Ambition is not the same as happiness, and happiness is not the ultimate goal in The Tempest.Â For Prospero, his ultimate ambition is to become Duke of Milan again after being usurped by his brother Antonio. Ambition should be directed towards a concept of duty and selflessness, yet once becoming ruler of the island, Prospero takes advantage of his authoritative status over the inhabitants. However, it could be argued that Prosperos’ authority is threatened by Caliban. He is well aware that Caliban is the rightful ruler of the island yet Prospero has something Caliban does not – the power of knowledge. This “magic” allows Prospero to imprison Caliban and to use him as a slave.Order now
Prospero, whilst telling Miranda how they came upon the island does so using very balanced speech, “…in care of thee, of thee my dear one…” Almost as if he had rehearsed this speech, the repetition, the balanced wording and the pauses, orchestrated by the use of commas, which supports this theory that he knew exactly what he was going to say, he simply wasn’t having a spontaneous conversation. Prospero also demonstrates a great understanding of himself, the use of “better”, “greater”, “master” show that in Prospero’s mind, his Dukedom is to the fore of his thoughts, and he continually returns to this idea of reclaiming his rightful place as Duke of Milan.
When Miranda and Ferdinand fall for one another, they believe it was out of their own free will. However it was Prospero who devised their meeting. He allowed Ferdinand to be stranded away from everyone else after the shipwreck – enabling him to think that his companions had drowned. Prospero knew that upon seeing Ferdinand, Miranda would fall for him, “…A thing divine, for nothing natural I ever saw so noble.” Yet Prospero began manipulating Ferdinand from the outset, he deliberately showed a disapproval of their love, knowing that in the end Miranda would rebel against him. “…and hast put thyself upon this island as a spy, to win it from me, the lord on’t,” (speaking to Ferdinand.) His plan works, although he makes it apparent that Ferdinand has to earn her hand in marriage. He even makes a comparison of him with Caliban, “To the most of men, this is a Caliban…” Of course he wouldn’t dare allow Miranda to marry Caliban, he thinks of him as “a freckled whelp, hag-born.”
However it could also be argued that Prospero is placing Miranda’s future above his own, his duty as a father in that sense takes priority. He allows another man to court her. Ferdinand is the heir to the throne of Naples; he is of a suitable rank for Miranda, which was important to the social hierarchy at the time. So, once they return to Italy her title, through marriage, will be as great, if not greater than Prospero’s. Also, in a dynastic sense, it brings Milan and Naples together. Prospero’s ambition for Italy is therefore realised through Miranda.
Still, Prospero’s desire in reality is to return to his duty as Duke of Milan. He would delight in reading his books but he cannot, because he has to fulfil the role that he was born to; that is, reclaiming his birthright. Because of that he puts his duty above personal happiness. “A most auspicious star, whose influence if I now court not, but omit, my fortunes will ever after droop…” He is saying that if he doesn’t act soon he could never regain his Dukedom and the “auspicious star”, or the Gods, would, effectively, punish him for that. It was fate that brought his enemies to his shore and he must succumb to it and reclaim his birthright.
To begin with Prospero treats Caliban fairly, he taught him about his own culture and how to speak a new language. Yet when Caliban tried to rape Miranda, “Thou didst seek to violate the honour of my child…” Prospero curses him by giving him aches and pains, “side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up.” As he knows that he can no longer trust him, and giving him duties to carry out through which the pain would only get worse if he does not fulfil them.
Nevertheless from Caliban’s viewpoint he simply wished to populate his beloved island, “…thou didst prevent me, I had peopled else this isle with Calibans.” As Miranda was the only woman – or mate – he saw her as his chance and therefore he does not regret it. Therefore Caliban’s ambition is to be free of Prospero’s command, and rightfully take his island back, “This islands mine, by Sycorax my mother, which thou tak’st from me…” Caliban is in service to Prospero begrudgingly and he does make his feelings shown, yet he realises that there is a great risk from arguing with Prospero as he has more power than Caliban could ever own, “I must obey: his Art is of such pow’r…”
Caliban is so badly affected by Prospero’s treatment of him that he is easily persuaded to plot against him alongside Trinculo and Stephano, “…I’ll yield him thee asleep, where thou mayst knock a nail into his head.” Caliban understandably wants the island back, which is a sensible ambition. Yet by wanting to kill Prospero he appears unrealistic – even if it were reasonable, as he should not desire to overthrow a person who is more powerful than his self.
It is obvious to the reader that Caliban is the only character who sees the island for its natural beauty; he speaks in appreciative poetry and uses repetitive imagery of the surrounding habitat showing that he understands its true splendour, “the isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not…and then, in dreaming, the clouds methought would open, and show riches ready to drop upon me, that when I waked I cried to dream again.” Caliban’s ambitions are simple ones, no hidden agendas or deceiving thoughts, and contrast greatly to the likes of Trinculo and Stephano for instance.
Trinculo and Stephano immediately think of profiting out of Caliban when they first meet him, “…he smells like a fish…were I in England, not a holiday fool there would give a piece of silver.” “If I can recover him and keep him tame, he’s a present for any Emperor.” This shows that they do not think of Caliban as a human being, simply a means to make a profit. They wish to exhibit this strange new creature or sell him off – both are corrupt thoughts.