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Revenge in Shakespeare's The Tempest Essay

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Revenge in Shakespeare's The Tempest


The nucleus of the plot in Shakespeare's The Tempest revolves around Prospero enacting his revenge on various characters who have wronged him in different ways. Interestingly enough, he uses the spirit of Ariel to deliver the punishments while Prospero delegates the action. Prospero is such a character that can concoct methods of revenge but hesitates to have direct involvement with disillusioning his foes. In essence, Prospero sends Ariel to do his dirty work while hiding his involvement in shipwrecking his brother, Antonio, from his daughter, Miranda.

Prospero, the "rightful" duke of Milan, primarily seeks revenge against two people, Antonio and Caliban. But, Prospero allows his anger toward them to trickle to the other castaways on the island. He encourages Ariel to separate Sebastian, Duke Alonso's brother, from his son Ferdinand during the raging sea storm, causing Sebastian to assume his son has drowned. (1.2.213-224) The other "drunkards" on the island also feel the brunt of Prospero's revenge against Caliban when Ariel tempts them with a banquet stocked with alcohol and then disillusions them into thinking the banquet was a figment of their imagination. (2.1)

But why the tendency toward revenge in the first place? What was it about the personality and mental disposition of Prospero that caused him to lust for revenge against his brother, Antonio? And Caliban. Why couldn't Prospero overlook his social naïveté when it came to handling a woman? (1.2.350) In this portion of the website, I will examine those questions and attempt to provide an answer and an insight into the psychology of Prospero.

Further, I will examine the relationship between Pr...


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...Melancholia in English Literature from 1508 to 1642. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan-State University Press. 1951.

2. Bowers, Fredson. Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy. Princeton University Press. 1940.

3. Burton, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. 1990.

4. Dillon, Janette. Shakespeare and the Solitary Man. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield. 1981.

5. Draper, John W. The Humors and Shakespeare's Characters. New York: AMS Press. 1965.

6. Hallett, Charles A. and Elaine S. The Revenger's Madness. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press. 1980.

7. Kahn, Coppe`lia. Man's Estate: Masculinity Identity in Shakespeare. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1981.

8. Jardine, Lisa. Still Harping on Daughters. Sussex: The Harvester Press. 1983.


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