The Tempest: How Prospero Reflects Arete
UNIVERSIDAD VERACRUZANA FACULTAD DE IDIOMAS LICENCIATURA EN LENGUA INGLESA LITERATURA EN LENGUA INGLESA ESSAY: THE TEMPEST PROFESSOR: ADRIANA MENASSE BY: BERTHA ISABEL HERRERA RODRIGUEZ Xalapa, Ver. Lunes, 09 de julio de 2012. Introduction “The Tempest” is Shakespeare’s last work. During his life, Shakespeare wrote many dramatic works in which the main characters were noble men and women who represented the greatest qualities of “human excellence”. Prospero represents some important values of human excellence, or ‘arete’, according to different roles he takes during the play.
These values are the core of this paper and the way Prospero reflects them will be analyzed below. The main character of “The tempest”, Prospero, is a noble from birth. That is, during his whole life, Prospero reflects the perfection of human beings. He is protective with his people and they love him. He also is just and disciplined. He starts to study “the liberal Arts—the secret studies” and trusts his dukedom of Milan to his brother, Antonio. Lately, Antonio usurps the dukedom and sends Prospero, his little daughter and his beloved Arts’ books into the sea, leaving them to their fate.
Prospero realizes that he had made a mistake when he became obsessed with Art. Because of that error, now he is trying to instruct his daughter, Miranda, to be an excellent woman. Prospero continues studying his books, and the perfect opportunity of recovering his dukedom comes when the ship of the King of Italy, with Antonio in it, reaches Prospero’s island. Prospero will use his wisdom and his Art to ‘teach those noble men a lesson’. Finally, we have two essential concepts need to be clarified. In one hand, ‘Art’ is both nobility and the power of magic, in this sense the word is spelled as ‘art’.
On the other hand, ‘Nature’ refers to the basic instincts and the fulfillment of primitive needs. These opposite but complementary concepts are the soul of the dynamic included in The Tempest. Prospero: Shakespeare’s last reflect of human excellence To begin with, we have to explain the role of aristocracy in Shakespeare. According to the Online Etimological Dictionary (2012), “aristocracy” comes from the Greek kratos, “rule or power”, and arete that means “virtue, excellence”, especially for manly qualities, (superlative: artistos).
The word ‘aristocracy’, the government of those who represent human excellence, was derived from this Greek roots. In this sense, it is of central importance to take into account that all the Shakespeare’s main characters are noble men and women. All the plays he wrote are located in an aristocratic context. This may be because Shakespeare lived during the times of important Kings and Queens of England. In that time, aristocrats were the example of human excellence for the society. There are two views of nobility: first, nobility that comes from birth, so aristocrats are virtuous as an extension of their birth.
Second, Shakespeare saw nobility as the perfection of Nature. In other words, nobility is shown through nobles’ behavior and merits. The dynamic of Shakespeare’s works start when that aristocratic character suffers a change in his “excellent condition”. As we now, Macbeth, an entirely honorable man, murders King Duncan to usurp the royal crown. Another example is Brutus, a Roman noble who is convinced without true foundations that Julius Caesar has to be killed to stop him from becoming a tyrant. Prospero does not commit such a horrible act to change his honorable state.
Yet, he commits the terrible error of becoming obsessed with Arts, or magic, and then, he trusts his dukedom of Milan to Antonio. Antonio wants the dukedom for himself and, with King Alonso’s support, Prospero is sent into the sea with his little daughter, some food and all his beloved books to the sea. Prospero: (…) they hoists us,/ To cry to th’ sea that roar’d to us; to sigh/To th’ winds, whose pity, sighing back again,/Did us but loving wrong. ——– Miranda: How we came ashore? Prospero: By Providence divine. Some food we had, and some fresh water, that/ A noble Neapolitan, Gonzalo (…) did give us, with/ Rich garments , linens, stuffs and necessaries,/ Which since have steaded much; so, of his/ gentleness/ Knowing I lov’d my books, he furnish’d me/From mine own library with volumes that/I prize above my dukedom. Even though Prospero is sent to an unknown island, he still thinks about going back to Milan. He is the rightful Duke and the treason will not be easily forgotten. In spite of loving more deeply his studies than his dukedom, he admits having cried in the sea: “I have deck’d the sea with drops full salt”.
The main purpose of this essay is to remark those moral values and qualities that make human better persons. During the play, Prospero takes several roles that allow the reader identify his character and his behavior. The order of these roles for this paper is: his role as a scholar, as a father, as an authority, finally, as a noble man. It is important to clarify this last feature is about Prospero’s virtues, and not only Prospero as a wealthy aristocrat. First, the mage Prospero may be attended by any student, whichever level they are in. As a scholar, Prospero is regarded to be disciplined and studious.
His discipline’s purpose is to be able to translate knowledge and be contemplative. The Arden Shakespeare Collection makes a great contribution about learning, what is said to be “a major theme” in “The Tempest”. It is the ‘bone of contention’ that makes Prospero to fail and what helps his plans to succeed. Learning is a great aid to virtue, the way by which we may love and imitate God, and “repair the ruins of our first parents”. Despite Prospero’s thirst of knowledge provoked that lost his dukedom, learning should be seen as a recommendable habit for every student.
Next, Prospero represents some interesting elements of fatherhood. He is an instructor for his daughter, Miranda. Prospero: … and here/Have I, thy schoolmaster, made thee more profit/Than other princess’ can, that have more time/For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful. Miranda: Heavens thank you for ‘t! He is sometimes guidance to virtue and he knows how to assure that she is listening to him, as teachers usually do in class. Prospero requests: “Dost thou attend me? ” “Sir, most heedfully”. —-“Thou attend’st not? ” “O, good sir, I do. ” “I pray thee, mark me. Prospero has another characteristic. He is a protective father to Miranda, who is “a third part of mine own life or that for which I live”. He shows his protecting ‘instinct’ when a young unknown man appears and Miranda ‘catches his eye’. Ferdinand, the Prince of Italy and Alonso’s son, is impressed by Miranda, who shows interest for him too. This ‘threat’ is questioned by Prospero, who starts pretending not to know him and calls him “a spy”. Prospero: (…) thou dost here usurp/The name thou ow’st not; and hast put thyself/Upon this island as a spy, to win it/From me, the lord on’t. …) Speak not for him: he’s a traitor. Prospero is planning to test if Ferdinand is worthy of Miranda’s love. The Prince is obliged to do some hard work and Prospero observes that they are truly in love, so Prospero gave his daughter’s hand in marriage to him. In order to bless their engagement and show the young couple some prove of his Art, Prospero creates the illusion of Iris, Ceres and Juno, Roman goddesses related to union between gods and humans, abundance and motherhood, respectively. Here, Prospero accepts it is time to let his daughter go and continue with his plans.
In spite of being happy for her, he expresses some sadness in his father’s heart that is healed with the recovering of his dukedom. Alonso: Irreparable is the loss; and patience/Says it is pass her cure. ————- Prospero: 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. Alonso: A daughter? (…) When did you lose your daughter? Prospero: In the last tempest. (…) My dukedom since you have given me again,/I will requite you with as good a thing;/At least bring forth a wonder, to content ye/As much as me my dukedom.
After this part, Ferdinand and Miranda are discovered while playing at chess. Prospero gives back the favor of having his dukedom again. The third role of Prospero in “The Tempest” is as an authority. He knows himself: he is the rightful Duke of Milan. Then, he assumes that the island where he arrived would be ruled by him. Phin explains: “As a duke, he naturally assumes the right to rule the island — “to be lord on’t”. ” Furthermore, he rises as an authority for Caliban, the only living creature in the island, and for Ariel, a genius who becomes Prospero’s servant.
Many opinions have risen from the point of how the mage treats his “demi-demon” servant. On one side, Prospero is thought to be unlawful and cruel to Caliban, as Prospero treats him as a slave. What is more, Prospero does not treat Caliban as a human slave, but as a creature who does not control himself, the entire essence of Nature. In “The Tempest”, Nature is that which is bestial, primitive and evil and Caliban is the entities who represents the Natural world. This is because Caliban is a “deformed”, “a freckled whelp hag-born, not honoured with/ A human shape”, as Prospero says.
He has inherited the island from his mother, the evil witch Sycorax but Prospero takes the island for his own when he subdues Caliban. This is an example of the power of Art over Nature. So, joined to the fact that he does not have a real human shape, his birth has a lack of nobility that makes Caliban prone to be “a natural slave”. Prospero: We cannot miss him: he does make our fire,/Fetch in oue wood, and serves in offices/That profit us. What, ho! Slave! Caliban! Thou earth, thou! Speak. On the contrary, Prospero’s behavior toward Caliban has been supported by others.
The slave has been given the opportunity of being educated but its nature does not allow ‘him’ to understand Art. Not only that, Caliban intends to defile Miranda in an attempt of satisfying his instinctive desires. For this reasons, Caliban is taken as a servant who will fulfill Prospero’s and Miranda’s needs. Prospero: The most lying slave,/Whom stripes may move, not kindness! I have us’d thee/Filth as thou art, with human care; and lodg’d thee/In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate the honour of my child. ——- I pitied thee,/Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour/One thing or other: when thou didst not (…).
As we can see, there is an interesting debate about Prospero and Caliban’s relationship. But, in some way, Prospero needed someone to make the ‘rough work’ in the island, and he became the main authority there once he had arrived. Moreover, Caliban was ‘conquered’ as many people was in the era of Colonialism, an important milestone of History that Shakespeare witnessed during the kingdom of Elizabeth I. Another servant for Prospero is Ariel, a genius who was saved by the mage from the trunk of a tree under the spell of Sycorax.
Because of this favor, Ariel becomes his favorite support while practicing his art. Prospero even calls him a “my brave spirit! ” Miranda and Ferdinand are under Prospero’s authority too. Ferdinand is obliged to work hardly to demonstrate his love for the young lady and Miranda is asked to obey his orders. Prospero: (To Ferdinand) Follow me. /Speak not you for him: he’s a traitor. Come;/I’ll manacle thy neck and feet together:/Sea-water shalt you drink; thy food shall be/The fresh-brook mussels, wither’d roots, and husks/Wherein the acorn cradled. Follow. ————— (after Miranda’s request of releasing Ferdinand) Come on; obey: Thy nerves are in their infancy again,/And have no vigour in them. At the end, Prospero consents their engagement and they are allowed to be together. Ferdinand is also warned not to “break his virgin-knot before/All sanctimonious ceremonies…” Last but not least, Prospero may reflect a high level of arete in his role as a man. He was born with the right of being Duke of Milan but he was raised with virtue and excellence. Eventually, after all he had passed, he became wiser, more self-controlled and more compassionate.
One of the features of arete is wisdom. This quality contains two concepts: knowledge itself and the way that the power of this knowledge is used. Apart from having so much knowledge acquired from his studies, Prospero shows integrity in the manner he uses his art. Prospero says: “Yet with my nobler reason ‘gainst my fury/Do I take part: the rarer action is/In virtue than in vengeance,/They being penitent…” These lines tell us that he has enough power to make his deceivers to pay for what they did, but he establishes his own limits by avoiding to hurt the castaways.
Supporting the last idea of Prospero’s wisdom, we find another important quality: his self-control over passions and desires. He stops himself from going beyond his art. He continues talking: “The sole drift of my purpose doth extend/Not a frown further. ” Then, a complement of his great wisdom is his self-control, what may be another concept included in arete. Nevertheless, the most significant value Prospero’s value is probably his compassion and ability of forgiveness. Prospero passed through many difficulties that Antonio provoked to happen.
And after all, Antonio is forgiven for his treason. Besides, he is forgiven for having plotted against King Alonso in order to help Sebastian to ascend to the throne. As their plans are discovered, they are forgiven in this ‘environment’ of reconciliation. Prospero summarizes his pardon in the Epilogue when says: “…Since I have my dukedom got,/and pardon’d the deceiver”. Another act of compassion takes place when releasing Caliban and Ariel: (To Caliban) “Go sirrah, to my cell;/Take with you your companions; as you look/To have my pardon, trim it handsomely”. To Ariel) My Ariel, chick,/That is thy charge: then to the elements/Be free, and fare thou well! ”. Shakespeare might have communicated the importance of forgiveness in our life. Many qualities and virtues have been observed in Prospero. But few people have analyzed a final characteristic. Actually, no sources were found about this last quality: self-esteem. It is described as esteem or love that people feel for themselves, and Prospero is a good example of it. He rose from the bottom, started a new life again and acted as an authority for her daughter, his servants and the shipwrecks.
Most important, he recognized that his plans were done and he accepted he had to manage to live in Milan as a normal man again. Against all odds, he try to represent an honorable man, and honor actually represents how we are proud of ourselves. Conclusion Prospero has been considered as a virtuous nobleman by many authors. He has many features that make shape to the concept of arete and he is constantly trying to improve everybody’s situation. However, there are some analysts who regard Prospero as cruel and unfair.
The fact that he wants to take revenge from those who betrayed him has become an issue which is currently discussed. Prospero’s nobility has been called into question because his plans of vengeance. These ‘cruel’ plans have justified bases: Prospero is already expecting to forgive his “deceivers” after ‘teaching them a lesson’. He has to do it because he finds the opportunity and also, he cannot forgive them so easily, they may accept what they have done after some suffering. In that way, all the castaways learn the purpose of the life itself: to live it right looking for human and maybe, spiritual excellence.
In addition, Prospero is thought to be a tyrant, who exploits Caliban and Ariel and tests harshly to Ferdinand. But, as any conqueror had done with the conquered, he has to show himself as the ruler of the island and nobody can be over him. He treats his servants and prisoners in a rough way because he knows that he will release them. While the plan is in process, he remains powerful over everybody, like if he was controlling their lives for their own good. At the end, Prospero abdicates to his art but keeps being wise. All what he has learnt will be kept for himself.
As his plans have been fulfilled “to th’ syllable”, he “overthrows his charms” and let all the negative feelings to go away. He reconciles with his deceivers and asks for pardon. He achieves to join her daughter to the royalty and goes back to his lawful land. This play has some symbolism about Shakespeare. Nobody knows if he was finishing with his career, but one thing is true: he left us an extraordinary piece of work that makes us reflect about values and how to live right, trying to get a higher level of excellence. Nowadays, arete seem to be gone, but we can earn, be wiser, be fairer and have some more self-esteem in order to improve our human qualities and to be better human beings. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. This is not a citation. [ 2 ]. Douglas Harper. (2001-2012). Online Etimology Dictionary. Aristocracy. .www. etymonline. com/index. php? allowed_in_frame=0&search=arete&searchmode=none Domingo, 08 de julio de 2012. 11:52:46 p. m. [ 3 ]. Sia Rouh Phin. Art vs. Nature, 1996, p. 1. http://web. singnet. com. sg/~yisheng/notes/tempest/rule. htm [ 4 ]. William Shakespeare, The tempest, Act I, scene II.
Open University Set Book, England, 1964, The Arden Shakespeare collection, p. 19 [ 5 ]. William Shakespeare, The tempest, p. 19 [ 6 ]. Idem, p. L [ 7 ]. Ibidem. [ 8 ]. Idem, p. 20. [ 9 ]. William Shakespeare, The tempest, p. 14. [ 10 ]. Idem, p. 39. [ 11 ]. Idem, p. 121- 122. [ 12 ]. Sia Rouh Phin. Art vs. Nature, 1996, p. 1. http://web. singnet. com. sg/~yisheng/notes/tempest/rule. htm [ 13 ]. Idem. [ 14 ]. William Shakespeare, The tempest, p. 41 [ 15 ]. Idem, p. 94 [ 16 ]. William Shakespeare, The tempest, P. 114 [ 17 ]. Idem, p. 133 [ 18 ]. Idem, p. 131 [ 19 ]. Idem, p. 132