1. (b) The Tempest is a play of forgiveness and reconciliation. How successful is the play in exploring these themes?
Prospero is a character that seems to stand at the very centre of The Tempest. Throughout the play, he prompts most of the action, and he has the last word.
The entire plot of the play is a scheme designed by Prospero to bring his rivals to a state of regret so that he can pardon them and restore the rightful order of things to his dukedom of Milan.
As Prospero is seen as being all-powerful over the island, he could
easily destroy or punish his enemies by any method or means. However, he chooses not to and brings the past conspirators face-to- face with the sins of their past, which causes them to be repentant. In a god-like way, Prospero forgives each of them, allowing them
to live and return to Italy. In appreciation, they promise to faithfully serve Prospero. It is a picture of full reconciliation, with the exception of Antonio. This shows that the theme of this play is the ‘chain of forgiveness and reconciliation’, filled with religious overtones.
The religious theme in this play may be shown by how Prospero exemplifies wisdom, justice, and super-human good judgement. In relation to the other characters, this may be argued to show a Christ -like representation of Prospero to the readers or audience of the play. The time when the play was written would mean an audience composed of Christians, who would have almost certainly agreed that forgiveness was essential. Like Jesus he is betrayed by his enemies. After he is stripped of his power,
Prospero is then sent to die at sea; but he is almost miraculously raised from the near-dead due to the loving care of Gonzalo, who is a God-like figure due to his age, wisdom, kindness and caring. In spite of the wrongs done to Prospero, like Jesus, he bears no
grudges and does not become bitter.
Instead, he uses his power to gather his enemies so that he can bring them to repentance and subsequently forgive them in order for everyone to be reconciled.
Throughout the play, Prospero’s god-like representation is shown by his judging, punishing, and forgiving. With the help of Ariel, Prospero also appears to be all-knowing too. It can be argued that he is an Old Testament God, where he turns to vengeful fury when he is crossed, and the question throughout is Prospero will overcome his anger and forgive his enemies. Christians are expected to forgive and revenge is not a Christian attribute. As Prospero observes, forgiveness is a nobler action than vengeance.
However, it may be argued that Prospero’s actions were quite harsh. For instance, it may be said that the sufferings of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo are comic. However, there seems to be something cruel in the way Prospero deals with his old enemy Alonso, letting him think until the last minute that his beloved son Ferdinand is dead. (Bringing Ferdinand back from the dead, so to speak, is God-like too.) Also, throughout the play Prospero’s anger is shown, for example, late in the fourth act, Prospero interrupts the spirits’ pleasant masque when he’s suddenly overcome with rage at the thought of Caliban’s plot against him. Then, early in Act V, he admits to Ariel that he can only forgive his enemies by letting his “nobler reason” overcome his “fury.
” This fury, more than any other quality, makes Prospero more of a human than a god-like figure.
Prospero seems to contradict his character with mixture of forgiveness and almost cruelty. However, many would argue that his enemies deserved harsh treatment. Prospero loved Caliban and taught him language and had shown Prospero al the fertile and barren places on the island. Caliban now uses the language to curse Prospero and accuse him of stealing his rightful kingdom. He lovingly gave Caliban freedom and Caliban returned that kindness by trying to rape Prospero’s daughter, Miranda.
Prospero makes Caliban perform all sorts of menial tasks as a punishment for Caliban’s attempted rape, which may be argued as fair, but also may contradict Prospero’s ‘forgiving character’. Prospero makes .