The Tempest

Prospero: Public Leader or Magical Recluse?

In William Shakespeare’s final play, “The Tempest,” the playwright spins a magical web of a story that, although being comedic and light-hearted, subtly addresses the issues of absolutism, power and the monarchy. The main character in “The Tempest” is a man named Prospero. Formerly the Duke of Milan but exiled to a deserted island by his pernicious brother, Prospero uses his magical powers to exact control over his island and anyone who happens upon it. While the play itself is a comedy, Prospero’s character could easily be read as a direct representation of Shakespeare’s opinion on the rulers of his time.

In the beginning of the play, the audience is witness to a terrible storm (a tempest) that threatens to sink the ship of the King of Naples, Alfonso. Also aboard this ship are the King’s brother, Sebastian, his son, Ferdinand, and Antonio, Duke of Milan and brother of Prospero. Though the sailors struggle valiantly, the ship is sunk and it would seem that no one aboard has survived the accident.

The second act opens with the character of Prospero, standing on a beach with his daughter, Miranda, watching the spectacle of the sinking ship. Miranda is very upset by the sinking ship, and declares: “If by your art, dearest father,...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 725 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4211 literature essays, 1403 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in