Personal Choice Vs Fate
“Fate is defined as, “a power that is considered to cause and control all events, so that people cannot change of control the way things will happen,” according to the Cambridge English Dictionary. In other words, fate can be described as, “everything happens for a reason.” While many believe in the concept of fate, it is personal choices that help decide the outcomes in life. In literature, the theme of personal choices vs. fate assists in strengthening the plot. In Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, Shakespeare uses the theme of personal choices versus fate throughout the play. He uses the main character, Prospero, to exhibit this theme. Prospero’s decisions were dictated by personal choice because he caused the tempest, he let go of his magic, and decided to forgive his enemies instead of seeking revenge.
Shakespeare’s play starts off with the protagonist, Prospero, causing a storm. This storm is also called the tempest, hence the title of the play. In the setting description at the beginning of the play, it states “A tempestuous noise of lightening and thunder is heard” (1.1). This of course means that the tempest has begun. Boatswain and a shipmaster enter and are frightened about the tempest and the ship crew dying. This can be inferred because the men say, “My good boy, give the other sailors a pep talk — and do it fast, before we’re shipwrecked. Hurry hurry!” (1.1.3-4). This showed how the tempest was beginning and how Boatswain and the shipmaster were afraid and wanted to say a final goodbye to their crew.
On the other hand, Miranda, who is Prospero’s daughter, gives a small speech to Prospero on how she does not want anyone to be hurt by the tempest that he caused. Miranda states, “Dear father, if you caused this terrible storm with your magic powers, please put an end to it” (2.1.1-2). Here, it is evident that Miranda did not want anyone hurt from the tempest because it is noticeable that she cares about people and she has morals. With her concerned, Prospero reassures her that he did not let anyone be hurt by the tempest. Prospero states, “Calm down. There’s nothing to get upset about. No harm was done” (2.1.14-16). This lets the audience know that even though Prospero despises his enemies, he cares about his daughter more. Prospero decides to reassure his daughter that her feelings and wants are valid. It was his own personal decision to take this action.
Prospero’s own personal decision to cause the tempest shows that fate does not control the way our future turns out to be. “Life is full of decisions. Difficult decisions tend to make us feel stressed and uncomfortable because we do not want to feel responsible if the outcome is less than desirable” (Kay 1). While fate is talked about time and time again, the talk about personal choice and its effect on one’s future plays a big part in the play. The reason for Prospero’s future outcomes is because of his own personal choices that he made all throughout the play. Prospero was all about making his own decisions and choices; he never liked being told what to do.
If fate played a role in The Tempest, the truth would have eventually been revealed on its own. However, the truth came out when Prospero decided to tell Miranda everything. Prospero stated, “It is time for you to know the whole story. Give me a hand and help me off with this magic cloak” (2.1.27-29). By Prospero coming out with the truth, it is shown that he chooses to let Miranda see him for who he is. He even decides to take off the cloak which symbolizes that he is ready to tell the entire truth without holding back or hiding away under a cloak. Prospero’s decision to cause the tempest was not his only choice, he also chose to give up his magic.
Prospero’s magical items were one of his greatest features. His magic made him who he was and was a major part of his persona. Letting go of his magic was a huge decision and a turning point for Prospero. “To work mine end upon their senses that this airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff… and deeper than did ever plummet sound I’ll drown my book” (5.1, 62-66). By choosing to break his staff and drown his magical book, he is giving up his magic. In addition to this, Prospero also released his enemies. Prospero believed that giving up his magic would give him a sense of freedom. Having a sense of freedom would in turn give Prospero the choice of what to do next with his enemies. At the beginning of the play, Prospero is cruel and revengeful, mainly towards Antonio for taking over Prospero’s magic. Ever since losing Miranda to marriage, Prospero now has an idea of how his captured enemies must be feeling being captured. Therefore, he gives up his magic and sets his enemies free. Prospero choosing to give up his magical powers was his own sense of personal choice and that was exactly what he wanted to do.
Prospero had a whole thought process between choosing or not choosing to let go of his magic. He eventually ended up deciding to give it up and be free. Choosing to do something will always affect someone’s future outcome of a situation and sometimes it cannot be fixed later on. While not every decision made is reasonable or a smart idea, one must never forget that it will still affect the future. Personal decisions are what makes a person’s future or not because some personal decisions end up being mistakes. “Those who decide between active choosing and default rules are choice architects, in the sense that they design the social context within which choices are made” (Sunstein 5). Another decision made sometimes is choosing not to choose. If one does not choose, then what will happen as a consequence is unknown. “For those who reject paternalism and prize freedom of choice, active choosing has evident appeal” (Sunstein 4). This quote is stating that active choosing might seem highly preferable, which it indeed is preferable than a default rule. Lastly, Prospero had one more decision to complete. Prospero’s last and most important decision he made was to forgive his enemies rather than seek for revenge.
Causing the tempest and letting go of his magic were two choices Prospero decided to make. His third and final choice was to forgive his enemies rather than seek revenge on them. At this point in the play, Prospero daughter, Miranda, is married and has moved away which makes Prospero feel lonely. This then turns Prospero into noticing that his entrapped enemies might feel the same way and so he decides to forgive them and set them free. Prospero now decides to forgive his enemies because of Ariel. “Your charm so strongly works’em that is you now beheld them, your affections would become tender” (5.1, 21-24). This line repeated many times by Ariel and it is the first time the audience sees Ariel speak on his own. This line is very important because it shows how forgiveness and reconciliation are major parts of the play. After emerging as triumphant, Prospero feels free to forgive those who wronged him. Prospero’s mercy is at first shown to be strained and he fails to create a sincere reconciliation with his enemies.
With Prospero showing mercy, it is clear that he wants to forgive and reconcile. Prospero states, “For you, most wicked sir, whom to call brother would even infect my mouth, I do forgive. Thy rankest fault, — all of them; and require. My dukedom of thee, which perforce, I know. Thou must restore” (5.1, 149-154). Here, the audience can see that Prospero is going through the cycle of forgiveness. However, there is not a speedy reunion between Prospero, Antonio, and Sebastian because each of them think that they are right and refuse to forgive each other. Prospero on the other hand, decides to eventually forgive the rest of his enemies. When Miranda gets married, one might say that they were destined to be together or call it fate, but on the contrary, it was Miranda, Ferdinand, and Prospero’s choices that made them end up together.
Free will, or in other words, fate, does not play a part in this play because it is evident that the majority, if not all, of the events that occurred, were all due to the fact that Prospero made the decisions that led to the outcomes. Destiny, also called fate, is not a theme in The Tempest. “There is no predestined path that you are set on. You chose to act in a certain way that was entirely down to you… Our legacies are decided by our own choices” (“There Is No Such Thing As Destiny”). By saying that “everything happens for a reason,” it is saying that humans have control of everything we do in life. It is also saying that humans only have the two options of choosing what is going to happen or that a situation happened coincidentally.
The marriage between Miranda and Ferdinand could be an explanation for Prospero’s behavior. However, it cannot be forgotten that Prospero was the one who brought Ferdinand and Miranda together. It was Prosper’s own decision for them to meet and he gave Ferdinand his blessing to marry Miranda. Every one of Prospero’s outcomes have come from his personal choice to complete them. There is no predetermined way that Prospero had to follow because he chose to live his life how he wanted to. “Destiny does not exist. Things do not happen for a reason. Fate is not real. Things happen in life through two things: choice and coincidence.” (“There Is No Such Thing As Destiny”). As the article suggests, there is no such thing as destiny. This may be interpreted by saying that things in life happen through choice. By saying that “things happen for a reason,” it takes away control and ceases responsibility. Prospero had many choices throughout the play, but he had three that stood out in particular. Prospero had three major points in which the theme of personal choice vs. fate was evident.
With the fact that Prospero caused the tempest, he let go of his magic, and he chose to forgive his enemies rather than seek revenge, this was all due to his personal choices instead of fate. Prospero’s decision to cause the tempest came as a form of wanting his enemies on the same island as him. He wanted to do this so that he would be able to rule over them as duke once again. Afterwards, Prospero decided to let his magic go because since he lost his daughter Miranda into marriage, he felt lonely. Prospero then realized how his captured enemies must have felt so he decided to let his magic go and set his captured enemies free. Lastly, Prospero decides to forgive his enemies rather than seek revenge because once he got his enemies in his own “kingdom,” Prospero seemed to feel like he had done enough to be avenged or payed back.”