How Did Shakespeare Convey Prospero’s Character in Acct 1 Scene 2?
The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. It was written in 1610 and it is also his last play. One of the main characters in the ‘Tempest’ is Prospero, an old wizard. The play opens with a mighty Tempest strikes the ship when Alonso the King of Naples, Ferdinand the prince of Naples, Sebastian Alonso’s brother and the current duke of Milan, Prospero’s brother Antonio along with Trinculo who is a jester and Stephano a drunk butler return to Milan from the wedding of Claribel Alonso’s daughter in Tunis.
The passengers on board began to fear for their lives. Act 1 Scene 2 opens when Prospero and his daughter Miranda on the shore of their island after witnessing the shipwreck. Miranda worries about the people on board the ship. Prospero consoles her and tells her that no one was harmed. He also decides that it time for Miranda to learn about their past. His begins his tale but doesn’t finish it. To overthrow Prospero, his brother Antonio made a truce with the King of Naples Alonso, Prospero’s rival.
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Together with the help of Sebastian, Alonso’s brother they plotted to kidnap Prospero and his daughter Miranda and set them adrift on a raft for them to die. Fortunately they survived because Gonzalo the kind adviser of King Alonso loaded their raft with supplies and Prospero’s books of magic, the sources of his power. This tale is never finished because Prospero explains to Miranda that good luck has brought all his enemies to the island and puts her into a deep slumber. After he uses his charms on Miranda, he calls his spirit, Ariel.
Their conversation shows that Prospero and Ariel are responsible for the frightful storm. This conversation also tells us that Prospero is concerned about the people on board the ship and Ariel has scattered them across the isle. When I first heard the tale of Prospero’s tragic past, I felt quite sorry for him. But the way Shakespeare illustrates Prospero’s character is quite different from the way I expected him to be. I thought of him as kind, understanding but the way he is revealed in this scene shows that he is mean and cruel.
There is a very little trace of him being nice. He is very manipulative and demanding in this scene. He is also exceptionally dependent upon his two main subjects- Ariel and Caliban- for his own selfish desires which makes him very cunning. Shakespeare creates this side of Prospero with a variety of language techniques. Prospero is extremely manipulative in Act 1 Scene 2 and I think it is the most used character trait in his conversation with Ariel. When Ariel enters in the scene she is boasting about her work in the ship and quite proud of what she did.
Here Prospero flatters her with words like ‘my brave spirit. ’ The word ‘spirit’ suggests that she is like a precious gift or an angel from heaven. There can be bad spirits but the word ‘brave’ emphasises that Ariel is more of an angel than a demon. But when you look at the word ‘my’ it is as if Prospero owns Ariel and can control her like she is his property; a possession and his asks questions regarding the storm and the passengers: ‘Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil/ Would not infect his reason? ’ and ‘But are they, Ariel, safe?
In my opinion it is as if he praises her only to get what her to do his work. However, when Ariel ‘demand’ for her ‘liberty’ Prospero’s behaviour towards her changes, he insults her with terms like ‘malignant thing’ and ‘moody’ which is shows that Prospero turns aggressive and rude when people demand something of him. The word ‘moody’ implies to people who have wild mood swings but when Ariel replies, she says ‘served/Without or grudge or grumblings,’ and to this statement Prospero does not object. This suggests that Ariel isn’t ‘moody’ like Prospero claims she is.
Prospero is made to be more manipulative by the use of rhetorical questions ‘Dost thou forget/From what a torment I did free thee? ’ and ‘Hast thou forgot her? ’ The use of this language technique brings memories of Ariel’s horror- filled past. Prospero seems to take advantage of this and reminds her that she was worse before he came to the island and rescued her as her ‘groans/Did make wolves howl, and penetrate the breasts/Of ever-angry bears? ’ forcing her to look at him as a better master and manipulating her to do more ‘toil. Prospero is also very demanding and it is used to illustrate different emotions. In his dialogue with Ariel Prospero seems to be demanding through the use of questions: ‘Hast thou, spirit, performed the point of the tempest/That I bade thee? ’ Here he seems to treat Ariel like a salve because people use words like ‘Hast thou’ with slaves. Then further on, when Ariel ‘demand’ for her ‘liberty’ his demands are used to threaten her. He asks her ‘Dost though forget/From what a torment I did free thee? ’ The purpose of these questions re used to bring the memories of her painful past and to make her remember how she had been ‘imprisoned’ for a ‘dozen years. ’ When the memories of her past are brought back Ariel seems to cringe and she replies with words like ‘No, sir’ and ‘Ay, sir’ which shows that Ariel is scared of Prospero and I find it quite strange because first Ariel was telling Prospero- in many- proudly how she did this and that and here she seems frightened and replies with a ‘sir’ at the end of every answer. Prospero also demands things of Caliban.
He isn’t polite to Caliban when he calls Caliban to ‘come forth. ’ He uses phrases like ‘poisonous slave, got by the devil himself/ Upon thy wicked dam,’ This quote shows that whilst Prospero calls Ariel ‘Fine apparition’ he calls Caliban as a slave the word ‘poisonous’ seems to be used to make the reader think that it is nasty, wicked, cruel and something not many people like. This is also further emphasised with the phrase ‘got by the devil himself’ which tells me that Caliban was good but then ‘the devil’ had come and made him evil, cruel and a foul creature. Prospero also calls Caliban ‘hag seed’ and demands him to ‘fetch us fuel. ’ However, when Ariel seems scared of Prospero and answers with a word or two, Caliban is bold and tells Prospero exactly what he thinks of him and what should happen to Prospero and Miranda. I think there is a very different reply to Prospero’s threats from two of his subjects because Ariel has been his slave longer and is closer to Prospero so she knows what Prospero was capable of, but, Caliban seems to oblivious of that fact.
Prospero is unexceptionally dependent of his two of his subjects. He uses them to do all his work and Prospero seems to be doing nothing at all except creating the storm and ordering them around. He asks Ariel if she ‘performed to point the tempest/That I bade thee? ’ This proves that even though Prospero created the ‘tempest’ Ariel is the one who ‘flamed amazement’ and ‘played some tricks of desperation’ and I think she was the one who did all the work. She seems to be very tired after serving Prospero because she asks, ‘Is there more toil? in a fed up way and it suggests that she doing it unwillingly. It seems like she is doing all this work and trying hard only to get her ‘liberty. ’ Prospero is also dependent upon Caliban but not as much as Ariel. The reason why Ariel is timid and doesn’t speak to Prospero freely and why Caliban tells Prospero exactly what he thinks of him is maybe because Ariel can lose her ‘liberty’; her freedom but Caliban has nothing to lose. Prospero uses Caliban for gathering firewood and he doesn’t encourage Caliban like he encouraged Ariel.
He threatens him that if Caliban ‘neglect’st, or dost unwillingly/I’ll rack thee with old cramps. ’ Prospero also doesn’t manipulate Caliban the way he manipulated Ariel. This may be because he doesn’t need Caliban as much. He does manipulate him by telling Caliban, he would give him ‘cramps. ’ And whenever I think of cramps, I can only think of pain and suffering. Before Caliban exits, he says that ‘I must obey; his art of such power,’ suggests that Prospero is very powerful and even Caliban; the son of that ‘foul witch Sycorax’ seems quite scared of him.
This is further emphasised with the fact that Caliban says ‘It would control my dam’s god Setebos/And make a vassal of him,’ which means According to me, Prospero is very cunning. He uses Ariel to do all his work and flatters her with phrases like ‘my spirit’ and ‘brave spirit. ’ He makes her feel special so it encourages her to serve Prospero. When Ariel demands for her ‘liberty’ he uses questions like ‘Hast thou forgot her? ’ in a sly and threatening way reminding her of her past and tells her that ‘It was mine art,/When I arrived and made/The pine, and let thee out. This is used to make Ariel view him as a better master and she owes Prospero from freeing her ‘from that torment.
The word ‘art’ makes me think that arts are creative and he had to be very creative in finding a way to make the pine tree gape to let Ariel out as the charms or spell on the tree was strong, but, it also makes me think of Prospero as a more powerful wizard than Sycorax and if Ariel disobeys him, he will put her in ‘an oak/And peg thee in his knotty entrails till/Thou has howled away twelve winters. This is very cruel of Prospero, it is as if he threatens her to do his work if praises her doesn’t work (emotional blackmail. ) When think of being in an oak tree for twelve winters it feels quite painful. I don’t think I can last 12 minutes in that condition and I think Ariel doesn’t want that to. But then he bribes her with the phrase ‘Do so;/And after two days I will discharge thee. ’ Prospero uses his cunningness for a variety of purposes like bribery, cruelty and flattery with different language techniques.
Shakespeare created Prospero in a way I did not imagine he would be. I thought since he was cast out of Milan because he was selfish and did nothing, he would have changed. I thought he would understand what it feels like, but, Prospero is still demanding, cruel and manipulative. At first, I felt quite sorry for Prospero but then I realised Antonio did nothing wrong. He was just fed up with Prospero’s attitude as Antonio had to do all the work. Prospero seems to be oblivious of how working as a servant feels and I hope further into the play he realises.