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For other meanings, see Prospero (disambiguation).
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.

The Tempest[edit]

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, and of Ariel, a spirit who 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 smacked too much of 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]


Film and television[edit]



  • In J.G. Ballard's short story "Dream Cargoes", the chemical waste ship marooned on the World War II garbage island is called the Prospero.
  • In John Bellairs's novel The Face in the Frost (1969), Prospero is one of the protagonists.



  • The Economist blog on books, arts, and culture is called Prospero.

Radio plays[edit]



  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. 

External links[edit]