Tempest: The Tempest and Prospero Essay

Submitted By ladyxkaran
Words: 387
Pages: 2

With the ascent of postcolonial criticism, Prospero – the formerly undisputed protagonist of Shakespeare’s The Tempest – has been increasingly viewed as a character of at best dubious morals, and at worst, an “arrogant and ill-tempered magistrate”: far from the “inspiring magus” of traditional criticism (Kastan 270). In particular, the relationship between Prospero and his servant-monster Caliban has been ever more called into question, the prevailing view being that Shakespeare “clearly wants us to feel Caliban’s claim on us” and to sympathize with him in his struggles for freedom (Willis 259). Furthermore, Prospero’s personality is problematic in and of itself for many critics in that he is hardly the sort of character a modern audience considers heroic: Prospero is portrayed throughout the play as largely devoid of emotion, insistent upon controlling every aspect of the island (including everything from the local weather to the movements of his enemies), and he uses magic to accomplish his every whim. While postcolonial commentary on The Tempest certainly offers interesting perspectives on how the play and Prospero can be viewed, its over-reliance on current trends in political and social thought is lamentably restrictive. To remove The Tempest from the time and place of its original conception – as postcolonial criticism effectively does in neglecting to consider the play within the context of Renaissance England – is to sorely limit any possibility of fully understanding Prospero’s character. Although it is impossible to discern for certain Shakespeare’s intentions for the…