Prospero (// PROS-pər-o) is a fictional character and the protagonist of William Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan, whose usurping brother, Antonio, had put him (with his three-year-old daughter, Miranda) to sea on a "rotten carcass" of a boat to die, twelve years before the play begins. Prospero and Miranda had survived and found exile on a small island. He has learned sorcery from books, and uses it while on the island to protect Miranda and control the other characters.
|The Tempest character|
|Created by||William Shakespeare|
Before the play has begun, Prospero has freed the magical spirit Ariel from entrapment within "a cloven pine". Ariel is beholden to Prospero after he is freed from his imprisonment inside the pine tree. Prospero then takes Ariel as a slave. Prospero's sorcery is sufficiently powerful to control Ariel and other spirits, as well as to alter weather and even raise the dead: "Graves at my command have waked their sleepers, oped, and let 'em forth, by my so potent Art." - Act V, scene 1.
At the end of the play, Prospero intends to drown his books and renounce magic. In the view of the audience, this may have been required to make the ending unambiguously happy, as magic was associated with diabolical works.
The Tempest is believed to be the last play Shakespeare wrote alone. In this play there are two candidate soliloquies by Prospero which critics have taken to be Shakespeare's own "retirement speech".
Our revels now are ended: These our actors—,
As I foretold you—, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind: we are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. — The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
Portrayals of Prospero in Royal Shakespeare Company productions include:
Portrayals of Prospero at the Old Vic include:
Portrayals of Prospero for the New York Shakespeare Festival include:
Portrayals of Prospero for the Globe Theatre include:
Portrayals of Prospero for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival include:
Other stage portrayals of Prospero include:
Prospero-esque characters have included:
Audio portrayals of Prospero include:
...it was probably Shakespeare's last effort.
Shakespeare himself was at the end of his career, and it is hardly possible not to see,...in Prospero's resignation of his magic a reflection of Shakespeare's own farewell to his art.