Magic, the Awaiting Turmoil, and Decision Making
Magic, power, control, relationships, and much more are used in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. William Shakespeare is a famous and well-known English playwriter, poet, and actor born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare wrote his plays and poems during the “English Renaissance or the Early Modern Period” (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.) The Tempest was written by Shakespeare in 1623 and is believed to be the last play Shakespeare wrote. The Tempest uses magic, power, control, love, revenge, and forgiveness to depict the journey of Prospero. The play emphasizes on Prospero’s magic and power and how they affect others and the world around him, and himself. Initially, Prospero used magic out of spite, however this changes once Prospero understands the true meaning of control through magic. Magic is crucial in the transformation of the characters in The Tempest, which culminates in the expression of the theme that magic can be used for absolute control over oneself and the world around them. However, turmoil can be the result of an obsession in the desire for control and power, leading people to make cognitive decisions to let go of the past and become a better person.
The Tempest the journey and life of the main character Prospero. Prospero was the Duke of Milan; however, he was overthrown as Duke by his brother Antonio. Obtaining knowledge in Magic and gaining control are Prospero’s main desires in life and this was the reason Prospero was dethroned. His devotion to magic takes over Prospero’s life to the extent to where he fails to perform his duties as Duke. Prospero becomes a bitter and disturbed man due to this betrayal of his brother and seeks to get revenge on his enemies. Prospero is banished from Milan and later finds an island with his Daughter, Miranda. For years, Prospero studies and increases his power with magic and develops a plan to get revenge on his brother and enemies. Act 1 of The Tempest opens with a ship crew of Prospero’s enemies experiencing a violent storm. Prospero uses his magic to create this “illusion” of a violent storm to punish his enemies and the ship crew are tremendously frightened by this unknown use of magic, “All lost! To Prayers, to prayers! All lost!” (FTLN 0052.) Prospero’s mastery in magic transform his attitude towards the world, others, and himself. He aims to gain control with his magic and does so to his enemies.
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Miranda, the daughter of Prospero, witnesses this violent storm and feels sympathy for the enemies and scorns this use of magic by Prospero, “Poor Souls, they perished!” (FTLN 0080.) The significance of magic not only influences a transformation in Prospero, but Miranda also. Miranda viewed Prospero’s use of magic as a good thing because he turned the island into a Paradise but sees the wrong of magic when Prospero “punishes” his enemies. However, Prospero informs Miranda of the actual intent of this magical storm, “No harm. I have done nothing but in care of thee…” (FTLN 0090.) Prospero shifted from a bitter and vengeful person towards his enemies, to a forgiving and merciful person. Prospero used magic, the illusion of the storm, to alter his brother’s and enemies and gave them a chance to apologies for their wrongdoing. This significant transformation implies Prospero’s motive for his use of magic, to control other to feel or do specific task.
Prospero using his magic to control others and this is evident in the relationship he has with Calian and Ariel, his servants. Ariel was once the spirit for Sycorax but was to weak to perform the request of Sycorax, and as a result, Ariel was banished from Sycorax. Ariel is extraordinarily powerful with magic, a caring, delicate, and obedient spirit and serves Prospero willingly, “All hail, great master! Grave sir, hail! I come to answer thy best pleasure.” (FTLN 0295.) However, Prospero understand Ariel’s personality and behavior and gains control of Ariel to increase his magic abilities and power. Prospero and Ariel’s relationship is caring and understanding because Prospero uses Ariel for his magic and Ariel obeys Prospero request till his time of serving are complete. Caliban, on the other hand, has a heinous nature and is fill with hatred towards Prospero because of what was done to him. The relationship between Caliban and Prospero significantly represents Prospero’s intent to gain control over others. When Prospero arrived at the island, Caliban was already there. According to Caliban, Prospero used his magic to curse Caliban into slavery and feels betrayed by Prospero. Caliban illustrated the betrayal he feels by stating, “This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother, Which thou takest from me. When thou comest first” (Act 1, Scene 2.) According to Caliban’s claims, Prospero came to the island and took control over Caliban and the island, illustrating Prospero’s use of magic to gain control. According to “Wisdom for Earthlings” the most important thing in obtaining and being in control is to “use your abilities to make wise, conscious choices and to take wise, consistent action that support those choices” (Newman, pg. 5.) This information supports the idea that Prospero obtains control by actively uses his ability (magic) and does so by consciously striving to reach control, in many realms of his life. Unlike Ariel, Caliban will always be Prospero’s slave. Though both these characters experience different aspects of Prospero’s magic control, they both represent the ever-present desire in Prospero’s life.
Prospero has transformed himself and others through the pursuit to have absolute control through magic. However, Prospero experiences the most important transformation of his character in The Tempest during Act 5, scene 1. Since the beginning of The Tempest, readers understood that Prospero’s studies, books, and investment with magic are what define him. Prospero’s obsession for magic and control firstly causes him to be dethroned from the position as Duke of Milan, later he sought revenge for his brother and enemies, he took control over Ariel and Caliban, and lastly, Prospero decided to renounce his power and knowledge of magic. Based off Prospero’s character prior to his action, this decision seemed to be impossible for Prospero. Prospero’s the ability to let go of somethings he cared so much about to become a better person enables to readers to have respect for Prospero. When people “tie the results you are creating to your identity, you burden the process unnecessarily” (Newman, pg. 10.) Prospero obsession for gaining control over his enemies, his servants, and the environment led him to make a cognitive decision to better himself. Prospero wanted to return to Milan and to let go of his past and in order to achieve this, Prospero had to renounce his magic, “I here abjure, and, when I have required some heavenly music, which even now I do” (Act 5, 60-61.)
The Tempest greatly illustrates the transformation character(s) endure as a result of one’s abilities. Magic is crucial to the transformation of characters in The Tempest, because Prospero’s transformation as a result of his magical abilities are greatly emphasized in this play. His ability to forgive this enemies for his dethronement, using Ariel and Caliban as servants then later releasing them from his control, to renouncing his magical abilities illustrate Shakespeare’s use of magic and how it impacts the characters in The Tempest. Prospero became an understanding and forgiving person at the end of the play compared to his bitter and vengeful personality at the beginning of the play. Prospero’s decision to renounce his “rough magic” because he believed it was used for control and power over spirits and his enemies. His ability to forgive this enemies for his dethronement, using Ariel and Caliban as servants then later releasing them from his control, to renouncing his magical abilities depict his transformation to control his actions, rather than using his magic based off emotion. Transformation based off the use of magic illustrated Shakespeare’s ability to develop characters and give an understanding of how absolute control can bring turmoil, leading people to make a decision to let go of their control to become a better person, as Prospero achieved.
- Hoe, Fabian. “Literal and Figurative Transformation in The Tempest.” The Bored Boarder, 19 Mar. 2014, bored-boarder.blogspot.com/2014/03/literal-and-figurative-transformation.html.
- Newman, John E. Wisdom for Earthlings: How to Make Better Choices and Take Action in Your Life and in Your Work. Amacom, 1996.
- Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Blinn eCampus,
- https://ecampusd2l.blinn.edu/d2l/le/content/84236/viewContent/2357466/View. Accessed 27 April 2019.”