Prospero's attempt to recover his lost dukedom of Milan drives the plot of the Tempest. But Prospero isn't the only character in the play to experience loss. Ariel lost his freedom to Sycorax and now serves Prospero. Caliban, who considers himself the rightful ruler of the island, was overthrown and enslaved by Prospero. By creating the tempest that shipwrecks Alonso and his courtiers on the island, Prospero strips them of their position and power, and also causes Alonso to believe that he has lost his son to the sea.
Through their reactions to these losses, the play's characters reveal their true natures. Reduced to desperation and despair, Alonso recognizes his error in helping to overthrow Prospero and gives up his claim to Milan, returning Prospero to power and restoring order between Milan and Naples. Though he desperately wants to be free, Ariel loyally serves his master Prospero. Prospero, meanwhile, gives up his magic rather than seeking revenge and frees Ariel before returning to Milan. In contrast to Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian never show remorse for overthrowing Prospero and prove to be ambitious killers in their plot to murder and overthrow Alonso. Stephano and Trinculo, in their buffoonish way, likewise seek power through violence. And Caliban, as opposed to Ariel, hates Prospero, and gives himself as a slave to Stephano in an effort to betray and kill Prospero. As Gonzalo observes in the last scene of the play, the characters "found ... ourselves, when no man was his own" (5.1.206-213).
Loss and Restoration ThemeTracker
Loss and Restoration Quotes in The Tempest
With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel,
Who had no doubt some noble creature in her,
Dashed all to pieces.
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...
Is, I know how to curse.
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.
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.
In virtue, than in vengeance.
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.
That has such people in't!
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.
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.