The Tempest

Prospero Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
The rightful Duke of Milan who was overthrown and exiled by his brother Antonio and Alonso, the King of Naples. Prospero has lived for 12 years with his daughter Miranda on a deserted island, where he has become a powerful enchanter and the master of the spirit Ariel and the "monster" Caliban. Prospero has become a powerful enchanter, and his magical skill gives him almost complete control over everyone on the island. He's not shy about using his enchantments either, whether on his enemies or on his daughter, to manipulate events to his liking. In fact, Prospero's power on the island is so complete that many critics compare him to an author of a play—just as an author controls the actions of the characters in a play, Prospero controls the actions of the people on the island. Prospero is domineering, and expects gratitude and devotion from both his daughter and his servants. Yet he is not bloodthirsty, and at the end of the play, rather than taking revenge on those who wronged him when he has them at his mercy, he instead choose to give up his magic power and reconcile with his enemies.

Prospero Quotes in The Tempest

The The Tempest quotes below are all either spoken by Prospero or refer to Prospero. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
). 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 2 Quotes
Thy false uncle...new 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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

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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:

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

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...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:

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...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:

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

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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:

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Prospero Character Timeline in The Tempest

The timeline below shows where the character Prospero appears in The Tempest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 2
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Miranda and Prospero watch the tempest from the shore of an island. Miranda pities the seafarers, saying "O,... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Prospero reassures her that no harm has been done and says that it's time to tell... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
...Alonso, the King of Naples and a long-time enemy of Milan, to help him overthrow Prospero. To sway Alonso, Antonio promised that, as duke, he would pay an annual tribute to... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Alonso and Antonio arranged for soldiers to kidnap Prospero and Miranda in the middle of the night. The soldiers hurried them aboard a fine... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Miranda says that she would like to meet Gonzalo someday. She then asks Prospero why he created the storm. Prospero replies that circumstances have brought his enemies close to... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Prospero summons his servant Ariel, who greets Prospero as his "great master," then gleefully describes how... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Prospero thanks Ariel. Ariel reminds Prospero that he had promised to reduce Ariel's time in servitude... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Prospero awakens Miranda and, calling for his "poisonous slave," (1.2.325) summons, Caliban, the malformed son of... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Enraged, Prospero hurls new curses at Caliban and orders him to get to his chores. Caliban grudgingly... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
..."Full fathom five thy father lies. / Of his bones are coral made" (1.2.396–397). Unseen, Prospero and Miranda watch Ferdinand approach. Miranda declares Ferdinand handsome. Ferdinand soon notices Miranda and, struck... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
However, to test the depth of Ferdinand's love for Miranda, Prospero speaks sharply to Ferdinand and takes him into captivity as a servant. Miranda begs her... (full context)
Act 2, scene 1
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
...and Alonso, unsettled, draw their swords and exit, followed by Ariel, who plans to tell Prospero of the plot he has foiled. (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
Power Theme Icon
Caliban enters, carrying wood. He delivers a monologue in which he curses Prospero and describes the many torments Prospero's spirits inflict on him. Just then, Trinculo, Alonso's jester,... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
...and expresses a hope that Stephano might be able to deliver him from servitude to Prospero. Stephano, meanwhile, fantasizes about becoming ruler of what he believes is a deserted island, while... (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Ferdinand enters, carrying a heavy log. Having been imprisoned and put to work by Prospero, he delivers a soliloquy in which he says that Miranda's love, the cause for which... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Miranda enters. Prospero follows behind, unseen. Miranda urges Ferdinand not to work so hard and offers to help... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Ariel, invisible, enters just as Caliban begins to describe Prospero's ill treatment of him and to ask Stephano to avenge this wrong. Ariel calls out... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Caliban continues to describe his plan to murder Prospero. He suggests several ways of killing Prospero, and it is clear that he has thought... (full context)
Act 3, scene 3
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...the air. Spirits enter, assemble a lavish banquet, and signal for the courtiers to partake. Prospero has also entered, but because of his magic is invisible. The men marvel at the... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
...is an agent of Fate, Ariel condemns Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian for overthrowing and exiling Prospero and Miranda. He says that the tempest was nature's tool for exacting revenge on Alonso... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Alonso is bitter with remorse for the overthrow of Prospero, which he believes has caused the drowning of his son. He resolves to drown himself... (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Prospero gives Ferdinand his blessing to marry Miranda, saying that Ferdinand has stood up well to... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Prospero orders Ariel to gather his band of spirits to put on a celebratory masque, or... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Suddenly, Prospero recalls Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo's conspiracy to kill him. He calls an abrupt end to... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
Prospero summons Ariel, who reports that he has led the drunken conspirators on a torturous walk... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
...wine in the swamp. Caliban tries to re-focus them on the murder. He points out Prospero's cave close by and reminds them of the ultimate reward, saying "Do that good mischief... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Ariel and Prospero send spirits shaped like hunting dogs to chase off the conspirators. Prospero orders Ariel to... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Prospero says that all of his enemies are now under his control, and he promises Ariel... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Prospero asks Ariel how Alonso and his men are doing. Ariel reports that he has confined... (full context)
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Alone on stage, Prospero invokes the various spirits who have aided him, describing the many incredible feats he has... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Ariel leads the courtiers onto the stage, still spellbound by Prospero's charm. Prospero addresses them—praising Gonzalo for his goodness and loyalty and scolding Alonso, Sebastian, and... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Prospero releases Alonso and his men from the spell. Alonso, shocked and confused at seeing Prospero,... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
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Prospero next addresses Antonio and Sebastian, condemning them for overthrowing and exiling him and for plotting... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Alonso laments the death of Ferdinand. Prospero responds that he, too, has "lost" a child. Alonso assumes that Miranda has also died.... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...reports that the sailors awakened to find the ship miraculously restored to perfect condition. Next, Prospero asks Ariel to release Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo from their spell and bring them forward... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
The courtiers and Prospero mock Stephano and Trinculo for their drunken state and foiled ambitions. Prospero orders Caliban to... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Prospero invites Alonso and his court to spend the night in his cell, where he promises... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
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Prospero gives Ariel the final task of ensuring the ship a safe, speedy voyage back to... (full context)
Epilogue
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Everyone exits except for Prospero, who speaks an epilogue to the audience. He begins, "Now my charms are all o'erthrown,... (full context)