The Tempest: Act V, Scene i & Epilogue - Part 2

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  • Q1

    How do you evaluate Prospero in the light of his decisions and actions in the play, The Tempest?


    Prospero is the protagonist in the play, The Tempest. Shakespeare highlights the nobility of his character in the play but there are critics who argue that some of the actions of Prospero are not so noble. Prospero is endowed with supernatural powers as he himself describes in Act V, Scene I. With the help of his servile spirits he performs mighty works such as darkening the noontime sun and calling forth the stormy winds to obey his commands.

    Shakespeare does not deprive Prospero of his human nature by highlighting his nobility. He presents him as a normal human being whose first instinct is to take revenge on his enemies but later he forgives them when they repent of their wrong doings. In fact Shakespeare has done well in presenting him as someone with human emotions rather than projecting him as a saint incapable of committing mistakes. Prospero is hurt by the treatment he received from the hands of his brother whom he trusted. He says that even though he is deeply afflicted by the evils his enemies have done to him, he is guided by his nobler instincts that urge him to be compassionate. There is an element of vengeance in the creation of the tempest and the punishments he has given to his enemies. But Prospero’s intention is not pure vengeance. He wants to make his enemies realize their mistakes and repent of their crimes against him and his infant daughter. That is why he forgives them readily as soon as they admit their crimes and begs for forgiveness.

    Another negative aspect of Prospero’s character is his treatment of Caliban. Caliban is the son of a witch named Sycorax. He feels that he has been wronged by Prospero because the powerful magician has usurped his island with his magical powers and enslaved him and made him do menial tasks. That is why he conspires to murder Prospero with the help of Stephano and Trinculo.

    In fact Prospero treats Caliban well in the beginning. He treats him harshly like a slave and tortures him when he makes an attempt to outrage the modesty of Miranda. At the end of the play he forgives Caliban for everything he has done. Only an exceptionally virtuous man can forgive someone who conspired to murder him and tried to outrage the modesty of his innocent daughter. Similarly he forgives the coconspirators, Trinculo and Stephano.

    He forgives his brother who usurped his dukedom and forced him out of Milan on a rotten ship along with his three year old daughter to be drowned in the sea. He also forgives King Alonso of Naples who helped Antonio in his treacherous act. Some critics point out that Prospero has not reconciled with Antonio in the proper sense but has just given him a brief verbal pardon. At the same time it is not clear from the play if Antonio has sincerely regretted his crimes and begged pardon from Prospero. Yet Prospero forgives Antonio and Alonso.

    He is regarded as a tyrant and an autocrat in his dealings with Caliban, Ariel and even Ferdinand. Initially he subjugates Caliban and Ariel and uses them as his slaves to carry out his commands. But at the end of the play he liberates all of them. He is harsh to Ferdinand and subjects him to hard labour in order test his love for Miranda. But at the end he approves of their love and gives them his blessings. It proves his filial love for his daughter and Ferdinand.

    As the play progresses he becomes more virtuous and wise. He is not arrogant despite all his magical powers. He does not cling on to his supernatural powers. He has the realization that everything in life is fleeting. Thus he gives up his magical powers and appears as an ordinary old man in the epilogue. He seems to transfer his powers to the audience and asks them to release him from the island with their applause.

    In short Prospero stands tall as a man of virtue in the play with the well-marked human attributes which arouse our sympathy and admiration.

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  • Q2

    Read the passage given below and answer the questions that follow.

    O, wonder!

    How many goodly creatures are there here!

    How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,

    That has such people in’t!


    ’Tis new to thee.


    What is this maid with whom thou wast at play?

    Your eld’st acquaintance cannot be three hours:

    Is she the goddess that hath sever’d us,

    And brought us thus together?

    (Act V, Scene I)

    (i) Where does Prospero lead the King and his party? What does he promise to them? What do they see?

    (ii) How does Alonso react when he sees Ferdinand?

    (iii) What is Miranda’s reaction on seeing the King and the courtiers?

    (iv) What does Prospero mean by saying ’Tis new to thee?

    (v) Give the meanings of the following words as they are used in the context of the passage:

    a) godly b) brave c) eld’st


    (i) Prospero ushers the King and the courtiers into his cell. He promises Alonso that since he has given his dukedom back to him he will repay him with something equally good or at least work a miracle to satisfy him as much as his dukedom has satisfied him. As they enter his cell they see Ferdinand and Miranda playing chess.

    (ii) Alonso is wonderstruck seeing his son alive. He says that if this is just another deceitful illusion produced by the island, he will lose his son a second time because his grief over the loss of his son would be double when the illusion disappears.

    (iii) Miranda is surprised to see many well-dressed people before her. In her entire life she has seen only two human beings – her father and Ferdinand. In her wonder she remarks on the beauty of humankind. She says that the humanity is so beautiful and so is her wonderful new world that has such people living in it.

    (iv) Prospero comments on her lack of experience by saying 'Tis new to thee. He wants to tell her that the sight of Alonso and the courtiers looks new to her because she hasn't seen any other human being except her father and Ferdinand in that lonely island.

    (v) a) godly: good-looking

    b) brave: beautiful

    c) eld’st: longest

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  • Q3

    Read the passage given below and answer the questions that follow.


    You the like loss?


    As great to me as late; and, supportable

    To make the dear loss, have I means much weaker

    Than you may call to comfort you, for I

    Have lost my daughter.


    A daughter?

    O heavens, that they were living both in Naples,

    The king and queen there! That they were, I wish

    Myself were mudded in the oozy bed

    Where my son lies. When did you lose your daughter?

    (Act V, Scene I)

    (i) Why does Prospero say that he too had a similar loss?

    (ii) Why does Prospero ask Alonso to be patient?

    (iii) What does Alonso wish after hearing that Prospero has lost his daughter?

    (iv) Give the meaning of:

    “I wish

    Myself were mudded in the oozy bed

    Where my son lies.”

    (v) Why has Prospero delayed revealing the secret of Ferdinand being alive?


    (i) King Alonso says that he has lost his dear son Ferdinand in the shipwreck and that memory is so painful. His loss is irreparable so trying to endure it patiently doesn't help. Prospero consoles him saying that he knows his pain because he too has suffered a similar loss. He has lost his beloved daughter in the recent tempest.

    (ii) Prospero asks Alonso to be patient because he too has suffered a similar loss. He has lost his daughter and patience helped him to bear with it. Prospero says that he does not think Alonso has tried enough patience.

    (iii) Prospero says that he suffered a great loss recently and he has much less resources to comfort him for the loss of his only daughter. Alonso is deeply pained to hear that. He prays to God that both his son and Prospero's daughter be alive and living in Naples, as king and queen.

    (iv) In these lines king Alonso says that he wishes he were buried in the muddy floor of the sea where he thinks his son is also buried. His grief in the loss of his son is so great that he does not wish to live.

    (v) I think Prospero delays revealing the secret of Ferdinand being alive for two reasons. Firstly he wants his enemies to suffer a bit more so that they experience the pain of losing a son or daughter and repent of their past crimes committed against Prospero and his daughter. Secondly he wants to give them a pleasant surprise. Revealing the secret would have diminished the joy of seeing them alive with their own eyes when they least expect it.

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