The Tempest

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of The Tempest published in 2004.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
What cares these roarers for the name of king?
Related Characters: Boatswain (speaker), Alonso
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 1.1.16-17
Explanation and Analysis:

The play opens on a ship caught in the middle of a fearsome storm. Alonso, Gonzalo, and Antonio have attempted to speak to the Boatswain, who has pleaded that they stay below deck while he attempts to navigate the ship through the storm. When Gonzalo urges the Boatswain to bear in mind that Alonso is the King of Naples, the Boatswain responds that the storm doesn't care "for the name of king"––meaning that human hierarchies of status have no significance in the face of the almighty power of nature.

The boldness with which the Boatswain speaks to Gonzalo and the others emphasizes the way that the physical upheaval of the storm has created social upheaval among the characters. Additionally, the Boatswain's words serve as a reminder that, outside of a given political context, manmade structures such as rank and codes of behavior are made meaningless. Just as the storm itself will not distinguish between kings and ordinary people in its destructive might, so will the consequences of the storm throw these distinctions into disarray. 


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Act 1, scene 2 Quotes
O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel,
Who had no doubt some noble creature in her,
Dashed all to pieces.
Related Characters: Miranda (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 1.2.5-8
Explanation and Analysis:

The storm has caused the ship carrying Alonso, Antonio, Gonzalo and others to disintegrate. Meanwhile, on the island, Miranda watches the ship be battered alongside her father, Prospero, who she suspects is causing the storm with his magical powers. Miranda exclaims that she feels sympathy for those on the ship, imagining that there must be "some noble creature" aboard. Her observation reflects Gonzalo's statement in the previous scene that the Boatswain should remember who is onboard the ship (meaning in particular he should remember that there is a noble person, Alonso, the King of Naples). Miranda thus appears to possess a kind of prescience about the characters who will soon arrive on the island.

Miranda also feels a connection to the passengers on the ship because, like them, she was the victim of a shipwreck, which is how she ended up on the island. As this passage shows, Miranda is a kind, compassionate person, who feels sympathy when she encounters the suffering of others ("I have suffered / with those that I saw suffer"). This puts her in contrast to other characters who are embittered by their experiences (like Caliban) or who are selfish and power-hungry (like Antonio). 

Thy false created
The creatures that were mine...set all hearts i'th'state
To what tune pleased his ear, that now he was
The ivy which had hid my princely trunk,
And sucked my verdure out on't...
Related Characters: Prospero (speaker), Antonio
Page Number: 1.2.95-106
Explanation and Analysis:

Prospero has decided to tell Miranda the truth about their past, before they were shipwrecked on the island. Prospero has explained that he was once the Duke of Milan, but that he effectively allowed his brother, Antonio, to manage the state; Antonio then betrayed Prospero to take total control of Milan for himself.

In this quote, Prospero explains how Antonio used his cunning political skill to manipulate others into believing whatever "tune pleased his ear." Prospero emphasizes how he and Antonio were initially very close and that he loved and trusted him, but that Antonio used this proximity and trust to undermine Prospero. This description establishes Antonio as a clear villain within the play, motivated not by loyalty and compassion but by self-interest and the desire for power. 

You taught me language, and my profit on't
Is, I know how to curse.
Related Characters: Caliban (speaker), Prospero
Page Number: 1.2.437-438
Explanation and Analysis:

Prospero has thanked Ariel for creating the storm, although he has failed to set Ariel free per his request. Meanwhile, Prospero's "poisonous slave" Caliban enters, who Prospero treats much more cruelly. The two fight, with Prospero arguing that in the past he treated Caliban with care, only to have Caliban retaliate by attempting to rape Miranda. Caliban resentfully responds that he wished he had been successful in his rape attempt. Caliban grumbles that Prospero taught him language, but the only value of this is that now he knows how to curse. This is a key moment that establishes Prospero's paternalistic attitude to Caliban, a feature that signifies their colonial dynamic.

While Prospero considers it a gift that he has taught Caliban language, Caliban refuses to separate this education from Prospero's overall imprisonment of him. Caliban implies that there is little use to having language fluency if he is not treated as an equal by the people he communicates with. Under these circumstances, the only value in being able to speak is to curse his oppression. This tension is symbolically significant when compared to the "education" that European colonizers imposed on colonized populations throughout the New World.

Full fathom five thy father lies
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.
Hark, now I hear them, ding dong bell.
Related Characters: Ariel (speaker), Alonso, Ferdinand
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 1.2.476-482
Explanation and Analysis:

Ariel has explained to Prospero that he deliberately ensured that certain people aboard the ship washed up onto shore, and that Alonso's son Ferdinand is separated from his father. In this passage Ariel, who is invisible, sings to Ferdinand as he awakens from a deep sleep, convincing him through his subconscious that his father has drowned in the shipwreck.

This is an example of Prospero acting as a playwright by giving Ariel detailed instructions in order to control the events to come. The words of Ariel's song emphasize the fantastical quality of the play. Not only does Ariel magically persuade Ferdinand to believe his father is dead, the lyrical language describing Alonso's bones turning to coral and eyes turning to pearl heightens the impression that the play is like a folktale or myth. 

Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
I'th'commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things. For no kind of traffic
Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
No occupation, all men idle, all;
And women, too, but innocent and pure;
No sovereignty—
All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavour. Treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine
Would I not have; but nature should bring forth
Of it own kind, all foison, all abundance
To feed my innocent people.
Related Characters: Gonzalo (speaker)
Page Number: 2.1.163-180
Explanation and Analysis:

Alonso, Gonzalo, Antonio, and others have washed up onto a different part of the island, and Alonso is distraught because he believes his son, Ferdinand, has drowned. Gonzalo has tried to comfort Alonso, and Antonio and Sebastian have mocked Gonzalo for it. Sebastian, meanwhile, has told Alonso he has brought Ferdinand's death upon himself by letting his daughter marry and African. Gonzalo then begins a speech in which he fantasizes about being the ruler of an island like the one they are on. He imagines that everyone would be equal, with no "riches, poverty, and use of service," that no one would have to work, all women would be "innocent and pure," everything would grow in abundance, and there would be no conflict. 

To some extent, this reveals Gonzalo to be a kind, fair, and noble person. Unlike other characters, such as Antonio, Gonzalo is not power-hungry, and seems to believe that, under ideal circumstances, everyone would live a simple and equal life. Similarly, Gonzalo's comment that if he were ruler of the island there would be no "use of service" puts him in contrast to Prospero, who has enslaved Ariel, Caliban, and now Ferdinand. 

On the other hand, Gonzalo's speech is a typical colonial fantasy: he imagines that on an island like this, "nature should bring forth" an abundance of goods. During the age of colonial empires, the reality of this kind of thinking meant that local populations were oppressed and enslaved in order for European colonizers to live out their utopian fantasies. In many ways, Gonzalo's dream of a society without work or conflict seems hopelessly naïve.   

...She that from whom
We all were sea-swallowed, though some cast again
And by that destiny, to perform an act
Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come
In yours and my discharge.
Related Characters: Antonio (speaker), Sebastian
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 2.1.287-290
Explanation and Analysis:

Ariel has entered and played music that has lulled Alonso and Gonzalo to sleep. Meanwhile, Antonio has pointed out to Sebastian that Ferdinand has drowned, and that this means that Sebastian is the heir to the throne of Naples. In this passage, he claims that the upheaval caused by the tempest has provided an opportunity for him and Sebastian to "perform an act" that would lead them to gain power. This speech is a perfect example of the kind of cunning persuasiveness that Antonio used to gain power by betraying Prospero so many years earlier. Rather than telling Sebastian outright of his plan to murder Alonso, he plants ideas slowly in Sebastian's mind, creating the impression that this is all part of a larger "destiny." 

Antonio's comment "what's past is prologue" is one of Shakespeare's many famous lines. It is an example of metadrama, wherein characters in a play refer to the situation they are in as theatre. Clearly, Antonio envisions himself as the playwright, with the power to plan and manipulate events into taking place exactly as he wishes. In this way he is very similar to his brother, Prospero; however, as will be made clear, it is Prospero himself who has the power of the playwright within The Tempest. 

Twenty consciences
That stand 'twixt me and Milan, candied be they,
And melt ere they molest.
Related Characters: Antonio (speaker)
Page Number: 2.1.319-321
Explanation and Analysis:

With Gonzalo and Alonso lulled to sleep by Ariel, Antonio has revealed to Sebastian his plan to murder Alonso. He reminds Sebastian that he has pulled off a similar act before, when he took his brother Prospero's title of Duke of Milan. Antonio boasts that the position of Duke of Milan suits him well, and when Sebastian asks if he is troubled by his conscience, Antonio replies that "twenty consciences" would melt before they bothered him.

This response reveals Antonio to be an arch villain, with no trace of remorse for having murdered his brother and niece (or so he believes). While other characters are presented as having a more complex relationship with ethics and personal gain, Antonio is straightforward and shameless in his desire to seize power for himself. 

Act 2, scene 2 Quotes
Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.
Related Characters: Trinculo (speaker), Caliban
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 2.2.40-41
Explanation and Analysis:

On a different part of the island, Caliban has delivered a speech about the ways in which Prospero torments him; noticing Alonso's jester Trinculo, he hides under a cloak, believing the jester to be one of Prospero's spirits there to punish him for doing his work too slowly. Trinculo, meanwhile, notices Caliban despite his attempt to hide, and at first speculates about bringing him back to Naples to show him off as an exotic oddity. Then, fearing lightning from a coming storm, Trinculo crawls under the cloak with Caliban, exclaiming that "misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows." Beyond the literal truth of the fact that Trinculo and Caliban are now lying under a cloak together, Trinculo's words also apply to the way in which the storm has brought an unlikely group of people together on the island and caused unexpected alliances. 

Trinculo is a comic character, and to some extent this scene is a brief humorous distraction from the serious matters of political scheming and assassination plots. On the other hand, Trinculo's treatment of Caliban represents the cruel, ignorant way in which European colonizers interacted with and exploited colonized populations. While Trinculo is comically unintelligent, his perception of Caliban as a "strange" creature is not unrelated to Prospero's opinion that Caliban is savage, ugly, and subhuman.

Act 3, scene 1 Quotes
There be some sports are painful, and their labour
Delight in them sets off. Some kinds of baseness
Are nobly undergone; and most poor matters
Point to rich ends. This my mean task would be
As heavy to me as odious, but
The mistress which I serve quickens what's dead,
And makes my labours pleasures.
Related Characters: Ferdinand (speaker), Miranda
Page Number: 3.1.1-7
Explanation and Analysis:

Ferdinand has been enslaved by Prospero, and has walked onstage carrying a heavy log. As he does so, he delivers a speech in which he claims that there are certain forms of work that are "nobly undergone," and that his love for Miranda makes his labor pleasurable. These words prove Ferdinand to be a righteous, worthy character; he happily performs acts of self-sacrifice in order to win Miranda's hand, thus proving his love for her is committed and sincere.

At the same time, Ferdinand's speech highlights how different his situation is from that of Caliban. Unlike Ferdinand, Caliban is imprisoned by Prospero completely against his will, and will not ultimately benefit from his captivity. Caliban's labor is thus meaningless and devoid of any dignity or satisfaction. 

Act 3, scene 2 Quotes
Give me thy hand. I am sorry I beat thee. But while thou liv'st, keep a good tongue in thy head.
Related Characters: Stephano (speaker), Trinculo
Page Number: 3.2.121-123
Explanation and Analysis:

Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban have all been getting drunk together. Stephano has declared himself Lord of the Island and promises Caliban the position of his Lieutenant. Trinculo, meanwhile, has mocked Caliban, leading Stephano to threaten to hang him. However, once Caliban has told them about Prospero and Miranda, the three resolve to kill Prospero and seize power, and agree to end their disputes.

Once again, this scene exists as a humorous diversion, a comic double of Antonio's more plausible and sinister plot to murder Alonso (as well as his original betrayal of Prospero, which landed Prospero on the island in the first place). However, the foolish fighting and reconciliations between the three drunk characters nonetheless exposes the fickle, deceitful element of human nature. 

Be not afeared; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
Related Characters: Caliban (speaker)
Page Number: 3.2.148-156
Explanation and Analysis:

Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo have been drunkenly singing together. Ariel, who is invisible, has interrupted their singing by making mysterious noises, and Stephano and Trinculo are momentarily disturbed over where the noise is coming from. In response, Caliban reassures them that there is nothing to fear, and delivers a moving, eloquent speech about the sounds and sights of the island.

This is a pivotal moment in terms of the representation of Caliban's character. Whereas up until this point he has been portrayed as brutish, bitter, and foolish, here we witness him speak fondly and poetically about the natural world around him. This shift can be interpreted as a critique of the cruel treatment of colonized populations, although it also seems influenced by the stereotype that indigenous people are more naturally animalistic and closer to nature than Europeans. 

Act 4, scene 1 Quotes
...Be cheerful, sir,
Our revels now are ended; these our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And like this insubstantial pageant faded
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Related Characters: Prospero (speaker), Ferdinand
Page Number: 4.1.164-175
Explanation and Analysis:

Prospero has given permission for Ferdinand and Miranda to marry, and ordered Ariel to gather the spirits for a masque – a play, of sorts – to celebrate the couple. However, Prospero interrupts the celebration when he remembers the plot hatched by Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban to murder him. Ferdinand has expressed concern at Prospero's strange behavior, and Prospero attempts to reassure him by saying that their "revels" have simply come to an end and reminding him "We are such stuff / as dreams are made on; and our little life / is rounded with a sleep." Pointing out life's transience seems like a strange way of reassuring someone, and thus we can interpret Prospero's speech as a more general, introspective stream of thought rather than a direct address to Ferdinand. 

Indeed, many critics choose to read this speech as a sort of message from Shakespeare himself. The Tempest is widely believed to be the last play Shakespeare wrote, and thus in calling the masque to an end, Prospero mirrors Shakespeare's departure from the theatre before his own death. The "insubstantial pageant" that fades and leaves nothing behind can be compared to Shakespeare's work as a playwright, and Shakespeare/Prospero's phrase "our little life" can be interpreted as a gesture of humility, reminding the audience that everyone is mortal and, in the grander scheme of history, insignificant. This point is, of course, somewhat ironic, as Shakespeare's legacy has proven more enduring than almost any other writer in history. 

A devil, a born devil, on whose nature
Nurture can never stick...
Related Characters: Prospero (speaker), Caliban
Related Symbols: Prospero's Cloak and Books
Page Number: 4.1.211-212
Explanation and Analysis:

Prospero has suddenly interrupted the masque, having remembered Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban's plot against him. He summons Ariel, who reports that he has led the three drunk men on a treacherous walk, and gives further details about their plans to kill Prospero and steal his cloak and books. Prospero is furious, exclaiming that Caliban is a devil "on whose nature / nurture can never stick." His words reflect a prominent debate among colonizers at the time about the nature of indigenous populations. Some argued that "savage" populations could be educated or "nurtured" to think and behave like Europeans––hence the "civilizing" missions that imposed Christianity and Western culture on colonized populations.

Others believed that it was impossible to "civilize" these populations, as Prospero claims in this passage. Like Prospero, many who held this view claimed that non-white people were not human, comparing their "nature" to animals or "devils." Note that both interpretations were deeply racist in that they cast the non-Europeans were seen as inferior to Europeans, although the second was more likely to be used as justification for enslavement and genocide. 

Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
Mine would, sir, were I human.
Related Characters: Ariel (speaker), Prospero
Page Number: 5.1.26
Explanation and Analysis:

Thanks to Ariel, Prospero has gained control over all his "enemies"; as a result, he has promised Ariel his freedom. When Prospero asks how Alonso and his men are doing, Ariel replies that they are terrified and that if Prospero were to see them now his "affections would become tender," adding, "mine would, sir, were I human." This humble comment reveals the irony of the idea that Ariel is not human. Throughout the play, Ariel has acted with compassion, intelligence, and dignified self-restraint (indeed, these qualities set him apart from many of the human characters on the island!). His advice that Prospero will feel pity for Alonso and the others is accurate, and shows that he has a sophisticated understanding of the depth of human emotions. 

Despite this, Ariel still refuses to claim human status for himself, and obediently acquiesces when Prospero continues to delay his promise of freedom. In this sense, we can interpret Ariel as an ideal colonized subject, passively accepting Prospero's right to rule over him, silently putting up with bad treatment, and never claiming the right to be equal with those who have enslaved him. 

Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?
Related Characters: Prospero (speaker), Ariel
Page Number: 5.1.28-31
Explanation and Analysis:

Ariel has told Prospero that Alonso and his men are in a terrible state, and that if he were human, Ariel would feel sorry for them. Prospero is moved to sympathy by Ariel's words, and in this passage describes how Ariel has inspired him to be more compassionate. He says that if Ariel, who is only "air," can emphathize with the imprisoned men's plight, then surely Prospero himself should feel even more moved.

Once again, Ariel is presented in noble, anthropomorphized way, while still being treated as an "other," as decidedly non-human. Prospero's suggestion that the more similar you are to someone the more likely you are to feel sympathy with them contrasts with other evidence in the play. Antonio, for example, despite being Prospero's own flesh and blood, still acts with merciless cruelty against his brother. 

...The rarer action is
In virtue, than in vengeance.
Related Characters: Prospero (speaker)
Page Number: 5.1.35-36
Explanation and Analysis:

Moved by Ariel's sympathy for Alonso and the other men who Prospero has ordered to be imprisoned, Prospero has reflected that he himself should be more sympathetic. He admits that he still feels hurt by their "high wrongs," but reasons that it is more rare to act virtuously than vengefully. The events leading up to this moment certainly support this theory; the play is full of characters seeking revenge on one another.

Yet Prospero's use of the word "rare" does not just refer to infrequency, it also refers to value. As he has observed to Ariel, acting with compassion and forgiveness toward others is admirable, and an important part of being human. Note that Prospero must be reminded of this fact, and of how to use his power for good, by Ariel, a non-human with very little power. 

...But this rough magic
I here abjure...I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than ever did plummet sound
I'll drown my book.
Related Characters: Prospero (speaker)
Related Symbols: Prospero's Cloak and Books
Page Number: 5.1.59-66
Explanation and Analysis:

Having decided to set free Alonso and his men, Prospero conjures the spirits onstage and gives a lyrical speech about the many acts of magic he has performed in the past. He then resolves that, after this final act, he will break and bury his staff and "drown" his magic books, giving up his supernatural powers for good. Although Prospero is not a villainous character and (arguably) used magic mostly for good, this speech suggests that it is necessary for him to stop practicing magic in order to restore the natural order and balance of power––both on the island and back in Italy. 

This speech takes on a further level of significance if we read Prospero as representing Shakespeare. As Shakespeare neared the end of his life, perhaps he used Prospero's speech as a symbolic farewell to the theatre after a lifetime of creating "magic" and illusion on the stage. This analogy suggests that, while the power to create drama is akin to a supernatural gift, it is not possible for this to last forever, as even playwrights are mortal beings whose "little life" will inevitably come to a close. 

...O brave new world
That has such people in't!
Related Characters: Miranda (speaker)
Page Number: 5.1.217-218
Explanation and Analysis:

Moved to compassion by Ariel, Prospero has ordered Alonso, Gonzalo and the others to be released and brought to him. He has praised Gonzalo and scolded the others, before revealing himself in the old attire of the Duke of Milan. Alonso grieves the presumed loss of Ferdinand, and at first Prospero continues letting him believe Ferdinand is dead, before revealing Ferdinand and Miranda together.

Seeing the new people, Miranda exclaims, "O brave new world!", astonished and delighted by seeing so many new people at once. However, Miranda's joy reveals how naïve she is as a result of having grown up on the island. After all, some of the men she is meeting are selfish, disloyal, and cruel, a fact that Prospero hints at immediately after her excited exclamation. 

...O rejoice
Beyond a common joy, and set it down
With gold on lasting pillars: in one voyage
Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis,
And Ferdinand her brother found a wife
Where he himself was lost; Prospero, his dukedom
In a poor isle, and all of us ourselves,
When no man was his own.
Related Characters: Gonzalo (speaker), Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 5.1.247-254
Explanation and Analysis:

All the characters on the island have been summoned together, which has led to many surprises, including the fact that Prospero, Miranda, and Ferdinand, all of whom were presumed dead, are in fact alive, and that Ferdinand and Miranda have fallen in love. In response to the happy scene, Gonzalo calls on everyone to rejoice, observing that while Ferdinand was lost in the storm, he in fact found a wife; meanwhile, Prospero has regained his dukedom "in a poor isle." Gonzalo's statement emphasizes how the upheaval of the storm and magic of the island have ultimately resulted in a restoration of the natural order of things. His final comment that everyone has found themselves "when no man was his own" highlights the importance of compassion, loyalty, and selflessness, traits that Gonzalo has unwaveringly embodied throughout the play. 

Gonzalo's speech emphasizes the way in which the characters have made instrumental use of the island; indeed, Gonzalo describes all the ways in which the storm will restore and improve Italian courtly society without mentioning the impact on the island itself, including its inhabitants. A postcolonial perspective – one that can see the faults in colonialism and the ideas and logic that supported colonial actions – thus allows us to identify a narrow, selfish underside to Gonzalo's triumphant declarations. 

...this thing of darkness, I
Acknowledge mine.
Related Characters: Prospero (speaker), Caliban
Page Number: 5.1.330-331
Explanation and Analysis:

Now that everyone has been brought together, Prospero has reclaimed his dukedom, and Miranda and Ferdinand's love has been announced, Prospero asks Ariel to undo the spell placed on Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban. Prospero reveals the plan the three drunk men hatched against him, and asks the other characters if they recognize Stephano and Trinculo. He then claims "this thing of darkness" as his own. Assumedly, "thing of darkness" refers to Caliban; there are many times in the play when Caliban is referred to as a nonhuman "it" rather than as a man, and this description is related to his indigenous status and dark skin.

Such an interpretation confirms the impression that Prospero believes Caliban to be his property, and treats him simultaneously as a child, pet, and inanimate possession. Such a dynamic was typical of this era (bear in mind that The Tempest was written only a few decades before the establishment of the Atlantic slave trade). It is possible that these lines actually consist of Prospero taking partial responsibility for the sinister plot against him, though this is somewhat unlikely considering that after this statement Caliban says "I shall be pinch'd to death."

Epilogue Quotes
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 pardoned 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 pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
Related Characters: Prospero (speaker)
Related Symbols: Prospero's Cloak and Books
Page Number: Ep.1-20
Explanation and Analysis:

Prospero has scolded Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban for their plot against him, but has suggested that if Caliban follows a final set of orders, he may be freed. Meanwhile, the rest of the characters have made plans to spend one final night on the island before voyaging back to Italy the next day. Everyone exits except Prospero, who delivers a final speech addressed to the audience. Prospero reviews the fact that he has relinquished his magical powers, reclaimed his dukedom, and "pardoned the deceiver." In other words, the natural hierarchy of power has been restored, and there remain no outstanding plots or grudges. Prospero asks the audience to "release me from my bands / with the help of your good hands"––meaning that the audience's applause will set him free. 

Again, many critics interpret this final speech to be the voice of Shakespeare himself, proclaiming a final farewell to the theatre. The speech alludes to the importance of forgiveness, perhaps suggesting that the power of drama lies within its ability to evoke sympathy and to encourage people to treat one another with mercy and compassion. Prospero's request to be "released" and "set free" is curious, as he himself has imprisoned and enslaved various other characters throughout the play. Overall, whether within the world of the play or in the context of a farewell from Shakespeare, Prospero's speech emphasizes the continuation of life beyond the ephemeral presence of any one person. 

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