WHERE THE TEMPEST MEETS FORGIVENESS: But Prospero Forgives!

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Perhaps one of the biggest characters in Shakepeare’s The Tempest is Prospero, the duke of Milan. We learn very early on of Prospero’s relationship with many characters in the play such as his hatred for Caliban because of an accused rape of Prospero’s daughter and strife towards Antonio for sending Prospero’s daughter to die in the shipwreck caused by the tempest. Prospero, and Ariel, have all the power in the world when they gain knowledge about Trinculo, Stephano, and Caliban’s plans of murder. However, Prospero choices to forgive Caliban despite their past which is surprising as a reader. We are set up in the beginning with knowledge that Prospero has raised Caliban, and nutured him. Once Prospero learns of the accused rape he becomes bitter and angry with Caliban because he doesn’t understand how someone who is like a son to him could do such a thing to his actual daughter. But Prospero forgives! He forgives and moves on in his relationship with Caliban and Antonio, giving the reader a sense of hope for the sense of forgiveness in all humans. Exemplifying the fact that no matter what the past circumstances, the future holds forgiveness once one is able to forgive.

 

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WHERE THE TEMPEST MEETS FORGIVENESS: Should Mercy Be in the Nature of Human Beings?

 

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While frowned upon, I am pasting a block quote from Act 5, scene 1. I think it is important to see the actual words said and dialogue between Ariel and Prospero.

ARIEL
The king,
His brother and yours, abide all three distracted
And the remainder mourning over them,  
Brimful of sorrow and dismay; but chiefly
Him that you term’d, sir, ‘The good old lord Gonzalo;’
His tears run down his beard, like winter’s drops
From eaves of reeds. Your charm so strongly works ’em
That if you now beheld them, your affections  
Would become tender. 
PROSPERO
Dost thou think so, spirit? 
ARIEL 
Mine would, sir, were I human. 
PROSPERO 
And mine shall.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling  
Of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?

 

Here Ariel converses with Prospero and tells the reader that mercy should be an underlying trait each human being possesses, or rather be a part of the nature of human beings. However, we know that this is not always the case. Ariel here says that if he were human he would be able to understand and feel tenderness and mercy. Right after Ariel tells us that he imagines he could feel some sort of compassion, he makes a stab at Prospero’s humanity. Since we know that forgiveness is not always first nature and that mercy is not always given, it raises the question; “Is it more human to seek vengeance, or forgive?” (via shmoop) We have analyzed lots of different ways that forgiveness arises, or does arise and after blog posts it becomes evident that would forgiveness be the best way to treat your enemies? Most of the times, we,  as humans, seek vengeance and revenge on an action or person that has put us in a state of denial or anger. Forgiveness, most times, is second nature, despite the reputation of human kind – that of kindness. Here, the root of forgiveness comes from Prospero’s past and while we never clearly see him forgive the people who have hurt him, we know he does forgive. 

 

 

photo via: wholelivingdaily.wholeliving.com

WHERE THE TEMPEST MEETS FORG(I)VENESS: Grief

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In the beginning of Act 2 we learn that Alonso, the King of Naples, has washed up on shore with Antonio, Sebastian, Gonzalo, and others. Antonio and Sebastian tease Gonzalo with interesting, borderline mean, intentions only to be interrupted by the King. He interrupts to tell them of his grief that he is currently dealing with. He tells of his regrets of his decision to marry his daughter to a man that was so far away. The ship’s route, before the wreck, was headed towards Africa to see his daughter but has taken his sons life instead (or so he thinks). Sebastian then goes on to tell the King that it is his own fault because, despite the fact that everyone harassed King Alonso about it, he chose whom his daughter would marry. While making a point that he chose to marry his daughter to an African who lives far away instead of a closer European, Gonzalo changes the subject to try and save the conversation from getting too out of had. I chose to relay all this information because it is key in understanding how grief-stricken the King is in order to relate it to forgiveness. King Alonso has been faced with adversity, in this case in the form of grief, because of an action that he chose to do. In life, when we are faced with outcomes that are no favorable as a result of an action we have done, who do we blame and, more importantly, who do we forgive? While I cannot speak for King Alonso, in most cases we blame ourselves but don’t always forgive ourselves. If the root of problem is our actions then how does that translate into forgiveness? To be honest, I couldn’t tell you. I chose to put the “i” in “forgiveness” in my title in parentheses because what I am seeing in exploring the roots of forgiveness through Shakespeare’s literature is that most forgiveness is self-forgiveness, or “I” forgiveness. Self-forgiveness comes from time and peace of mind but one must overcome grief in order to start forgiveness. Let’s hope King Alonso can overcome the grief of his daughters marriage and this ship wreck.

 

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