The Tempest - Prospero character analysis - How do his actions and the attitude of the characters to him relate to the events and thinking of Shakespeare's day?

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The Tempest essay

Consider the character of Prospero and show how he used his position to control many of the characters in the play and how his actions contribute to the dramatic effectiveness. How do his actions and the attitude of the characters to him relate to the events and thinking of Shakespeare’s day?

        In the Tempest, the character of Prospero is the protagonist. Prospero is the father of Miranda and has spent twelve years on the island since he was usurped from being the Duke of Milan. Prospero is a powerful man, which makes him a good leader. He is very knowledgeable because of the books he read. He also has control, because he can be harsh and firm but also virtuous towards others. Prospero would also seem a cruel character to a modern day audience because of sense of control and harshness he has over the other characters. However this would have been accepted, as the traits of a good leader because in Shakespeare’s day being a good leader would entail being harsh and cruel towards others so therefore Prospero was looked upon as a good leader. This connects to James the first (the King at the time Shakespeare wrote this play) because Shakespeare is suggesting that James the first has these qualities, (harshness, cruel, firm) because he is a King just like Prospero in the play.  In Shakespeare’s time it would have be expected that a good leader should be harsh and firm- often the leader was head of his family. Throughout the play we see Prospero’s harshness, towards Caliban, Ariel, Miranda and Ferdinand. Prospero is very firm towards Ariel. Ariel has no freedom because Prospero controls her. He needed to be firm because he only gave himself four hours and therefore has to be prompt and order Ariel about to get her to do what he wants. Ariel is Prospero’s servant much like Caliban, but Ariel is mischievous, ubiquitous and able to carry out any task that Prospero wishes to be done.

Prospero is also harsh and firm towards Miranda, but is in total control of her as well. He can control her every move and put her to sleep at once. He is also loving and kind towards her because he is her father and that is what father’s should be like towards their daughters. His language therefore alters when he is speaking to Miranda even though he is in control of her like all the other characters, he warns her about Ferdinand by saying to her, “ … I fear you have done yourself some wrong. A word!” Miranda replies to this by saying, “…this is the third man that e’er I saw…” Although he is her father and is in total control of her, he is therefore not as harsh towards her as he is towards Caliban or various other characters. He therefore is harsh towards Ferdinand at first and that is why he uses stronger language towards Miranda to warn he about him, “Follow me. Speak not you for him. He’s a traitor –come.” This quotation shows the power Prospero has over Miranda. Prospero is full of kindness and tenderness not just harshness as he shows at the end of the play when he rightfully hands the island back to Caliban. As Prospero is in total control of Miranda he will not tell her about her past until he is ready, this way he is not forced into anything. He only has total control over her because he is powerful and knowledgeable. He also gives her warnings about Ferdinand and that he does not think that Ferdinand is worthy enough for his daughter and therefore downgrades his social state by making him another of his slaves. He reduces Ferdinand to the same social status that Prospero and Miranda where reduced to when Prospero was usurped from being the Duke of Milan. He seems to also treat him much the same as Caliban, although the language he uses reflects more respect towards Ferdinand. He has more respect for Ferdinand due to Ferdinand and Prospero’s love for Miranda.

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Prospero controls everyone in the play much like in a game of chess where the player has control of all his pieces. Prospero is the player and all the other characters are the pieces, some being more powerful and useful than others to help win the game. Caliban is like one of the pawns in the game not very powerful but necessary to win the game. Prospero needs Caliban to be his slave so he doesn’t have to do things himself. Miranda is like the Queen, the second most important piece in the game, but not as powerful as ...

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