The Fall...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
      Reading through the final words of the Tempest, Prospero does something that can be looked on as strange - he gives up his power and asks the people for compassion on him to take him back to Naples.

      I asked myself why he would do this and why Shakespeare would end his play with the submission of his all-powerful character and I kept coming back to the idea of agency. Throughout this whole play, Prospero has been seen as a god-like character in that he goes around watching and leading all the others. Through this, he tries to reveal each person's true character - that of the scheming Antonio, the true Ferdinand, and the plundering Stephano. Yet, at the end when he unveils everyone's true characters he does not pass any judgement. Then, with his last words he asks the people if by their own good will they will free him from his prison (the island) and take him back to Naples.

      I believe that in this play, even though it is filled with spectacles and unusual happenings, the true principle is the power of choice. Antonio chose to scheme and plot to kill the king. Gonzalo chose to be a loyal subject. Ferdinand chose to marry Miranda, and Caliban chose to follow a new master that led him to attempted murder. Prospero is the one who unveils these acts, but realizes that he cannot then force his power upon people to take him back to his named freedom. It is their choice to free him and to accept him as who he is - not an all-powerful being, but as an old man whose strength is weak and whose choices were only meant to help everyone.

      Now my charms are all o'erthrown, 
      And what strength I have's mine own,

      Which is most faint: now, 'tis true, 
      I must be here confined by you, 
      Or sent to Naples. Let me not, 
      Since I have my dukedom got 
      And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell

      In this bare island by your spell; 
      But release me from my bands 
      With the help of your good hands: 
      Gentle breath of yours my sails 
      Must fill, or else my project fails,

      Which was to please. Now I want 
      Spirits to enforce, art to enchant, 
      And my ending is despair, 
      Unless I be relieved by prayer, 
      Which pierces so that it assaults

      Mercy itself and frees all faults. 
      As you from crimes would pardon'd be, 
      Let your indulgence set me free.


  1. Gabe Ruesch said...:

    That's an interesting thing to notice. I seem to notice religious implications in Shakespeare, and I find the agency theme to be an interesting connection that we at BYU might be more prone to notice. I'm going to be doing a post soon about religious themes in The Tempest, and this was a great thing to notice. Prepare to be cited and linked.

  1. Mason said...:

    I thought this was interesting too. Prospero who is always promising to free Ariel or keeping Caliban in bondage seems to be in a sort of prison as well. It is interesting that this man with all power who has control over everyone else asks to be freed at the end of the play.

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