The Tempest - Character List and Analysis.docx - The...

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The Tempest – Character List and AnalysisProsperoThe play’s protagonist, and father of Miranda. Twelve years before the events of theplay, Prospero was the duke of Milan. His brother, Antonio, in concert with Alonso,king of Naples, usurped him, forcing him to flee in a boat with his daughter. Thehonest lord Gonzalo aided Prospero in his escape. Prospero has spent his twelveyears on the island refining the magic that gives him the power he needs to punishand forgive his enemies.Prospero is one of Shakespeare’s more enigmatic protagonists. He is a sympatheticcharacter in that he was wronged by his usurping brother, but his absolute powerover the other characters and his overwrought speeches make him difficult to like. Inour first glimpse of him, he appears puffed up and self-important, and his repeatedinsistence that Miranda pay attention suggest that his story is boring her. OnceProspero moves on to a subject other than his absorption in the pursuit ofknowledge, Miranda’s attention is riveted.The pursuit of knowledge gets Prospero into trouble in the first place. By neglectingeveryday matters when he was duke, he gave his brother a chance to rise up againsthim. His possession and use of magical knowledge renders him extremely powerfuland not entirely sympathetic. His punishments of Caliban are petty and vindictive, ashe calls upon his spirits to pinch Caliban when he curses. He is defensivelyautocratic with Ariel. For example, when Ariel reminds his master of his promise torelieve him of his duties early if he performs them willingly, Prospero bursts into furyand threatens to return him to his former imprisonment and torment. He is similarlyunpleasant in his treatment of Ferdinand, leading him to his daughter and thenimprisoning and enslaving him.Despite his shortcomings as a man, however, Prospero is central to The Tempest’snarrative. Prospero generates the plot of the play almost single-handedly, as hisvarious schemes, spells, and manipulations all work as part of his grand design toachieve the play’s happy ending. Watching Prospero work through The Tempestislike watching a dramatist create a play, building a story from material at hand anddeveloping his plot so that the resolution brings the world into line with his idea ofgoodness and justice. Many critics and readers of the play have interpreted Prosperoas a surrogate for Shakespeare, enabling the audience to explore firsthand theambiguities and ultimate wonder of the creative endeavor.Prospero’s final speech, in which he likens himself to a playwright by asking theaudience for applause, strengthens this reading of the play, and makes the play’sfinal scene function as a moving celebration of creativity, humanity, and art. Prosperoemerges as a more likable and sympathetic figure in the final two acts of the play. Inthese acts, his love for Miranda, his forgiveness of his enemies, and the legitimatelyhappy ending his scheme creates all work to mitigate some of the undesirable

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