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Main Characters of The Tempest by William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare uses his plays not only to entertain the audience, but also to push the audience toward self-evaluation. The brilliance of Shakespeare is that his plays may be interpreted in different ways. The Tempest is not simply a fictional story meant to entertain the audience, but also a complete figurative narrative meant to mirror the art of the theatre. In this play each character represents a significant part in the alternate interpretation of the narrative. Examination of specific characters and their corresponding role in the theatrical world encourages a deeper understanding of self-reflexivity of The Tempest; which highlights William Shakespeare’s struggle to relinquish his art. The scenes and language used by Shakespeare also help to reveal the play’s self-reflexivity. As the play reflects reality, it also reminds the audience that it is an artistic interpretation and not reality. This dynamic creates an interesting contrast between art and reality; which embodies the play’s significance as Shakespeare’s farewell to the theatrical world.
Three of the main characters in this play are Prospero, Ariel and Caliban; these characters can be interpreted to represent significant roles in the theatre which are the roles of playwright, stagehand and actor. Prospero is the protagonist and both Caliban and Ariel are his servants. However, there is a stark difference in the relationship dynamics between the two servants and Prospero. Prospero’s magic is referred to as his art throughout the play by Miranda, “If by your art” (I.ii.1), by Caliban, “his art is of such power” (I.ii.374), and even by Prospero, “By my so potent art” (V.i.50). This reference reveals Prospero’s character as an artist rather than a sorcerer, this...

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... / Since I have my dukedom got” (Epilogue.1, 6). He asks the audience to reaffirm his achievements so he may retire content with his work, “But release me from my bands / With the help of your good hands” (Epilogue.8, 9). Reading this play on a figurative level it is clear that The Tempest was intended to be Shakespeare’s final play.
Shakespeare uses an allegorical narrative to write about the art of theatre. He uses the characters to represent different aspects of the theatre, while also using language and scenes to remind the audience that they are watching a play. This play demonstrates the blurring and sharpening of the border between art and reality. Shakespeare uses his art to reflect reality through various lenses, while reflecting his art as well. This self-reflexive play was the ideal outlet for Shakespeare to bid farewell to play writing and the theatre.
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