In my view Prospero is both the wronged duke of Milan and a cruel colonial master; there are arguments for both sides and against. Prospero both has claims to dukedom and he treats Caliban cruelly. He has reasons for both, but his views change throughout the play as he realises the true implications of his actions. Prospero is blinded by his obsession with magic and power. ‘My library was dukedom enough’ this suggests that Prospero neglected his rule whilst becoming engrossed in his studies.
Prospero entrusted his brother, Antonio, with his power; only to avoid the council and the people. Prospero was blinded by his studies to the fact that Antonio was organising a military coup with the King of Naples. ‘King of Naples, being an enemy’ Prospero says to Miranda as he tells her his story. In return for the king’s assistance with his acquisition of Milan, Antonio promises that Milan will ‘pay annual tribute’ and do ‘him homage’. This implies that the King was only doing Antonio a favour because he would have Milan in his pocket.
The way Prospero describes Antonio; it would suggest Antonio is some kind of devil. Miranda says ‘good wombs have borne bad sons’ I think that Prospero has blinded her to the real truth by his bias. This would indicate that Prospero misled Miranda into thinking that Antonio is immoral. However looking from the perspective of Antonio; he would think he was doing a duty to the people. Getting rid of Prospero would have been not a sin but a responsibility to Milan, despite the divine right of kings.
Prospero’s relationship with Antonio was fine when Prospero gave Antonio what he wanted, but when he grew more power crazed he wanted more; ‘thine enemy the king of Naples’ Prospero explains to Miranda. On the other hand, Prospero used Caliban to gain control of the isle ‘I showed thee the best springs’ Caliban says, this points out that some time before the play was set Prospero was kind to Caliban or such. In this point of the play Prospero has enslaved Caliban, ‘curs’d be I did so’ he says.
This implies that Caliban regrets doing favour to Prospero, he realises he has been manipulated and used. Prospero enslaved Caliban because ‘thou did’st seek to violate the honour of my child’ suggesting Caliban attempted to rape Miranda. This could be interpreted as colonialisation of the island; Britain did a similar thing to the aborigines in Australia. At first the Brits were kind to them and showed them technology, however when the Britons had everything they needed from the natives they cruelly enslaved them.
This is very alike Prospero and Caliban, at first ‘thou strok’st me’ Caliban protests, however Prospero only used Caliban to gain footing in the island. In conclusion, my perception of Prospero is that he is a misinterpreted character and that power shows the worst in him.