The Tempest – Prospero

Arguably plays the most significant role in the play… – controls the fate of all other characters – his name means ‘fortunate’ or ‘prosperous’
Lost his Dukedom because… he failed to recognise his brother’s ambition and because he neglected his first duty, the governing of Milan
Prospero is the central character and must sustain the interest of the audience… He can be played as a powerful and magnanimous man, or as a cruel sorcerer
(Prosper) “It was mine art” The spondaic emphasis on his own skill emphasises his self-importance and self-regard
(Prospero) “I have done nothing but in care of thee, of thee my dear one, thee my daughter” He can be affectionate, tender and caring: Anaphoric repetition of “thee”, iambically stressed on all three occasions, suggests a loving and protective attitude – “thee” was a far more intimate mode of adresses than “you” in Shakespearean times.
“Lie there my art. Wipe thou thine eyes; have comfort” These imperatives in one line of blank verse (lie, wipe, have) clearly suggest Prospero is an autocratc, imperious figure, used to having his own way
“I pray thee mark thee, that a brother should be so perfidious” Perfidious = treacherous – clearly conveys how resentful and wounded Prospero feels at Antonio’s betrayal. Treachery in Shakespearean times was seen as a most henious crime, punishable by hanging, drawing and quartering. This quotation is isolated from the rest of the sentence by being plaed between hythens (parenthesis). This gave Antonio executive control, and Prospero is a naive ruler, who willingly gave power to his brother
“Me, poor man, my dukedom was seldom large enough” Very clear evidence of self-pity, Prospero blames Antonio entirely for his usurpation and does not realise that, by becoming absorbed in magic, he was actually doing Milan a disservice.
(Prospero) “To trash” Verb, comes from dog-training. To restrain a dog by means of a chord was to “trash” the dog, therefore suggesting Antonio was in a position of control
(Ariel) “I do not sir” Ariel demonstrates the full extent of Prospero’s power – indicative and formality of respect – recognises Prospero’s power
Ariel: “if you now behold them, your affections would become tender” Prospero” dost thou think so spirit?” Ariel: “mine would sir, were i human” Prospero” “and mine shall” Key exchange in the play – Ariel’s tenderness reminds Prospero that he may have lost sight of his own humanity – able to see the extent to which Ariel is able to influence Prospero
(Prospero) “Thou liest, malignant thing” Prospero’s attitude towards Ariel varies enormously throughout the play. Shortly after referring to him as “my brave spirit”, his tone at this point becomes confrontational and aggressive – Shakespeare reminds audience of a very clear power dynamic
(Prospero) “If thou more murmur’st, i will rend an oak and peg thee in his knotty entrails” This brutual threat is in response to Ariel meekly thanking him, and demonstrates just how harsh and tyrannical Prospero can be
(Prospero) “My industrious servant Ariel” Treats Ariel as a servant and Caliban as a slave – no freedom. The servant/slave is a significant one
(Prospero) “Go charge my goblins that they grind their joints with dry convultions” Prospero’s sadistic side is evident here in the punishments he devises for Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban. The assonance of ‘grind’ and ‘dry’ makes him sound particularly vindictive – Prospero wants them to be in pain, very sadistic.
Prospero describes Miranda as “O, a cherubin, thou was that did preserve me” Describing Miranda as “cherubin” is a very powerful statement of paternal adoration, and the verb “preserve” suggests that he saw her as a tantamount to a guardian angel
“The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance” Prospero is stating his intention to put the christian doctrine of forgiveness into practice – change, as through most of the play Prospero has goverend the island through a combination of violence and threat.
“If thou dost brea her virgin-knot… sour eyed distain and dischord shall bestrew the union of your bed with weeds” Here, Prospero is warning Ferdinand not to sleep with Miranda before they’re married. It demonstrates Prospero’s tendency to use threat to get his own way, and his protective, paternal affection for Miranda.
“I must uneasy make, lest too light winning, Make the prize light” His treatment by his brother, Antonio, has taught him not to trust appearences. It may look as if Ferdinand loves Miranda, but Prospero is determined to test the strength of this love.
“Thou most lying slave, whom stripes may move, not kindness” His harshness towards Caliban must rate as Prospero’s greatest weakness. Caliban tried to rape Miranda; but the language he used seems unnecessarily severe.
“Deeper than did ever plummet sound, I’ll drown my book” Prospero’s explicit renunciation of his magic suggests that he’s preparing to leave the island, and, more importantly, recognise his own humanity. He realises now that his responsibilities are to be a good duke of Milan, and a good father to Miranda and Ferdinand.