‘The Tempest’ is centrally concerned with the themes of control and power.
How are these themes developed through the major character of Prospero?
It is significant that Prospero is the major source of power in The Tempest. He is the ‘conductor’ of every character and every event that happens throughout the play. The time has come for him to regain his lost position as Duke of Milan, in order to achieve this and knowing his enemies are near through his ‘art’; he uses his supernatural powers to keep constant control. However, he remains human and learns new, stronger personal qualities from his magical powers and regains his mortal power. Prospero shows the use of his magic powers in order to manipulate and influence all those in the play, like the courtly characters who are bewitched and confused by Ariel’s music. Prospero intends to gain revenge on those who have wronged him, but at the same provide a suitable husband as is his duty as a father for Miranda.
The dramatic opening of the play is an example of Prospero’s magical powers although it is assumed by the audience to be the disturbing and violent activity of nature. It could be seen a metaphor for the past turmoil in the lives of the characters and for the events that take place in the course of the play, it carries the suggestion that ‘after the storm comes the calm’. Shakespeare often uses a storm in his plays as a prelude to a transition from one phase of life to another. An Elizabethan audience might have been aware of tempests in the bible, in which they represent good destroying evil. The life-threatening sea storm in The Tempest symbolises Prospero’s God-like capability to control the elements, and through them ‘undo the evil which had been perpetrated against him and his daughter’ (York Notes Advanced – Loreto Todd). In effect, both the audience and the characters aboard the ship are put through fear and noise by the storm “roarers.” This spell torments and plays with the feelings of the audience who see those on board were nearly “all lost.” The extent of Prospero’s power is shown through the opening in that it reveals his ability to cause pain, suffering and death. It is only in the following quiet and calm scene that the audience then realise it was an act of illusion. A negative image is created by the abuse of his power which is effective in hurting others, for Miranda is upset that “the cry did knock | Against my very heart!” However, the result of Prospero’s action is that he has gained control over the dispersed characters now upon the Island. The ability to manage each group or person individually allows him to seek revenge.