Prospero is a powerful magician In ‘The Tempest’ and is in control of all others on the Island. It appears he suffers from two major betrayals, however, the sympathy one would feel for him is marginalised by his actions.
Prospero was the Duke of Milan, an extremely powerful between the 13th and 15th century. Although Prospero’s betrayal and banishment, by his brother Antonio, is unfair, Prospero is by part responsible. Prospero neglects his Dukedom, instead being ‘dedicated to the bettering and closeness of my mind.’ Furthermore, he gives a great portion of his powers to Antonio, ‘The Government I cast upon my brother.’ The use of ‘cast’ emphasises Prospero’s disinterest in ruling Milan. Some would see the ‘secret studies’ as an inevitable consequence of this. There is a sense of rationality in Antonio being Duke considering he was fully in control of Milan in all but name.
The betrayal of a ruling Monarch is a major aspect of the play, arguably to reflect the threats against the English monarchy during the Jacobean era. The most renowned case was Guy Fawks attempt to destroy Parliament.
Prospero may not have deserved to rule but the banishment of himself and his young daughter is unjustifiable. He and Miranda are placed on ‘a rotten carcass of a butt’, pushed out to sea and are expected to die. This does provoke one to feel sympathetic towards Prospero.
The relationship between Prospero and Miranda is unusual. He displays little affection treating her more like an attentive student rather than a daughter, ‘Obey and be attentive’/Dost though attend me?’ To a modern audience this may seem too authoritarian which may diminish the sympathy one has for Prospero. However, during the sixteenth century the upbringing of children was far less liberal and Prospero’s approach would not have been uncommon.
Prospero’s treatment of his slave Caliban is particularly harsh. Caliban is commonly interpreted as a symbol representing the mistreatment of natives during periods of collonialisation. Prospero is extremely abusive, not only does he insult him, ‘poisonous slave’/’hag seed’, but literally curses him, ‘tonight thou shalt have cramps.’ Similarly Prospero threatens to force Ariel back to his oak prison if he doesn’t abide by his wishes. It is difficult to sympathise with a hero who can show such a high level of cruelty.
However, in the case of Caliban, Prospero does initially look after him, ‘with human care and lodged thee in mine own cell’, until he attempted to ‘violate the honour of thy child.’ This shows Prospero did gave Caliban a chance which he squandered. Some may argue, for one mistake, Prospero excessively punishes Caliban, however, it appears Caliban has no…