Prospero provokes the Tempest shipwreck. He has a daughter: Miranda.
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Prospero is Duke of Milan, he has a brother, Anthonio, who deprives him of his dukedom and Prospero became an exile. He is put to the sea, with his daughter (3 years old). They are helped by Gonzalo. Anthonio is helped by the king of Naples.
All those characters on board the ship are Prospero's enemies, the King of Naples, his son (Ferdinand), Anthonio, etc. (we have to take in mind that Naples belonged to Spain in those times.)
When Prospero and Miranda were exiled, they were given a very bad conditioned boat, They arrived to an Island, inhabited by a mother and his son (Sycorax and Caliban), According to Prospero Sycorex is a witch. She has an spirit imprisoned, Ariel, and Prospero `liberates' it.
Shipwreck All his enemies at his mercy. He is preparing us to judge, he presented us the characters, he is the storyteller.
Then, the play takes three different sides. He spread the people onboard in groups:
Ferdinand on his own, he meets Miranda (1st of the groups)
Triculo, Stephano, Caliban 2nd Group, they are preparing something, they move across the Island...
Alonso, Sebastian, Gonzalo, etc.
Prospero uses Ariel to keep an eye over the rest, but in Act 5 all came together for the 1st time and the play ends.
Elements of Tragedy
Elements of Comedy happy end.
A kind of marriage, Pagan between Ferdinand and Miranda. But it is not simply a happy end. Prospero forgives his enemies and there is an open end, once it is forgiven and he recovers his possessions, return bact, etc.
Ariel is liberated at the end, Caliban is a new man, he is different from the beginning, he is left in the possession of the Island, his Island. The ones who leave the island have also learnt some new things, they have undergo an ordeal.
The 1st of November, 1611, it was staged for James I, but it also was staged in 1613 with the occasion of the wedding of Princess Elisabeth. A play for a king (one way of reading Prospero as a kind of king). This play is also a kind of Mask, a typical royal show, grandious, shows inside, music, dancing and the Tempest has all those ingredients of Masks. They were Revolutionaries at the time, a fashion imposed then, shows that common people has no acess, so, the Tempest ia a kind of Mask for the commons.
Revenge: It is a very powerful theme, Prospero has the occassion to finish with all his enemies.
Land: Prospero arrives to the island and takes the possession of it, Caliban becames his slave, though he was the 1st to be there, the true propietor of the Island.
Romeo and Juliet They are destroyed by hatred in the old generations, in the Tempest there are the same ingredients: Love and hate. Elements of hatred and yet their children fall in love and it works, they are allowed to have the relationship, it is because the elder are able to set an alliance, a compromise. Therefore, the theme of Romeo and Juliet is present.
Romeo and Juliet was the 1st tragedy Shakespeare wrote and the tempest ws the last complete one. A conexion between them, it seems to be the same play but with a different ending. Ferdinand and Miranda are a couple that will enjoy peace and love, there Is no need for a sacrifice because the elders reject the idea of revenge, prospero pardoned his enemies and it allowed the younger generation to live.
Only one character remains, do not change, and it is the evil character Anthonio and Sebastian, at the the end they are not better nor different, they are on the point of killing the king but he is save by his awakening, done by Ariel.
There is an epilogue in the play, and it also may contain Shakespeare goodbye. And if it does, we've to understand that Prospero is Shakespeare.
For many critics this plot is allegorical: it is a mysterious play, it is not as simple as it looks. It is mysterious because there is no source for it, Prospero has full controll, real time and theatrical time coincide (perfect unit of time), all these elements can be found for first time in shakespeare.
There are no sources, but he might have been influenced by Montaigne's essays about Canibals, because echoes of them appears in the character of Caliban. There are not too many more sources, just ideas. We are dealing with an original, something he has never done before. We are dealing with Round caracters because they change from the beginning to the end, they undergo an ordeal. The Magus by John Fowles
ACT 1, SCENE 2
A ship is about to wreck at sea. A Tempest is something done by the nature, but in this case Prospero is in full control of Nature.
Twelve years have passed since he arrived to the island; he is in full control of Time: `It is time' `the hours now come' etc. Why now? Who is that man who has created a Tempest? We have the answer for some questions but not for all, the Tempest is a mysterious play.
All Prospero's enemies are in his hands, it seems that he wants revenge, but all he does, supposedly has to do with Miranda, his daughter. We have to take in mind that Prospero is the Narrator, he judges the other people, and so, we have to be careful with all the information he gives us. In the story there is something wrong. It would have been told by anyone (Anthonio, etc.). Prospero is the Duke of Milan, but he did not govern Milan, it is his brother, Anthonio the one who does the dirty job. No rule, No responsibilities ... only books. The title of Duke and the benefits are for Prospero. Isn't Anthonio entitled to do what he did? We hear only Prospero's opinion.
Prospero describes the boat in very bad conditions but then Gonzalo put in it a lot of goods (dresses, food, books, ...) so, at the end they are not in so bad conditions, as the could arrive to an island. What Prospero does is to manipulate her daughter and by extension he manipulates us. But is it not what a storyteller does? He is like Shakespeare, he is not neutral, and he gives us his own point of view. We are guided. He might be using his daughter to recover his dukedom, an open end. Isn't marriage a political affair???
She'd been imprisoned by Sycorax, a witch and Caliban's mother. She was left in the island because she had been banished from Argier, because she had done some kind of magical deeds. But if we think about it, Is it not what Prosper is doing now?? He was exile from his own home, maybe because he did some kind of magic, and he has enslaved Caliban for twelve years. He passed too much time in his library doing some magic. Why what Sycorax did is bad/wrong and what Prospero does is good???
He has ordered Ariel to distribute the people in the ship in groups:
Anthonio, Gonzalo, Sebastián, etc.
The ship is save in the harbour with some of the Mariners.
Why that distribution? (Except for the obvious thing about the boat). The island changes all the characters because all of them go through an ordeal; he makes them to learn a lesson, to experience things.
The main role of Ferdinand is to marry Miranda. She is shocked with the beauty of him, she fells in love immediately, but what would had happened if he would have been accompanied??? I am sure that she will never fall in love with him, but the problem is that she has been in an island for 12 years, she has never seen any other man except for his father and Caliban, and for her Caliban does not count, she does not consider him as a man. Therefore, Ferdinand is the first man she sees, it isn't rare that she fall in love with him. For her is very handsome but the only man on the island. In the case of Ferdinand, he has lost everything, he is alone, he has lost his family his country, everything, he is alone in an island, so, he sees Miranda as a salvation; she is the only woman in the island. He thinks he is alone in the world, except for Prospero and Miranda, so, he has to be happy for not being alone. Therefore, falling in love with other was natural, but both know something else, they have to go through something before they can marry.
King of Naples, Gonzalo, Anthonio, etc. A king who is a father, who has lost everything: son, because he thinks Ferdinand is dead) and land, he has nothing, he is miserable. Now, he has to work for what he wants, it is a kind of lesson, Prospero plays with them making them magic, he puts marvellous food in front of them but it is illusory. At the end, meeting Prospero and his son, for him, is a happy end; he accepts things as they come because previously he has lost everything.
Trinculo, Stefano and Caliban They are the Clowns. Trinculo and Stefano are there to teach a lesson to Caliban, but at the same time to learn it. They are minor characters.
Caliban: he should be the owner of the Island. He was born on it. At the beginning Prospero treats him kindly, they exchange knowledge, how to survive, or at least the one who needs information is Prospero. But when Caliban tries to Rape Miranda he is enslaved by Prospero, he has dishonoured Prospero and Miranda.
`Caliban: O oh! O oh! `Would't had been done!
Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else
This isle with Calibans. '
It Is very useful for Prospero that he tried to rape Miranda, because he needed a slave, while for Caliban it is a way of surviving, For Prospero and Miranda it deals with honor (a European thing), because we can compare Caliban with Native Indians and Prospero & Miranda with the Colonists, Europeans. The Indians have the Knowledge of the place and the Europeans the technique to take it for them.
The British colonies in North America survived during the first winters thanks to the natives, but once survival was secure there were the `Indian Rising (1622)', a clash between them and the Indians, here as the Indians were no more needed they become savages, a devilish culture with no clothes and no language. But they did have a language; the only problem was that Europeans did not understand it. But for Miranda, since Caliban is not understood, he lacks a language
Honor does not belong to Caliban's ethical cod, it is an European concept, Indians were not familiar with it. The moment he learn English he is already a slave, he has no spiritual values and no culture, so at least and spiritually he become a slave. Caliban has no choice but to do what he is ordered.
Prospero has the tool: knowledge it is his power and without it he would have been a common man.
Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano plan to kill Prospero, Caliban's plan is to take the books first, because without them he is nobody and Caliban knows it. Knowledge is what makes the difference, knowledge not to be shared with the natives, Caliban.
Ferdinand and Miranda. Prospero's main goal, he has worked for it. What do they learn? Prospero convert Ferdinand in a temporal slave, occupies the place of Caliban while he is learning his own lesson. Ferdinand learns that someday he will be a master, but he has to know what to be a slave is like.
It is similar to the education received in schools like Eton or Universities, such as Cambridge The future rulers are educated there in two main fields:
Sports: you have to support the team, and the team will support you.
To be a `slave': students of the 1st year became `slaves' of the ones that are about to finish, the ones that are going to leave.
Apart from Scientific and Military Education.
Miranda also learns something, if he is going to be her husband she has to be his wife at all events (sickness, etc.) and she does. It shows Prospero that the union of them is going to work. Thing go terribly wrong for Ferdinand and still Miranda remains at his side, they stay together. That's why the wedding cannot be celebrated before, but at the same time it is too late to disjoint them because of the pagan wedding, so, the king of Naples cannot avoid it and Prospero can rest in peace.
Prospero's Goodbye = Shakespeare's Goodbye, just after the wedding:
ACT 4 SCENE 1
Prospero: `You do look my son, in a mov'd sort,
As if you were dismay'd; be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. -Sir, I am vex'd;
Be not disurb'd with my infirmity.
If you be pleas'd, retire into my cell
And there repose; a turn or two I'll walk
To still my beating mind.'
Master of the Revels: he controls scenes at theatre. And Shakespeare retrieved to Stratford; he knew that it was his last play .He is portraying himself in Prospero. There are some Biographical elements.
ACT 2 SECENE 2
When Caliban sees Trinculo for 1st time he reacts, he is shocked because he does not know what Trinculo is. He calles him spirit .And Trinculo is confused about Caliban. He thinks Caliban is similar to a fish. Both of them are separated by a gap, they do not see each other as equals. Colonialism again. How does a native Indian reacted when he saw the Europeans?? (eg. A man in a horse). For Natives Europeans were not men but Gods, and it is what happens to Caliban, he sees Trinculo and Stephano as Gods.
Trinculo in the old world was nobody (Cortes was nobody till he arrived to the new world) and Stephano is a drinker. In they new world they see they can be somebody and they began to think in terms of money. With Caliban they can make money in their mother land. The new world at the exposure of the old (Shakespeare saw the process of England becoming a Colonial Power.)
What Stephano sees is a gabardine with four legs and arms. He has the same reaction as Trinculo. But he introduces another colonial element: Alcohol, it was a colonial tool. The reaction of Caliban Is to surrender, he sees them as Gods and his ordeal is to discover that they are common people, and at the end he learns it. His plan to conquer the isle has first to fail, it is a part of the ordeal, so that he can learn to be wiser so that at the end he can perfectly rule his isle without the fear of being colonized.
Stephano discovers what power is like, he was a nobody in the old world but he can be a master in the isle ,they can be the owners of the place, even with servants. And here their ordeal begins. Their plan is well studied but it fails, Caliban knows when to attack and where, but it fails because Trinculo and Stephano were carried out by greed (a trap done by Prospero), so they do not follow the timetable. By the end they are servants again, they have missed the opportunity to become masters. The island offered them a good opportunity, but they repeated the social scheme : Master / slave-servant. They do not change anything.