Prospero (pronounced /ˈprɒspəroʊ/ PROS-pər-oh) is the protagonist in The Tempest, a play by William Shakespeare.
Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan, who (with his infant daughter, Miranda) was put to sea on "a rotten carcass of a butt [boat]" to die by his usurping brother, Antonio, twelve years before the play begins. Prospero and Miranda survived, and found exile on a small island. He has learned sorcery (referred to as his "Art" in the play), and uses it while on the island to protect Miranda and control the other characters. On the island, he becomes master of the monster Caliban (the son of Sycorax, a malevolent witch), and Ariel, an elemental who has become enslaved by Prospero after he is freed from his prison inside a tree.
However, at the end of the play, Prospero intends to drown his books 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, futilely promised to burn his books.
The final soliloquy and epilogue in The Tempest is considered to be one of the most memorable speeches in Shakespearean literature. In it, Prospero describes his loss (magic) and his imprisonment of Caliban and Ariel. He relates his imprisonment of them to that of his own bondage, which can only be undone by the applause of the audience. Many feel that since The Tempest was Shakespeare's last play (though he did write one more, with some assistance), Prospero's feelings echo Shakespeare's own.
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 .
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