In ‘The Tempest’, fortune has brought Prospero’s enemies within his grasp and he seizes the opportunity for revenge. The play opens with ‘A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning,” accompanied by urgent tones, “Do you not hear him? You mar our labour- keep your cabins. You do assist the storm.” The use of high modal language reflects the chaos and urgency of the situation and the extent of Prospero’s revenge.
The audience is exposed to Prospero’s dark and despotic nature through his treatment of Ariel and Caliban, whom he refers to as “Malignant thing”. Aided by Caliban’s soliloquy, the audience receives a clear representation of Prospero’s nature. “Sometimes am I All wound with adders who with cloven tongues Do hiss me into madness”. The use of the torture and violent imagery highlight Prospero’s cruelty which has arisen due to his imprisonment by his feelings of revenge as a result of the initial usurpation.
However, in ‘The Tempest’, the audience witnesses Prospero’s transformation take place as he learns to forgive his enemies. He states “the rarer action is in virtue rather than vengeance”. The use of alliteration and contrast highlights these opposing paths. Prospero has chosen compassion and mercy, moving towards a recognition of the futility of revenge.
He witnesses the omnitude of Miranda and Ferdinand’s love and bestows a blessing. “Heaven’s grace on that which breeds between em”. This signals the start of his transformation. The use of celestial imagery is an antithesis of hell imagery “flame”, “fire”, “sulphurous roaring” explored in Act 1. Prospero revels in an enthusiastic tone “why that’s my spirit”, acknowledging the suffering inflicted on his enemies. This contrasts with his behaviour in Act 3 scene 1 when he shows great delight in Miranda and Ferdinand’s good fortune, emphasising his transformation.“ As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air.” The use of emotive language and simile highlights the temporal nature of the world and that human experience is fleeting. Prospero recognises the impermanence of human life and with this recognition comes a shift in perspective and thus his self-transformation.