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The Tempest

The Tempest

 Table of Contents

The Tempest Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes

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Quote #1

HARPY For that's my business to you—that you threeFrom Milan did supplant good Prospero;Exposed unto the sea, which hath requit it,Him and his innocent child: for which foul deed  The powers, delaying, not forgetting, haveIncensed the seas and shores, yea, all the creatures,Against your peace. Thee of thy son, Alonso,They have bereft; and do pronounce by me:Lingering perdition, worse than any death  Can be at once, shall step by step attendYou and your ways; whose wraths to guard you from—Which here, in this most desolate isle, else fallsUpon your heads—is nothing but heart-sorrowAnd a clear life ensuing. (3.3.1)


What is the purpose of Prospero furthering Alonso's belief that Ferdinand is dead? This seems particularly merciless, and it makes Prospero seem as though he wants his enemies to suffer before he forgives them.  Does this undermine the very point of being merciful and forgiving? Does this also indicate that his decision to choose virtue over vengeance later is entirely because of Ariel's persuasion?

Quote #2

PROSPEROAt this hourLie at my mercy all mine enemies:  Shortly shall all my labours end, and thouShalt have the air at freedom: for a littleFollow, and do me service. (4.1.20)


Prospero definitely delights at having his enemies at his mercy, but again, is it OK to enjoy their suffering in the meantime? Would it be too much to ask, or too unrealistic, for Prospero simply be wholeheartedly forgiving? Is this kind of total forgiveness within the realm of human possibility?

Quote #3

ARIELThe king,His brother and yours, abide all three distractedAnd the remainder mourning over them,  Brimful of sorrow and dismay; but chieflyHim that you term'd, sir, 'The good old lord Gonzalo;'His tears run down his beard, like winter's dropsFrom eaves of reeds. Your charm so strongly works 'emThat if you now beheld them, your affections  Would become tender. PROSPERODost thou think so, spirit? ARIEL Mine would, sir, were I human. PROSPERO And mine shall.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? (5.1.1)


Ariel shows that mercy should be in the nature of human beings – he imagines he would feel tenderness if he were human.  By saying this, he calls Prospero's humanity to task. Is it more human to seek vengeance, or forgive? Is forgiveness not the best way to stick it to your enemies?

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