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The Character of Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

The Character of Prospero in The Tempest

The presence of Prospero is felt continuously in The Tempest, even in those scenes in which he does not appear personally. He is the manipulator of the action of the play, and occupies the center of the stage very markedly, especially if one compares his position with that of the central characters of, say, most of Shakespeare’s history plays. For in the latter plays, England itself becomes the hero – the English crown, in its resistance to civil war and factionalism, and therefore there is usually no one character of quite the same stature as Prospero.

In Latin, the name Prospero would mean, “I hope for.” That which a member of English Renaissance society would generally have hoped for would be salvation, in the terms of Christian theology. Another meaning of his name would be “prosperity,” implying that everything which he attempts will prosper. There is certainly a connotation of hopefulness in his name.

Prospero is purified intellect. He is a “white” magician; he practices theurgy, not goety. (Curry 137). By the practice of white rather than black magic we mean that Prospero’s magic is always turned to good ends, and that he seeks only good. At the end of the play Prospero seems somewhat to abdicate his role as the embodiment of pure intellect, as he returns to Milan to resume his role as an active chief magistrate, or Duke.

The question then arises: is Prospero a renegade to the status he has throughout the play – the status of pure intellect? For an answer, we must turn to the concept advanced earlier in this study: that everyone on the enchanted island, including even the man – monster Caliban, learns and is educate…

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…mmentaries. (1877):787-800. Rpt. Scott. 304-307.

Hartman, Geoffrey H. Saving the Text: Literature/Derrida/Philosophy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1981.

More, Sir Thomas. “Utopia.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Vol 1. Ed. David Damrosch. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc., 1999. 637-706.

Platt, Peter. “Shakespeare and Rhetorical Culture.” A Companion to Shakespeare. Ed. David Scott Kastan. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1999. 277-296.

Sacks, David Harris. “Political Culture.” A Companion to Shakespeare. Ed. David Scott Kastan. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1999. 100-116.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Ed. Rex Gibson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Snider, Denton J. “A review of The Tempest.” The Shakespearian Drama a Commentary: The Comedies. (1890). Rpt. Scott. 320-324.

Action and Accountability in Macbeth

Action and Accountability in Macbeth

They say that life is what you make of it. Though there is much in the fabric of Shakespeare’s tragedies that complicates the relationship between action and accountability with regard to the tragic heroes, it cannot be assumed, simply because they find themselves in a difficult position, that they are engulfed and rendered powerless by the events that unfold in their midst. Even Iago, Shakespeare’s evil incarnate, remarks, “ ‘Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus…we have reason to cool our raging motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts” (1.3:316-326). Circumstance, then, simply does not negate guilt or responsibility. Given reason, we are capable both of the good and the evil behavior that seals our fate. This idea is especially important to a moral reading of Macbeth The true calamity of this and all other tragic Shakespearean plays lies not in the circumstances that Macbeth finds himself in, but what he chooses to make of those circumstances. Ultimately, it is Macbeth himself who serves as the instrument of his downfall. By instilling his character with reason, judgment, consciousness, and at least some degree of morality, Shakespeare proves Macbeth capable of resisting the impulse to carry out his infamous dark deeds, and thus implicitly tells us that despite our circumstances, we must all be held accountable (as Macbeth certainly is) for our own actions.

Macbeth’s moral makeup and reasoning capabilities play a major role in proving him the author of his own destiny, rather than a victim of circumstance. The complicated mix of unruly ambition and reflective morality that co-exist in Macbeth’s character, however, render those reasoning capabilities at ti…

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…is a very short-lived kingship, in fact, and when Macbeth’s head is finally paraded around on a stake, we can only blame him for his own gruesome demise.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bradley A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy 1912 pp. 468-9

Epstein, Norrie, The Friendly Shakepeare, New York, Viking Publishing, 1993.

Harbage, Alfred, Macbeth, Middlesex England, Penguin Publishing, 1956.

Magill, Masterplots- Volume 6, New Jersey, Salem Press, 1949.

Paul. Henry N. The Royal Play of Macbeth 1950 pp. 213-17

Schlegel, August Wilhelm. Criticism on Shakespeare s Tragedies . A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature. London: AMS Press, Inc., 1985.

Stephen, Greenblatt. ed. Othello, Macbeth – The Norton Shakespeare. London, W.W. Norton

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