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The play has been placed throughout the ages among comedies or more recently in the section of tragi-comedies too but revenge, even if it ends differently, is a thematic concern in the play.
Once his Dukedom is cheated away from him, Prospero uses his faculty of learning for magic. As he reveals to Miranda, he was too engrossed in liberal arts. In this play, there is a unique way of using one’s knowledge as power to get back what’s rightfully one’s own.
Prospero’s use of magic for revenge reminds us of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus but here, in The Tempest, towards the end, Prospero changes his scheme of revenge and in the grandeur of some great artist forgives them all.
He says, “the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance.” He doesn’t punish, not even Antonio, the real culprit rather he plans a political vision and uses his magic to get Miranda married to Ferdinand and become queen. He gets back his Dukedom but the revenge takes a more sensible form here.
In the progress of the play, when Ariel informs Prospero of how Alonso and his group are in a sad state under his spell, Prospero suddenly changes his heart as if he had already decided.
Ariel reports that Prospero’s magic “so strongly works’em that if you now beheld them, your affections would become tender.” Prospero answers that now he is thinking “with his nobler reason, ‘gainst his fury.” He must have forgiven them at that very instance.
Caliban keeps cursing Prospero since the beginning for making a slave out of him but in the end, he asks for forgiveness too and Prospero forgives him.
Antonio, the one who took Prospero’s dukedom away is also forgiven of his “rankest fault (worst fault).” The sweet ending of the play owes to Prospero’s understanding of the world where forgiveness is more fruitful than fury.
The play deals with the idea of freedom at various levels. At first, Prospero is exiled into the island which imprisons him. It is reflected by the fact that Ferdinand is the first man Miranda ever saw apart from her father.
The play mainly shows two characters of Ariel and Caliban who are serving Prospero and demand their freedom constantly. Ariel is an airy spirit who is under the control of Prospero’s magical prowess and demands his freedom almost every time after serving Prospero.
Once Ariel is granted freedom, he sings, “merrily, merrily, shall I live now \ Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.” In the end, both Ariel and Caliban get their freedom. Prospero’s exile into the island is also corrected when he gets back his dukedom in Milan.
Through Ariel and Caliban, the idea of confinement is reiterated in the play. When Ariel demands his freedom, Prospero reminds him that how under Sycorax, the witch, he was put into the pine and with the magic of Prospero, he was taken out of it. Ariel thanks him for that.
The fact of confinement is also used as leverage while dealing with Caliban. When Caliban curses, Prospero reminds him that he was “deservedly confined into a rock” when in fact he “deserves more than a prison” and it was Prospero who got him out of it.
Prospero, who is aware of the larger world besides the island, must be feeling more confined than any other character in the play but his mastery lessens it when the slavery intensifies it further for someone like Caliban.
Many critics over the time have noticed the thematic concern of love and romance in this play. Ferdinand and Miranda come together to become the mouthpiece of a very innocent and naïve love. Although they are mere extensions of Prospero’s design, their feelings have a kind of truth to them.
At the very first sight, Ferdinand and Miranda recognize love for each other. It sounds unbelievable but in one day, they also commit to each other completely.
Probably it shows that in an island, where obstructions are dealt with magical forces, love may progress in its purest pace. Prospero’s character shows love in a more elevated way.
His forgiveness shows his love for not only individuals but mankind as a whole. Magic of Prospero may put doubt into the validity of love but the play deals with love in its most naïve state.