Prospero has long been read as one of Shakespeare’s most cherished and provocative protagonists. His timeless role in “The Tempest” has provided readers and critics with insights into many attributes of Shakespeare as a man, his works, and the political views that are personified in his play. The historical context of “The Tempest” is one that convincingly conveys the political views of the English people of his time, relating to the colonization of the New World, the expansion of British powers, and the domination of the indigenous peoples that was necessary for the British to thrive in the Americas. Of course, many people from the 1600’s would argue that domination of these natives would have been completely justified, from this view, Prospero conversely did nothing truly evil in taking rule of the Island from Caliban. However, a modern critic reading or watching a performance of “The Tempest” may find that Prospero is not very different from Antonio when standing the play and the colonial era next to each other. The reader will see through basic observation that these two men have more in common than they do in disparity, and more so that he closely resembles the attitude of European colonists settling in the New World. Prospero is simply a ruler, bent for power, and to him, the end justifies the means. The only true difference between Prospero and Antonio may be that that Prospero is not quite as willing to kill as Antonio is, and that he may not be addicted to gaining power and fratricide as Antonio may be. Prospero is capable of forgiveness, as seen in the end of the play.
He does not of course carry all the attributes of an evil villain. If Shakespeare wrote an evil p...
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...true difference between himself and Antonio. It reinforces the benevolence that is one of Prospero’s characteristics, and also conveys the kindness and grace set upon the native peoples of the English colonies by it’s European rulers: that since they are ignorant and need constant guidance, they are worth forgiving.
Brown, Paul/Deborah Willis. William Shakespeare, The Tempest: A Case Study in
Critical Controversy. Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston-New York 2000
Hunter, Heidi. Colonial Women: Race and Culture in Stuart Drama.
Oxford University Press. New York, New York. 2001
Merrell, James H. Into the American Woods.
W&W Norton and Co. Inc. New York, New York. 1999
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest
Washington Square Press. New York, New York.
Folger Shakespeare Library edition. 1994
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