Throughout Shakespeare’s plays, ‘The Tempest’ clearly comes out as a play with a strong testimony of morality of the characters. Similarly, Prospero can be regarded as one of the most enigmatic character in Shakespeare’s plays. The characters show diverse ways of responding to the selfish motives of Prospero; eventually resolved through the break of vice power on account of Prospero’s benefit. In the commencement of the play and entirely throughout the play, Prospero is under the test of morality when his conscience limits the thirst he has for power. Through this his cravings do not make him wicked. As Prospero elucidates his deep concerns for his daughter, Miranda, he does so with such wisdom as not to reveal his motive but sacrifices them entirely.
In the beginning of the play, it becomes clear that Prospero’s motive is to instill wonder and awe on Miranda. When he discloses the history of political wrongdoings leading to the stealing and usurping of his dukedom in Milan, Miranda is moved aback. Through the close relationship that Prospero maintains with his daughter, he trusts that she can clearly comprehend the motives of his actions. It is apparent that besides the doubts that are apparent in the character of Prospero, reassurance is sustained. Prospero has an obsession for attention which the daughter fully fulfills. In fact, Prospero seems as though he is relinquishing something so precious to him- his power, at the expense of his own daughter.
Prospero’s motive for power acquisition is seen in the way he rules over Miranda and the relationship with Caliban and Ariel. Clearly, Prospero is struggling to restore his power and authority through the way he reacts to the three characters: Miranda, Caliban and Ariel. In spite of the persistent entreaties for freedom by the three characters, Prospero acts in an autocratic manner, suppressing their quests. Apparently, Prospero seems skeptical about trusting other people due to the past encounter with Sycorax, Caliban’s Mother and from whom he rescued Caliban. In spite of Prospero’s boasting for having rescued Caliban from the imprisoning of his mother, he regards her with disagreement.
In spite of the nativism that Caliban exudes of the Island, he is affronted by the ownership and command that Prospero imposes on him. Prospero threatens Caliban to obey his commands when Caliban says, “I must obey: his art is of such power, It would control my dam's god, setebos, and make a vassal of him” (I.ii.375-76). Prospero has good knowledge of the gods as well as great mastery of sorcery. These make him a very formidable character leaving Caliban with no option but to submit to him. Similarly, his presence is firmly felt in the growing relationship between Miranda and Ferdinand. Here, he is seen as a very hostile and domineering father. Surprisingly, the romance between the two is Prospero’s plan. Although Prospero intended that his daughter would get married in the future and especially with the coming of Ferdinand, he opts to imprison Ferdinand as a test of true love. The romance is eventually developed stronger when Ferdinand perseveres and endures Prospero’s trials. Apparently, Prospero dictates and controls Miranda’s choices but gradually releases her.
One of the most influential characters in play to Prospero is Ariel. He is the ethereal spirit maintaining the conscience of Prospero as well as saving him from the undignified powers that magic offers. Besides providing Prospero with secret information, Ariel also transforms Prospero’s perception on the importance of heeding his promise. It is most likely that Prospero’s character is hardened by the personal injustice in the past. As a result, he considers his actions with great care perhaps so as not to repeat his errors. Paradoxically, the injustices done to Prospero by his brother Antonio endear him to make amends with Alonso and his court. The paradox seems to be the turning point and most central part of the play. In fact, it reveals the determination in Prospero to fully depend on virtue as opposed to the magic and sorcery he practices. Ariel clearly emerges as an influence to Prospero towards embracing forgiveness and life.
There is change on our impression of the motives of Prospero. For instance, his dominance and control over his daughter is eventually seen as a remarkable way of training her into reality. She is not exposed to the world and therefore desperately needs someone to guide her. Prospero shapes her morality through his interference in her choices. Similarly, we find Prospero’s character change from the initial motives to avenge the injustices he suffered from his brother Antonio. The reconciliation that is depicted in the character of Prospero is most influenced by Ariel who assuages Prospero’s conflict within himself. As a matter of fact, Ariel encourages Prospero to overcome the evil motives which are threatening to control him. Eventually, Prospero resolves a lasting peace with himself.
The character of Prospero and his treatment to the different characters in the play can be said to be justified to some extents. For instance, as a father, he is justified for controlling her naïve daughter. Through his games, he finally helps her get a good husband with the anticipation that she will get a happy life. Similarly, Prospero mistreats Ferdinand initially with the aim of determining the sincerity of his love for Miranda. Prospero acts as an authoritarian towards Caliban as he hopes to use him towards his great mission. Finally, the relationship that Prospero maintains with Ariel is justified. He is careful to follow the instructions Ariel gives him. He also decides to obey his conscience rather than his evil pursuits for revenge. Therefore, the character of Prospero is influential in the entire plot of the play. The complexity and strength of Prospero’s mind and will overcome the adverse conditions facing him. The development of his morals reveals the power humanity has over fate.