The Tempest Forgiveness Essay

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The Tempest can be seen as a play about reconciliation, forgiveness, and mercy. However, while it is clear that the theme of forgiveness is at the heart of the drama, it is unclear to what extent mercy is given. An examination of Caliban and Ariel and their representations of Prospero’s struggle illustrates that there is little, if any, true forgiveness and reconciliation in The Tempest. Prospero’s actions from the beginning of the play seem to contradict his ultimate aim to forgive those of have wronged him. Prospero seizes the opportunity for revenge with the help of his magic and good fortune. As Davidson points out, “Desire for vengeance has lain dormant in Prospero through the years of banishment, and now, the great wrong of twelve …show more content…

When Prospero came to the island he taught Caliban his language and mannerisms. At the beginning Caliban welcomed Prospero, delighting in the attention he would receive: "Thou strok’st me, and made much of me". In return, Caliban showed Prospero "all the qualities o’ th’ isle". But Caliban, in an expression of his natural instincts, tried to rape Miranda. It is an atrocious deed, but, to Caliban, it is a basic biological urge. Kermode states, "Caliban is the bestial man [with] no sense of right and wrong, and therefore sees no difference between good and evil. His state is less guilty”. While he should have taken measures to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again, Prospero goes further to ensure that Caliban pay dearly for his actions. He threatens continually to "rack [him] with old cramps", and confines him "in this hard rock" away from what is rightfully his island. For Caliban, Prospero has no mercy or forgiveness. Prospero brands him "a born devil, on whose name/Nurture can never stick.” As Mannoni says, “Caliban does not complain of being exploited; he complains rather of being betrayed”. Even though Prospero understands that Caliban’s bad behaviour is like that of a child, he does not offer mercy and forgiveness as freely and earnestly as one should. Thus, it is through Prospero’s treatment of Caliban that Prospero’s desire for revenge is …show more content…

It is likely that Caliban was derived from Montaigne’s vision of the “noble savage,” which is a character who embodies the concept of an idealised outsider who has not been “corrupted” by civilisation, and therefore symbolises humanity’s innate goodness. All in all, despite the traditional happy ending befitting a Shakespeare comedy, ultimately, we are left with the feeling that true forgiveness and reconciliation have not been

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