The Tempest

The Addictive Nature of Prospero's "Art"

While the magic of Prospero, the deposed duke of Milan at the center of Shakespeare's The Tempest, is frequently associated with art or creativity, this reading of the text seems incompatible with a substantial amount of textual evidence. Most notably, if the play is a celebration of Prospero's artistry, why does the wizard renounce his magic upon obtaining his goals: the happy marriage of his daughter and the reclamation of his dukedom? The answer to this question is hinted at throughout the text (though Prospero himself never directly states it): Prospero's magic seems to contain a certain addictive, dehumanizing element which Prospero realizes is at least partially responsible for his exile.

The first evidence that Prospero is addicted to magic occurs in Act I, Scene II of the play, when Prospero explains to his daughter Miranda how he lost his dukedom to his brother Antonio. According to Prospero:

And Prospero, the prime duke, being so reputed

In dignity, and for the liberal arts

Without a parallel; those being all my study,

The government I cast upon my brother

And to my state grew stranger, being transported

And rapt in secret studies.... (I. ii, 72-77)

In short, while Prospero blames his brother for the loss of...

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