Jacob Friedman Period 3
Major Assignment #2: Forgiveness vs. Vengeance Essay
Throughout Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the theme of vengeance and forgiveness make multiple appearances. At first, it seems like the entire plot of the play is a scheme designed by a powerful magician named Prospero to bring his rivals to a state of regret because they had usurped him from his rightful throne in Milan. However, as the story progresses, it seems as if Prospero brought his enemies to his island not for revenge, but so that he can pardon them and restore the rightful order of things to his dukedom of Milan.
The play starts, in Act 1 Scene 1, with a storm threatening to destroy a ship that happens to have Prospero’s enemies on board. We later find out that this storm was, in fact, created by Prospero himself for the purpose of trapping his enemies on his island. At first it may seem that this was an act of ...view middle of the document...
This plan is nearly seen through except that Prospero, again through Ariel, wakes up Gonzalo and stops the plan. This scene shows that Prospero is conflicted; he isn’t sure if he should take revenge on his enemies by killing them, or just forgive his enemies and heal the social order.
This middle part of the play is the tipping point for Prospero. In the beginning his plan was to get revenge on his enemies and even told this to his daughter, but in the coming scenes, Prospero realizes that he wants emotional vengeance and that can only be achieved by healing the social order. This hypothesis makes an appearance in Act 3 Scene 3 when Prospero makes Ariel scare his enemies; Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio and Gonzalo. Ariel takes the form of a harpy and speaks Prospero’s words. Prospero, through Ariel, tells his enemies that they have sinned and have offended the highest of powers so they need to repent and tell Prospero that they are sorry. If Prospero had wanted revenge he could have killed his enemies right there and he would have been done with his plot. The fact that he didn’t kill them or imprison them shows that he’s starting to realize that he longs for is emotional freedom, and the only way to achieve true peace of mind is to set free those he has enslaved and forgive them for any wrongs they have committed against him. This emotional freedom will heal the disruption to the social order which Prospero had caused by bringing his enemies to his island.
A major theme running through The Tempest is forgiveness vs. vengeance. We can see that throughout the beginnings of the play there is evidence that Prospero wants revenge on those who usurped his throne because Prospero creates a tempest that lands his enemies on his island. At first he puts his enemies through many hardships such as emotional distress (Alonso believing his son is dead) and actual torture (Prospero trapping Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban in a pool of polluted, neck-deep water). However, Prospero’s vengeance gets swayed when he realizes that the only way to achieve his longing for emotional freedom is to forgive his enemies and heal the social order. Prospero admits this in Act 5 Scene 1 in line 26 - 28 where he states that he needs to take the nobler path and forgive his enemies.