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For other uses, see Prospero (disambiguation).
Prospero and miranda.jpg
Prospero and Miranda by William Maw Egley
Creator William Shakespeare
Play The Tempest

Prospero (/ˈprɒspər/ PROS-pər-oh) is a fictional character and the protagonist of William Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan, whose usurping brother, Antonio, had put him (with his then three-year-old daughter, Miranda) to sea on "a rotten carcass of a butt [boat]" to die, 12 years before the play begins. Prospero and Miranda survived and found exile on a small island. He has learned sorcery from books, and uses it while on the island to protect Miranda and control the other characters. Before the play has begun, Prospero frees Ariel from entrapment within "a cloven pine", about which Prospero states:

It was mine Art,

When I arrived and heard thee, that made gape

The pine and let thee out.
— The Tempest, Act 1, scene 2.

Prospero's sorcery is sufficiently powerful to control Ariel and other spirits, as well as to alter weather and even raise the dead: "Graves at my command have waked their sleepers, oped, and let 'em forth, by my so potent Art."- Act V, scene 1.

On the island, Prospero becomes master of the monster Caliban (the son of Sycorax, a malevolent witch) and forces Caliban into submission by punishing him with magic if he does not obey. Ariel is beholden to Prospero after he is freed from his imprisonment inside the pine tree.

At the end of the play, Prospero intends to drown his book and renounce magic. In the view of the audience, this may have been required to make the ending unambiguously happy, as magic was associated with diabolical works; he will drown his books for the same reason that Doctor Faust, in an earlier play by Christopher Marlowe, promised in vain to burn his books.[citation needed]

Prospero's speech[edit]

The final soliloquy and epilogue in The Tempest is considered to be one of the most memorable speeches in Shakespearean literature.[citation needed]

           Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
           And what strength I have's mine own,
           Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
           I must be here confined by you,
           Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
           Since I have my dukedom got
           And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
           In this bare island by your spell;
           But release me from my bands
           With the help of your good hands:
           Gentle breath of yours my sails
           Must fill, or else my project fails,
           Which was to please. Now I want
           Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
           And my ending is despair,
           Unless I be relieved by prayer,
           Which pierces so that it assaults
           Mercy itself and frees all faults.
           As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
           Let your indulgence set me free.

In it, Prospero states his loss (magic) and his continuing imprisonment if the audience is not pleased. Many feel that since The Tempest was the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone, Prospero's feelings echo Shakespeare's own, or perhaps may even have been his "retirement speech".[citation needed][who?]


In popular culture[edit]

  • In the comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, Prospero appears as a founding member of the first such grouping in 1610, alongside his familiars Caliban and Ariel.
  • Paul Prospero, the protagonist of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (2014), is named after Prospero.[1]
  • In John Bellairs's novel The Face in the Frost (1969), Prospero is one of the protagonists.
  • T. S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land" references Prospero.
  • In the The Horus Heresy series, several books take place on a planet called Prospero. The citizens of the planet are versed in sorcery and psychic powers, earning them the suspicion and ire of the rest of the Imperium of Man.[2]
  • Melon Cauliflower, by NZ playwright Tom McCrory, is about a man Prospero, in his late sixties, who struggles to come to terms with the death of his wife and has mistreated his daughter Miranda.[3]
  • The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allan Poe, is set at the manor of a Prince Prospero
  • In the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation by Gene Roddenberry and CBS / Paramount Pictures, Prospero appears briefly played by Lt. Cmdr. Data who is in turn played by the actor Brent Spiner during the beginning of Season 7 Episode 23 entitled 'Emergence'. He recites some lines of Prospero's speech before asking Captain Picard as played by Patrick Stewart to provide some insight into the character of Prospero and Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' in general. This may be a fortunate coincidence as Stewart was to appear as Prospero on Broadway the following year, a booking which may have been known by the writers.
  • In the mobile game "Star Trek Timelines" a character was released in February of 2017 called Prospero Data recalling the characters appearance in the previously mentioned Star Trek: TNG episode.
  • Good wizard named Prospero appears in Polish children's animated cartoon called "Miś Fantazy"[4] based on the books by Ewa Karwan-Jastrzębska[5]


  1. ^ "On The Vanishing of Ethan Carter's Ending (EXTREME SPOILERS)". Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  2. ^ "Prospero Burns publisher summary". Retrieved 2015-10-17. 
  3. ^ McCrory, Tom. Melon Cauliflower (PDF). RadioNZ. 
  4. ^
    • Prospero appears as the main villain in season 2 of The Librarians on TNT.
    "Miś Fantazy". Retrieved 2016-12-22. 
  5. ^ "Ewa Karwan-Jastrzębska". Wikipedia, wolna encyklopedia (in Polish). 2016-11-30. 

External links[edit]