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Consider closely the role and presentation of Prospero in the first act of the play. How do you think an audience would respond to him- a despot or a benevolent old man?

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Introduction

Consider closely the role and presentation of Prospero in the first act of the play. How do you think an audience would respond to him- a despot or a benevolent old man? At the centre of The Tempest is the question of authority, embodied in the character of Prospero. The fact that the play may have originally been performed for the royal court perhaps gives it more dimension and context as a challenge or a mockery of royalty and the nature of power. The audience's reaction to Prospero obviously depends very much on how he is portrayed by the actor, but in Act 1 Scene 2 the audience becomes aware that the storm of the previous scene, in which the characters seem to have drowned, was caused by Prospero, perhaps having the immediate effect of making him appear a heartless man who uses his "art" for his own cruel purposes. Prospero's language however is calm and gentle, "Of thee my dear one, thee my daughter" accentuated by the contrast with Miranda's emotional outbursts, "O, woe the day", perhaps creating an image of a wise old man who has good, rational reasons for his actions. ...read more.

Middle

His passion and anger clearly show that he is still deeply involved with the past, perhaps giving him an image of a tyrant who cannot forgive his bother for emerging successfully in the power struggle years before. There are however moments in Prospero's story where he appears melancholy and reflective, saying "I, thus neglecting worldly ends", perhaps showing that he understands and accepts that his usurpation was at least partly his own fault. His speech is highly structured and almost rhythmical, perhaps giving the impression that he is speaking slowly and carefully, thinking about what he is saying, and making his character into a wistful and thoughtful old man. Prospero's actions and speech towards others throughout the first act of the play perhaps reveal his tyrannical nature as he seems generally forceful and controlling. Although at the beginning of his story on line 56 he is kind and gentle to Miranda, describing her as "dear", "cherubin", his commands become more aggressive as he perhaps senses that she is disinterested in his tale, "Dost thou attend me?", "thou attend'st not!". ...read more.

Conclusion

Prospero also becomes far more dominant, speaking a lot and only allowing Ariel short, submissive replies, "I thank thee master". At the beginning of his speech Ariel is descriptive, passionate and eloquent, "in every cabin I flamed amazement", "the fire and cracks of sulphurous roaring", using wild, natural language, bursting with energy, that reflects the nature of his character, a wild and proud spirit, whereas after Prospero has finished speaking to him his language has become subdued and restricted to short, perhaps fearful sentences. The change in Ariel's tone and language shows the power that Prospero wields, and is perhaps symbolic of the freedom and creativity that Prospero has deprived Ariel of, showing the audience that he can be cruel, manipulating and controlling. Prospero is perceived by the other characters as someone to fear and obey at all costs, and although his actions at the end of the play perhaps go some way to redeem his character, in the first act of the play it seems obvious to an audience that although he is a complicated character he is more of a tyrannical ruler than a benevolent old man. ...read more.

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