The Opposition of Good and Bad in The Tempest

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Coleridge’s poetic faith, also known as suspension of disbelief, is a willingness to believe the supernatural by sacrificing realism in order to provoke enjoyment. Coleridge believed that if a writer “infuses a human interest and a semblance of truth” in their representation of the supernatural, readers would hold their logical protests and temporarily accept the unbelievable. In the play The Tempest, Shakespeare artistically used this device to outline a story that focuses on travel, royalty, revenge and supernatural. The play is centred on Prospero, a powerful magician who chooses to create a storm and cause a shipwreck to provide an opportunity for his daughter, Miranda, to reminisce on her past. He is the former Duke of Milan who is unjustly exiled to an island. The plot uses magic to show an individual’s ability to control a situation, whether for good or bad. In the play The Tempest, Shakespeare relies on the audience’s inclination towards magic in order to depict Prospero’s character development via his changing relationship with power.

Prospero is a powerful magician who uses the supernatural power to control people around him and accomplish his objectives. In the play, Prospero uses the spirit Ariel to create a storm that will cause a shipwreck and allow the group to settle on an island to prove his past to his daughter. He is the reason why everyone is on the island, which makes him a powerful individual who can control an outcome. While highlighting his vengeful nature, Shakespeare directs the audience towards Prospero’s magical abilities, thereby revealing his controlling and manipulative trait. For instance, he frees Ariel from the tree but only to enslave and guilt trip it to reach his vicious intentions, promising that he will release it once the missions are done. He later threatens Ariel to misuse his magical power and captivate it in the tree if the spirit wants to reveal his intentions by saying “if thou more murmur’s, I will rend an oak and peg thee in his knotty entrails till thou hast howled away twelve winters” (I.II.295-296). Using magic, the author wants to highlight the manipulative nature of Prospero in his quest to accomplish his goal. To allow for the evolution of Prospero’s character, the audience needs to believe that Prospero has full control of the situations. Truly understanding Prospero’s power is integral for the audience to appreciate his decision to use his magic for good. A manipulative individual can control the actions of others, and Shakespeare uses Prospero’s magical character to emphasize on the trait as observed by how he changed from vengeance to fostering love between Ferdinand, prince of Nepal, and Miranda.

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Prospero focuses on his daughter’s happiness, on occurrence that compels him to shift his use of magic from manipulative purposes to positive aims. Prospero can be credited for linking Ferdinand with Miranda through the use of Ariel, who used a song to lure Ferdinand in the direction of Miranda. While the move is manipulative, the result shows Prospero’s good intentions. The audience needs to identify Prospero’s presence in the life of the characters; hence, he is linked to the entire love story between Ferdinand and Miranda. While he becomes invisible and spies on the two, the audience must continue to feel his presence, further strengthening their belief that Prospero is in control. Initially, Prospero’s objective was that of vengeance, owing to the disregard for his status and well-being by his enemies. However, after witnessing the true love between Miranda and Ferdinand, his character evolves and he chooses to positively influence events to bring about their meeting meeting and subsequent wedding. This time Ariel’s assistance is directed towards improved welfare, summoning three spirits to ensure a successful union. Prospero also uses the event as an opportunity to reconcile with his enemies asserting that “At this hour lie at my mercy all my enemies. Shortly shall all my labors end, and thou shalt have the air at freedom” (IV.I.262-265). The quote presents the aspect of forgiveness in the human realm. The readers need to believe that Prospero, with all his powers, is able to forgive his enemies like Caliban who once plotted his demise. The audience sees a possibility, due to the magical aspect, which would have been harder to convince in a normal setting. At the end of the play, Prospero relinquishes his magical power for the greater good and releases Ariel.

Despite a larger part of the play highlighting the manipulation of the characters for a desired outcome, Prospero’s supernatural abilities prompt the reader to believe that individuals can use power for both bad and good. The readers believe that Prospero grows because of his forgiveness and release of Ariel. They think, temporarily, that Prospero harbours good intentions even though it might very well be that the shipwreck and the subsequent marriage between his daughter and Ferdinand might have been a significant plan to restore his former glory as a noble by linking the two families. In the end, he seeks to give up his magic as he believes it causes violence. However, the character only does this act after ensuring he has changed his social status. He asserts that “I’ll break my staff, bury it certain fathoms in the earth, and deeper that did ever plummet sound I’ll drown my book” (V.I.54-57). He believes that avoiding magic will restore his former glory as a noble now that his daughter has linked the families. However, the reader still notices him command Ariel to ensure the sea is calm to allow safe travels. This situation still prompts the reader to identify a change in Prospero from a malice to a good-natured person. The rational mind would identify the true self-serving intentions of Prospero. However, the supernatural gives him power over others; hence, what he chooses to do is what the reader believes. The reader feels Prospero has had a change of heart after seeing a love blossom between his daughter and Ferdinand. Magic seems like the cause of all problems as portrayed by Prospero, and removing it creates peace.

The message of The Tempest requires suspension of disbelief among its readers. This is achieved through Prospero’s character using magic for both good and bad. The events of the play reveal Prospero’s initial deceitful character in using his magical abilities to manipulate others. He uses his power to wreak havoc but goes on to create peace by uniting two families, forgiving his enemies, and releasing the captive spirit. The readers find amusement in knowing Prospero controls the situation. His character development from bad to good has a significant impact on the outcome of the play. The readers can support Prospero using poetic faith, but logical reasoning shows his manipulation of the entire event of the story. By referring to poetic faith, the readers can blame magic for the adverse outcomes rather than Prospero, and thus, his choice to rid magic ensures a happy ending for all the characters.

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