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How does Shakespeare use language, Imagery and setting to illuminate Prospero's journey from revenge to reconciliation.

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare use language, Imagery and setting to illuminate Prospero's journey from revenge to reconciliation. The Tempest opens on 'a ship at sea' caught in 'a tempestuous storm'. This setting would immediately suggest to the Elizabethan audience, the presence of danger and evil, as they would be familiar with other Shakespearian plays where storms have been used in this way, for example, Macbeth and King Lear. The desperate language of the characters in the opening scene would further reinforce the audience's sense of evil afoot. The panic of the Boatswain is illustrated when he cries 'A plague upon this howling' and the terror of the passengers down below can be heard as they cry 'Mercy on us!' 'We split, we split'. The feeling of chaos is further reinforced by the use of language such as, 'howling', 'roarers' and 'drowning'. To the audience, the storm would signify a disturbance in the Natural Order, suggesting that God was upset or angry with certain individuals who have disrupted an ordered hierarchy. This would lead them to suspect that the play would probably involve elements of revenge. ...read more.

Middle

The fact that the army came at midnight would be meaningful to the Shakespearian audience as midnight was traditionally associated with evil happenings and was commonly known as the 'witching hour'. The reason for Prospero's desire for revenge is now clearly understood and the audience would have anticipated that it was possibly too late for redemption. The entire speech has overtones of hatred and a single-minded desire for vengeance. However, there is just one indication that perhaps there is some hope for redemption and this is symbolised through Prospero's description of Miranda as his 'cherubin'. This suggests that the role Miranda is to play is one of saviour or hope for the future. At this point in the play, Prospero loves just two things, his daughter and his magic. Dressed in his cloak, the audience would see only the magician, omnipotent and omniscient and hell bent on the idea of revenge. However, when he 'plucks his magic garment' (removes his cloak) he becomes more human and would be seen by the audience more as a man and father figure. This introduction of a more human side to Prospero's character would reinforce the idea introduced earlier that there is hope for the future and that the play may end with redemption rather than revenge. ...read more.

Conclusion

Prospero's response, 'the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance' completes the journey from revenge to reconciliation. He finally recognises that the only true magic is forgiveness and he realises that he will be greater than his enemies if he can bring himself to forgive them. Granting Ariel the freedom she has longed for is his final act as a magician and following this act he is able to renounce his 'rough magic'. The disturbance in the Natural Order, present at the start of the play, is restored, as the sea again becomes calm and Prospero, having rejected the idea of taking vengeance, forgives those who have wronged him and is restored to his lawful position as Duke of Milan. In The Tempest, Shakespeare successfully uses evocative language, dark imagery and a magical setting to lead Prospero on a journey from revenge to reconciliation. The audience is led skilfully from a threatening start, through a period of anticipation to the final conclusion, where the situation is resolved positively for all characters without the need to resort to acts of vengeance, which at the start of the play appeared to be the only possible outcome. Chris Myatt Page1 ...read more.

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