The Tempest

The Tempest: In Search of Prospero’s Identity in Caliban and Ariel

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero exerts wrathful influence over the island and his servants Caliban and Ariel cannot help but cower in humble obedience. Ariel is indebted to Prospero for freeing him from the dreadful darkness of the “cloven pine” (I.ii.277) to which he was banished by the witch Sycorax. For Caliban, servitude is natural, for he was born devoid of self-control and consequently must fall under the authority of another. By examining the master-slave interactions in The Tempest, the reader can understand what Caliban and Ariel represent in the play. Some critics have suggested that Prospero’s dominion over the island is a gesture of colonial appropriation over the two natives of the island (Parker), yet Prospero’s remarkable metamorphosis from an abusive to a merciful master in the last scene complicates the relationship between Prospero and his two servants. Prospero’s acts of forgiving Caliban and freeing Ariel can be seen as a surrender of the qualities that made him a cruel and vengeful demi-god. Ariel and Caliban are perhaps manifestations of Prospero’s character flaws that he has failed to admit. Shakespeare attempts to unifies the roles of Prospero, Caliban, and Ariel by defining their relationship...

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