The Tempest has many themes including reconciliation and forgiveness However, while it is clear that the theme of forgiveness is the main theme of the play, what is up for debate is to what extent the author realizes this forgiveness. After reading the attitudes and actions of the major characters in the play, specifically Prospero, little, if any, true forgiveness and reconciliation is shown in The Tempest.
A strong Christian lesson on the true nature of forgiveness can be found in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount:
But I say to unto you which hear, love your
enemies, do good to them which hate
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them
which despiseth you… For if ye love them
which love you, what thank have ye? For
sinners also do even the same. But love
your enemies, and do good, and lend,
hoping for nothing again… (Luke 6:27-35).
Prospero’s conduct from the moment the play begins seems to contradict the basic lessons of Christian forgiveness. Prospero’s enemies are within his grasp and Prospero seizes the opportunity for revenge. “Desire for vengeance has apparently lain dormant in Prospero through the years of banishment, and now, with the sudden advent of his foes, the great wrong of twelve years before is stirringly present again, arousing the passions and stimulating the will to action” (Davidson 225). Though Prospero does not intend to harm anyone and he asks his servant, "But are they, Ariel, safe?" (1.1.218), he does want to put the men through the pain and agony of what they believe is a horrible disaster resulting in the death of the prince, Ferdinand.
For Prospero those who wronged him must suffer for what they did to him before he offers them his forgiveness, even if it means that some innocent men, like Gonzalo, suffer as well. Later Ariel tells Prospero that "The good old lord, Gonzalo/His tears run down his beard" (5.1.15-6), and it is Ariel that convinces Prospero to end his tyrant of revenge: "if you now beheld them / Your affections would become tender" (5.1.19-20).
Some believe that, through Ariel’s concern for the shipwrecked men, Prospero undergoes a transformation – that he comes to a...