Prospero is one of the principal characters in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Initially, he was the Duke of Milan but his brother Antonio cunningly casts him out of his rightful position.
Without any proper direction, he is put into a boat with his baby daughter Miranda. Somehow, they find themselves on an island and the time in which the play begins is almost twelve years of them on it.
His character has been compared to the character of Doctor Faustus written by Christopher Marlowe. The meaning of the Italian word Prospero is slyly close to the Latin word Faustus which is “the favored one.”
At the very beginning of the play, while revealing his tragic history to his daughter, Prospero lets us know of his scheme of knowledge. He tells her of how in his study, he was “transported and rapt in secret studies.”
It shows his enormous scholarship. He values knowledge above the political gain of power. When he is thrown out of his own estate, he brings his books with him somehow. He says that his “library was Dukedom large enough.”
After arriving on the island, Prospero’s character shows a great capacity to use his faculty of deeper knowledge. He learns how to use the power of magic to save him and his daughter on the island and with time he also learns how to rule it, which shows his capacity as a ruler too.
Prospero has Ariel and Caliban in his service. Ariel is a magical spirit while Caliban is native to the island. He constantly tries to sophisticate both of them further. With a certain pride, he says how he freed Ariel from his previous trap through the power of his “own art.”
The power of his character is further shown when he controls the weather with it and how he can also raise the dead ones from their graves. He says that “graves at my command have waked their sleepers.”
When he plans the marriage of his daughter Miranda with Ferdinand, the son of Alonso who is the King of Naples, it shows his insights into the future and his practical wisdom.
He may look tyrant but when Ariel reports him of the miserable state in which the prisoners of his magical power are, he becomes tender. He says, “the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance.”
Because of this understanding of virtue, the play ends in a sweet air. In the end, he reveals his true nature which is of an artist. In the prologue of the play, he directly and much humbly addresses the audience and sort of declares his ambition as an artist which is to please and arrest thoughts into an artistic vision.
Prospero’s character comes very close to having some autobiographical effects of Shakespeare as this play was probably the last play written by him singularly.