Forgiveness or Revenge Is it possible to let anger blind any other emotion? The Tempest by William Shakespeare, is the story of the mage Prospero struggling between revenge towards the people that banish him, and strip him of his Dukeship, or the act of forgiveness. The play consists of Prospero enacting his revenge fantasy towards those who have wronged him, his slave Caliban, an outspoken, deformed person, and Ariel, a magical spirit taking the shape of a human, who feels indebted to Prospero for freeing him from a tree.
In the play, Prospero struggles between choosing the side of good or evil; In the end the light in Prospero wins over, ultimately proving that in an inner conflict between good and evil, choosing the good inside oneself is hard to do, but in the end it is best. Prospero shows his transformation to becoming a better person through his ongoing treatment of Ariel, who represents the good that is trapped inside of him. When Prospero first speaks to Ariel about his job when it came to the people that he shipwrecked, Ariel asks when he will be freed. Ariel] I will be correspondent to command And do my spriting gently. [Prospero]
Do so, and after two days I will discharge thee. (1. 2. 352-255) When Ariel is saying he will be “correspondent to command” it is really a way of saying that Prospero’s good inside him is being poisoned by evil. The light is listening to everything the darkness is saying to do. The alliteration of the words is meant to emphasize how Prospero’s good is still there but is blinded by his evil. Prospero’s willingness to “discharge” Ariel, is Prospero’s way of saying he is willing to expel his inner light to the surface.
Prospero is implying that once he has finishes his revenge, he is willing to become good, but for now he is pushing the light inside of him down until he finds it of use. Prospero’s last act of magic was letting Ariel free. Prospero wishes Ariel the best saying, “That is thy charge. Then to the elements/ Be free, and fare thou well… ” (5. 1 378-9). When Ariel is let go, Prospero simultaneously let go his enslavement of the good hidden inside him, and by releasing Ariel to “be free” he was thereby releasing his inner light, to finally be good.
As Ariel represents Prospero’s inner good, Caliban in turn represents his inner evil. Caliban represents the inner darkness inside Prospero, as shown through the way Prospero constantly refers to him in a negative light. When the reader is first introduced to Caliban, the malformed child of an evil witch, Prospero commands Caliban whilst referring to him as a “poisonous slave, got by the devil himself / upon thy wicked dam” (1. 2 383-4). Prospero calls Caliban “poisonous” as a reference to his own inner tendency towards darkness.
Poison implies that the darkness inside Prospero is similar to a disease, creeping in, and slowly getting worse and worse. His hatred towards Caliban actually shows Prospero’s hatred of his own evil inside himself, and his desperate wish to get rid of it. Furthermore, towards the end of the play Shakespeare is talking about Caliban as a … demi-devil, For he’s a bastard one, had plotted with them [Trinculo, Stephano] To take my life… … This thing of darkness Acknowledge mine. (5. 1. 27-331) Prospero’s reference of Caliban as a “demi-devil” also reveals that he feels that Caliban is the evil inside of him, just as a devil is widely considered a great evil, but demi is placed in front of the word to show that Prospero feels he is only half bad, with a chance for change. It is also shown Prospero’s reference to “this thing of darkness” that he is talking about his inner darkness in correlation to Caliban himself.
The “darkness” he is referencing is that of his inner evil shown through his bitter use of the word. In contrast to the light of the the spirit Ariel, Caliban represents he evil inside of Prospero. Although he does not like it, he feels he has to admit it is there. Once Prospero finally acknowledges his own darkness he can take strides to rid himself of it. Prospero best shows his change, by showing how he is willing to no longer partake in his original fantasy of revenge. In the play, Ariel convinces Prospero to take pity on those he enacts revenge on. Prospero in response replies “Yet with my nobler reason ‘gainst my fury /Do I take part. The rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance… ” (5. 1 35-6,37-8).
This quote is the turning point in the story transforming Prospero from the bad person he used to be, to a decent human being. The choice to use the phrase “in virtue than in vengeance” is emphasized by the fact they share the same consonants. This phrase is purposely placed to stick out to emphasize that Prospero is choosing the moral high ground and is truly giving up his revenge fantasy for good. Prospero reveals that he no longer needs his magic for revenge when he says … I’II break my staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, And deeper than did ever plummet sound I’ll drown my book. 5. 1 64-6)
Prospero is revealing that he associates magic with his previous darkness and is getting rid of it once and for all. His reference to putting his staff in “certain fathoms in the earth” shows how he views the staff as going to the underworld, where he believes it belongs. In other words Prospero thinks that his staff belongs in the ultimate place for evil. The act of drowning his magical book has a negative connotation as well, to show how the idea of magic as a whole is evil. By getting rid of all his evil possessions, he is also ridding himself of his own evil.
Overall Prospero can not become completely good without giving up everything evil that he is holding on to. Prospero’s inner conflict between revenge, and forgiveness is finally resolved when Prospero opts to choose to forgive those that have wronged him, showing that good can always prevail. Throughout the play it is revealed through Ariel representing the good inside Prospero, and Caliban, the bad, that Prospero finally chose to be good. Once Prospero can let go of all things bad in his life, and let in the good he is finally able admit what he has done wrong and begin a path to change.