In the play The Tempest, the protagonist Prospero practices magic. Much like the character of Doctor Faustus by Marlowe, Prospero has a sincere craving for knowledge.
He was a duke of Milan until Antonio, his brother usurped him and with his daughter Miranda, he was exiled and finally, he arrived on this unnamed island.
On the island, Prospero practices magic. Island as a space away from the mainland offers a perfect location to reach the limit of anything. In the very beginning, the reader gets to know that the storm which wrecked the ship of Alonso is created by the magical power of Prospero.
The moment Prospero hints at the character of Caliban, one notices Shakespeare’s attempt to show both sides of magic. Prospero’s magic is a kind of “white magic” whereas Sycorax, the mother of Caliban practiced black magic which is evil in nature.
By addressing Sycorax as a witch, we are reminded of the prevalent ideas regarding witchcraft in that age when magic was seriously pursued by many.
The character of Ariel which is described as “airy” in nature is an extension of Prospero’s magical power. His utilization is realistic in nature.
Prospero is a good magician who is shown by the fact that he uses Ariel to fulfill good things or to restore justice i.e. Prospero’s dukedom but Sycorax had confined him in a tree from which Prospero freed him.
Prospero has been on the island for almost twelve years. He makes a precise blueprint to take his revenge and that also in a fruitful manner.
Using magic, he washes them ashore and the survivors are grouped as per his plan. Ferdinand becomes the tool for his political ambition.
Under the magical spell, both Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love and commit instantly. The whole plot advances under the spell of Prospero, he is the designer of the whole thing, a complete artist, magic his art.
As a finest show of his magic, Prospero creates a masque to teach the newly betrothed ones the morality of their age regarding chastity. He uses magic for real cause like he creates a political bond by giving his daughter in marriage to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples.
Towards the end of the play, Prospero shows the extent of his magic. He says that “grave at his command have waked their sleepers, op’d, and let’em forth.”
In the end, there is a reversal of conditions. Prospero decides to abandon all his magical power. In his attempt to cherish human condition, he decides to “drown his book” in the depth of the earth. The play’s epilogue bares open ‘behind the scenes’ of magic and suggests the value of being simply a mortal being.