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A Role Of Prospero In The Merchant of Venice

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Prospero Extract- Act 5, Scene 1

Prospero first addresses Gonzalo rather than punishing any of one of his many enemies before him. Describing him as an ‘honourable man’ Shakespeare depicts how Prospero views character and actions as far better indications of a person’s worth, rather than nobility or inherited honour and privilege. By beginning his soliloquy with a reference to his friend rather than his enemies, it’s evident that Shakespeare is presenting a new Prospero, one focused on forgiveness over punishment.

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Gratitude is an aspect of Prospero’s character that becomes evident in this extract. Gonzalo is described as ‘My true preserver’. One could argue that the possessive pronoun of ‘my’ refers to Prospero’s controlling nature and how he has controlled Gonzalo and the rest of the group’s actions. However, feelings of thanks are more obvious since Prospero compares his friend in the same manner as he did to Miranda, demonstrating he feels an almost familial love for Gonzalo. Prospero’s appreciative side is so strong that he swears to repay him in ‘word and deed’ comparing how he believes his thanks to be insufficient and desires to use his powers for rewarding and forgiveness, rather than punishment.

Despite the lenience Prospero is prepared to show in this extract, it’s obvious that a great deal of anger lies within him. Whilst acknowledging Alonso’s role in his usurpation, Prospero ends a line with particular emphasis on the wrongdoing done to ‘my daughter’. The depth of his rage is clear and Shakespeare uses the emphasis here to demonstrate how anger still remains a part of Prospero’s character as well as how merciful he is.

Whilst judging Antonio, much is learned about Prospero’s character. As its first use as an idiom, ‘Flesh and Blood’ is used to describe how close the two brothers were and therefore the visceral pain Prospero still suffers from due to his betrayal. The word ‘entertained’ is significant since it conjures connotations of games and amusement. It’s possible that Shakespeare wishes to portray Prospero in shock at how his brother would kill his family in the petty name of politics and power, things that are mere games. In addition, one could consider Prospero a more positive and optimistic character here. He proclaims that Antonio deliberately ‘Expelled remorse and nature’ demonstrating how he believes his brother was born naturally good rather than possessing an evil nature. However, this also continues the feelings of pain and betrayal the character suffers since the violent connotations of ‘expelled’ indicate that the usurpation was a calculated choice on Antonio’s part.

Shakespeare has developed Prospero thoroughly throughout the play and summarises his final character in a short sentence- ‘I do forgive thee.’ The simplicity and bluntness of the remark depicts Prospero in a merciful light, willing to offer redemption even without the repentance he previously demanded.

A metaphor is used to compare the group’s understanding to ‘an approaching tide’ about to reach the shore. On one hand, this could be used to demonstrate how Prospero’s charms and magical powers are clearly linked to the world of nature or could possibly indicate that Prospero is a character planning ahead and is already considering when to bring the crew of the King’s ship back to shore in preparation for departure.

By the end of the extract, Prospero is fully willing to give up his magical powers in order to once again wield his political ones. He orders Ariel to ‘fetch … the hat and rapier’ with the imperative of ‘fetch’ demonstrating that he is still a character fully in control of the situation at hand. The focus on his appearance proves that Prospero, like many of his contemporaries, believes that appearance signifies many aspects about a person, whether that be benevolence or power. Finally, by requesting his old clothes of grandeur and his previous proclamation to give up his books, staff and, most importantly, cloak it is evident that Shakespeare is illustrating Prospero as a character ready to abandon his new life and sorcery in order to reclaim his old one and political powers.

To conclude, Prospero exclaims to Ariel ‘Quickly, Spirit! Thou shalt ere long be free.’ Once again, his orders to others are continuing, demonstrating him to still be a controlling and manipulative character. Yet another promise is made to assure Ariel of his freedom however by this point Prospero has developed, learnt to value forgiveness and freedom and thus a promise from this new Prospero seems to be worth more.

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