The great magician Prospero did create that might Tempest in Act I, but he did not kill anyone. Later, we happily read that they are safe on the desert island. Why did Prospero do this? What is his intention with the shipwrecked men? Well, the passengers of the boat were in fact the very men who had connived against him and took his Dukedom; The King of Naples, Antonio (Prospero’s younger brother), and Sebastian were all involved in the plot. He has divided all of the survivors into groups, which are scattered throughout the island. The first group consists solely of Ferdinand the Prince of Naples, the second group contains the important lords and leaders; Antonio, Sebastian, King Alonso….and others. Finally, the last group of survivors are a couple of drunk sailors.  Prospero has a plan for dealing with these traitorous men, which will be revealed during the course of the story.

In my last essay, I mentioned that Prospero had grown a lot in character during the 12 years that he spent on the deserted island. A great thing about Shakespeare, and one of the many reasons that people enjoy his writing; is that there are no perfect creatures in his plays. So, even though Prospero has learned from his past mistakes and gotten better, doesn’t suggest that he is perfect. In fact, we find that he has quite the temper. He often takes out his frustrations on his two servants; Ariel (a spirit) and Caliban (the son of a witch).  I just wanted to point out, that by no means is Prospero the “perfect character” in the play.

Let’s take a closer look into each group of survivors:

Group One: Ferdinand is all by himself, and Ariel is sent to draw him into a meeting with Prospero’s daughter Miranda. This plays out, and Ferdinand instantly falls in love with her and wishes to marry her. Prospero is apparently very pleased with the outcome; “It goes on, I see, as my soul prompts it.” However, not wanting Miranda’s hand to be so easily won, he accuses Ferdinand of being a spy and sets him to work for a little while. The prince doesn’t seem to be too upset by this, for he is deeply in love: “This my mean task would be as heavy to me as odious, but the mistress which I serve quickens what’s dead, and makes my labors pleasures.” It is interesting to think that Prospero desires marriage between his daughter and the son of his enemy, King Alonso. Perhaps this is a sign that he desires peace between the families?

Group Two: King Alonso is tired out and discouraged from searching for his lost son. He is convinced that Ferdinand is dead. Gonzalo and Alonso fall asleep, exhausted from their tireless search. The story takes an interesting turn, when Antonio tries to convince Sebastian to kill King Alonso and take his crown. “Here lies your brother, No better than the earth he lies upon, if he were that which now he’s like, that’s dead; Whom I, with this obedient steel, three inches of it, can lay to bed for ever;” Here we find that Antonio has not changed at all in the last 12 years. He is still up to his old tricks. Now, instead of conspiring against his brother; this time he is plotting against the life of an old friend. Antonio himself admits that he is not sorry for his past mistakes; and he would do it again if he needed to. This point in the play brings up an interesting theme in Shakespearean drama: It is hard to avoid repeating ourselves in life. Whether our acts are good or bad; we continue to do the same things over and over again. You will be happy to find that his evil plan is thwarted by the spirit Ariel who wakes up the sleeping king just in time. Needless to say, Sebastian and Antonio decide to try again at their next opportunity.

Group Three: The jester and butler (Stephano and Trinculo) find each other and are reunited, Then they stumble upon Caliban the servant of Prospero. Caliban becomes fast friends with these two after they give him a sip of their liquor. This convinces him that they are gods and he decides to worship them. He forms a conspiracy with Stephano and Trinculo to overthrow Prospero, so that they can then rule the island. This section of the play includes most of the comedic portion, and right now two drunk sailors do not pose any immediate threat to Prospero’s power.

Perhaps the most important scene in the entire play is Act III, Scene III. It truly embodies the way that Shakespeare writes, and how he wishes it would affect those who read it.

King Alonso and his group have just returned from another search for Ferdinand, without success. All of a sudden, a troupe of spirits enter carrying a banquet table and a large feast. They invite all of the men to come, sit and dine. Just as they start forward, Ariel appears in the form of a harpy (a spirit of vengeance), and the second “tempest” of the play begins with thunder. Ariel begins his speech:

“You are three men of sin…………………you ‘mongst men being most unfit to live.”

The men draw their swords at these words, while the harpy continues:

“But remember, – for that’s my business to you, – that you three from Milan did supplant good Prospero; exposed unto the sea, which hath requit it, Him and his innocent child: for which foul deed the powers, delaying, not forgetting, have incensed the seas and shores, yea, all the creatures, against your peace.”

The reactions from all the men vary, but King Alonso is stunned “O, it is monstrous, monstrous! Methought the billows spoke, and told me of it; The winds did sing it to me; and the thunder, that deep and dreadful organ-pipe, pronounced the name of Prosper:”

Prospero was, of course the mastermind behind this great harpy scene; and we find him watching the whole thing from above. He wanted first of all for all the men to remember, truthfully what happened and show them the wrong of what they did. This scene really shows what Shakespeare desires from his plays: A moment of truthful remembrance, and then hope for the future. He wants people to know that they can change and learn from the past and be the masters of their own fate.








3 thoughts on “First Remember – Then Hope: Tempest Part II

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