The Tempest

by

William Shakespeare

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The Tempest: Soliloquy 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost thoughts and feelings as if... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself... read full definition
Epilogue
Explanation and Analysis—Prospero's Soliloquy:

Prospero speaks the most famous soliloquy in The Tempest. In the Epilogue, he tells the audience that he will give up magic:

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 [...]
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 [...]
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.

This hopeful epilogue represents a new era for Prospero and his island. In a few powerful lines, Prospero relinquishes the control that he so tightly held throughout the play. No longer will he wield his magic; no longer will he demand the enslavement of Ariel and Caliban; no longer will he hold his grudge against Alonso.

Here, too, the audience sees a new facet of Prospero's personality. Words like "overthrown," "faint," and "confined" imbue his speech with humility. He admits his lack of power and asks the audience to "pardon" him and "set [him] free" by approving of the play. "Good hands" refer to the audience members' applause at the play's end. Prospero seems more aware of his existence as a character within the play than ever; his "project [...] which was to please" becomes synonymous with the project of the playwright. The audience's applause will not only set Prospero free but will also advance his career. In this way, Shakespeare metaphorically compares a playwright's literary techniques to magical powers.