The Tempest as Shakespeare's "Final Bow"


Although it is one of Shakespeare's simpler plotted plays, the characters in The Tempest are very deep and complex.

When asked what he thought about The Tempest as Shakespeare's final bow, Mike Peebler, a distinguished Shakespearean actor currently playing the role of Ferdinand in The Tempest at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon, California, states the follwing:

"It is pretty much accepted as fact that The Tempest was one of Shakespeare's last plays that he ever wrote. There is some debate as to whether or not it was the VERY last play, but little debate that it was one of the last few. The character of Prospero is commonly thought to reflect William Shakespeare himself, especially towards the end of the play when Prospero gives up his magic. The speeches at the end of the show are said to be Shakespeare's words regarding his own retirement. When Prospero gives up his magic staff and books and renounces his magic powers, it is really Shakespeare saying that he is done creating the magic of theater. Propsero says, "Our revels now are ended. These our actors 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 the 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." It is easy to imagine Shakespeare himself saying this to an audience in a retirement speech. Prospero then says to Ariel of his magic powers, "But this rough magic I here abjure; and when I have required some heavenly music (which even now I do) to work mine end upon their senses that this airy charm is for, I'll break my staff, bury it certain fathoms in the earth and deeper than did ever plummet sound I'll drown my book." Finally, in the very last speech of the play, Prospero asks the audience directly to be released and forgiven, saying, "As you from crimes would pardoned be, let your indulgence set me free." Given that we know this play was one of the very last Shakespeare wrote, it is impossible not to think that he was putting his own words of retirement into the mouth of Prospero."

Here is a cartoon of Prospero with his beloved daughter Miranda

As one can identify from the text, Shakespeare very much corrolates with the character of Prospero. His giving up the staff and ultimate forgiveness of those who have wronged him represent that of which Shakespeare was doing in his own life. William Shakespeare is laying down his magical carrer and forgives all who he was in conflict with. Through this, Shakespeare gives off a strong message and one can understand the correlation between Prospero and himself throughout the play.
Here are some webstites which delve into the deep meaning of The Tempest and its characters.

There is a great array of characters in The Tempest. For example Caliban, is a mean, nasty character tries to rape Miranda in her youth, thus leading to his harsh treatment by Prospero. In contrast, Miranda is well educated yet a very naive girl. The only two men she has ever seen in her life are Caliban and her father. When she first sees Ferdinand she is immediately swept away by not just his personality, but his beauty. Ferdinand, who has seen all the likes of the world as an hier, is just as well taken by Miranda as she is to him. Despite the fact that he has virtually lost everything (his father, his title, his entire life back home) he is compltely blinded by his love of Miranda. It is also noticed that two men with power such as Prospero and Alonso both have wicked brothers whose ambition is to overthrow their brothers. Yet in the end, it is Prospero and Alonso who still have the ultimate power. These simple yet distinct characters show a lot of simplicity and truth in human nature. Over all, The Tempest doesn's seem like one of Shakespeare's typical complex works. In reality, though, it has many layered characters that make quite a statement while relating them to The Tempest as Shakespeare's final bow.

By Jen Gumbrecht and Elizabeth Mastoris

Works Cited (for image) (for image)

William Shakepeare's
The Tempest//