The Tempest

Virtue in Shakespeare’s The Tempest College

At first glance, the ending of Shakespeare’s The Tempest appears to be stable, to have reconciled Prospero with his estranged brother and to demonstrate virtuous behavior on the part of Prospero. Indeed, one critic noted that Prospero’s “capacity for compassion and forgiveness” amounts to his “primary worth” (Hunt 69). Brian Sutton, however, acknowledges that “enough loose ends remain for a number of prominent critics to suggest that beneath this cheery surface” the ending remains far from stable (224). And David Brailow goes so far as to say that Prospero finds a way of “reconciling himself to evil” (286). Sutton’s and even Brailow’s analyses seem to be more valid than Hunt’s because Hunt fails to recognize that the compassion and forgiveness of Prospero is demonstrated conditionally. It is true that Prospero rescued Ariel, but Ariel now lives in servitude to him. It is also true that Prospero educated Caliban in matters of language and religion, but as a result, Caliban is enslaved to him. The arranging of his daughter Miranda’s marriage to Ferdinand also seems like a compassionate act, but this marriage will set him up to be father to the future Queen of Naples. Finally, what might be considered his most redeeming act,...

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