The Tempest

Rendering Prospero the Victim

Shakespeare writes many dimensions into the character of Prospero in The Tempest. He is loving and protective of his daughter, hard-hearted towards his enemies, and manipulative of his allies. Given the complexity of his character, rendering him as a victim or as a villain has been a point of meditation for directors. Indeed, he is cruel in his enslavement of the spirit Ariel and the monster Caliban. He then abuses his power over them during his extension of cruelty to his opponents – he subjects his enemies to the unnerving desertion on an island that they forced upon him when he first lost his dukedom. Not only does he crave retribution, but he also keeps his agents captive against their wills. In spite of his malevolence towards both his enemies and his allies, Prospero should be portrayed as a victim, based his own circumstances: the means by which he achieved his power over his agents, oppression, is more legitimate than Antonio’s means of achieving power, theft. This judgment that treachery is more villainous than oppression echoes through the play, and so Prospero should be rendered a victim and Antonio, his usurper, a villain.

Even though Prospero lacks a formal title, his power over the creatures of the island seems...

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