In Shakespeare's The Tempest, Prospero's magic is the means that Prospero teaches his lessons to the plays various characters. Whether or not those lessons were learned or not is irrelevant. The main issue is that Prospero's character is indeed a complex one, and one that deserves much attention. Two essays that look at the complexity of Prospero and his magic are Stephen Miko's "Tempest," and Barbara Mowat's "Prospero, Agrippa, and Hocus Pocus." Both of these essays, in dealing with Prospero and his magic reveal things about Prospero that only enhance the mystery of his character.
Mowat's article deals more with the nature of Prospero's magic, and the type of character that it makes him. She gives three truths about the possible nature of magic. 1) Prospero's interest in magic reflects only his interest in the ultimate truths of existence. 2) Prospero's use of magic only allows him to control the physical world, and cannot help him control the minds and souls of people he influences. 3) Prospero's use of magic is tied to the fact that he is in an isolated place away from society. Each of these gives a different reading to Prospero's character, since his character is so reliant on the use of magic.
Mowat, in positing that Prospero's study of magic only reflects his desire to understand the truths of nature, makes Prospero out to be non-malevolent character. She says that here, he reflects the magus of old, or the philosopher-mage who studied the arts arcane only to become more knowledgeable about the world around him. This view is reflected within Prospero's story about his history to Miranda. If he is to be believed within this speech, then he was only concerned with betterin...
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...s not corrupt him, but rather makes him blind to the truths that he started studying magic for in the first place. In the end, through use of his magic, and ultimately its refusal, he learns that he didn't need the magic all along. He just needed to believe in himself and his own abilities.
Works Cited and Consulted
Corfield, Cosmo. "Why Does Prospero Abjure His 'Rough Magic,'" Shakespeare Quarterly. 36 (1985): 31-4 8.
Levin, Harry. "Two Magian Comedies: 'The Tempest' and 'The Alchemist,'" Shakespeare Survey . 22 (1969): 47-58.
Miko, Stephen J. "Tempest," ELH. 49 (1982): 1-17.
Mowat, Barbara A. "Prospero, Agrippa, and Hocus Pocus," English Literary Renaissance. 11 (1981): 281-3 03.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Ed. Frank Kermode. London: Methuen, 1962.
West, Robert. Shakespeare and the Outer Mystery. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1968.
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