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Once again, Prospero almost loses control because he is absorbed by his art; but here, he is able to shake himself from his reverie, and becomes conscious of time again. The moment is important because Prospero is in real danger of losing control, and almost gives up his chance to act because of the pull of his magic. The moment is a humanizing one for Prospero, as he realizes his mortality and his forgetfulness, as well as the limits of his magic. The masque, which he created from his own power, disappears in an instant; and finally, Prospero realizes that his works of magic are all in vain, as they are made of "baseless fabric" and will not last. He sees that "we are such stuff as dreams are made on," and at last realizes that his mind has aged and his powers are fragile and faltering (IV.i.166-167). It is a sobering moment for Prospero, to admit his "weakness" and "infirmity"; and this marks the beginning of his surrender of his magic.
It is not Caliban and his drunken friends, whom Ariel describes in a simile as being "like unbacked colts," that Prospero has to worry about (l. 176). Indeed, the thought of Caliban upsets Prospero more than the plot, as Prospero again curses the one "on whose nature nurture can never stick" (188-89). Prospero thinks that Caliban is bad because he has not adopted the "civilized" ways of thinking that Prospero has, and must be bad natured because of this; but Prospero fails to realize that Caliban's relative goodness has been more spoiled by the way Prospero treats him than by any refusal to adopt foreign ways of thinking.