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Prospero’s Loss In Shakespeare's The Tempest

2061 words - 8 pages

Prospero’s Loss in The Tempest

  Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a play about loss - more specifically, Prospero’s loss. Prospero is a tragic hero, in a sense, because he makes the transition from having everything to having nothing. He loses his daughter. He brings his enemies under his power only to eventually lose control and release them. In the end, he gives up his influence on the world – including his incredible power over nature itself. The Tempest can be seen as a tragic play because of a few elements – Prospero is a dominant figure who must have revenge in return for the wrongs inflicted upon him, and, in his fury, he manages to destroy his enemies as well as his own humanity and his daughter’s future.


Prospero is shown to be somewhat of a dictator in The Tempest. He doesn’t speak to the other characters, instead he dictates “at” them. Rather than converse with his daughter Miranda, Prince Ferdinand, and Ariel, he tells them his thoughts with no intention of receiving a response. At the end of Act IV Prospero is caught up in the ecstasy of punishing and determining the fate of his foes. The beginning of Act V, however, marks a change in the character of Prospero, which averts a possible tragedy. Prospero is unsettled even though his plans are reaching fruition. In his talk with Ariel for the first time we see an actual conversation take place. In addition, in the line "...And mine shall." (Shakespeare V.i.20) we see a change of heart on the part of Prospero, and in the following monologue the audience is privy to introspection and contemplation even beyond that of the end of the masque in Act IV "We are such stuff as dreams are made on..."(Shakespeare).


To begin, one notices how the beginning of Act V is rhetorically different than the other acts. There are four important facets of this difference. The language is much less colorful than that of previous acts, and is easily understandable by modern audiences. We also see Prospero randomly switch from one topic to another, showing his edginess. In addition, on several occasions Prospero is forced to finish incomplete lines, demonstrating that he is not controlling the conversation. The given lines provide an interesting counterpoint and complexity of meaning.


The language used at the beginning of Act V is surprisingly simple. It is direct, and in its simplicity conveys the state of affairs and the characters' feelings. In the first thirty-two lines, during Prospero's and Ariel's conversation, only two expressions can be considered highly figurative. In lines 2-3 Time is personified as a man carrying a heavy load: "...and Time/ Goes upright with his carriage." Later, Ariel describes Gonzalo's sorrow and tears with the use of a simile: "His tears runs down his beard like winter's drop/ From eaves of reeds." (Shakespeare V.i.16-7) This is in stark contrast to the highly figurative language of Act IV with all its references to money, sexuality, fertility,...

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