Prospero controls the present and the characters’ pasts – he tells the story of his brother’s act of usurpation, for example, and the story of their exile, and of Ariel’s imprisonment in a tree, and of Sycorax, Caliban’s mother, and of many other details of previous events, without any independent corroboration. At the same time, Shakespeare presents Prospero sympathetically: he is no irrational tyrant, and the revelation early on in the play that Caliban once tried to rape Miranda provides justification for his protectiveness towards his only daughter. I have a feeling Albus Dumbledore of the popular Harry Potter saga is vaguely inspired by the character of Prospero. Prospero was only usurped from his dukedom in the first place because Antonio noticed Prospero was neglecting his public office in favour of spending his time studying and practising magic. Setting Shakespeare's music – and the music of Shakespeare settings, Benedick and Beatrice: the 'merry war' of courtship. The seafarers were never in danger: the events looked believable but were created out of a few props and a believable script. Interesting Literature is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.co.uk. And Prospero’s development is on one level about a man realising that his books – symbolising his magic powers and his learning – are not the only, or even the best, route to wisdom, and that he must look outside to his daughter and others to learn self-awareness and respect. Her podcast lectures, ‘Approaching Shakespeare’ can be downloaded from University of Oxford podcasts or iTunesU. A storm brings Antonio with his allies to the island, where Prospero, aided by his spirit-servant Ariel, subjects them to various magical punishments. Emma Smith is Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College Oxford. Throughout the play, Prospero refers to his magic as ‘art’, developing a sustained parallel between theatre and magic. We have been as much the victims of Prospero’s magic as the pinched and cramped Caliban or the bereft King Alonso, made to believe his son is drowned. Why is Prospero important in The Tempest? The Tempest is full of Prospero's magic and illusions. She has published on many aspects of Shakespeare and his contemporaries in historical, bibliographic and performance contexts. Prospero regains his dukedom at the end of the play, but this happy ending comes with the realisation that he must renounce his ‘rough magic’ if he is to be a good ruler. Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email. And Prospero, as more recent productions attuned to the play’s depiction of colonial power relations have shown, is not necessarily a flattering portrait of the artist as an old man: less wise sage and more manipulative control-freak. Why would Shakespeare be represented, even summarised, here by lines from The Tempest? It was The Smiths who told us that there’s more to life than books, you know (but not much more). A storm brings Antonio with his allies to the island, where Prospero, aided by his spirit-servant Ariel, subjects them to various magical punishments. (Compare The Tempest, 4.1.151–55). Shall Dissolve; And like the baseless Fabrick of a Vision The echo is of Dr Faustus, whose terrified protagonist offers to ‘burn my books’ in his last desperate soliloquy in the face of eternal damnation: here, in one of his last plays, Shakespeare returns to the literary legacy of his most brilliant contemporary Christopher Marlowe whose untimely death in 1593 robbed the Elizabethan theatre of one of its most blistering talents. If we follow those critics and commentators who see Prospero as a representative for Shakespeare, with Prospero’s magic symbolising Shakespeare’s theatrical art (and ‘art’ is used in the play to describe Prospero’s magic powers), then it’s tempting to see the play as a statement about the mutual incompatibility of the world of the theatre and the world outside the theatre. We think we are in the middle of a ‘real’ storm, but the next scene reveals that this was a theatrical illusion, magicked up by Prospero from the island to bring his enemies into his power. Despite his shortcomings as a man, however, Prospero is central to The Tempest ’s narrative. Prospero, the exiled rightful duke of Milan and a master magician in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. When Prospero acknowledges the problematic theatricality of his own magic he does so in terms famously redolent of theatre: Our revels now are ended. But he is also presented – as is the Westminster Abbey statue of Shakespeare – as a bookish figure, a scholar. The difference is that theatre patrons are willingly deceived, participating in their own delusions. In 1740 a life-size statue commemorating Shakespeare was erected in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. Emma Smith explores these, but questions the idea that the magus is a self-portrait of the playwright. In the play The Tempest, the protagonist Prospero practices magic. The Great Globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, The Gorgeous Palaces, And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The play itself tells the story of a magician, Prospero, banished to a remote island with his daughter Miranda when he was deposed from his dukedom by his brother Antonio. Prospero himself confirms the crucial role of his library. Visual tricks such as the row of ‘glistering apparel’ (stage direction at 4.1.193) prepared for Caliban and his associates – essentially a theatrical wardrobe – continue to ally magic with theatrical spectacle. He’s not exactly right. The Tempest opens with one of Shakespeare’s most realistic location scenes: ‘A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard. As I foretold you, were all spirits and Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. Set design for the storm scene, Act 1, Scene 1. The play begins with Prospero's magic (the tempest), and ends with Prospero's magic (his command that Ariel send the ship safely back to Italy). Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Love is just as powerful as a magic spell in this case. Following the violent tempest in Act I, Prospero tells Miranda to calm down and assures her that no real harm has been done. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. His are ‘secret studies’ which drew him from the business of government: ‘my library / Was dukedom large enough’ (1.2.77, 109–10). The Duchess of Malfi and Renaissance women, ‘I am every dead thing’: John Donne and death, Royal Shakespeare: a playwright and his king, Othello: the role that entices and enrages actors of all skin colours, Character analysis: Benvolio, Mercutio and Tybalt in, ‘Wretched strangers’: Shakespeare’s plea for tolerance towards immigrants in, Subversive theatre in Renaissance England, Character analysis: Ariel and Prospero in, The first illustrated works of Shakespeare edited by Nicholas Rowe, 1709, John Dee's petition to James I asking to be cleared of accusations of conjuring, 1604, Mirror case showing knight and lady playing chess, Galleries, Reading Rooms, shop and catering opening times vary. He uses this knowledge to transform the island and its inhabitants and eventually to reconcile with his usurping brother Antonio. 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