forgiver challenges the audience to consider the nature and importance of forgiveness, and the relationship between the forgiver and the forgiven.

Conclusion

Prospero is a complex and dynamic character, who plays various roles in The Tempest, and who reflects and influences the themes and the messages of the play. He is a magician, a duke, a father, a master, a playwright, a colonizer, a forgiver, and a teacher. His roles reveal his personality, motives, and development, and his power, authority, and vulnerability. His roles also raise questions and issues about the nature and purpose of art, magic, power, justice, revenge, forgiveness, and humanity. Prospero’s roles challenge and engage the audience, and invite them to share and to question his vision and his reality.