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Is Prospero a magnanimous ruler or an oppressive coloniser?

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AMDG JOSHUA GRAY - 14TH JUNE 2004. IS PROSPERO A MAGNANIMOUS RULER OR AN OPPRESSIVE COLONISER? At first glance Prospero seems like a well intentioned magician, a serene old man who only wanted to restore harmony and achieve reconciliation. But when you look closer into his character you see something else there, a character who is harsh and impatient, demanding and ambiguous, power hungry and deeply troubled. However, there is also a noble, kind and divine side to him. Ariel knows Prospero well and is one of the main characters and so has an advantage over the other characters about what he knows. Ariel calls prospero: ".....My noble master" However, Ariel has good reason to call him this. Prospero treats Ariel very well compared to Caliban often calling him names like "bird, "chick" and"...mine free spirit"....Ariel is under Prospero's control because he set him free from a tree which Sycorax imprisoned him for 12 years because he did not obey her commands. Although prospero is a much better master than Sycorax The fact still remains that he is still master and through out the play Ariel longs for "my liberty" but when he asks for it back Prospero becomes angry and threatens him with twelve more years. He has been extremely unjust and unfair against Ariel's wishes and has not realized this. ...read more.


".....So dear the love my people bore me" This treacherous act would indicate that Antonio does not have a conscience and is only stopped from anything worse because it concerns him what other people think... At no stage does he seem to repent his wrong doings and yet Prospero includes him in his general absolution, adding insult to injury Prospero never receives any thanks for this. For Prospero to be able to freely forgive would show his love and compassionate nature and with this evidence he would appear to have yet again the qualities of a magnanimous ruler. Alonso is a better person than Antonio, He shows that he is capable of remorse and possesses the desire to repent. However, he shows weakness in that he was easily swayed by Antonio's temptations, but compared to Prospero he appears inferior, e.g. he let Prospero and Miranda be left on a boat that he knew to be un seaworthy and allows himself to be manipulated by Antonio. But, he does show many redeeming qualities, he also loves his son, Ferdinand, deeply and persists in his attempt to find him. He also has a great sense of rightfulness and when Aerial points out his crimes against Miranda and Prospero he shows a very deep desire to repent and is almost driven to commit suicide: "...Ill seek him deeper than e'er plummer sounded, and with him there lie mudded" Alonso does admit his faults and shows his remorse for his wrongdoings but is there any part in the play where Prospero shows contrition? ...read more.


The worst use of his magic is that he uses it to control and manipulate all the main characters in the play except Miranda... Caliban and Ariel are enslaved under threats of cruel punishments by Prospero. Ferdinand's character is demeaned as he is forced to do menial tasks while he is Prospero's prisoner Alonzo, Sebastian and Antonio are driven into madness. Stephano and Trinculo are tormented by Prospero's spirits. The sailors are confined, fast asleep, below decks these are definitely not the acts of a magnanimous but a ruler who wants to colonise by power and not divine right. So, is Prospero a magnanimous ruler or a sadistic oppressive colonizer....? While prospero was in Milan he was the divine ruler, his people loved him and this was all done without the aid of magic to control people. However, when prospero arrives on the island he tries to take it by force off the original inhabitants and from Caliban, who is the ruler by right. The way in which he beats Caliban is cruel and the fact that he keeps everyone under control by force is an act of an oppressive coloniser. This is nothing short of what the European colonisers did to the native Americans. While Prospero is in Milan he has the divine right to govern and is a magnanimous ruler, but while on the island he thinks he is doing what is best, not what is right, and so has become in effect an oppressive ruler and coloniser who keeps people under his control force fully. . ...read more.

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