Prospero and Ariel in The Tempest by William Shakespeare Essay

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Prospero and Ariel in The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Throughout the years since The Tempest was first published in the 1623 Folio, there has been much debate among Shakespeare’s contemporaries and critics as to the significance of the figure of Prospero and other major characters featured in the work. In this paper, I want to examine the figure of Prospero and his relationship with the character Ariel. In doing this, I want to show how Prospero is a figure for the artist, how Ariel is a figure for the poetic imagination, and how the relationship between Prospero and Ariel explores the relationship between the artist and his or her poetic imagination. By showing this, I wish to argue that Shakespeare’s intention in portraying
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Prospero even creates the actual tempest of the play through Ariel, which allows the creation of the rest of the story to happen. Prospero’s art is truly powerful and permits Prospero to conjure up and wield anything he must to attain his desired purpose or fancy. As Stopford A. Brooke states about Prospero: “He acts like a divine Providence, moulding nature and human wills to his purposed end” (Brooke 307).

Prospero’s ability to mold or control nature and human wills is derived from his books and his staff. With these instruments, he wields the spirits of nature. Therefore, these instruments can be said to be the main sources of his power. The idea of Prospero’s power solely coming from his books is even expressed in the play by the character Caliban in the following lines: “Remember / First to possess his books, for without them / He’s but a sot, as I am, nor hath not / One spirit to command” (3.2.79-82). What can be taken from this and other references throughout the play, then, is that Prospero’s power comes from the possession and knowledge of the aforementioned books. Caliban, in a sense, simplifies Prospero’s power by believing that only the possession of the books gives Prospero the power to control nature and its spirits. If anything, it is the study and knowledge of the books in Prospero’s possession that give him his true power. In addition, Caliban does not take the wizard’s staff into account, which does provide
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