Shakespeare’s Powerful use of Characterization in The Tempest

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Shakespeare’s Powerful use of Characterization in The Tempest

In The Tempest, Shakespeare investigates the process of creativity as well as the idea that knowledge is equivalent to power. The Bard draws on both Christian and Aristotelian philosophy to support the premise that morality and creativity are made possible only through the acquisition of knowledge. The characters of Prospero, Ariel, Caliban, and Miranda each represent a different factor in the creative process: knowledge, creativity, medium, and final product, art. Yet they represent something else, as well: the deep divide between the social classes. The same imagery used to illustrate the creative process is used to support the European class system and the subjugation of the native peoples of the new world.

Prospero as Knowledge

Prospero symbolizes the first step in the creative process. He is knowledge, thought, and idea (Neilson 105). It was his idea to bring about the storm that would bring the ship to the island, facilitating the reconciliation between himself, his brother, and the king. Through his scheming, Miranda and Ferdinand met and became betrothed. Yet his ideas could not be put into effect without the help of Ariel (103). Ariel was freed by Prospero, and became his instrument. Neilson writes, "Prospero thinks-plans, but cannot practice. He needs a working agent to carry out his schemes" (105). Caliban, Prospero's wayward servant, warns the co-conspirators in his plot to kill Prospero, "Remember/First to possess his books, for without them/He's but a sot as I am, nor hath not/One spirit to command" (3.2.86-89). Without the knowledge he has gained from his books, Prospero would have no more power than Caliban.

Prospero is a magician, yet h...

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