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Free Study Guide-The Tempest by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes
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OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Prospero

Prospero's is the former Duke of Milan, who has been exiled to an enchanted island for twelve years. He is extremely learned, having studied most of his life. In fact, he had allowed his brother Antonio to run the dukedom while he was devoting himself to learning; it was during this time that Antonio seized his kingdom and sent Prospero and Miranda away in a boat to perish. Due to Gonzalo's generously supplying the boat with provisions and a book of magic, Prospero and his daughter are able to survive and land on the enchanted island to live.

During the play, Prospero proves he is also a benevolent man, a loving father, a forgiving brother, and a fair leader. He also shows how a complete man of today was an incomplete man of yesterday, and an incomplete man of today can become a complete and perfect man of tomorrow. In truth, Prospero's years of exile have made him a complete man. By spending years on the enchanted island, he has been able to rise above the petty conspiracies that seem to abound in the royal party.

Prospero has used his years of solitude on the island to study magical arts, which have enabled him to control and command the island and many natural phenomena around it. It is he that calls forth the tempest that destroys the royal ship and brings his enemies to the island. Through much of the play, Prospero appears almost god-like in his use of magic and in the way he masterfully dictates what will happen from one moment to the next. His calling forth of spirits to do his bidding and his summoning of the goddesses to bless and celebrate the marriage of his daughter to Ferdinand are clear examples of the depth of his magical abilities. Fortunately, Prospero is a noble character who uses restraint in exercising his power.


Prospero also proves that he is wise, patient, and forgiving leader. Even though his brother and his allies have stolen the kingdom from him, Prospero is able to forgive them, proving his true nobility of character. He could have easily and justifiably killed or punished all of the royal party; instead, he forces them to see the error of their ways and pledge allegiance to him. Only Antonio fails to become a better character as a result of Prospero's mercy. As a result, when he returns to Milan to be its ruler, he will be more honored and more powerful than ever. His subjects will not dare to plot against the restored Prospero in the future.

Miranda

Miranda is the fifteen year-old daughter of Prospero, who become the wife of Prince Ferdinand. She is a pure and ethereal creature; because she has lived almost all of her life on the enchanted island, separated from a tainted society, she is totally innocent and unsoiled. In addition, she has a sweet disposition and a tender heart by nature. When she hears the passengers from the boat crying in pain, she begs her father to use his magic to still the storm. When she sees Ferdinand gathering the heavy logs, she offers to help.

Because Miranda is unsophisticated and knows nothing of social norms, she easily reveals her true emotions to everyone. When she is attracted to Ferdinand, she tells him of his love and asks him to take her as a wife. The young prince, charmed by her innocence and beauty, immediately falls in love with her, thinking she is a perfect being. In fact, all the characters in the play have nothing but praise for Miranda. Caliban calls her a "non-pareil", someone who is superior to others. Alonso looks upon her as a "goddess that hath served us and brought us thus together". Gonzalo invokes the gods to drop a blessed crown upon her head. But no one has defined her excellence better than her own lover, Ferdinand, who calls her "perfect", "peerless" and "created of every creature's best".

Ferdinand

Ferdinand typifies young, gallant nobility. He is handsome and well bred. He is also accepting of his fate. When Prospero pretends to brand him as a spy and traitor as part of his master plan, Ferdinand does not challenge him or fight his enslavement. Instead, he accepts the drudgery of his work as a pleasure, for it allows him to see the beautiful Miranda. He is truly blessed with a royal nature, worthy of marrying Prospero's lovely daughter to whom he is completely devoted.

Unlike the other member of the royal party, his reputation is unblemished. He has never been tempted to succumb to any of the conspiracies or wrongdoings that are rampant amongst the nobility. He represents the new generation, the source of hope for the future. For this reason, Prospero seeks Ferdinand out as the perfect spouse for his daughter. It seems to be a match made in heaven.

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