The Tempest is believed to be William Shakespeare’s last play written during the early modern period around 1608. The genre of this play is romantic, tragic and comedy but also covers emotions like betrayal, hatred, anger and vengeance. The theme of this play is also surrounded by illusion, magic and imagination. The Tempest includes few interesting characters such as Ariel the witch, Caliban the rapist, Antonia the cheater and Prospero the forgiver. To get a better understanding about this play, I will aim to explain the most crucial choices Prospero has to make in the course of The Tempest. In my opinion, the most important choices Prospero has to make in this play is to set Arial free forgive the ones who did wrong to him and give away his most powerful source of survival, magic.
Act one begins with a noise of thunder and lightning where a sailor yells “boatswain” which provides the background of this scene to its audience. Everyone on the ship including Alonso, Ferdinand, Sebastian, Antonia, Gonzalo, Stephano and Trinculo lose their calmness and starts fearing for their lives. Everybody on the ship is paranoid, helpless and prepares to sink.
While looking at the drowning ship from the shore, Miranda requests her father to help the people in the ship as she feels bad for them. She says “Oh, I have suffered with those that I saw suffer. A brave vessel who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her dashed all to pieces. Oh, the cry did knock against my very heart! Poor souls, they perished” (Shakespeare, Act 1 Scene 2). After listening to his daughter, Prospero reassures Miranda that nothing will happen to the people on the ship and tells her a story about their past. Prospero introduces himself as the Duke of Milan whose brother Antonia along with Alonso, the king of Naples illegally took over Prospero’s position. After Prospero and Miranda are thrown at the raft of the sea to die, they survive because Gonzalo gave them books and supplies which are the source to Prospero’s magic and power. In search of shelter and a subtle place, Prospero and Miranda landed on this island where they still live and have been living from the past twelve years. Prospero thanks fortune for sending his enemies this way and raises the tempest as this is the only time for him to make things right. He says “By accident most strange, bountiful Fortune now my dear lady hath mine enemies Brought to this shore. And by my prescience I find my zenith doth depend upon A most auspicious star, whose influence If now I court not but omit, my fortunes Will ever after droop” (Shakespeare, Act 1 Scene 2).
After putting his daughter to sleep, Prospero calls upon his spirit helper Ariel who is a supernatural creature, completely supervised by her master Prospero. Ariel reports to her master on how she has successfully carried out his order to shipwreck the king of Napes and other crew members in a brutal tempest. Ariel also assures that nobody was harmed during the tempest and that everyone has gotten on the island safely the way Prospero wanted. Upon her master’s command, she also made sure that everyone is separated and divided into smaller groups. During her conversation with Prospero, Ariel reminds Prospero of his promise that he has given to Ariel regarding her freedom. She says “I prithee, remember I have done thee worthy service, told thee no lies, made thee no mistakings, served without or grudge or grumblings. Thou didst promise to bate me a full year” (Shakespeare, Act 1 Scene 2). Prospero evokes Ariel’s memory and reminds her of the time when she was trapped in a tree. Prospero shares the story of Ariel by claiming how a witch named Sycorax locked up Ariel in a tree and died. After Sycorax’s death, Prospero came and freed Ariel from that torture. In order to pay Prospero for his help, Ariel assured Prospero that she knows the place and can help him and his daughter settle around. With the burden of payback over her shoulders towards Prospero, Ariel ends up being a servant to him. Later, Prospero commands Ariel to take the shape of a sea nymph and make herself invisible to all but Prospero.
In act one scene two, we are also introduced to Caliban, Sycorax’s son who is also a servant to Prospero. Prospero orders Caliban to go and collect some firewood for his house and if he don’t, Prospero will give him cramps at night while sleeping. In my reference, Caliban seems like a moderately sympathetic character who is an unwilling slave to Prospero, a man who initially acted as a father figure to Caliban and taught him of the world only to turn around and use him for manual labor. To provide a better understanding about my point I would like to quote one of Prospero’s dialogues regarding Caliban. He says “We cannot miss him. He does make our fire, fetch in our wood, and serves in offices that profit us” (Shakespeare, Act 1 Scene 2).Apart from being a sympathetic character, Caliban is also machiavellian as he uses his language as a weapon and curses Prospero and his daughter, only because they are the ones who taught him how to speak. He also admits that he tried to rape Miranda once before because he wanted the island to be filled with the race of Calibans as this place only belongs to him.
Later in the same scene, Ariel escorts Ferdinand, son of Alonso to Prospero and Miranda. Miranda instantly falls in love with Ferdinand as he is the only man she has ever seen beside her father and Caliban. Meanwhile, Prospero begins to put his vengeance plan into motion in which he arranges Ferdinand to fall in love with Miranda and wants them to return back to Milan as a one happy family. In this scene, Prospero does sound a little cruel towards his daughter but at the end he is looking out for the betterment of Miranda. Prospero pretends like he thinks Ferdinand is a spy and forbids her daughter to fall in love with Ferdinand. Miranda forces her father to spare him and requests him to let Ferdinand stay with them. Prospero listens to his daughter and accepts her wish only on a condition that Ferdinand will stay as his servant.
Act two scene one portrays the image of King Alonso who is very sad because he thinks that his son Ferdinand must have drowned in the shipwreck. While Alonso and other crew members take a nap, Sebastian and Antonia decides to murder Alonso in his sleep so that Sebastian can inherit the throne. However, before Antonia and Sebastian could fulfill their wish, Ariel comes to wake the king up. Ariel says to Gonzalo ” my master through his art foresees the danger That you, his friend, are, and sends me forth— For else his project dies—to keep them living. (sings in Gonzalo’s ear) While you here do snoring lie, open-eyed conspiracy His time doth take. If of life you keep a care, shake off slumber and beware. Awake, awake!” (Shakespeare, Act 2 scene 1).
In act two scene two, Caliban is seen collecting firewood and sulking about his fate. He runs into two drunken guys named Stefano and Trinculo who proceeds to get him drunk as well. Caliban decides to worship Stefano as a god since he thinks Stefano must have fallen from the moon.
In act three scene one, we see Ferdinand who’s working as a servant for Prospero. He and Miranda have a beautiful conversation about truth wealth, love and marriage. Prospero is delighted to see his daughter and Ferdinand getting closer, he is happy to know that his plan has worked out so well.
Act three scene two focuses on Caliban and his two new friends. Caliban explains to his friends about how cruel and evil his master Prospero is and suggests that they all go and murder him.
In act three scene three, Prospero uses his magic to make a fancy banquet out of nowhere to attract Alonso, Antonia, Gonzalo and Sebastian. However, once Gonzalo assures the king and his crew that there is nothing wrong with the food, Ariel rises in the shape of a harpy and vanishes all the food as she accuses the king and his partners in exiling Prospero of being evil. She says “You are three men of sin, whom destiny, that hath to instrument this lower world and what is in’t, the never-surfeited sea hath caused to belch up you; and on this island where man doth not inhabit; you ‘mongst men being most unfit to live. I have made you mad; and even with such-like valour men hang and drown
their proper selves” (Shakespeare, Act 3 Scene 3). After Ariel leaves in thunder, King Alonso continues to feel miserable about his deeds. He blames himself for the death of his son and decides to kill himself so that he can unite with his son.
Prospero finally gives Ferdinand to marry his daughter Miranda in act four, scene one. Prospero commands Ariel to go and collect the others so they can witness the happy couple. Prospero also orders a bunch of more spirits to decorate the place for new visitors. However, Prospero remembers tat Caliban is going to try and kill him so Prospero and Ariel plots some shiny clothing to distract Caliban and his two friends.
In act five scene one, a conversation takes place between Prospero and Ariel. Ariel requests her master that the king and his crew are very sorry about their deeds and it would be unfair if they are not forgiven. After listening to Ariel, Prospero decides to go with Ariel’s noble instincts and commands her to release the king and his men. He says “The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance. They being penitent, the sole drift of my purpose doth extend not a frown further. Go release them, Ariel. My charms I’ll break, their senses I’ll restore, and they shall be themselves” (Shakespeare, Act five scene 1).
Prospero reveals to King Alonso that Ferdinand is still alive, and gives Gonzalo a hug for saving him and his daughter years ago. Prospero tells Antonio that he is forgiven for his deeds even though he is a monster and demands that he get his thrown back. When Alonso learns that his son is engaged to Prospero’s daughter Miranda, he insists that Prospero and Miranda return home to Milan with them so the lovely couple can be happily married.
In The Tempest, Prospero grew up as a human and realizes the essence of life by releasing the people who did wrong to him. The most important choices Prospero makes in the course of The Tempest is to set Ariel free from his service, forgiving his brother along with King Alonso and giving up his magic because he no longer requires it. Prospero becomes a better man by discovering that forgiveness and mercy is what makes us human rather than vengeance and control. Prospero also throws all of his magic books after his reconciliation with his enemies.